We were talking turkeys the other day at the Area 4 coffee and it got me thinking….
Thanksgiving at our house, back home, involved serving entirely too much food. That allows for glorious leftovers for many days afterward. Each year we would decide either go to our favourite bakery in town and pick up the pies we ordered a month in advance, or drive out to the beach to our favourite farm stand and wait in line for their hot pies. We had already been out picking our favourite pumpkins, by the barrel-full, before Halloween and those that weren’t carved still adorned the yard and the house. Each year was at a different venue, a different guest list of friends and family, but the menu remained the same year after year. Until we moved to Spain…..
Many of my military and embassy friends have these wonderful large ovens that hold a full turkey in them with a spare rack for some other dish. They can serve up a real Thanksgiving feast with relative ease. (Granted they then must cook for hoards of guests, but I still think they’re fortunate.) I mentioned how I (a civilian) buy a fresh whole turkey and have it cut into quarters so that it fits into my medium-size baking dish. I freeze the other three-quarters and we enjoy four small turkey meals over the coming weeks. That baking dish of mine fits in my tiny European oven on the arms of the inside of the oven, it does’t rest on the rack itself. Precarious yes, but it’s worked all these years. Before I roast the turkey I make stuffing first, the oven is too small to multitask. I toast the bread crumbs in the oven and make the stuffing on the stove top with some spices I have in the cabinet & olive oil. It’s my husband’s mix of spices that meld well with poultry. It doesn’t taste like it does at home but it’s stuffing, and in the end is quite good. I buy the overpriced, long traveled sweet potatoes and because I don’t have two ovens doing four times the work here, I boil and mash the potatoes. I do pick up a few cans of crushed cranberry sauce, even if you don’t like it with the main meal, it’s must for sandwich leftovers. I have even started experimenting in the off-season making pumpkin pie from scratch. This year I may try using squash instead of pumpkin to see if the family notices. (Shhh, don’t tell them.) In the end it’s as close to a Thanksgiving feast as we can create.
What happens at Christmas you ask? Well, after 3 years, last year, I successfully made popovers a key ingredient to our roast and veggie Christmas meal. The rest hasn’t come together but we keep experimenting. The key ingredient missing at Christmas for the kids is all the family that descends upon our house for a traditional Irish breakfast Christmas morning and then a big meal in the late afternoon. Family doesn’t come visit us over the holidays. Maybe this year we’ll change things up and travel around Spain.
I mentioned to the family I was writing this article and over the weekend they set out making popovers. In the morning we had them with jam and butter. In the afternoon they accompanied our soup at lunch. After dinner, we had lemon curd on them. Now everyone is in the holiday spirit!!
What have you done in a foreign land to make your family holidays feel more like home? Or, maybe you’ve taken on a tradition in the country in which you’re living. Won’t you share your adventure with us?