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Thursday, December 11, 2014

How to Host a Thanksgiving Abroad Without an Oven

It might be almost halfway through December, but gosh dangit, here's my update about our Thanksgiving in Cusco! If you remember our "Gracias Dando" celebrations from the year before, you'll know that it was an exercise in creative cooking, limited space maneuvering and extremely imbalanced plate-to-guest ratios. 

Well, our Thanksgiving in Cusco was a whole new type of holiday creativity. Here are some of the biggest differences:

Instead of a big HOUSE this year, we have a smartly decorated SHOEBOX.

Instead of a "healthy amount of plates and utensils", we have exactly 2 of EVERYTHING.

Instead of a base-line equipped kitchen with an OVEN, we have a CAMPER STOVE.

And instead of multiple casserole dishes with which to cook those ultra-important Thanksgiving dishes.....we had NONE.

So, how does one accomplish a Thanksgiving with this foundation? Let me provide a handy guide to creating an Ex-Pat Thanksgiving with the sparsest of resources.

Step One: Meet your neighbors, who are delightful ladies working at a local non-profit. Find out they have an oven during a night sharing a bottle of wine. Also find out they have no refrigerator, a resource that we do indeed have. Propose idea for a 'little Thanksgiving celebration' and, in effect, an exchange of necessary resources.

The lovely Lucy showing off her beautiful oven.

Step Two: Purchase all the necessary ingredients for the 7 dishes you alone want to create. Make several desperate trips to various markets. No matter what, you won't be able to find mushrooms, sour cream, or heavy whipping cream each time you go. Begin googling for workarounds. 

Step Three: Find the turkey. The main and largest supermarket doesn't have it, so you have to turn to the black market. Send your boyfriend at 7AM one morning to the bad side of Cusco to pick up a frozen bird from a wholesale place. Let him take it to work with him all day. He'll name it Cloticio.

Step Four: Realize that baking must begin the night before if anything is going to be consumed the next day, since the amount of baked dishes is astronomical, and the amount of oven space and dishes is next to nothing. Bake apple pie. Don't eat it.

Pre-apple pie.

Post-apple pie.

Step Five: Thanksgiving morning. Allow boyfriend to prep the turkey however he wants, because as an ex-vegetarian you have no idea what traditions surround the readying of the turkey. Assume he'll do fine because he's Argentinian and, well, meat is his specialty. Take the turkey to a "24 Hour Oven" across the street, where a comically hard-to-understand old lady tends a wood oven where she gladly receives Cloticio to cook for three hours.

Jorge and the prepped Cloticio.

Step Six: Resume baking and cooking the remaining dishes: corn casserole, green bean casserole, stuffing, mashed potatoes, mashed sweet potatoes, chocolate chip cookies. As friends arrive, make everyone taste the ridiculously tasty mushroom soup. Don't share the recipe. Move scalding hot casserole from dish into skillet so that dish can be re-used for another baking purpose. 

My famous green bean casserole!

Lucy and Kate's glazed veggies

Step Seven: Remaining visitors arrive, and they help by moving dinner table to the outside patio. Wine is opened. All of the Thanksgiving guests are first-timers (i.e. non-Americans), so the pressure is on. This shit better be good. Neighbors have also contributed delicious foods, native to their own lands. Bring food to table, which completely consumes and overflows off of the picnic table.


Happy Ex-Pat GraciasDando Friendsgiving 2014!

Hope everyone's Thanksgivings were a rousing success, full of family, fun and love...and that you all had slightly more casserole dishes than we did.

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