A Day to Give Thanks

This past week marked the most uniquely American tradition that I’ll miss while in Spain—Thanksgiving.  Before I went abroad, I was determined to make every effort to assimilate to Spanish culture; I didn’t want to travel across an ocean to fall back into American patterns.  However, I didn’t realize how hard it would be to give up, for an extended period of time, virtually every tie I had to an American lifestyle (No football on tv?  No delivery pizza?  No Starbucks?).  Even my classmates who were determined to watch no TV in English until the end of 3 months have slowly cracked.

But participating in Thanksgiving is an exception.  Why don’t all countries have something like it?  Despite its rather hazy colonial history, the intentions are clear and universally adored.

However, over the years I think the word loses meaning…it can be a stressful event, traveling from school to home, to relative’s houses.  You know when you repeat a word over and over and over and suddenly you can’t recognize the word anymore?  Sometimes I feel like that’s how thanksgiving is in the US, a compulsory and sometimes meaningless tradition.  There isn’t any thanksgiving music to remind you of the event, nor is there any lasting effects beyond a turkey coma.  Thanksgiving, thanksgiving, thanksgiving.

But yet again, Spanish has changed my perspective: ‘thanksgiving’ translates to ‘día de acción de gracias.’  A day to give thanks.  There’s no hullabaloo over the formalities of Thanksgiving in Spain, which has reminded me of its real, simple purpose.

Our IES program found a place for us to eat Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday night (at 10 pm, in true Spanish fashion).  There were over 90 people in the English pub (ironic).  We all left with our stomachs full of the traditional food and heads full of tantalizing conversation.

The next day, I was fortunate enough to have a host family that let me cook thanksgiving dinner (we’re technically not allowed to touch the stove or oven…sorry IES!).  Although she hadn’t used the oven in years and only 2 burners on the stove worked, we were able to pull it off.  My host mom was so excited—she kept coming in the kitchen, poking around and asking questions.  She even wore a dress to dinner, lit candles, and bought flowers.

She was excited for the food, I’m sure.  But during dinner she also suggested we share what we are thankful for.  Although I’m glad I decided to succumb to my American ways, for her I think this exercise was even more important—a country in crisis weighs heavy on every activity.

On November 14, there was a countrywide strike in Spain against the current political policies.  In Granada the demonstrations were generally peaceful, but all the stores closed to guard against dangerous groups called “piquetes,” looking to create danger.  With the unemployment rate between 30-40%, people in Granada are in dire need of change, and their hopelessness pervades many conversations– especially with my host mom.

I am thankful for the ability to remember why we do this, to sit down a week after the huelga and give thanks that we had a place to sleep and food to eat.


As for my menu…see the links below.  The meal was made possible by my mom who visited a couple weeks before, and came with boxed stuffing, cranberry sauce, pumpkin puree, and measuring cups in tow.  And remember…everything has to be converted to Celsius!


Chicken with Mushrooms (I wasn’t completely traditional here, but I didn’t want to clean the guts out of a turkey or chicken)



Twice Baked Potatoes



Baked Sweet Potatoes with maple butter and bacon.


for maple butter, we mixed equal parts melted butter and maple syrup.


Homemade Crescent Rolls (I had to put the dough next to our electric radiator in the bedroom to rise because most Spanish houses don’t have central heating)



Pumpkin Pie

Crust:  http://www.joyofbaking.com/PieCrust.html

For the filling, I followed directions on the back of the pumpkin puree.  You will need pumpkin (already spiced is easier), condensed milk, and eggs.


Corn Succotash

4 ears of corn

2 small red onions, diced

1 large red pepper, diced

salt, pepper,

1 pressed garlic clove

Cut the corn off the cobs.  Sautee the red pepper and red onion in a pan with 1 tbsp olive oil until soft.  Add the corn and cook until soft.