When I first arrived to Mexico in 2003, I dove headfirst into Mexican culture. I learned how to cook my favorite Mexican dishes, I tried to speak only Spanish, and avoided all things "American". Except when Thanksgiving rolled around. There is something so nostalgic for me about Thanksgiving, it's so deeply ingrained in all of my best childhood memories. Most non-Americans don't understand what the big deal is. I get asked all the time, "how important is Thanksgiving to you compared the Christmas" My honest to goodness answer, it's my favorite holiday of all.
Taking a step back through time, Thanksgiving is all about the smells. Waking up on Thanksgiving morning to the raw pie dough being rolled and cinnamon added to the apples. Vats of potatoes boiling on the stovetop and stuffing being mixed with its sage and thyme. Then the cousins arrived, the men settled down to football or the New York Macy's parade, while the women unpacked last-minute purchases. Running through my grandmother's kitchen, chasing my cousins, while the matriarchs were bustling around usually ended up with us being sent outside to run free on their 55 acre upstate New York farm. I'll never forget that red-cheeked fresh face feeling of being called inside to help set the table while the pies cooled, the turkey set, and the rolls browned in the oven.
Arriving to Mexico in my late twenties I wanted to re-create that feeling, not only for myself, but to share with my community. We have celebrated in so many different ways over the years, from the humble beginnings of store-bought Mexican rotisserie chicken and homemade mashed potatoes to the entire spread with every possible table set for a crowd, candied yams, bacon wrapped turkey, dishes of vegetables, and a variety of pies. The one thing I have never been able to find in Mexico, not once, is fresh cranberries to make my own cranberry sauce. I can sometimes find the canned version with its juicy red slices. But I always miss the fresh tart flavor of real cranberries at Thanksgiving.
I have made some changes over the years to the menu, making it more my own. There is always a spicy salsa on the table for example. And luckily I don't like marshmallow topping because they're impossible to find also. I always wrap my turkey in bacon strips, here is a bacon-wrapped turkey recipe I found if you want to try it. I also like to make stuffing from cornbread (another thing impossible to find in Mexico- I grind polenta using my Vitamix) and my friend Alejandra told me about her poblano chili stuffing so I'm trying that out this year. Here is a recipe for poblano chili stuffing, although I may get up the courage to ask her to give me her version!!
At the end of the day, the thing that makes Thanksgiving so special for me is sharing a meal with family and friends. I will certainly miss that part this year, but I know there are many more Thanksgivings to come!!