When I first landed in Spain, I had hardly considered what it would be like to spend the holidays in my new land. I was so overcome with excitement, newness of the entire adventure, and all of the anticipation of leaving my home country and landing somewhere new that I was simply living in the moment and taking it all in day by day – the true essence of presence.
Summer quickly ended and by the end of September, I had passed my exams as a certified CELTA teacher and fall was already upon us. The moments breezed along as I was trying to set up my new life, establish a new network, and begin the roadmap to what my life would be like in Europe for the years to come. Before I knew it, it was already November and time to think about Thanksgiving plans!
Now, I had never prepared a Thanksgiving dinner all on my own because I always flew “home” to California or Florida to spend the holiday with my mother or father (my sister and I rotated locations over the years). I always helped out in the kitchen, but preparing a Thanksgiving feast all on my own? This was a brand new challenge!
Where’s the Turkey?
I had already made friends with some local U.S. expats, so I asked around. They pointed me to the obvious, the famous Boqueria Market.
I went and sure enough, they had just two tiny but sloppy-looking turkeys, so I took what I could get and it was expensive. We’re talking about the difference between food that is commercially mass-produced and affordable, complete with GMOs versus something that few people are looking for around this time of year. I paid around 40 Euros (USD 45) for a turkey that weighed about 10 lbs.
The next challenge was to create all the fixings and side dishes. There’s no stuffing in a box in Spain, though you can find instant mashed potatoes. I didn’t know how to ask for many of the ingredients I needed because I didn’t have the vocabulary yet. How in the world was I going to pull this off?
Well, I was only working around 10-15 hours a week, so I decided I would take my time to prepare a wonderful feast. Time was something I had had little of before, but now suddenly my life had changed and I had afternoon moments to stroll around.
I discovered a German supermarket by the name of Lidl, which carries international ingredients and it has since been one of my favorites ever since. This challenge soon transformed into a fun scavenger hunt another way.
Friendsgiving in Spain
Once I had all of my ingredients, I made everything from scratch and now I can never cook this feast in any
And because I wasn’t celebrating with my family, I labeled the event Friendsgiving complete with a disclaimer of a no family-feud guarantee, which my new friends chuckled about as I tried to explain my dark humor.
Since then, I have indeed learned some tricks and tips about how to host and where to find all the best ingredients without having to scour an entire city.
Expat in Spain: Turkey Tip #1
Pre-order a turkey from your local carnicería (meat market). You can ask the price per kilo in advance and request a turkey that’s the size that you’re looking for. Not only will it be fresh, but you will also support your local butcher.
Expat in Spain: Turkey Tip #2
Don’t have 2 hours to roast pumpkin and an extra hour to bake it into a pie? You can buy a can of spiced pumpkin for 5-7 euros and order other ingredients online at the My American Market website.
Expat in Spain: Turkey Tip #3
Celebrate and share the tradition the way you would celebrate at home with your family. In my family, we always go around the table and say what we are grateful for, and it’s something that I like to share with everyone who sits at my Thanksgiving dinner table.
I have experienced some very endearing moments of gratitude and graciousness by sharing this very simple tradition.
Living far away from home does not mean having to sacrifice the rituals and traditions that bring joy.
Instead, it can become an opportunity to spread joy and build community no matter where in the world you land.
Where in the world will you be celebrating Thanksgiving and Christmas this year?
by: Marjorie Vera
Books and Roses… a Tale of Sant Jordi’s Day
Piquant Pintxos & Vermouth Culture
A Corporate Expat in Mallorca, Spain – An Unforgettable Time