I had a list of things I was going to write about when I added my last ones and I never finished. Here’s one, there are some more coming.
You might guess that, considering the time of year, the pumpkin cooking came as part of Thanksgiving. What you wouldn’t guess is that the pumpkin was actually sweet potatoes.
Let’s back up though, because if you haven’t been functioning on Chilean logic for the past three months, that probably makes very little sense. The season of Thanksgiving was upon us, and by us I mean me, Jordan, Simona, and Joanna, and the United States, but not really the rest of Santiago at all. The season of summer is upon us here in reality, but that’s a whole other story. So yeah, Thanksgiving was upon us but we were in Santiago. Nevertheless we decided to undertake the adventure that was cooking Thankgiving dinner in Chile (try explaining dinner at 4:30 to a Chilean. They will say, you mean lunch right?). Moreover, we decided to cook a kosher Thanksgiving (or, more or less kosher) because our poor friend Simona had eaten meat exactly one other time the whole semester, and what is Thanksgiving really without a bird?
We met up at Joanna’s house at 10am for our shopping expedition, list of ingredients in hand. The plan was to make a kosher chicken (already purchased by Simona on her third try), cranberry sauce, stuffing, sweet potatoes, string beans, brownies without milk in them, and mashed potatoes. First of all, we went to a grocery store called Jumbo, which lives up to its name. It’s more like Target than a grocery store as they also sell clothes and tupperware and like, toys…. and it’s the size of a Target. So that was a bit overwhelming.
Then we started looking for ingredients. Cranberries, don’t really exist in Chile. So we settled for a mixture of oranges, raspberries, and cherries that ended up not only being delicious but somehow managing to taste like cranberry sauce in the end. Baker’s chocolate (aka chocolate without milk) also doesn’t exist here. I don’t really understand this phenomenon, but although there are delicious baked goods in bakeries all over the place, and some of the best cookies I’ve ever eaten, it’s impossible to find baking supplies here. Do people only buy cookies and never make them? Where do the bakeries get their ingredients? So much escapes me in Chile. Anyway, we tried to make brownies out of cocoa powder and oil instead of chocolate and butter (because all margarine in Chile has milk in it. This is an improvement over Argentina where they actually don’t have butter, only mantequa, which has animal fat in it). We also lacked measuring equipment in the non-metric system…What we ended up with was something that looked like brownies and was chocolate. It was delicious with the raspberry cherry orange sauce. The texture was a bit off.
The other major difficulty was the sweet potatoes. First of all, I don’t think it directly translates, so trying to explain to the grocery store man what I was looking for was not easy. Finally I apparently got my point across by saying I wanted something looks like a potato but is orange inside and sweet. But he told me they’re not in season so they don’t have them. He suggested squash that came in cubes. I didn’t look impressed. He suggested a whole squash (it looked like a medium sized green pumpkin). I asked if it was orange, then if it was sweet. I don’t know why having it look like sweet potatoes was more important to me in that moment than having it taste like them.
Anyway, in my house it’s always my responsibility to make the sweet potatoes, and this squash thing cost about a dollar, so I decided to give it a whirl. I couldn’t imagine Thanksgiving without some kind of orange much with marshmallows in top. I first took out the seeds (which we sauteed in garlic and it was delicious) and then chopped it up and cooked it. I mashed it, added all my sweet potato ingredients, and at the last minute before putting it in the oven, it occurred to me to taste it to see if it actually tasted anything like what I was going for (it looked right). Turns out, it tasted like squash. What a surprise. We brilliantly added brown sugar though, and somehow it actually did end up tasting like sweet potatoes– similar to the noncranberry sauce miracle.
In the end our dinner was quite delicious if I do say so myself, and didn’t take us all that long to cook. We tag teamed very efficiently. The most difficult part was probably the shopping. We ended up also having matzah ball soup! And no dinner that starts with that can be bad. Nothing was exactly as it would’ve been had we made it in the US, but everything was close, and it was somehow much more satisfying to eat it all knowing how much trouble we’d gone through to search out the ingredients. As strange as it was to eat Thanksgiving dinner speaking Spanish the whole time and sitting outside in the nice spring weather, it really did feel like our Thanksgiving. We worked for it, we cooked a pumpkin, and we even ate the leftovers for dinner a few days later.