I honestly can’t remember the last time I had a Thanksgiving meal. The closest I came to a proper Thanksgiving dinner was JOMA’s Turkey Dinner Sandwich when I was living in Hanoi. This amazing sandwich had everything: slow-roasted turkey, homemade stuffing, smeared in cranberry sauce, and it came with a side of gravy for dipping. At $5.70, it was a very pricey sandwich but oh, so worth it.
This year, I found myself in Cuenca where I completely forgot it was Thanksgiving until I ran into a few American travelers who reminded me of the holiday. Our lot of travelers who happened to be staying at the hostel this night included me and a fellow Californian, a Brazilian, a Brit, two Canadians, two Dutchies, and two Germans who then became three after a wayward backpacker arrived right as dinner was about to start.
One of the Canadians, Riley, age 19, volunteered his services to cook his first Thanksgiving meal. As only 4/11 had ever had Thanksgiving, it was fun to convince the other what dishes were appropriate to serve. We also had two vegetarians in the group.
After a morning of deliberations, the shopping began. We started at Mercado de 10 de Augusto with the vegetables. We left with a full bag of potatoes, sweet potatoes, lettuce, carrots, celery, onions, apples, and beetroot for $11. Not bad! Then, there was a shopping trip to Supermaxi. Six foreigners terrorizing a supermarket in search of anything Thanksgiving-like. It was good fun.
We returned to the hostel with more food than we could imagine. Riley took over the kitchen, for the next 4 hours, he churned out mashed potatoes, sauteed green beans, vegetarian stuffing, gravy, a beetroot salad, and moriño (Andean blueberries) sauce. (Cranberries are impossible to find in Ecuador!)
For the carnivores of the group, Trees and I went in search of pollo asado (roasted chicken). It was definitely a sight to watch Trees argue in Dutch to an Ecuadorian about how burnt and dry the chicken looked.
Dinner began at 7 pm on the dot and ate happily as we sipped on “nun wine”, a very sweet concoction brewed by a cloister in Cuenca. A few attempted a second helping, and there was plenty of leftovers. Thank goodness we left out the bread rolls, a second chicken, additional boxes of wine, and 2L of ice cream.
Dessert rounded out the meal. We managed to find pie, although not the traditional flavors you would expect: forest fruit and pineapple. Both pies were topped with birthday candles, just because.
I would like to thank my adopted family for reminding me of what Thanksgiving is about. We cooked, talked, and shared our time for this one day we all happened to be staying in Cuenca, Ecuador on an American holiday. Thank you, Dan, Nathalia, Seamus, Trees, Riley, Jade, Katarina, Luka, Darren, and the German guy who came at the very last minute. It was fun!