Friday, November 30, 2012

Thanksgiving in Argentina: How to make it happen

Thanksgiving is no doubt one of the best holidays in the States. How can it not be? We stuff ourselves with amazing food, you’re surrounded by family and friends, there are no gifts involved, and it really is just about enjoying the company you are with and the food you eat. While being abroad, some of the holidays you might miss might not be that big of a deal, but being abroad during Thanksgiving, that can be very heartbreaking. Not only because it might be your first time away from your family, but also if you are trying to replicate certain traditions, finding the right ingredients can be an issue. But, it is possible. With the help of some very, very amazing people (locals and yanki’s) we passed an incredible Thanksgiving dinner.

This post explains how it came about that my roommate and I decided to throw our first Thanksgiving dinner in Buenos Aires, how we made it happen, and how are initial idea of having around 10 people and potluck style turned out having 25 friends and in charge of it all.

We had just moved into our new apartment in Palermo Hollywood and were ecstatic, located on the 14th floor, amazingly situated, with a wall to wall view of Buenos Aires. “Why not do Thanksgiving at our place?” We asked ourselves. Great idea, just how do we make this happen? Turns out turkey isn’t a common meal in Argentina (unsurprisingly so, many Expats turn to having Asados for Thanksgiving). Once we found out we were for sure able to find a turkey, we started our quest.

The following is how we did "Thanksgiving in Argentina":

1. Finding The Turkey.
With the help of the Internet and a local Porteno friend, we found a very original, family-run butcher in Abasto, where we met Gustavo, the man who gave us our 26.4 Pound Turkey. Yes, it was enormous. 

Gustavo--great, great grandson of the man who opened this butcher
Very heavy..

The place: La Granaja Converso
Location: Lavalle 3501 (at the corner of Billinghurst)
Ask for Gustavo..he is the great great grandson of the man who opened the Carniceria.

2. Making sure the Turkey fits in the oven.
Self explanatory. Although in hindsight, Step 1 should probably be “Measure the size of your Oven-- to make sure the turkey will fit in the oven” but fortunately it worked out fine. 

3. Brining the Turkey
Because the turkey was so big, my friend who made this whole thing happen by agreeing to help with the turkey (i.e. he did it all), said we really ought to brine the turkey to avoid dryness.
Where to brine the turkey? A large cooler works very well:

4. Finding a tray to put the turkey in so you don’t lose any of the juices, or burn down your apartment.
We went to Makro, which is Argentina’s Costco. This is actually where we got all the basic cutlery, plastic plates, and cups, we needed for the party. Everything comes in bulk but they have really reasonably priced kitchen supplies. Only issue is you need to go in a car and also need someone who has a Makro card.

5. Thermometer for the Turkey.
Barrio Chino has but it was more expensive than that at Jumbo (located off Santa Fe on Bullrich St.)

6. Turkey Baster
Had to get creative, went to the local pharmacy and bought a syringe. As long as the plastic isn’t too thin, there shouldn’t be any problems. Surprisingly it worked out really well. This was my first time basting a turkey and I got really excited about it.

Everything else more or less was easy to find..We were lucky enough that one of our friend’s was returning to BA just before Thanksgiving, bringing back 4 cans of Cranberry sauce, and a bag of marshmallows for the sweet potatoes.

The pumpkin pie, although thought of as extremely strange to the Argie’s (they have pumpkin tarts all the time..but those are savory tarts. None had ever heard of pumpkin pie as a dessert!) turned out to be the Best pumpkin pie I have ever tasted. Trick: use a real pumpkin!

The stuffing was probably the easiest since no ingredients are that unusual. I do have to say thanks to skype on that one..calling mom asking “What do I do next?? I have no bowl to mix it all in!!!” was my “Happy Thanksgiving “phone call to my family. (Actually to be honest I send her an email first on Wednesday. Subject: thanksgiving HELP! Mom, I’m freaking out!!)
"What do you mean Mom??" Got to love Skype

Although our initial plan was to do a potluck dinner, we realised that wouldn’t work out too well trying to organise who is bringing what and also with 25 people, and only about 20% Americans. It worked out great in the end..everyone brought drinks and we provided the food. Only think that we had forgotten about (a very important dish) was mashed potatoes. Ended up buying a few packs of “puree de papas” (powdered mix basically). Wasn’t the same but did the trick.

After 6 hours of the turkey in the oven, we started our dinner at 10pm..early for Argentina standards. The turkey was DELICIOUS! Not dry at all, and made the best gravy ever. Once food was on our plates (most people were standing and some were eating with spoons but no one complained) we went around and everyone said what they were grateful for, in either Spanish or English.

Again..very heavy.

Very proud of this moment..Cutting in to the turkey and seeing how perfectly cooked it was.
Withers, you did an amazing job!
Going around saying what we were thankful for
Dessert table. Yum.

All in all, I’d say being so far away from our traditional Thanksgiving dinner in the States, we did a pretty good job. This is a Thanksgiving I will remember for the rest of my life. To be honest, I don’t know how people host these dinners every year!!! Thursday morning Grace and I looked at each other and were wondering “What were we thinking?!”

The whole crew
Totally worth it.

Me and my roommate, Grace.
Javier, the turkey-finder, and Stu the dessert man (and cranberry sauce man).

Lots of preparations for the turkey..three day process between
bringing, cleaning, and cooking.
Blueberry Crumble
"I just basted my first turkey!!" wayyy to excited!


Friday, November 2, 2012

November in Buenos Aires

November is a great month to be in Buenos Aires, for various reasons. First and foremost, the weather is just perfect: it's already warm enough to hang out in parks during the day and go out in t-shirt or a dress at night, but the temperatures are nowhere near the humid rain forest mode of late December, let alone the Sahara-like January, although it's humid all year round.
Secondly, there are many great things to do and events that make November perhaps the best month of the year!

In case you haven't yet gotten enough of the world's best nightlife (and who would?), you may want to experience Creamfields. Creamfields is the famous electronic music festival that takes place this year on November 10 when the weather has just gotten warm enough to dance and party all night long. Every year it is the event of the young and young-minded party people, featuring artists like David Guetta, Calvin Harris, Paul Van Dyk, and many many others. The event takes place on next week's Saturday, November 10.

Here you can see how Creamfields BA was in 2011.. well as here, too...

If you are coming or came to Buenos Aires with the basic tourist logic of hot weather + coastal city = beach, and got a bit disappointed that the city center does not boast with an enormous Brazilian-style beach, don't worry! November is a great month to take advantage of the getaways in nearby areas, such as the delta of Tigre. You can get to Tigre by taking a train from the Retiro station, and from Tigre you can book a daily ticket to one of these getaways that have a small beach, green areas, barbecues and basically all the things you want to have to spend a nice summer day (although it's still spring in Argentina). Here's a link to Tigre's tourism website, and here is a link to Alcazar, one of the recreos that are only a short boat trip away from Tigre.

Something you also have in Tigre is Parque de la Costa, Argentina's biggest amusement park. It's a fun place and definitely worth a visit. Be sure not to stuff yourself with too many choripans before the roller coaster rides, though!

In case you don't want to make the effort of going all the way to Tigre in order to get tanned, you can just go to one of the many parks in the capital city of Buenos Aires! My personal favorites are Lagos & Bosques de Palermo, and Puerto Madero. Be aware of the fact that the sun can burn you really fast in BA, so you should always, always have sunscreen.