I’m Thankful for Garlic Lasagna
Although Argentines don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, I still did this year, and I was more in the thankful spirit than ever. I mean, not only am I in the middle of one of the most incredible opportunities of my lifetime being here in Argentina, but I’ve also realized how much my friends and family in the US mean to me and I’ve met people in this amazing country that I have come to love just as much. The last few blogs you’ve probably noticed that I’ve been really happy, and I am. I still miss everyone, and I have my occasional low points here still, just as I would in the States, but I am just so grateful to be here. I love it so much. You guys were right to fear that I may never come back–although I will be back in the States before you know it and you’re only creating unnecessary wrinkles–but I don’t want to leave anytime soon. It’s weird because I think I would give anything just for a week back with all of you, but only a week. I want to be here right now, not there. I don’t know how to explain how this is; it makes me sound like I don’t want to be back with you guys, which is not the case at all! I just know that what I have to do here is not done and I am excited to wake up in the morning (which means noon or later now that classes are over) and continue this journey. I’ve even been saying “back in the states” just as much as I’ve been saying “back home” because my home is here now too. This isn’t just a vacation or four months living abroad, this is realmente a move and I’m starting to permanently adjust to and accept it.
So this year, the director (Carmen) of my study abroad program (Academic Programs International) invited me to have Thanksgiving dinner with her and her family. Carmen and her family are Argentines, but they lived in the States for quite some time and really liked the idea of a holiday where you gorge yourself with mounds and mounds upon mounds of food in which you feel thankful for the magnificent thing that life is and everything you’ve been given/accomplished. While the US is kind of famous for its ridiculous holiday traditions (dressing up as scary monsters and going door to door asking for candy as a child to celebrate the beginning of winter and to honor the dead …nuff said…), and although it may be a mythical legend and nothing more that the barbarous pilgrims actually sat down with the Native Americans and shared a meal upon arriving and making peace, the holiday does have a very worthy meaning if you can manage to see past your stomach. Every day we should be thankful for what we have, but, at least in my opinion, Thanksgiving is an excellent way of regrouping and remembering to focus on the positive in our lives. It is one of the busiest times of the year for airlines in the US; no one wants to spend Thanksgiving without their family. I didn’t either, but as the day progressed I came to realize that I wasn’t spending Thanksgiving alone–far from it. I was surrounded by people who loved and cared about me.
When I told Carmen that I was staying for the entire year in Argentina (it wasn’t a secret or anything, but for some reason hardly anybody knew about it), she immediately invited me to her house for Thanksgiving. This was back in mid- or late-September I think. Even when I decided to drop the program she assured me that I’d be more than welcome, no hard feelings**. Emma, an API student who has been at Di Tella all semester and who is staying for the entire year also, and Camila, a girl who’s done with the program but is staying for the holidays and then travelling to Colombia, were also invited. I decided to get into the spirit and bring some sort of food item to contribute. Growing up as a vegetarian, I guess we always had a little bit of a different type of Thanksgiving. I’ve grown accustomed to the looks of shocked pity that people reveal to me as they bombard me with questions about what in the world I eat for Thanksgiving…but seriously guys, it’s not like we vegetarians live in underground tunnel communities scavenging for roots and hoarding our carrots in a secret tunnel. We eat everything you do, except the turkey. That means mashed potatoes and gravy, cranberry sauce, salads, stuffing, yams, sweet potatoes, garlic bread (i make a mean garlic bread!), more mashed potatoes (because I seriously LOVEEEE them), green beans maybe, casseroles, the typical desserts (pumpkin pie, cherry pie, etc.)….and lasagna.
^^Remember: Torta not Tarta!
My parent’s let me enter the big, scary world thinking that it was totally normal to eat lasagna on Thanksgiving. Thanks mom and dad. Now I am teaching Argentines false traditions and being a poor ambassador for my country, but you know, no worries, they’ll just form crazy ideas that we all eat lasagna on Thanksgiving and be made fun of when they come to visit and proudly share their inside knowledge. NO BIG DEAL. Ok, maybe I’m just a little sore that I look like a dork now thinking that it’s totally normal to eat lasagna on Thanksgiving. We always eat it, every year. At least it’s our tradition (we also eat it for Christmas) and since Thanksgiving is a holiday to celebrate family, it is therefore allowed…but I still look like a dork because I offered to bring lasagna to the dinner. No one said anything because I’m supposed to be an expert, being from the country that created the holiday…but enough of my whining and feeling sorry for myself. I made the maldita (It’s a joke because on TV they always translate bad words into maldito/a and I’m explaining it because I can’t make jokes very well lately…no one laughs) lasagna. That was a fail at the joke, blah.
Anyways! I got the not-so-secret recipe from my mom over Skype, went shopping, and bought all of the ingredients–it took me like 4 hours to finally find everything in the COTO. It really wasn’t that hard but I had to find weird cheeses and walk around to the verdurerías in search of spinach because apparently everyone needed a Popeye kick that day and the first four I went to were sold out… I bought a whole lot of Mozzarella, some cheddar, mushrooms, garlic, onions, spinach, butter, noodles, pizza sauce, ricotta, and some other secret ingredients. I worked during the night so that my whole family wouldn’t have to suffer from the oven’s heat during the hot summer days that we’ve been having lately. Here are some pictures of the construction process of my very first lasagna by myself (I don’t know if I’d make a very successful 50’s wife…I’m not only slow at cooking, but I don’t seem to have much talent in the field either):
^^Don’t get false ideas about how clean my work station is haha I’m surprised it came out looking this orderly. In all actuality, I made a total kilombo of the entire kitchen.
^^Easy…well leave it up to Autumn to bring that word to a whole new level.
^^So, most olives here don’t come pitted. Instead of asking for an olive pitter (I woke up at 3 AM to start making this so…I was not functioning on all cylinders…), I meticulously cut the meat of each olive away from its pit with love and care. The olives didn’t even taste that good. Final opinion: not worth it…at all.
^^At least they look appetizing 🙂
So after I finally took them out of the oven at around 8:15 I figured it was time for a nap. I slept for 15 minutes because I had to go meet Sol that morning at 10 and I needed a shower after I’d been pacing the kitchen for a solid 4 hours in the heat (a mixture of the oven and the summer night.) The smaller one I let my host family eat. My host brother assured me that it was delicious…although I still have doubts that he was telling the truth. I made a grave error in the recipe (I’m also going to blame said error on the fact that I did this all in the middle of the night with limited brain functionality….but I probably am just tonta.) My mom said to put garlic in it. This is what I added to the mixture of onions and mushrooms that I sautéed, also with love and care:
This is what I think she meant by “garlic”:
That means I put about 10-12 times too much garlic in my lasagna… At least I’ve fortified my host family’s apartment against vampires. They won’t come near it as long as my lasagna is still in our fridge, I’m sure, and that’s going to be a long time because there’s A LOT of leftovers. Personally, I still think it tastes ok…but I may be the minority, and anyways, it’s surely starting to lose its marginal utility each day it sits on the fridge shelf….
I left it in the freezer overnight y listo. On Thanksgiving Day I woke up at 2:14 PM and trudged to the kitchen in search of caffeine. It was raining and kind of glum outside–perfect weather for a lazy Thanksgiving of nothingness 🙂 The only thing that was missing was the football, but since I understand football about as much as I understand some girls’ infatuation with Robert Pattinson (seriously chicas…I think we could all do better), I didn’t miss it too much. I told everyone in my host family Happy Thanksgiving which they said was weird; my host brother teased me that of course a nation known for having over a third of its population obese would have a holiday that is solely reserved for the consumption of food (http://www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/adult.html). Of course, that’s not the reason for the holiday, but he was only teasing.
I was very content to do nothing all day though, just being relaxed and peaceful in my pajama pants that my mommy sent me with my new camera ❤ It felt weird that everything was open and the city was still going about its usual business. Shouldn’t everything have virtually stopped while families reunited and shared food and love? I guess there are other holidays for that but it felt strange still.
Anyways, at eight o’clock I headed over to Carmen’s house with my very frozen, very garlic and very-unThanksgiving lasagna. We put it in the oven, saludar-ed everyone, and gathered around the table. Carmen had decorated the house festively with Thanksgiving goodies she’d brought from the states. My family doesn’t even decorate until Christmas so it was adorable. She was so proud ❤
^^The soaps in the bathroom. I would probably keep them in my bathroom year round just because they’re my namesake 😉
^^Bathroom napkins, in English
^^The plates with perfect little turkey napkins!
^^The beautiful table setting
After Carmen and her husband Gabriel explained what the tradition of Thanksgiving was for their extended family in attendance and why they liked the idea and invited them over, we had the opportunity to go around the table to say what we were thankful for. A lot of people were getting teary eyed and I was surprised at how sentimental I was suddenly feeling. I was struggling to hold back my tears as they talked about how thankful they were for their families and being able to overcome the year’s obstacles. When it came my turn to talk I choked up a little, but I managed to keep the tears to a minimum, breathe, and express how
thankful I was for this opportunity of being in Argentina and for my family and friends in both hemispheres. Being in a big family setting on a holiday where family is the main focus just put things in perspective. I’ve been away from the people I’ve known all my life for longer than ever before, and I’m only a third of the way done. I missed Thanksgiving this year and I’m going to miss Christmas, New Year’s, birthdays, Mother’s and Father’s Day, my friends’ graduations and a year’s worth of memories with them. I wouldn’t trade this opportunity in for the world, but I love you all so very much and I really miss you guys. Although I’ve built an amazing support system here, I won’t be able to hug my mom or rock out in Dadalie’s truck for eight more months and if those months are anything like the four that have already passed, they’ll be fast but eventful. I know I’m going to continue to change and mature just as fast as I have been and I’m going to come back almost a completely different person.
I’m growing up so much here I can’t even explain it to you guys. I just put a down payment on the place that I’m going to live for the summer and next semester, I applied and registered for school on my own and I’m picking out classes now, financial aid back home, online classes with CSU, cell phone, medical insurance, everything that I’m doing right now–I feel so independent and grown up. I know that there’s a whole lot of people who helped me get here and are still helping me, for whom I’m really thankful, but I’m really proud of myself for being so…grown up. Of course, as I write this I’m lying in my bed in my pjs at 8:30 9:30 PM not even having cracked open a book to study for my Marketing final that’s at 8 AM tomorrow morning….but hey, you win some you lose some I suppose.
Well, that was a bit of a tangent, but I guess it explains why I got a little tearful at the Thanksgiving table for a moment. Things have just progressed so much and I’m so grateful for all the wonderful people in my life that I can share that growth with. Life is beautiful. But eh, now I’m getting sappy….maybe I should stop listening to The Fray right now haha they make me all cheesy and philosphical… Dinner was fantastic. All of the major dishes were there (except pumpkin pie for dessert but it’s ok because the pies there were amazing anyways), even though my lasagna was still kind of cold.
I’m just going to pretend that’s the reason why no one really was interested in it 😉 But oh well, more for me! (K…there’s still like 3 pieces in our fridge…and it’s been four days. I’m assuming maybe it’ll be gone tomorrow. I’m still enjoying it though so whatever.) The dinner was fantastic and it made me feel so happy that I still have a family-like support system here in BA. I waddled home a little past midnight carrying the plentiful remains of my lasagna and was so tired that I could hardly stay up long enough to brush my teeth and say goodnight to everyone. I went to bed full and happy and thankful for the direction my life has taken. Thanks so so much to Carmen and her family for inviting me to their Thanksgiving and thanks to everyone here who has been there for me when I’ve been going through so many changes! I don’t know what I’d do without you guys, I love you, and I’m so thankful that you’re in my life.
**I know I haven’t publicly posted on here before that I’d decided to drop my study abroad program and go solo. This is a great opportunity to tell you all, though–yes, I decided to drop the program and directly enroll at the university of my choice. I’m not going to stay at Universidad Belgrano because it bores me and I feel like I didn’t really do much of anything there, not even frivolous busy work. I applied and got accepted to Universidad Torcuato Di Tella, which was my original plan with the program to begin with; the only reason I dropped the study abroad program was for money reasons. I think I picked the best possible program ever and I would definitely recommend API to anyone who’s looking to study abroad. The program was small–only 19 or 20 students–and they were really accommodating and helpful. Carmen was always there for any questions we had, she had us over for dinner at her house all the time, they organized fantastic excursions, and the office back in the US was super prompt in responding to emails and helping us. I’ve talked to other students who went with different programs and although they were “good” they weren’t the amazingness that I found with API. When I’ve compared experiences with them I’ve been thankful time and time over that I chose API. The homestays were all great, like I said, everything. It’s just now that I’ve become more adjusted to living in Argentina through the support of API, I feel more comfortable going on my own and figuring out all the details by myself. My Spanish has dramatically improved, I know how to get my visa on my own, I’m staying with a school that API also has a program with and will securely transfer my transcripts, and I don’t need all the orientation activities that helped me when I first got to the city. I do not recommend coming here on your own really, as other students that I’ve talked to had to spend months adjusting without the support of the program, it’s just that I’ve been here for four months and, while I have much to learn, I feel more confident leaving the nest 🙂