Monday, November 26, 2012

Feliz Dia Del Pavo

Some of the dinner party! 
As Thanksgiving was encroaching the American calender and Facebook posts, I wondered what I would do for the holiday here in Peru. I tossed around the idea of putting a dinner together but nothing had been planned. We had to work as it was just another normal Thursday here in Peru.

As it turns out, one of my colleagues asked me if I knew how to make banana bread. She was craving it and hoped I could help her make it. I leaped at chance and also suggested that we have a Thanksgiving dinner. She agreed and we put together a small group of guests and a menu.

Turkeys like you can get at your neighborhood grocery store are hard to find here in Piura. The stores had small turkeys, but with our work schedules, we didn't have time to devote to a half-day or full-day tending a tender Tom.  We decided on turkey breast fillets, mashed potatoes, Stove Top stuffing (thanks Mom!), and banana bread. Another colleague was going to make another desert as well.

The Tuesday before Thanksgiving, we went to the grocery store and got our supplies. I carefully wrote down the ingredient lists for our meal. I was in charge of the mashed potatoes, stuffing and banana bread. We purchased everything and went on our way.

Thanksgiving Day
After frantically marking final exams, my colleague Elizabeth and I went to Marianella's house because she was hosting the dinner. We were on siesta so we wanted to prep the food so we weren't eating at 11 pm at night.

Banana Bread 
I started prepping the banana bread. I can't find baking soda here, so I found a recipe that called for baking powder instead. Also, nobody had a loaf pan to make the bread so we settled on using a casserole dish. I had in a rush scribbled down the cooking instructions for the bread, and noticed after I made the dough that I wrote "mix flour, sugar and baking powder."

Sugar?! Sugar? I didn't have sugar on my separate ingredient list.  No internet, no smart phone. No way to call my go-to cooking expert Kristina in the United States. What was I going to do?  The dough tasted lousy.  Luckily, Marianella had sugar. The next step was to try to figure out how much sugar to add. Most people don't have measuring cups or spoons here, they eyeball measurements. Marianella handed me a tablespoon and I proceeded to add several tablespoons of sugar into the dough and crossed my fingers.

Elizabeth had brought bananas from her father's farm in Tallara. She mashed them up and she proceeded to pour the banana goo into the dough. I stirred it until it looked somewhat familiar to what I'm used to with banana bread. She poured the batter into the casserole dish and put it in the oven. I was really anxious about the bread. Was there enough sugar? Would it cook okay in the dish?  I fretted about it, I didn't want to waste the ingredients or be embarrassed in front of my friends if it didn't turn out right. About an hour later, the knife test proved it was done. When we were actually ready to dine at about 9 pm, I made sure to test the banana bread first to make sure it was edible - it was! It was pretty close to what you would expect in the United States, it tasted good and with a little butter, it was delicious! What a relief!

Back in September,my first care package included a box of Stove Top Stuffing. Those that know me,know my deep affinity for Stove Top Stuffing. Sometimes, I just prepare a box and eat that for dinner. So, this box had been sitting in my food shelf for 2 months, taunting me, calling out to me... "Eat me..Eat me."  I refused, because I was saving it for Thanksgiving. My friends, and Marianella's mother and brother had never seen stuffing before or heard of it. I explained that it was dried bread crumbs with seasoning.  I boiled the water and butter, and viola...the stuffing was done!

Mashed Potatoes
In my humble opinion, you can't have Thanksgiving without real mashed potatoes. Luckily for me, Peru has thousands of varieties of them.  However, I stuck with my favorite - the yellow gold variety. I wanted to leave the skins on them for extra texture and taste, but my friends said that "wasn't secure."  I also learned that the way to peel potatoes in Peru is to boil them first, then pull the skins off.  So, we put the potatoes in the water to boil.  Ever wait for potatoes to boil? They seem to take forever.  Finally, the potatoes were done. I observed the experts peel the skins of the potatoes. Armed with a fork and a knife, I proceeded to operate on each yellow potato.  I felt like I was opening up a body with forceps as I was carefully peeling the skin off, but leaving as much of the potato behind as I could. It was tedious work and the potatoes were hot. I wished I had a peeler and had peeled them beforehand, but that would be tedious too, so it was really sixes. Thankfully, Marianella's mom helped perform the post-boiling surgery on some of the potatoes.  I mashed them, added butter and my grandfather's secret ingredient - evaporated milk.  I did a taste test and man they turned out perfectly creamy and delicious.

The Spread! Yes, Inca Cola is delicious!
As far as the other dishes, Marianella's mother cooked the turkey fillets. Marianella made a fruit salad with lettuce, red grapes, mango and apple, with a dressing of lime juice, sugar and salt. It was fresh and delicious. She also made a vanilla wafer desert that was heavenly.

We had a wonderful evening. It was so nice to have a dinner party and I can't tell you how comforting eating mashed potatoes and stuffing was to me. It was like a taste of home with familiar food that I knew and enjoyed.

Everyone tried the stuffing and enjoyed it. All the dishes were perfect and it was a lovely evening.  I enjoyed my Peruvian/American Thanksgiving - even if I couldn't go Black Friday shopping! I am grateful for the friends I have made here in Piura!

My delicious plate of Thanksgiving food!