Holidays as an expat can be tricky. The holidays that you used to celebrate, back in your passport country, aren’t always celebrated in your new country, and if they are, they’re not always celebrated in the same way.
I’m still in Scotland and, like Chile, Scotland doesn’t celebrate Thanksgiving, so I’ve yet to have my turkey. Later today, I’m meeting up with other expat strangers, who are friends-I-don’t-know-yet, to stuff ourselves into a tryptophan stupor.
I can’t wait to sink my teeth into succulent turkey and its trimmings. I was going to make a cornbread dressing, just like my mama always did, until I remembered that in my rented apartment, there are no measuring utensils and only minimal kitchen equipment.
Instead, I’m taking a sweet potato casserole, made with butter, brown sugar, a bit of cinnamon, and chopped pecans. Marshmallows optional.
One local was surprised that I was making sweet potatoes even sweeter. She told me that sweet potatoes are a savory dish here. They are often served in roasted chunks, skin on.
She also explained that, for Christmas, Brussels sprouts and Christmas “Pudding,” which sounds similar to fruitcake, are traditional. When I was a child, we never had sweet potatoes or Brussels sprouts for holiday meals, probably because my father didn’t like either of them.
Every year, my mother faithfully made fruitcake, liberally doused with whisky or sherry. None of us would touch it, but she claimed that she had to have fruitcake on hand in case any neighbors unexpectedly dropped by for a visit. Since year after year, no one dropped by, I suspected that this might have been an excuse to secretly sip the cooking sherry.
Though I’ve been living in Chile for almost five years, I’ve never gotten the hang of Chilean holidays. I always forget when they are and whether or not they’re irrenunciable, which means that stores have to be closed unless the owner is manning it himself. The employees must have the day off.
Those holidays sneak up on me like naughty children, playing a prank, when I forget to stock up ahead of time and then find the store closed when I need something.
At least I had no problems finding the ingredients for the sweet potato casserole here, even if half the marshmallows are unusable because they are pink.
For most of you, it’s all over but the tryptophan hangover and the football, but here’s a little ditty for you:
May your turkey be tender,
Your gravy be tasty.
May your potatoes be fluffy
And your relatives, not crazy.
Happy Thanksgiving weekend to all!