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Happy Thanksgiving Espana!

November 23, 2006

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We have so much to be grateful for on this holiday about gratitude! We were especially happy to be able to talk to family at home and share the holiday with them thru skype. It was wonderful for Mozart to be able to see Grandma’s face on our 15 inch PC screen as this is the very first Thanksgiving of her life that she was not at Grandma’s house for Turkey day. Nearing eighty years old and totally computer illiterate when we started the trip, Grandma (my mom) is now the resident expert on skype and using her webcam. She had practiced with my sister who only lives a few blocks away (and is a natural at computers and machinery with her love of civil engineering and race cars) so called us all by herself without a hitch. We were impressed!

Skype is really a spectacular  thing and it amazing how clear we can communicate with it across the world for FREE even on a satellite. There is a slight delay with the satellite, but its not really bad as they are both on high speed connections and they sound like they are in our room or next door. It is not always easy to figure out the details for non techie types and we are all still working out the kinks and learning how to use it. We should get lots of practice from now on!

It just makes it more than a phone call and Mozart got to sing some songs to Grandma, show her the new teeth coming in, show her and read some stories that she wrote in cursive and one in print and show her
a drawing and collage she made. I was happy to talk to my Mom and sister as long as I wanted as they prepared the food and rested in between. There is just something wonderful about seeing a loved ones
face and hearing their voice when you are living at such a distance. We became a part of each others Thanksgiving and since it is a holiday about sharing with family and counting ones blessings, that is important.

Thru the blog and webcam calls we are in some ways better connected than when we lived much closer and caught up in our daily lives with work and school. It might be a bit boring to see endless pictures of Mozart and her daily activities to some reading here, but there is never enough for family. This way they get to be part of our lives and on the trip with us as we roam and we cherish that.

We did not get the webcam to work today with DaVinci’s sister, but did have a good talk with them and
we were thrilled to find out that they will be coming for sure in February and bringing DaVinci’s dad for his 80th birthday! They will start in southern Portugal so we will probably meet them on that beach first before we bring them to our village. What exciting news!

I have been a little spoiled so I have not made many Thanksgiving dinners. My mom makes the best one in the world so why bother, huh? When I have not been at home, I usually did a service project like serving the homeless. I did not really even cook until I got married in my very late thirties as I was just too busy with career and got used to going out to eat or ordering in. I have always had  a passion for room service! My dad and my brothers hated some cooking I had to do for the family when I was a teenager and my mom was working, so that turned me off to it for years.

Even when I first dated DaVinci, he always did the cooking and I liked his skills at this art and thought I could just let him keep that up. He packed an awesome picnic on our first date at a beach and made some delicious romantic candlelight dinners that wooed me. He cooks and cleans up at the same time which was even more amazing to me as I usually make a disaster in the kitchen when I cook and hate to do dishes. After we got married, it became obvious that if I waited for him to get home from work to start cooking we would be having VERY late dinners and we might starve. Since he actually loved my cooking, we made a pact that I would do most of the cooking and he would do the dishes, that way
we could have a nice dinner as soon as he got home and we had great week end brunches that he made.

We also found that we enjoyed cooking together and that it was easy and fun for us which was a new experience for me. This man and his undemanding, accepting ways freed the inner cook in me and helped me learn how much I actually enjoy the creative process of cooking. So that is another thing to be grateful for this Thanksgiving, my husband, who has enriched my life in so many ways that few people could. We could never even be on this trip without his many talents and unwavering support. I get all weepy and sentimental just thinking about it and the depth of my gratitude. His mom always use to say he is “one in a million” and she was right! What a blessing it is to find ones soul mate.

Now we do not seem to have a working oven in this kitchen. The owner in the UK says it works,but the caretakers thus far have not been able to show us how to work it, so that certainly curtailed some items in our traditional Thanksgiving dinner. I brought the stuff for pumpkin pie, but we had to let that go and hope we can get the oven working by xmas dinner which is essentially the same as what we do for Turkey day.

Speaking of Turkey, the markets in Spain are not full of butterball turkeys ready to be roasted. We did find some turkey filets though which was even better for us since I HAD to cook everything on the top of the range. I just poached it in some chicken broth with onions and Braggs (brought from the health food store at home) and it tasted delicious. Even Mozart, who is famous for eating like an air fern, loved it and ate gobs. So we can be grateful that we found some turkey, altho we were prepared to do it with chicken if necessary.

My mom sent some home recipes by email which was a big help and I kept it very simple. I cheated horribly on the mashed potatoes and my sister would not approve at all as she is a masher from way back who hand purees boiled potatoes like nobodies business and gets some kind of thrill out of making each batch the smoothest of all time with nary a lump. We have no masher and I saw they sold instant mashed potatoes. Our boxed mix turned out just fine for us even with their Spanish directions. I brought a packet of turkey gravy from home too, so another cheat, but it worked out fine for our purposes.

But I did not succumb to stove top stuffing which my sister finds the biggest sin of all and not worth eating. I don’t mind it for other occasions, but I did not want to schlep it across continents when stuffing/dressing is easy to make from scratch if you bring spices. I figured even I could handle the
family oyster dressing recipe which is fairly easy.

Mozart got to do the job that I used to do as a child and my mother did as a child for her mother. So the tradition is passed down and makes me wonder how many generations this goes back. It is a simple task of just breaking the bread into small pieces ....a couple of loafs ..filling a big bowl. My mom can buy the bread cut up, but I am glad that we could not here. It is fun for a young child and makes them part of the process and gave me a break to take a quick shower. She also set the table and helped in other ways. We don’t have her apron and chef’s hat anymore, but we made due with a dish towel wrapped around her which she liked.

Even DaVinci joined in so it was a family affair which is the way we like it He did all the cutting up of vegetables like onions, celery and sweet potatoes and also helped with keeping up with the dishes and
pots and pans because we had a limited supply and had to improvise a lot. In our family it is a lot about
the food, working together, tradition, simplicity and fun. There is joy in just filling the home with those smells in anticipation of the feast to come.

But I also noticed it is a lot of work for one meal even though I was taking lots of short cuts. I can’t even imagine the amount of work my mom goes through with her extensive menu. This tiny kitchen and lack
of culinary supplies did not help the cause. The hardest part is so much has to be done at once to keep it
all hot and yummy. My moms family recipes are interesting too with instructions like “add a little milk”
and “ it will bubble up and when it comes down it is done”.I guess I misread the bubble signals (I never
saw it come down!) so my candied yams had much crunchier texture than usual, but it tasted the same.

We decided to enjoy one of our bottles of wine that we got in Burgundy (we have a mini wine cellar under an ancient step in the foyer with a wine rack that we found on sale at a hypermarket for one euro;) and enjoyed talking about that tasting at dinner. It is fun to revisit places verbally and share our memories of the trip already as it has enriched us so in unique ways.

We had a simple menu of the basics: turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy and  LOTS of candied sweet potatoes and oyster stuffing... my two favorites. I brought the brown sugar, poultry & sage seasoning, gravy mixes, along with the pumpkin pie stuff  with me with other hard to find things here like mac and cheese, pancake mix and Mrs Buttersworth’s syrup. They were in those bags we hauled across the continent in our little RV and lugged to the airport. Rene is probably still shaking his head, yet it has been worth it.

But I could buy most of what I needed for Turkey day right here in our tiny  village. The sweet potatoes were grown in a garden nearby and were great even tho I never saw this kind before. We could also find endless Thanksgiving crafts, stories ,poems, ecards, recipes etc on the internet. We missed our pumpkin pie,but substituted it with a luscious chocolate mouse. This sacred meal is important to us, so we prepared ahead of time and now reap those benefits.

It was fun and yummy to have our own little secret feast and celebration here in our ancient home while the world outside was oblivious to this jouissance. We were full and content when our families were just getting up and going on their day, so we got to have nice leisurely conversations and to join them via satellite and webcam.

I am so grateful for the technology that is available today to allow us to be together while so far apart. I am grateful to have such a special mother who gives, and gives and gives and attracts many to her famous holiday dinners because the food is just the best. I am grateful to all the women in my line who passed these recipes on so we can enjoy them for generations. I am amazed at how simple they are, yet so delicious.

I am grateful for all the support we have gotten from both sides of our families who have done so much to support us and teach us daily about love through their examples. I am grateful to my spiritual family and the support we get thru that. I am grateful for friends new and old who have been there for us and care and our with us thru the blog. I am grateful for the many kind strangers we have met along the way and the sweetness of the people in this village. It is like we meet special angels where ever we go as we have felt so nurtured on this trip and have gained even greater faith in humanity and God.

My heart so full that it is hard to express it without coming across corny or pollyanna-ish. I suppose I am a corny pollyanna by nature. Perhaps it is just good to experience the richness of this holiday that is about simple food, family, friends and gratitude for all our blessings big and small, in a new way on the other side of the planet, to fully realize the depth of what it all means to me.

May each of you celebrate your many blessings even if you don’t celebrate this particular all American holiday, for every day is really one for giving thanks! Life is beautiful and like the movie with the same name (which is a fave of ours), it is always present for those with the eyes to see it. I am grateful for this opportunity to open my eyes in greater ways to the endless bounty of love  in my life.

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