Posts Tagged ‘cooking’

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Thanksgiving in Spain

November 26, 2011

As you most likely know, this past Thursday was what we Americans celebrate as Thanksgiving. For everyone else in the world it was just a normal day. I was bound and determined, however, to make it special, no matter what the cost. For me, Thanksgiving is a necessary part of the year, even if I have to be separated from my family. It’s about cooking together, eating together, and enjoying the company of others.

So here’s how it went down. I had been slowly accumulating ingredients for my favorite Thanksgiving dishes, hoping that I’d have the chance to make at least some of them. But the night before, I finally settled on a plan with one of my friends to cook a makeshift Thanksgiving at his friend’s apartment, starting at 7pm. So the next day, since my 1:00 class was miraculously canceled, I had from 11:30am to go out, buy ingredients, and cook. And I literally needed ALL of that time to do it.

First stop: La Boquería (remember it from this blog post from ages ago?) to buy pumpkin pie spices. Un poquito de gengibre molido y clavo molido, por favor! Luckily, I was able to buy them in small quantities there, because really, how much ground ginger and cloves am I going to use if not in pumpkin pie?

Next: A Taste of Home. A brilliant invention of a store, it had all the Thanksgiving necessities in stock, and lots of other typical food, namely from the UK, but also from the US, which you cannot get anywhere else in the city. From there I picked up some stuffing mix, gravy mix, pumpkin pie filling, evaporated milk, french fried onions (I nearly cried from joy when I saw them!), and cream of mushroom soup. This store is literally like walking into a different world: they greeted me in English, there’s a British radio station playing in the background, all of the food labels are in English, and they sell things I didn’t dream were possible to find here!

After that: Mercadona. My favorite Spanish supermarket chain. It even has a fun little jingle that I always get stuck in my head. From here I picked up all the necessities that they actually eat here in Spain. Like potatoes, green beans, and bread.

And then it was time to cook! I turned on a Christmas music station and got to work. It had been too long since I’d made a pie crust, so that definitely took me longer than it should have. Besides the fact that I had to work out conversion charts and try to navigate the ridiculous American system we have (16 tablespoons in a cup, 3 teaspoons in a tablespoon, so how many teaspoons in 3/4 a cup? And how many grams does a third a cup of butter weigh? umm…). Also, I haven’t taken a math class in about 4 years, so that didn’t help. But I eventually got it sorted out, and although I had to perform major surgery on my first pie crust because I rolled it out too thin and worked it too much, the Christmas music helped me from pulling my hair out and screaming bloody murder, and in the end, I had two (nearly) perfect pie crusts. Really, whoever invented the expression “as easy as pie” has obviously never cooked one before. But I was determined to have pumpkin pie, and in the end it turned out deliciously.

Mmmmmmm Just look at that!

After that, mixing the pie filling and green bean casserole was cake (yet another misnomer expression, unless you’re using a boxed cake). I made a list of the ingredients I couldn’t forget to bring with me, I checked it twice, and I carried it all in a bag to transport to the  apartment where we were going to cook it and eat it. On the way, we picked up rotisserie chicken. Some may say it’s blasphemy to eat chicken for your Thanksgiving dinner, but really, they taste nearly the same, and one is about 1 million times easier to cook (especially when it’s already cooked for you).

When we got there, we started cooking right away. I put the pumpkin pie in the oven, and we got to work peeling the potatoes. Everyone was asking for jobs to do, so I really didn’t have to do that much preparing once we got there, just delegating.

My friends Chelsea and Aaron, and the happy potato!

It reminded me of home, cooking together in a kitchen: something I hadn’t done in a long time. With the oven and the stove and the body heat from lots of people in a confined space it was pretty toasty and we were all sweating, but it was an atmosphere that is necessary for any sort of Thanksgiving celebration.

Cooking together--with my green bean casserole about to go in the oven!

We managed to get all of it cooked and ready in good timing. We set the table and marveled at its beauty, with hungry stomachs and watering mouths (it was nearly 9 pm by this time… which is about normal dinner time in Spain).

The feast! 🙂

But before we could start, we had to have a toast. We split a bottle of cava between the 10 of us, and I made everyone go around and say one thing they were thankful for. Then, we started to eat. And eat. And eat. And we all agreed it was quite delicious/delicioso/deliciós.

My (first) plate of food.

And, of course, Pumpkin Pie for dessert, with whipped cream, ice cream, and cinnamon sprinkled on top!

In the end, I was thankful for:

  • Beautiful weather. 20 degrees celsius and sunny on Thanksgiving day? Way to go Barcelona!
  • Great company.  In addition to 4 Americans, we also had 4 Catalans and 2 international students, which meant a good-sized group of 10. The 6 non-Americans enjoyed trying new cuisine, and us Americans loved having a dinner that was authentically our own. After dinner, we enjoyed getting to know each other, switching between 3 different languages (Spanish, English, and Catalan). It was a great group and I’m glad to have had the opportunity to meet them and share my cooking!
  • A great 3 months in Barcelona.
  • Friends with whom I share my experiences here.
  • Family and friends at home who are excited to receive me in a bit over a month and hear all about my time here.
  • and of course, the delicious, traditional American Thanksgiving food!!
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