Mariana Oliva’s Thanksgiving

Oliva’s mom, dad, sister and Aussiedoodle having Thanksgiving lunch.

Photos by Mariana Oliva. 

My family doesn’t usually celebrate a traditional Thanksgiving. To us, it’s just another day on the calendar. My mom doesn’t make turkey. We don’t eat mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, corn or gravy.

On those occasions, one of my parents makes a Mexican dish, usually my mom. I’ve spent Thanksgivings eating tamales, enchiladas de mole, chilaquiles, tacos, lamb, steak or if someone actually wants turkey, pavo enchilado—turkey marinated in chile rojo. Pretty much any major Mexican dish graces our Thanksgiving table. This year it’s pozole.

Our Thanksgiving lunches or dinners usually consist of me, my mom, sister, Kylo, our Aussiedoodle, and my dad, if we get lucky, and his job as an E.R. nurse allows it. As the daughters of Mexican immigrants, my sister and I haven’t had the chance to experience any holiday with aunts, uncles, grandparents or cousins. We have no family in the States; they’re all back in Mexico. For as long as I can remember, it’s always just been the five of us.

We had our lunch together on Sunday, three days after Thanksgiving. My dad had to work Thanksgiving Day, the day after and the day after that. My dad made the pozole on Wednesday, but we didn’t get a taste of it until Sunday.

Pozole is a traditional Mexican soup made with chicken broth, hominy and chicken; flavored with chile guajillo and chile ancho; and topped with shredded lettuce, sliced radishes and squeezed limes. To be quite honest, I was hesitant to try his pozole, but it tasted really good.

One must thinly slice lettuce and radishes to be mixed in with your bowl of pozole. For some reason, no matter how hard I try to cut the lettuce like my mom, I never succeed. I always manage to cut it crooked, too thick or too thin.

“Who cut the lettuce so horribly?” The first words out my mom’s mouth after she gets a glimpse of the lettuce I cut.

Pozole is paired with tostadas con crema y queso fresco–fried corn tortillas with sour cream and shredded Mexican cheese. If you want to be extra, you can top it off with some thinly shredded lettuce.

“Suzie y Mari, ustedes están encargadas de las tostadas,” orders my mother, putting my sister and me in charge of preparing the tostadas. “Suzie, le pones la crema y Mari el queso,” she adds.

Suzie assembling the tostadas consisting of crema and queso fresco.

My sister Suzie carefully took the fragile tostadas out of their package; it’s hard enough to find a package in the store that doesn’t come with any broken ones. She carefully placed them on the glass plate one at a time, picked them up and spread crema on them with a plastic spatula.

Next, I put queso on top. I broke small pieces off a large block of cheese and crumbled it with my fingers, evenly over each of the tostadas. To the tostadas, it must have looked like it was snowing. We repeated this for three plates, filling each of them with tostadas.

Our “Thanksgiving” lunch was ready. We all sat at the kitchen table. Even Kylo joined us. It may have been just the five of us, but to me, each year, it is everything.