Monday, December 3, 2012

Giving thanks: A Thanksgiving dinner in Paraguay

Last week we all learned where Turkeys come from. (Not the freezer section of a grocery store.) Now it's time to talk about their proper final resting place.

In my belly.

For this Thanksgiving I was wanted to play hostess and have dinner at my house. I needed reinforcements, so I called upon my PCV friends, Missy and Julia to make this a great event. We were cooking for a crowd of 7-8 so we knew success relied on solid prep work. Cooking that much food is always an adventure, but the challenge is taken to another level when you are without a refrigerator, mixing bowls, or really any pan designed for more than two servings. And we already discussed the absence of knives in the previous post.-Cut my hand three times.-Nonetheless, we got creative and were able to put it together.

Mo is helping with the clean up
For the turkey I used the popular technique of brining the turkey for a day before cooking it. I knew that our turkey would be tough as a result of all the exercise he got being chased by dogs and chasing the ladies, so I needed all the help I could get. I then threw him on grill for about an hour. Easiest Turkey EVER. It was still tough, but there was no getting around that. However the flavor was on point, and really the turkey's main purpose is to sliced up for sandwiches the next day anyways. 

But as well all know Thanksgiving is really all about the sides. Our dinner featured mashed potatoes, stuffing, roasted vegetables, and pie. Lots of pie. 

Total counter space
& awesome taters. 

I must say the mashed potatoes were the best. This is partially due to my own love for taters and the fact that Missy knocked it out of the park with the addition of garlic and onions. Plus she's got a heavy hand with the butter.-I always knew we'd be friends.-The stuffing and roasted vegetables fell to me. To ensure deliciousness I added sausage and bacon to them respectively. Maybe its a cheap trick, but who the hell cares. It tasted awesome. Julia handled pie filling. There was a great moment after the pumpkin filling had been poured into the crusts when we realized we forgot the cream. To extract filling and reintroduce it with sufficient dairy required a team effort, but we got it done and it ended up tasting great.  Finally, I took out two cans of jellied cranberry sauce that I had been hording since a care package from Oliver last Thanksgiving. Our meal was complete. 

The reason I decided to host my own Thanksgiving was so I could share with my Paraguayan family. Cynthia is officially my local contact, but really she's my best friend in town and ally in the fight against losing my mind. To thank her, I invited her and her kids for the big meal. Overwhelmed with excitement I purchased excess food in order to be sure we wouldn't run out. Then at about 2:00 pm I get the call. I can hear it over the phone before she even says anything. She's not gonna make it to dinner. 

Part of life here is sometimes accidentally drinking bad water, it's not a major issue but it happens. And Cynthia found herself on the wrong end of it just in time for dinner. I completely understood, but couldn't help but be sad. 

So then there were three. 

Of course we were already too far in to cut back on anything we were cooking.  So Missy, Julia and I now stood facing down 8 people's worth of food for just 3 of us to eat. And yes, we had to eat it all. I don't have a refrigerator.

After lots of pictures and some ooh-ing and aah-ing, marveling at our own adultness being able to to put this together, we tore up that once beautiful table in a rage of hunger. Julia put two pieces of pie on her plate to start. We only had three pies so she was worried she wouldn't get enough.  I filled half my plate with potato mash, and made sure to get a turkey thigh. Missy seemed almost disappointed that she couldn't shovel the stuffing directly from the serving platter into her face rather having to use the perfunctory plate. Within minutes we were all rolling around in belly-aching pleasure. Elated at such a great feast, but already in pain from fullness.

We spent the rest of the night chatting, laughing, and recounting what we are thankful for. The list was broad and included everything from the pie, the election of Barack Obama, and that we were so privileged enough to have this wonderful adventure.

I myself am thankful for all the people I have met along the way. From the fantastic support network I have back home, to all the new people I know here both Paraguayan and American. It's a crazy trip, but I couldn't have better people taking it along with me. So for all of their love, laughter and friendship, I give thanks.

I swear to god I wasn't the one who said they were thankful for the pie. Although I totally was.