By Suzanna Delgado
Thanksgiving rapture was in everyone’s eyes as they walked past aisles and aisles of canned cranberry sauces and canned sweet potatoes. A young Salvadorean couple talked excitedly of how they were going to season the turkey for the next day and laughed as mentioned “grandma chochis,” as they carried baskets of Goya and Bedia products through the aisles.
Most Latinos in the Key Food, Met and Bravo supermarkets bought many Hispanic food products in the days before Thanksgiving. Their twist to the traditional American holiday meal captures the food tastes and traditions of the Latino community.
Seasoning poultry or meat is of great importance to any Latino, especially for a feast. Asked if he contributed to cooking for Thanksgiving, one young Mexican said he had always been in charge of seasoning the turkey. He particularly recommends hot spices or hot dried peppers, such as guindillas.
His family’s meals are hot and spicy, he says: “The kids love it when I overdo the spiciness, because it’s always entertaining seeing someone in the family make a pained face and then make believe that it’s okay.”
Typically, he says, Mexican families do not use gravy at Thanksgiving but instead make “two moles” – brown and green mole. Both, he said, can be bought at the supermarket and only need to be heated up.
A Colombian woman says that her seasoning takes two days, because she doesn’t want her turkey to be dry. She pokes her turkey with a sharp, thin knife and pours orange juice inside and outside, she says, so that it will not “smell like feathers.” The next day she puts a huge amount of cut-up scallions with ground cumin, salt and olive oil in a frying pan on a medium heat and spreads it inside and outside of the turkey.
“It’s tiring,” she says with a sigh. “Especially because I am the only one in the family that does it like this since we were in Colombia. This day is like Christmas day for us back in Colombia. The whole family comes and we eat and joke,” she says.
Although the seasonings that Latinos use on turkey differ, the side dishes are even more distinctive.
“I can’t stand turkey,” says a Dominican college student at Queens as he puts some things in his backpack, “Thursday is going to be great, though. All I am going to eat is my aunt’s ‘patalon de platano,’ which is something like lasagna with potatoes and ground beef.”
Asked what other side dishes there would be, his eyes light up and he exclaims: “Rice with pigeon peas and fried green plantain. I am going to make the avocado salad, which is only slices of avocado with lemon juice, salt and pepper.”
Salads are important side dishes in Latino households, a Peruvian lady said, because “it is always nice to see some green on your plate.”
Her Thanksgiving meal includes a romaine lettuce with tomatoes and olives salad, potato salad, raisin and carrot salad, and red cabbage salad with sliced beets.
A young Salvadorean couple says they like to include not only dishes from El Salvador but from other countries, such as Mexico – and even Italy.
“We love Thanksgiving because we choose the typical dishes we want to include in our meal,” she says. “For instance, from our country we will include tamales and ‘pupusas,’ which will be made up of either black beans, cheese or pork. But we have to have Mexican tacos; we love them, so why not? We also have baked ziti and linguini with clam sauce for our friends who love pasta.”
Dessert, for many Latinos is their favorite part of the meal. Many Latinos enjoy hot rice pudding or arroz con leche and other typical desserts.
The Peruvian woman says her desserts include mazamorra morada, a kind of fruitcake made of purple corn, apple, quince, clove, cinnamon stick and other fruits. The Colombian woman says her family liked to eat natilla, a kind of custard, typically a Christmas dessert in Colombia, because it makes the family reunion complete and “brings back the good memories.”