Expat Magazine

Thanksgiving (#1) 2015: The Album

By Gail Aguiar @ImageLegacy

Thanksgiving 2015 in Portugal

We’ll be having a second Thanksgiving on Saturday and I’d resolved to post the pictures from Thanksgiving #1 before Thanksgiving #2 happened. As it turned out, Part 2 snuck up on me but I’m sticking to my resolution!

Why a second Thanksgiving? Because we co-hosted the first one between Canadian Thanksgiving and American Thanksgiving, which made it sort of both and sort of neither. In Canada, the official holiday falls on the second weekend of October, which becomes a long one with Monday off. This year Canadian Thanksgiving was October 12. In the USA, Thanksgiving Day falls on the last Thursday of November, and this year it’s celebrated today (November 26).

We held our own hybrid Thanksgiving Part 1 on November 7, with a few Americans and one Canadian to explain what on earth we do and eat at Thanksgiving. Most of the table were curious Portuguese, eager to know if it would be like what they see in the movies (hint: don’t believe anything you see at the movies, especially food — it’s plastic!). The Thanksgiving table also has the potential for family drama, which makes it a common setting for scenes in American films (this list is always growing). It may be my terrible memory, but I don’t actually remember a single Canadian movie that references Thanksgiving. If there are any, do let me know!

What’s The Difference Between Canadian and American Thanksgiving?

Canadian Thanksgiving is associated strongly with the seasonal harvest and celebrated in early October, but aside from a day off and lots of eating with family and friends, it doesn’t resemble the spectacle that happens south of the border: for starters, the mega-shopping (Black Friday), mega-parades (Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade), large-scale sports events, and the President pardoning a turkey. In the USA, Thanksgiving Day can be a bigger cultural event than Christmas since not everyone celebrates Christmas, but it has a rather complicated history that is controversial.

Celebrating Thanksgiving / Turkey Day As An Expat In Portugal

As expats in Portugal, there’s no way of replicating anything from Thanksgiving except the food and gathering of friends, since it tends to be celebrated more with friends abroad rather than local families. (Portuguese family gatherings revolve around Catholic holidays like Christmas and Easter.) Some people call it Turkey Day rather than Thanksgiving, although I hear that more south of the border than in the north, partly because of the complicated history I mentioned.

We had big ambitions for this hybrid Thanksgiving: a 12-14kg turkey was ordered. Getting a turkey isn’t such a big deal — the Portuguese do eat turkey. I’m guessing we’d have a harder time acquiring a turkey in the Middle East or rural tropics. The classic conundrum is roasting the turkey whole, since standard European ovens are typically small. But we were determined to present it just like we do in our respective homelands and squeeze that bird in somehow. The turkey was ordered and we’d figure it out. What we didn’t expect was the butcher would ignore the request to leave it whole and quartered it, anyway!

So much for presentation…

While discussing how we’d season such a big bird, I brought up AviatorDave’s maple brine method because I had nearly a whole litre of maple syrup brought over from Canada. Also, I liked that there was a way to include him in our feast across the Atlantic. Nobody had a pot big enough to brine a turkey this large for 24 hours, so I suggested using a cooler. I’ve got a few pictures of our maple brine process, but the imagery is quite murder-esque so I’ve toggled its visibility:

Flip me the bird... (4 photos)
Thanksgiving (#1) 2015: The Album

The turkey sat in a cooler full of maple brine overnight while we sorted out the rest of the dishes, which turned out to be more regional than we’d initially thought. Marshmallows on top of sweet potatoes? This I don’t recall in Canada, or the green bean casserole. I bought the American-style sweet potatoes from El Corte Inglés, a Spanish department store, because that’s the only place I could find them. I get confused here what to call them, since I grew up in a house where all sweet potatoes were called yams (and English was a second language), but apparently yams and sweet potatoes aren’t the same thing. Portuguese batata doce is a variety that tastes a little different, depending on how they’re prepared. They look more like potatoes and I think are less sweet, but maybe they’d make decent sweet potato fries? I ought to try this sometime.

Thanksgiving 2015 in Portugal

sweet potato (Americas) vs batata doce (Portugal)

When it came time to roast the bird, it had to get piled up in two roasting pans which filled up one oven. There was one quarter left that didn’t fit and was shippped off to the nearest oven, which happened to belong to the ONE vegetarian in attendance!

Thanksgiving 2015 in Portugal

For this Thanksgiving dinner, I tried to come up with a specifically Canadian dish and attempted a pan of Nanaimo bars for the first time. Verdict: make butter tarts instead! Nanaimo bars take forever to make.

Paulo made a couple of desserts: a chestnut cake (because we have a large supply of chestnuts!) and a sweet potato pecan pie:

Thanksgiving 2015 in Portugal

Paulo’s sweet potato pecan pie

There were also some African and Portuguese dishes, so Thanksgiving #1 was pretty international. Big BIG thanks to Joy of Conversations With Hank for hosting the Thanksgiving crowd, including our pooch Ice. There are more photos of the feast below, and even more photos in the album.

Thanksgiving 2015 in Portugal

Thanksgiving 2015 in Portugal

Thanksgiving 2015 in Portugal

Thanksgiving 2015 in Portugal

Thanksgiving 2015 in Portugal

Thanksgiving 2015 in Portugal

Thanksgiving 2015 in Portugal

Thanksgiving 2015 in Portugal

Thanksgiving 2015 in Portugal

an African dish (vegetarian)

Thanksgiving 2015 in Portugal

recursive photo by Paulo

Thanksgiving 2015 in Portugal

sweetening the sweet potatoes

Thanksgiving 2015 in Portugal

Thanksgiving 2015 in Portugal

the beginnings of what we’d call stuffing, but in Portugal it’s close to what they’d call migas

Thanksgiving 2015 in Portugal

Thanksgiving 2015 in Portugal

November 7, 2015
Album: Thanksgiving 2015 & Guimarães

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