Thanksgiving in Brazil
Cooking Thanksgiving dinner for a dozen people all by yourself would be an adventure no matter what, but add in power outages and cultural differences and, well, it’s been quite a day.
My day started about eleven this morning, when I crawled out of bed and into the kitchen to roll out the croissants one last time before shaping and baking them. Yum!
Then I chopped up the funny looking pumpkin I was praying would be as pumpkin-esque inside as it appeared outwardly. It was. Heaving a sigh of relief, I buttered, salted, and roasted the seeds before roasting a pureeing the rest for pumpkin pie.
Pumpkin pie. Decidedly the best part of Thanksgiving, a special call was placed to Grama to get the extra special tried-and-true family recipe. As always, it came through for me, despite several last minute changes. (That black stuff I thought was cloves turned out to be something else, and the suspicious looking pumpkin came out stringy, necessitating a trip through the blender). Thankfully, my wild guess at what might be evaporated milk during my hurried rush through the grocery store panned out.
While my pumpkin pie was in progress, I was also occupied attempting to invent a recipe for green bean casserole on the fly. Obviously, there is no cream of mushroom soup or can of pre-packaged onion straws available in Brazil. I had hypothesized that both of these things could be made from scratch – I could sauté mushrooms with butter and then make a cream sauce and bread and fry onions. The fried onions worked out fine, but it turns out neither cream nor fresh mushrooms are available. Instead, I improvised with a roux, milk, cheese, and onion and garlic. Close enough. Thankfully none of the people eating this dinner have the slightest idea about what Thanksgiving is supposed to taste like, so integrity of flavor is one thing I can skimp on.
Around this time, it started to rain. I didn’t think much of it, because it usually rains on Thanksgiving, and because I was focused on something more important: the turkey! Or in this case, the chicken. After the great turkey debacle of 2011, I was naturally pretty worried about roasting this pure animal and serving it to guests. However, I plunged on, stuffing its cavity with limes (no lemons here), and sliding butter and herbs under its skin. Problem number one occurred when I realized that we were out of aluminum foil, and problem number two occurred when I realized there was no way to get any more: the power went out, which means no elevators. And even though I’ve lived here months I still don’t know where the stairs are. Luckily, the stove is gas, so my world didn’t completely disintegrate.
By the time I had hauled the enormous chicken out of its pan and into an equally enormous pot with a metal lid, the power came back on. This was convenient, as it was getting dark and difficult to see. I used the opportunity to get my stuffing going (no celery available – used apples and shallot instead) before the power went out again. So now I’m sitting here sulking in the pitch black, wondering how on earth I’m going to finish my stuffing and cook the mashed potatoes. Well, resourcefulness is my personal trademark as a cook, so I’m sure I’ll figure something out. The real question is this: Who wants to come to a Thanksgiving dinner in the dark?