Monday, December 7, 2015

Thanksgiving in Ecuador

It was an interesting experience to celebrate Thanksgiving in a foreign land, and there were many unexpected hurdles that had to be bypassed in order to make it all happen.  

Thanksgiving Day craft by Eliana and Anaiah.
The first hurdle was the all-important turkey.  It was easy purchasing the turkey, but the problem was a capable oven to bake it.  Ovens aren’t that important in Ecuador as most of the food is either sautéed, fried or grilled.  So while we have an oven, we didn’t want to test its ability to maintain constant heat with our prized turkey.  So we outsourced the cooking of it to someone in the town who cooked turkeys, for a small fee, in a wood fired grill.  It was arranged, the turkey was stuffed, and they picked it up to cook.  Done.  

Finished turkey

Won't find the turkey foot inside of the turkey back home.

The next hurdle was getting pumpkin filling.  We couldn’t find it anywhere.  No grocery stores.  No tiny tiendas.  Nowhere.  Until we talked to some friends that worked at the U.S. embassy.  U.S. embassy employees have a perk of being able to purchase anything that they desire from Amazon with the same shipping fees as if they were living in the U.S.  They purchased us a can of pumpkin filling, so that we could make the essential Thanksgiving Day pumpkin pie.  Complete.  

Apple crisp and pumpkin pie

The next hurdle was cranberry sauce.  I could have lived without it.  But Rachel’s family has a Thanksgiving Day obsession with cranberry sauce that equals the importance of the turkey.  We had one can by accident.  While shopping at a grocery store a few months before Thanksgiving, someone tossed a can of cranberry sauce into our cart thinking it was theirs.  We purchased it unknowing, and were surprised and delighted when we unpacked our grocery bags back at our house.  “Great, we can get some more cans of cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving the next time we go to that grocery store.”  We said to each other.  We went back to the same grocery store the following week to procure a few more cans, and there were none.  And we went back every week after, and there were never any more cans of cranberry sauce, which gives a brief insight into how things work in Ecuador.  One can was better than none.  Finished.  

The next hurdle was the sweet potatoes.  Ecuadorian sweet potatoes have a purple color and are not as sweet as the yellow variety from back home.  It would feel odd to eat a purple sweet potato casserole, so we went on a mission to find the yellow variety.  A friend heard through the grapevine that yellow sweet potatoes were sold at a tucked away produce market in the center of Quito.  We found the market, and then searched and asked and looked till we finally found them.  There they were, all beautiful and yellow.  Rachel started clapping and jumping up and down at the sight of the yellow coloring.  The vendor gave her a curious and slanted look at the over excitement.  Crazy gringos, clapping for yellow potatoes, she probably thought.  Got 'em.   

The preparation was complete and dinner was served.  The wood fired turkey was delicious along with fresh green beans, stuffing, gravy, sweet potato casserole with melted marshmallows, one sliver of cranberry sauce per person, and pumpkin pie for desert.  

Picture of my first serving.  Yummy!
We had a full house.  The Spanish speaking table was made up of Hugo, Rachel’s uncle, Christian, Rachel’s cousin, Ronato, Rachel’s uncle, Rachel's dad, Gisella and Jackie. 

And the English speaking table had myself, Anaiah, Eliana, Rachel, Rachel's mom, and Rachel's grand mom. (Matthew was sleeping, giving us uninterrupted eating and another thing to be thankful for.) 

Everything about the meal and the day were exceptional, until I almost threw it all up after watching the Eagles get destroyed by the pathetic Lions.

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