bread

How to Host Thanksgiving in Spain

Having hosted two Thanksgivings in Spain, I now consider myself an expert, obviously. That’s just how these things go.

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  • Buy a female turkey, una pavita. I had no idea before 2010, but smaller turkeys are tastier

 

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Mario helped too!

  • Have a pinche, a sous chef. Mario’s father, Jesús, was my sous chef, and the best one there could possibly be. He spent the whole morning chopping, cutting, and just generally being helpful. Also, he is totally relaxed. Find one of those.
  • There will be bread. This is Spain, how could there not be?
  • Stand up to the idea of primer plato, segundo plato. Stay steadfast in your American-type meal and have your guests eat everything off the same plate. The horror!

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  • Let someone else make the dessert, even if they make it differently than you would. This year, we didn’t have the traditional pumpkin pie; rather, we had a sort of pumpkin cake. No big deal. We ate some pumpkin, okay?!

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  • Drink local wine. Better yet, have another person bring that local wine, especially someone from Toro!

There you go, my recommendations for a Spanish-American Thanksgiving. Go forth, and roast yourself a turkey!

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Everyone’s Favorite Subject—FOOD!

If you’re like many people from Middle America, you might be a bit confused about what, exactly, Spanish food is. My friend asked me the other day, “Is guacamole Spanish? Or Mexican?” She was about to prepare guacamole from a packet, you see, and thought I might be offended by this. As it is, I don’t get offended by such things. I mean, the guacamole was pretty damn good. Plus, guacamole is pretty labor intensive and she was throwing a bridal shower. There are more important things to think about in such situations.

Well, friends, I’m here to help you. I will now introduce you to my favorite Spanish foods, or at least the foods that made a big impression on me during my time in Spain. Keep in mind, I was usually in Castilla and the food there is, of course, different than the food in Galicia, Basque country, or Cataluña. So, without further ado:

Iberian Ham (Jamón Ibérico)

Would you believe me if I said that many families keep a leg of ham in their homes? Would you believe that they value this pata, or leg, of ham more than a juicy steak. But it’s true. And they won’t accept that you think otherwise. This type of ham is sold by the leg in many butcher shops. In fact, in Salamanca, on a major street there is a shop for this type of meat. My brother said it smelled like leather. I tend to agree, but it tastes good. To each his/her own.

Spanish Omelet (Tortilla Española)

This is a crowd pleaser. You see, it’s not weirdjust potato, eggs, onions, salt, and olive oil. When I say olive oil, I mean LOTS of it. My mother and I attempted this, using what we considered to be an adequate amount. Mario, our resident Spanish expert, poured about, oh, half a bottle in the pan to fry the potatoes until soft. I saw our mistake then, although ours didn’t turn out so bad, really.

Bread (Pan)

Bread is the life of Spain. It is utterly common, unremarkable, to see almost every old man and woman carrying a loaf under their arm around 1 PM, carrying it home for la comida, lunch, at 2:30. (Yes, they eat late.) When you eat soup, what do you need? Why, bread of course, to sop up all the remains. When you’re eating something that tends to scurry around the plate, what helps? A piece of bread to help scoop the little rascals onto your fork. Without bread, eating is not the same, not as enjoyable, and definitely not as tasty. It is so enjoyable to enter the store and feel the bread is warm, recently taken out of the oven. Nothing better.

Aceite de Oliva (Olive Oil)
Olive Oil
In America, we have an aisle devoted to cereal, an aisle of ice cream. We do not, however, have an aisle of just olive oil. Light, dark, intense, with garlic, with lemon…you name it, you got it. There’s artisan varieties, store brand, etc. It’s astounding, really, until you realize that literally almost every dish contains it. If you’re cooking some pork, you’ll likely cook it on a pan with olive oil. (There aren’t that many grills in third floor apartments.) If you’re making soup, salad, even some desserts, what do you need? Olive oil! It’s versatile and delicious. It’s especially good with some Iberic ham and tomatoes …!

There’s more, really, but I’ll stop here for today. But here’s one final tipSpanish food is most definitely NOT spicy! That’s Mexican. They don’t generally enjoy spicy food too much.

Random Observations

Now, these don’t apply to everyone, but just stuff I’ve seen lately!
  • It’s totally okay to shake out your dusty rag over the street below … no one cares if they get dust on their head, after all.
  • Spying on your elderly neighbor and inventing stories is very good breakfast-time entertainment.
  • Flies are smarter here. You see, in the U.S., if they got in, I’d always open a window, hoping they’d fly out. No dice. But here, here they DO. How great is that! American flies, take note.
  • Spanish men (the old ones) tend to walk with both their hands clasped behind their back. Why?! Good question.
  • When you enter a café, you never know if you’ll be entering a card game of some sort…I have done this twice, and all the old men stare at me.
  • Two things you will never lack: bread and coffee. There’s a shop every two feet as well as a café/bar.
  • Everyone must have backpacks on wheels (if you’re 14 or under).
  • You needn’t be a twin to dress the same as your brother/sister.
  • When something big happens in a soccer game, you can tell just by listening out your window. Last night, we heard a loud cheer when Barcelona scored a goal. We turned on the radio to hear the announcer: “GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAL!” Hahah.
  • Coffee here is much, much better. So are oranges.
  • Only foreigners drink carbonated water…so apparently I identified myself. But I tried to explain that it’s not that common to drink “agua con gas” in the U.S. either.
  • Eat late. You’ll be cooler. In the summer, some families go to the beach and eat dinner at 12 midnight. That’s when you know you’re REALLY, really cool.

Welp, that’s all for now. Hope you enjoyed.