Friday, November 19, 2010

Giving Thanks in Mexico

I spent the Thanksgivings of 2001 and 2002 in Guanajuato, Mexico. At the time my husband and I were working as English teachers. My first Thanksgiving there might have almost gone unnoticed if I hadn't been invited to spend it with a gal from the US and her family. I don't really remember much about this particular celebration... but thanks to the wonders of the Internet my experiences from that day have been preserved untouched for the last 9 years... and here it is with along with the only surviving photo of that Thanksgiving:

Well Thanksgiving is not a holiday I had to work yesterday. I had my students make those turkeys where you trace your hand...and we talked about the traditions and the foods of the holiday. There was a holiday here on Monday and Tuesday so I was able to go out of town for a few days. We stayed in Toluca and traveled around the state of Mexico. I had a wonderful time. I ate some exceptionally fresh trout in a town called Malinaco (the trout was caught in a spring fed pool inside the restaurant). Delicious... and only about $4 for a whole fish, potatoes and all the tortillas and salsa I could eat...Plus a beer. I also got to check out some really cool Aztec ruins.
The last day of our mini-vacation we went to an extinct volcano near Toluca and actually drove into the crater. The peak is at over 4,600 meters (about 14,000 feet)...There was a lot of snow...really really beautiful...and now I´ve had a snow ball fight in the tropics.

For Thanksgiving some of my friends made a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. Turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, a fruit and a vegetable salad, bread and I brought roasted potatoes and carrots... It was very good! The only things missing were the cranberry sauce (I don´t think that it exists here) and pumpkin pie(pumpkins exist here and are used for all kinds of sweets...but I have never seen a pumpkin pie). I give thanks this year for many things... good friends (in the flesh and online)... a wonderful family... and the ability to live out my dream of living here in Mexico.

Thanksgiving 2002 was a little more memorable. We were running out of money and we knew our Mexico experience was near an end. It was obvious to us that we were outsiders in Mexico... and yet at the same time I had never felt so much a part of anything in my entire life. There is so much more to this story and so much more to say about this chapter in my life... but this is supposed to be about Thanksgiving so I think I will leave that for another day.

We had a big celebration with many friends and even some family. My parents came for a visit and brought many of the trimmings for a traditional Thanksgiving meal... A turkey was impossible due to fact that the only oven I had was a small toaster oven. Instead we had rotisserie chicken that we purchased from a little restaurant down the hill. My roommate, Corina, made sweet potatoes (known as Camote in Mexico). She cooked it Mexican style by reducing cone shaped chunks of brown sugar into a sweet sauce. Another Mexican touch was the mole sauce for the Turkey (courtesy of Jonatan's family who made and sold it). Our more traditional dishes included Cornbread stuffing, fruit salad, mashed potatoes and gravy, cranberry sauce, and a relish tray.

The biggest hits of the meal were the things that you just couldn't get in Mexico: The cranberry sauce, of course... and the pumpkin bread that I was able to make with the canned pumpkin my mom brought from the states.

Overall it was huge success. Everyone was happy and we had fun sharing a traditional US holiday with our friends from Mexico. I don't really know what I was thankful for that year.... but looking back I know what I'm thankful for now. I'm thankful for the wonderful time I spent in Mexico. I'm thankful that my family was able to visit me there and enjoy the experience as well...but most of all I am thankful for where that journey has led me in my life.

Here is the recipe I used for the pumpkin bread that I made in Mexico. I didn't have any fresh or frozen cranberries... so I just made it without...


1 cup canned solid-pack pumpkin
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
2 large eggs
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup picked-over fresh or frozen cranberries

Preheat oven to 350° F. and butter a loaf pan, 8 1/2 by 4 1/2 by 2 3/4 inches. In a large bowl with an electric mixer beat together pumpkin, sugar, water, eggs, and oil. Sift in flour, baking powder, salt, baking soda, and spices and stir just until batter is smooth. Stir in cranberries and spoon batter into loaf pan, spreading evenly.

Bake bread in middle of oven 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean, and cool in pan on a rack 10 minutes. Turn bread out onto rack and cool completely. Bread may be made 4 days ahead and chilled, covered.

Makes 1 loaf.

Happy Thanksgiving,


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