There is a saying in Spanish that translates to “You eyes are bigger than your stomach”. It’s a bit like “You bit off more than you can chew” – you know, that essential idea that you put more on your plate than you could handle. Ah, idioms. They warm the heart.
I was a momentary victim of such event this last Thursday.
You see, since arriving in Hermosillo I decided to throw a big Thanksgiving Dinner. I think I’ve been talking about it incessantly for the past two months- I heard Lisa’s story of her first Thanksgiving here, a tale in which she recounted her sadness at missing the holiday, particularly the fact that it was just an ordinary Thursday here. The students at the school she teaches did a very kind gesture of putting small turkey cut outs on top of hot dogs, and so she had someone observe the importance of the day for a brief moment.
Still, the day calls for some pomp (but no circumstance- this isn’t a graduation ceremony…oh snap.), and so in order to ease the transition to this wonderful Mexico I am growing to call home, I decided to make peace with the fact that I will always be half American in some way, shape or form and throw a big Thanksgiving dinner.
At first the task seemed doable. I would use the Velarde’s oven, and we’d have a small, intimate dinner with Hno. & Hna. Velarde, Jorge, Mylvia (Jorge’s girlfriend), Lisa, Pepe and myself. I’ve done dinner for seven before, so it seemed like a breeze- I’d spend the afternoon cooking, making a turkey and whatnot and then sit down to a nice dinner with people I loved. It seemed easy.
But a lot of things change in two months, and in my case, I met a lot more people whom I also loved, who also missed this particular tradition.
It is at this time that I would like to publicly apologize to Natalie Hodges. You see, I am an extrovert and Natalie is too- I have pointed this out in the past as part of the reason why I was half exhausted and (felt) over worked the other half; I was terrible on my own, but with her it was double! To me that insanity ended when I left the country. I resolved to be more introverted, to have a smaller circle, and to keep events small and intimate.
But I noticed that my invitation list kept growing. First it was the Missionaries- poor Missionaries! I felt so bad for them and figured they missed Thanksgiving. So, why not invite them? It seemed logical, and kind. I’m always in for extra charity points. Plus, it was an event that was going to involve food in large amounts, so if anyone was going to be enthusiastic about food it was going to be them. Missionaries look at food as if they were seeing a long-lost friend- every time they see it they are excited, eager, and they eat a lot. Guys in general eat a lot, but Missionaries eat doubly so, and nobody could love it more than me. I always feel awesome feeding Missionaries.
So, that made a total of 9.
In the last 3 weeks I got my visiting teaching assignment, and with it a brand, spanking new friend in the form of Paola Martinsen. I love that girl- she’s the Argentine version of me. We laugh a good bit when we’re together and we go running together and attempt to go to baseball games ( a thing which has yet to happen) every now and again. Her husband’s American and she is too (by marriage and culturally), and she and I talk about everything from entrepreneurship to boys to culture similarities and living with being both Hispanic and American. Well, of course, I love her, so I thought- why not invite her and Dave?
That brought our total up to 11.
Well, I love Hna. Moreno- I live with her, and she’s an all around awesome lady to be around. She’s active and out going and she does so much. So, maybe she wasn’t American and wouldn’t really get the emotional significance of the holiday, but she’d be fun to have around. So, I invited her.
That made it 12.
I found out that the sisters had been transferred out of our ward (a tragedy really), and that they added new Elders. They were both Americans. Now, how tragic would it be for them to hear there was a Thanksgiving dinner but that they weren’t invited even though the two other Missionaries were?
Our grand total crawled to 14.
I managed to invite twice as many people as originally planned to a dinner where I would be cooking something I wouldn’t be eating ( that’s right- a vegetarian cooking a turkey!), and all without the help of my extroverted best friend (love you Natalie). I had bought a good bit of food, and was worried that people would not be full, that we’d run out, that people would be left wanting. That’s when my inner Hispanic made a full appearance and really worried about the quantity. Pepe said throughout the week that my new favorite word was “more” and he was right. I looked at the food, thought of the 14 stomachs (4 of them which counted for twice as much), and really wondered if we’d completely run out.
Wednesday night I went over to the Velarde’s as soon as work was over, to start on the baking- a thing which I was not able to do in part due to the fact that believe it or not, I couldn’t find half of the ingredients.
And thus the other trouble with having Thanksgiving down here reared it’s ugly, ugly head- it is very hard to find a lot of the spices/ ingredients/ actual food items. So, it becomes a work of creativity, which is all fine and dandy with the cooking, but not so much with the baking. Baking requires you to be a nurturing robot- things need to be exact. I tried making orange rolls twice, only to have the ball of dough sitting there, never rising- an event that was on the severe side of disappointment.
Wednesday night I finally went to bed around midnight- tired to no end, and somewhat nervous over the next night. I had a marinating turkey in the fridge, rolls, pies…. it seemed doable. Sort of.
The next morning we got up and went to buy yams, and green beans, and finally got around to cooking at around 9 am. I have to say that the entire cooking ordeal was actually pretty relaxed. Hna. Velarde and I put Christmas music on (I know, the dinner wasn’t over- but it’s my Thanksgiving and I do what I want to), and just started cooking. I sung along, and saw that dishes were coming together, and really just enjoyed myself…until Pepe and Jorge showed up. Suddenly it was teasing, and that got me stressed out- because they were going to be having the meal, and I just couldn’t handle the idea of being ‘too slow’ or there ‘not being enough’ at that moment, which made me a little snappy. But it was good natured, and I was just being paranoid over the idea of there not being enough food.
Cooking is like that- there’s something therapeutic about tending to that basic need. Moving in an almost instinctive manner you get to go back and forth and meditate- getting lost in the scent and the texture and the clanking on spoons. I honestly love to do it.
And so we cooked. And we cooked. And we cooked. I honestly have never spent so much time cooking, and I’ve never made so much food. We started at 9 am, and kept at it well until 7 pm- the time our dinner was about to start. Mama Coco- Hna. Velarde’s lovely mother was invited. This adds our toll to a lovely 15 people.
By the time dinner was being served, I wanted to cry; at first from elation: The turkey was done! The meal, in its entirety was ready! Then, exhaustion: I hadn’t sat down in 8 hours. Then, slight worry: Were people going to like it? Excitement was the general over tone though- everybody sounded and looked so happy, so relieved, so generally enthusiastic about familiar food and traditions. There was half of the house to whom this wasn’t a tradition, but the happiness of sharing and the love for everyone were as palpable and real as the turkey itself.
At one point I walked out and saw the table set, and everyone mingling, and walking around relieved and joyous. I wish with all my heart that I could’ve just put that moment in a jar, for me to look at when I felt discouraged in some way. Everything was so perfect, and I felt like all the hard work put into it had been worth it in every way.
As an aside: a HUGE thank you to all the Velarde’s for lending their home, and their time- to Hna. Velarde for helping with the cooking, Lisa for making the mashed potatoes and the gravy, and Jorge for making all those runs to the store. I’d like to express my gratitude to the Elders for pigging out with such enthusiasm- it makes a cook feel appreciated. Mil gracias to Pao & Dave for bringing the sauce, for the massage certificate (thankyouthankyouthankyou), and for being such good listeners and cheerleaders. I’d also like to thank Mama Coco for being so dang cute and showing everyone how she finished all of her food.
I hope everyone in the States knows how happy and well things are going here. There have been bumps in the road, but I am so thankful for all the people I’ve met, people who I love so much and who are so special to me. It was such a blessing to be able to come here, and get to know all of them. And even though I do miss all of you terribly, I know that I am where I am supposed to be.
And so you know, the meal was a success. After orchestrating and cooking what basically amounted to the biggest feast I have made to date, I had three different sisters tell me that I could get married, which amounts to the highest compliment a woman can give your cooking. So, be informed: I got skills in the kitchen.
Now, to conquer that orange roll recipe…
A few of notes about this Thanksgiving:
Number of Americans: 8
Number of Mexicans: 7
Most laborious desert: Layered Jello.
Most plates eaten: Dave ate a total of 4- 2 at this dinner, and 2 at the previous one he’d had.
First Guests to arrive: The Missionaries.
Last guest to get here: Hna. Moreno- but she made it!
Unexpected hit of the night: The cranberry sauce. Paola’s recipe is made of magic.
Most gracious gift to the hostess: A massage certificate. Bless.
Bed time from washing dishes: 1:30 am- and we were not even done with them!
A closing statement: This was the most exhausting, most exciting Thanksgiving I’ve ever had.
Watching: Star Trek- the Movie
Thinking: “Man, Spock is so noble. And hot.“