I think it’s safe to say that after two years of tackling our favorite holiday here in Spain, Halloween, we’ve really got it figured out. It’s clearly a day that’s being embraced all over the globe!
But what in the world does an American expat do for Thanksgiving while living outside the states?! The food, the football, the family. All a bit foreign here! While our friends and family back home basted birds, cozied up to the Macys Thanksgiving Day parade on TV and put the finishing touches on homemade apple pie, it was just another week day here in Spain!
Work, school, laundry and afternoon sports. The kids even complained about not being able to stay home from school as we walked to catch our usual bus that morning. They couldn’t understand why Thanksgiving wouldn’t be celebrated here! Which of course, introduced yet another conversation explaining the who, what, when and most importantly the WHERE of Turkey Day.
But in keeping the promise Tony and I made to ourselves when we moved to Spain, continuing our beloved family traditions while also embracing new ones, I rolled up my sleeves up and jumped in determined to make it special. So much pressure especially given the fact that I had never before cooked Thanksgiving dinner on my own. So why not try and tackle it all in a completely foreign country, no sweat!?
Okay okay, so I know my last article mentioning The Taste of America store slightly mocked its overpriced junk food and cheesy decor. But seriously, this place saved my a$$ this Thanksgiving! I mean, nowhere else in Barcelona was I about to find canned cranberry sauce, cream of mushroom soup, Pepperidge Farm stuffing base and mini marshmallows. And I wasn’t about to let the sticker shock stop me from preparing the most important meal of the calendar year…
Next to tackle was the guest of honor himself, the big bird! Man, how fortunate I was back in the U.S. to receive a FREE turkey every Thanksgiving from the grocery store just for being a loyal customer. Not here, my friends! I got a tip from an American friend (which I’ve come to quickly learn are hugely valuable!) about pre-ordering turkeys at the famous La Boqueria Market on La Rambla. Orders must be placed one week ahead and I was warned, the birds are cleaned well but I might find a feather or two! I jumped on it and tried not to cringe too much at paying 40 euros.
As ALL parents can attest, having children means a possible change of plans at any given moment! And I found myself at the hospital with our two year old until 2am the night before the big meal. So what’s a mom to do on the morning of the big feast with a sick baby and three hours of sleep? Contact my friends at GLOVO, an inner city bike messenger service that will pick up literally ANY thing you need and deliver it to you – for next to nothing!!
Never heard of it? These guys were my knights in shining armour Thanksgiving morning! I made the emergency turkey request on my GLOVO app and within an hour Mr. Gobble Gobble himself was at my door. This was one of those moments when I realized the sheer ease and convenience of living in a big city.
Ahhh, and the meal prep began!
I may have overestimated the size of our tiny European oven, however. At one point I was on my hands and knees in front of the oven shoving trays of food inside praying everything would cook through! Miraculously, it did. And dare I say, this La Boqueria farm fresh turkey was the juiciest most flavorful and delicious ever! Typically I fill my Thanksgiving plate with tons of side dishes and a few bites of turkey. This year, I went back for seconds of the bird haha…
I made sure to cover all the traditional dishes including two special ones from both of our families – my mom’s amazing Italian sausage stuffing and Tony’s mom’s sweet potato casserole topped with tons of those precious mini marshmallows you keep hearing me talk about! Although our families weren’t physically with us this year, we felt them around our table as we toasted and shared the meal with other American expats.
The cherry on the cake – or should I say, apple in the pie – was turning on TV (a pre-recorded) Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. It’s how I grew up enjoying Thanksgiving mornings – watching the screen with wide eyes as giant inflatables of our beloved cartoon characters filled the Manhattan sky, dancers dancing and trumpets blaring. And to top it all off at the end of the parade – my very favorite part that brings tears to my eyes every year – Santa himself riding the very last parade float and officially welcoming the Christmas season. It warms my heart even to this day…thousands of miles away.
And so, Thanksgiving was a…success! Guests went home with leftovers and bellies full. Children fell asleep on our couch from the exhaustion of fun as well as overeating. Sure, it felt different celebrating here in Spain where locals aren’t really quite sure what the HECK Thanksgiving really is.
But having to literally recreate this holiday on the other side of the globe made it feel…..that much more special. Maybe we cherished it more? It sure made Tony and I reflect, as Thanksgiving is intended to do – on our families and friends, our life together, our three children and the opportunity we’ve been given to live and work in this incredible city!!!