Tag Archives: Thanksgiving

Roasting a Thanksgiving Turkey in Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca

I bet you thought I disappeared! This is my first post since returning to Teotitlan de Valle, Oaxaca, a week ago.

Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone!

I came back to my casita filled with aromas created by professional cook Kalisa Wells, who has been house sitting my two adopted street dogs. All kitchen surfaces were covered with culinary ingredients. It was a sight to behold.

A cook’s kitchen, filled with every imaginable local chile variety, herbs, spices

And, then, Thanksgiving was a mere four days later.

Cuni Cuni Guajalote. Yummy Yummy.

From Durham, North Carolina and via Facebook, I ordered organic turkey raised in the Mixteca region of Oaxaca from Cuni Cuni Guajalote before I left. This took some sleuthing, hunting down their whereabouts via the Facebook group Clandestine Oaxaca Appreciation Society — the source for everything Oaxaca.

La dueña de Cuni Cuni — Araceli Jimenez

As it turns out, we decided on two smaller birds instead of a 9 kilo (20 pounder) when we did the pick up at La Cosecha organic market at Macedonio Alcala #806 — enough to feed a crowd that kept expanding beyond local family and intimate friends as I settled back in to village life. We were worried about one big turkey fitting into a basic gas oven.

Merry, Kalisa and Rosario with preparations underway

It was the roasting pan and rack that had us stymied. Neither of us brought a sturdy vessel or rack from the USA and the only thing we could find were flimsy aluminum, so we bought three and stacked them. There were no racks to be found as I cruised the aisles of the super mercado.

Kalisa’s Camote (Oaxaca sweet potato) Pie with the flakiest pastry crust

My eyes lit on a stainless steel dish drainer. Sure, it had those upright racks to hold the dishes vertical and immovable tall sides. I bet my friend Arnulfo and I could figure out a way to modify this, I said to myself. Into the cart it went.

And, here’s how it turned out.

Flattened, cut dish drainer. Be sure to remove plastic feet!

One of the great pleasures of being in Mexico is that we learn to innovate, modify, imagine and manifest. Things we need don’t always come easily, but there seems to be a way to improvise and make it work. I have learned this from my Mexican friends who are masters at adaptation.

Friends and family enjoying Thanksgiving dinner on the patio

And, if you live in Oaxaca, I encourage you to think about ordering your Christmas turkey from Cuni Cuni Guajalote. You will love it. Expensive? Yes. Worth it? Yes. This is NOT your Sam’s Club or Walmart frozen commercial turkey.

Organic beet hummus appetizer — veggies from Tlacolula market

How we roasted the turkey!

Kalisa loves butter. I found the local dairy-cheese man from the Teotitlan del Valle market and bought up all the butter he had. Probably five pounds. Kali coated the turkeys in butter, stuffed them with oranges, rosemary, apple peels (no pits), celery and carrot ends, covered the turkey with foil and put it into a hot 450F degree oven for about 20 minutes. Then she lowered the heat to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and continued to roast covered at 18 minutes per pound until the drumsticks wiggled easily and the juices ran clear. We didn’t have a meat thermometer. We were also cooking at 6,000 feet altitude using an oven with Centigrade settings, so we converted everything.

Jacki’s family sweet potato recipe

  • 300F = 149C
  • 350F = 176C
  • 400F = 204C
  • 425F = 218C
  • 450F = 232C

We needed this conversion for the camote and apple pies, too. But had to jack up the heat because we are running off a propane tank at a higher altitude. So, it was check, check again, triple check.

Thanksgiving buffet feast.

NOTE: We did not stuff the turkey because this is the most common culprit for botulism.  The turkey must be completely thawed and at room temperature to be stuffed and cooked successfully without risk of infection. Many people stuff a partially thawed turkey (oh, it’s just a little cold in there, it’s okay) and the inside becomes an incubator for the bacteria.

An array of artisanal mezcal

Everyone who came brought something to contribute: mashed potatoes, cranberries, Boulanc rolls, salad, organic black beans, tortillas made with local field corn, chocolate, wine, beer, mezcal. Yes, I smuggled fresh cranberries from Whole Foods but Jacki found them locally.

Setting the table, Teotitlan del Valle.

Earlier in the week, Kali and I made a visit to Macrina Mateo Martinez in San Marcos Tlapazola to get large platters that would serve as pie pans and some extra dinner plates.  They are my go-to family women’s cooperative for fine barro rojo that those of us who live here love to use.

Mama Dorothy’s Apple Pie baked in a barro rojo plate

I’m very happy to be back in the village, surrounded by mountains, warmed by the sun, a hammock on my rooftop handwoven by the daughter-in-law of Mitla’s Arturo Hernandez. Despite the barking dogs and crawling critters, I am now embracing a slower pace of life — for the moment.  Tours and workshops start up in mid-December!

Feliz Fiestas, amigos.

Giving Thanks and Remembering: Happy Thanksgiving to All

In Mexico we say, gracias, thank you. We give thanks for el día de acción de gracias, which is how our Oaxaca friends greet us.  May your day with family and friends be stuffed with turkey, gratitude, peace, laughter and remembrance for those who came before you to give you life, wherever you are.

Guajolote

I hope whatever you choose to eat — guajolote, turkey, turducken or tofucken — be delicious and abundant. An abundant life is a blessing to appreciate and to help give to others.

Sunset3

Our mom was buried a week ago in Santa Cruz, California. She died peacefully on November 15, three months before her 100th birthday. Her life was long and meaningful. We are missing her. Today we celebrate and remember.

RustyDoor

Today we will give special thanks for her life and ours.  Listen to I’m standing on the shoulders of the ones who came before me by Grammy Award-winning Cantor Doug Cotler. We will share memories, look at photos, play Scrabble — our mom’s favorite game, and how she honed her amazing vocabulary and helped us develop ours.  In the last six months she taught us the word risible and used it frequently. We all laughed.

Mom_4_16_2013-9

I am here with my son, sister, brother and brother-in-law. This last gift from our mother was to bring us together for Thanksgiving, a first for all of us.

WildMarigolds

In the past weeks as I was with our mom, helping her, my sister and brother to ease her to end of life, I realized how important it is to be in Oaxaca for Day of the Dead. It was even more meaningful this year as I prepared to make the journey to California knowing what would come.

Cactus

As I was with my mother as she made her journey, I realized this was another gift she gave me — how to leave us at peace and with dignity.

Mom

I was raised in a home where science was truth and mysticism was for the ultra-religious. Concrete proof was required to test all beliefs. Things change. I have learned from the Zapotecs who embrace the spirit world and blend it into a continuum of life and death. For me now, the ethereal is more acceptable than the concrete. Someone I knew once said, the dead don’t care. I believe they do. To know that they care is to acknowledge that we cared about and loved them.

MasaMetate

Now, I have a different experience and I’m inclined to believe that our parent’s molecules are mingled with earth and sky, that the soul, the spirit, the essense of their being and those of our ancestors are with me forever. There is much I do not know about life and death.  Life is a mystery and death a destination.

I know that I will visit my mother and she will visit me each year when I build a memory altar with food, copal, candles and a sense of  life as mystery. But this won’t be the only time either.

Candlesmoke

I am thinking of creating a Day of the Dead memory and rituals program next year to examine the way Mexico honors and remembers the deceased. I want to contrast this with how we approach death and dying in the El Norte culture. If you like this idea, please let me know!

bougambiliasflowers

Thanksgiving and Frida Kahlo, Hospitals and Recovery

It’s Thanksgiving Day 2014. I’m at Duke Regional Hospital in Durham, North Carolina recovering from knee replacement surgery in a hospital bed that reclines to any position at the touch of a finger. In the past twenty-four hours, Frida Kahlo has often entered my mind.

FullSizeRender-1 2FridasDetail

Mostly because she did such a miraculous job of hiding her pain and her deformity when medicine at the time did not offer sophisticated drugs or surgical techniques. She adorned herself in jewelry and costumes to focus attention to her upper body.

Hospital1 Hospitalflowers

Mostly because I want to look “normal” just like she did. Friends will come to visit today with good cheer, turkey and mashed potatoes in hand. My bandaged leg is under a blanket, my lipstick is applied.

Mostly because having surgery is a solitary experience, even surrounded by flowers, accompanied by Facebook, family and friends who are with me in this virtual world. Frida did not have Facebook and WhatsApp to connect her. She had her imagination and insights.

She reached out to connect by looking in the mirror that still hangs above her recovery bed in Casa Azul, paintbrush and canvas in hand, sketchbook and pencil in hand, to express her feelings about life, death, politics and Diego.

hospitalknitting  Hospitalmittens

I have my knitting at hand, my dreams rumbling around in my mind and my plans for the new year formulating.

HospitalAirportWheelchair FullSizeRender-2 DiegoFrida4Group2-18 copy

When I left Mexico City last week to return to North Carolina for this surgery, I kept the image of Frida on her bed with me. Her effigy was draped in an indigo shawl reflected in the mirror above.

My knee will heal and the pain will subside. This is more than a hope. It is knowledge that my care team led by Dr. Rhett Hallows, a Duke orthopedic surgeon, is expert. Afterall, I did interview four surgeons in September!

Today, one day after the procedure, I used day-glow pink, duct-taped crutches  to walk my first three hundred and one steps down the hospital corridor. The goal was three hundred, but my friend Mary Ann said, go on, you can do one more. So, I did.

DiegoFrida4Group2-7 copy IMG_4968

I am reclined in my hospital bed ready to welcome visitors. I give thanks for the gift of life as it presents itself each day, each moment a different experience and not as I predicted.

It is a perfect day for giving thanks, to my family and friends, to the strangers who care for me, and to Frida’s memory, a woman who endured hardship and pain. Frida is a model for what it means to transcend, create and live large.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. I am grateful you are a part of my life.

Hospital Wall Chart SunriseAirplane-2

 

Looking for Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera Art History Study Tour, April or July 2015.

Post-Thanksgiving Gratitude, Wishes, Stuffing and Stuff

To all my friends and readers near and far, to my family whom I adore, Gracias,  Gracias por todos, thank you for everything. Your love, caring, generosity, support, guidance and just being you means everything to me. You are numerous  — my world is big and inclusive. Consider yourself part of life’s blessings in Thanksgiving, today and always. Gracias.

I don’t know why I woke up hungry today, Black Friday. Maybe because I’m thinking about how to best avoid the crush, rush of Internet and store message bombardment to my inbox.  Food is so soothing when faced with the anxiety of impulse shopping because there might be a bargain out there.

Thanksgiving2013-4

Thanksgiving Day in Santa Cruz, California was a marathon food fest with two giant meals.  The first was at our mother’s retirement community where residents, children, grandchildren and friends attended a lavish buffet.  My sister thinks this was the first time my mother (being germ-cautious at age 97-1/2) kissed her on the mouth.  My sister forgot to put on lipstick. It was a moment of sharing.  Thank goodness this meal began at noon!

Thanksgiving2013-2 Thanksgiving2013-3

Next up: My brother-in-law brought Ernestina’s mole negro back with him from Oaxaca with the intention of making Thanksgiving turkey mole.   Ernestina is my friend and neighbor who lives down the lane in Teotitlan del Valle.  Thanksgiving2013-16

Her spicy black chocolate sauce, which she served us on All Souls Day before going to the village cemetery, is among the best we’ve ever tasted.  Someday, I will watch her prepare it and share the recipe.  I know she takes her chocolate beans (which she roasts herself) to the molina and adds the secret proportions of sugar, cinnamon, almonds and vanilla to yield a thick, rich paste. I know this because I bumped into her there.

Thanksgiving2013-9

At 4 p.m. when Barbara and George’s guests arrived, I was at the stove making Chanukah potato latkes (see recipe below), enough for 30 people, although there were eight of us.  B&G have been sharing Thanksgiving with the wine making Ahlgren family for over 25 years.  They arrived with vintage bottles of early 1990’s bottles of Chardonnay and Merlot. We started with champagne, moved on to the wine, and topped off the dinner with a mezcal tasting.  Thank goodness it took me an hour to make the latkes and we didn’t sit down to eat until six o’clock.

Thanksgiving2013-10 Thanksgiving2013-11

Our menu included homemade applesauce, turkey mole (George grilled the turkey breast, sliced it, and then added it to Ernestina’s mole to simmer for a couple of hours before serving), potato latkes, Shrimp Louie salad, homemade poppyseed cake with lemon curd and vanilla ice cream.

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Oops, can’t forget the Tucson Tamale Company tamales — turkey and cranberry, and sweet potato.  Sister had them shipped frozen, overnight delivery, only waiting to be steamed and served.

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So, for me, Thanksgiving is about making sure we have more than sustenance in our lives.  It says, it is important to live in abundance.  It is valuable to express gratitude to those who love us, care for us, come into our lives if only for a moment. It is our opportunity to reach out to friends and family to share our harvest.  It is a time to appreciate all that we do have and being satisfied.

Which is why it is so strange that Black Friday follows the day after — promoting a yearning for more, the frenzy of acquisition, the quest for stuffing our homes, closets and lives with more stuff.  Certainly the Thanksgiving stuffing should be enough!

Best wishes to you all for a season of peace, abundance and connection.

Norma’s Original Thanksgivvukah Potato Latkes

  • 6 peeled, Yukon Gold potatoes, quartered
  • 1 medium onion, quartered
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 medium eggs, scrambled
  • 3 T. matzo meal
  • 1 t. salt (prefer fine ground sea salt)
  • 1/2 t. pepper, fresh ground
  • 2-3 c. olive and safflower oil mixed

Add potatoes to a food processor bowl with the chopping blade inserted.  Pulse 6-8 times until the mixture is a coarse chop, with 1/4″ pieces.  Remove to bowl of water.  Let sit for 5 minutes. Drain to remove the potato starch.  Return to food processor bowl.  Add onion and garlic.  Pulse 2-3 times. Add salt and pepper.  Pulse 2-3 times to stir.  Add matzo meal.  Pulse to stir.  Add eggs.  Pulse to stir.

Pour 1-2 c. oil into fry pan and heat on medium high burner until oil sizzles. Test with flick of water.  If water jumps, oil is ready.    Using a large tablespoon, put 1/4 c. of potato mixture into hot oil for each latke (pancake).  Flip when one side is golden brown.  Continue cooking until both sides well-browned.  Remove.  Drain on paper towels.  Serve hot.

Serve with applesauce and sour cream.  We had a jar of homemade hibiscus flower jam from El Diablo y La Sandia B&B in Oaxaca, which was an extra treat to go with the latkes.