Thanksgiving Turkeys and Triumphs

Can I admit something, at the risk of sounding like a bad American?

I never liked Thanksgiving as a kid. My mind keeps going to the hours of preparation at my grandmother’s house, clipping off the ends of green beans and trying to ignore bickering. I’d eat far too much, fall asleep watching football and feel groggy for days straight. Aside from the long weekend, I didn’t see the point of spending a whole day eating and watching TV, all in the name of spending time with family and glorifying a bird.

Then I moved away from America, to a land where cranberries, pecans and even turkeys are scarce (after all, pavo is the Spanish way of say a buck).

All of the sudden, Thanksgiving became a good excuse to get together with those closest to being my kin.

Our Thanksgiving celebrations in my ever-changing group of friends has never been just about us Americans and our traditions – we teach Spaniards about the hand turkey while drinking the garnacha-based wines (which, according to, are the best matches for turkey!) and chattering a half a dozen languages.

Yes, I am thankful for my amoeba of culture in Seville – something that is just as much Spanish as American with a smatter of German, Mexican and everything in between.

But this year, I promised Kike a turkey, cranberry sauce and everything that my grandmother made him as breakfast last Christmas in Arizona (he no longer scoffs at my weird breakfast choices – mine is the type of family that eats waffles for dinner and cold leftovers for breakfast). He played his part by bringing back over a few cans of pumpkin and gravy mix and urged me to call on a turkey from a neighborhood carnicería. I began gathering recipes and making a rudimentary plan for how I’d make a full-on Thanksgiving dinner with one oven and two hands.

Then his dumb job sent him abroad nine days earlier than expected, effectively missing Pavo Palooza.

Still, the turkey show must go on, I thought, and I extended the offer to his mother and friend Susana again, not wanting to have to eat turkey bocadillos alone until Reyes.

I was not without challenges, from the lack of a microwave to last-minute changes in the menu due to no  fresh green beans, sage and evaporated milk in the supermarket or even a can opener from the American goodies I brought back with me. There’s a reason I’m the go-to giuri for plastic forks and wine at our parties.


Pumpkin Pie. Stuffing. Cornbread. Carrots and Garlic Green Beans. Mashed Potatoes. Gravy. Cranberry Sauce. Turkey. Tinto and Beer.

Turkey: 18,40€

Groceries not at home: 51,59€

New can opener: 5,15€

Total: 85,14€

Even the Brits I work with suggested that I start preparing a schedule ahead of time, and I did: cleaning, pie, vegetables, cornbread and stuffing on Friday, turkey and potatoes on Saturday. I was up before the sun on Saturday when I realized that the evaporated milk I’d refused to buy out of principle was going to be necessary for the pie I was too lazy to make the day before.

I wrote on Kike’s Facebook wall for our anniversary, stating that he would have enjoyed watching me fight with a ten-pound bird more than consuming it. For four hours, I set my alarm every half and hour to give the turkey a little broth bath, nervous if I hadn’t gotten all of the gizzards out or I didn’t let it cook enough inside. When my guests – Carmín, Alejandro, Susana and Inma – showed up right on time, I offered them beer and wine, and they marveled at the sudden transformation of an anti-housewife as I shooed them out of the kitchen. The only person I’d let in was Luna, my friends’ two-year-old daughter, who chowed down on cornbread and checked the status of the turkey.

In the end, the meat was cooked, no one cared that the stuffing was a bit cold and I didn’t end up with too much leftovers. We spent the afternoon laughing, telling jokes and finding places in our stomach to fit more food in. Wanting to do everything al estilo americano, I had to teach them the gravy volcano, explain that they’d probably fall asleep after consuming the turkey and look for American football games on YouTube. I felt lucky (thankful, if you will) about having friends and family who were open to trying out my holiday and easing the ache I sometimes feel for being so far away.

What Kike has got is mala suerte, heaved my beloved Doña Carmen. This food is making me think twice about American cuisine!

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About Cat Gaa

As a beef-loving Chicago girl living amongst pigs, bullfighters, and a whole lotta canis, Cat Gaa writes about expat life in Seville, Spain. When not cavorting with adorable Spanish grandpas or struggling with Spanish prepositions, she works in higher education at an American university in Madrid and freelances with other publications, like Rough Guides and The Spain Scoop.


  1. Way to keep the tradition alive! I’m cooking Thanksgiving lunch this Sunday for my hubby’s entire family (20 people)! Thankfully I’ve got a little help from his cousin who helped me prepare last year’s feast but this year will be the biggest yet!

  2. Ahhh, I applaud your effort, chica! It’s a lot of work making Thanksgiving dinner and it looks like you did a great job!

    Also, I’m so glad that you said that you didn’t like Thanksgiving as a kid! Me either! I still don’t really like it. I don’t like Turkey at all and the side plates always just seem kind of obligatory more than tasty.

    But that being said, I went to my first guiri Thanksgiving last year and found myself loving it, so go figure!
    Nicole recently posted..Unaffected IstanbulMy Profile

    • Sunshine and Siestas says:

      Amazing what being abroad can do to change your perspective, right? Here’s hoping you have a great turkey day, even if jamón is on the menu!

  3. Way to go! I have never cooked a turkey – I leave that to my mom.
    Nicole recently posted..Playgrounds and TreadmillsMy Profile

    • Sunshine and Siestas says:

      Bahaha, it seems that I am now the designated turkey maker, and that this is something that will be yearly. Oops! Have a great holiday, Nicole!

  4. Congrats on a successful T-day! My attempt at a Thanksgiving Trianera ended up with a pie that caught on fire in the (gas) oven.. but lots of good laughs with my Spanish “Family”. If you decide to do it again the butcher on Calle Evangelista will get you a turkey with no feathers and the insides cleaned out!

  5. Glad your Thanksgiving dinner went well, despite Kike not being there. That turkey looks good! Some friends and I got together last year in Madrid and had our Thanksgiving dinner a few weeks late in December, so it was more of a holiday dinner.

    • Sunshine and Siestas says:

      Holiday or not, having friends abroad is the most important factor. I don’t thikn I would survive in Seville without my americanitas! Enjoy your holiday and time off!

  6. How fun. I’ve never been a big fan of Turkey day until moving to Spain. I realized Turkey day is really about families and friends coming together (and not always about the food), and am planning to have my own little thanksgiving this Thursday and celebrate with a bigger group of expats a week later!

    Too bad Kike had to miss the big feast!

    • Sunshine and Siestas says:

      Kike will get a second round when he comes back, just no cranberry sauce! Have a great Thanksgiving, and good luck with the feast!

  7. Good work! What an accomplishment. One of these years, I’m really going to have to take some notes on how to prepare the bird!

    And Luna… ¡Que linda! I just love that photo!

    Happy Thanksgiving from Ohio!
    Kara recently posted..Córdoba: Third Time’s the CharmMy Profile

    • Sunshine and Siestas says:

      I think I got partially lucky, but I had a big audience to impress – especially picky Luna! Happy Thanksgiving, guapa!

  8. Wow, I’m tired just reading about making that feast!

  9. I absolutely love how pumpkin pie was the first item listed on your menu. PRIORITIES.
    Cassandra recently posted..The Next Big ThingMy Profile

  10. Congratulations on creating your celebration meal! I was never fond of eating turkey and I’m still not, but the side dishes like ‘candied yams’ and ‘green bean casserole’ are what makes Thanksgiving so uniquely American. In my opinion, at least. Finding the customary ingredients here in the Netherlands can be difficult and expensive (I finally found sweet potatoes for the ‘yams’). So we are very fortunate to have a group of international friends who somehow manage it and create a wonderful and traditional feast. This year, however, there will be some ‘non traditional’ foods representing other countries, which I think will enrich the experience. So much to be thankful for!
    Gayla recently posted..It’s Sinterklaas, Not Santa Claus…My Profile

  11. I remember spending my first Thanksgiving in Japan at a restaurant that specialized in eels. Congrats to you for tackling a turkey (and everything else)!
    Terry at Overnight New York recently posted..Bryant Park Hotel: On IceMy Profile

  12. I, too, have never been a big fan of Thanksgiving. Maybe it’s because my family doesn’t really have any special Thanksgiving traditions. But I’ve definitely enjoyed Thanksgivings in Spain. The last two didn’t feature an actual Thanksgiving dinner (are 100 Montaditos and an Irish pub close enough?), but they were great excuses to get together with friends, and this year I was psyched to put on one Thanksgiving dinner and attend another, to the extent that I even went crazy making decorations and hats, making me feel like an actual teacher.

  13. Looks like you did pretty darn well for yourself! Happy belated Thanksgiving!
    D.J. – The World of Deej recently posted..Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, and a Teachable MomentMy Profile

    • Sunshine and Siestas says:

      Thanks, same! It was nice to have someone else make it for me yesterday, too – definitely like that better!

      • Love this! Full applause Cat! Thanksgiving dinner is a challenge but especially with conversions! Way to keep the spirit even with Kike’s sudden departure. Your turkey looked beautiful! Love the picture of adorable little Luna peeking in on the bird! Good job!

  14. Christina Torres says:

    Where in SEVILLA is the American store you wrote about in your blog? I know there’s a Costco there now.
    Saludos from Rota


  1. […] a bilingual relationship is twice as enriching, twice as fun. I wholeheartedly agree. How great is making Thanksgiving for your extended family or teaching one another idioms and swear […]

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