December 2, 2009 - Posted by Erin in Food and wine, Madrid, Traditions

This year I spent my second Thanksgiving here in Madrid. Last year it was particularly hard being away from home, but we made the best of it and cooked up a proper turkey (and by proper, I mean 22 lbs worth of Thanksgiving love) with all the fixings.

This year, however, would be different because I would have family here to celebrate with me – my mom, an aunt and a cousin. We decided that it would be the perfect opportunity to share the uniquely American holiday with my entire Spanish family. And considering that my family was here, Jacobo and his family thought it would also be a good time to introduce their very own tradition – the “pedida.” What’s the pedida? It’s basically the official asking by the groom’s family for the bride’s hand in marriage. But it’s accompanied by much, much more – all which was a very pleasant surprise for me, and the very reason why I would like to get engaged over and over again.

We arrived at the Jacobo’s family household around 3PM with pumpkin pie and a raw turkey in hand. First line of business was to get that turkey basted in butter and beer and roasting in the oven. When we arrived though, I was quickly pulled into the living room where I found a jungle, yes a JUNGLE, of flower arrangements. Six lush, gigantic, gorgeous flower arrangements, all from a florist in Madrid that I had discovered and given my stamp of approval (no fern, baby’s breath or carnations in site!!!!). I was in heaven – pure bliss. I’ve been surrounded by lots of flowers before, but never all for me, so this was pretty much the best thing ever.

I think I remained in shock for the rest of the day. My aunt was cooking up a storm in the kitchen with her sioux chefs – my cousin and my mom. Dinner came and who would have ever thought that the most delicious Thanksgiving ever would take place in Madrid? Between the turkey, the stuffing, the green beans and Jacobo’s mom’s mashed potatoes, I was in Thanksgiving heaven! The food felt like real soul food as a result of my aunt’s amazing cooking skills, the love put into everything, and probably me missing home.

Following dinner, it was pedida time! It started with Jacobo’s father giving a brief speech and presenting me with the ring (which Jacobo had previously given me). This is when the surprise came in though – Jacobo’s mom then said that since Jacob wanted to follow US tradition by getting me the ring, they wanted to follow Spanish tradition by getting me something as well. And at that point his parents gave me the most gorgeous sparkling diamond earrings!! They are absolutely stunning and I hope to wear them for the wedding (must figure out the dress first!).

After this, my mom gave a short speech and then presented Jacob with a fancy watch (as is Spanish tradition). Then we all drank the evening away, laughing, translating and blending traditions in the best of ways. It was a really special evening – and I still have the sweet scent of the flowers to prove it! It sure will be hard to top a Thanksgiving like this one.

P.S. – Yes, my eyes are closed in the picture above….I figured it could act as a tribute to the fact that I was incapable of keeping my eyes open during any photo taken by my mom’s camera (probably in subconscious rebellion of my family’s paparazzi-like tendencies).

November 30, 2008 - Posted by Erin in Traditions

Thanksgiving Thursday came and went – it was so weird to spend the day just like any other day. I was a bit sad about it so Jacob met me for lunch and we decided to go to the local California cuisine restaurant – and sure enough they had a special Thanksgiving menu! It absolutely made my day!

While I was unable to properly celebrate Thanksgiving on the actual day, I had made plans to have people over on Saturday so that I could introduce the holiday to all of our friends here. We were expecting 10 people to come over and share in the special holiday.

And guess what, I did it! I can officially say that I’ve made Thanksgiving dinner. Jacob and I managed to pull off making a gigantic turkey (22 pounds/10 kilos!!), stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, pumpkin pie and gingerbread cookies. I would have done cranberry sauce, but believe it or not, cranberries are yet another one of those things that are impossible to find here – cranberries and blueberries actually have the exact same name in Spanish, as if they taste remotely the same!!? And sage, apparently they don’t do sage here either. Someone remind me to buy some when I come home for the holidays.

The craziness began Friday night when I decided I would first conquer the desserts – pie and cookies. I had brought ingredients from the States for both, so they were super easy. Desserts – done.

Saturday morning we began with the stuffing (no, I wasn’t adventurous enough to actually stuff the turkey). I had to do without the sage, but made do with other herbs. With the stuffing done, we moved onto the mashed potatoes. We peeled and diced them and then made a quick run to Starbucks and the gym to take a break.

We returned from the gym to get the turkey started and finish off the potatoes. The turkey was just plain huge, any bigger and it wouldn’t have fit in the oven. Covered in oil, herbs and spices, we managed to squeeze it into the oven. At which time we finished up the garlic mashed potatoes, and then just waited for guests to arrive. And by the way – shame on me for not buying a turkey baster in the States – the only one I could find here cost 17.50 Euros!!! I swear I saw a package of two for $1.99 at Safeway before I left…I’m kicking myself now.

So the turkey took like 4+ hours – good thing Spaniards don’t mind eating late. I don’t think we were eating until probably 11:00. Before everything was ready though, I had to make the gravy, which ended up being the most difficult thing of all. Our kitchen is a bit small (I think it’s about the size of my closet in SF…OK, maybe a little bigger, but not by much!) so between Jacob trying to acquaint himself with the turkey, and me trying to figure out how the heck to make gravy, it just got messy (literally and figuratively). I won’t go into the details, but let’s just say that all’s well that ends well! Every last thing turned out perfectly – even the gravy! And while last night the kitchen was a disaster zone of turkey juice and flower, this morning it is finally clean and completely sanitized (I hope!).

And now my friends I have to go to Bucharest, so I can’t even enjoy the massive amount of turkey leftovers :(. It was as good as a Thanksgiving could get though given that I am so far from home. Everyone here loved the food so much and is anxious to do it all again. I am glad that I could share such a special holiday with such great people in such an amazing place.

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving as well. Just a couple more weeks and I’ll be home again for the holidays – can’t wait!