01 December 2014

Feliz Dia de Ação de Graças!

Ask ten Americans what their favorite holiday is and it’s possible that you will come up with ten different answers. Then again, it’s also possible that at least half of them will say that Thanksgiving is their favorite. It sure was my favorite holiday when I was growing up. Thanksgiving food may not be the healthiest you can eat, but I like it! I like a moist, roast turkey, I like stuffing and I like gravy (both of which my mother made from scratch). I like candied yams, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, pecan pie. Sometimes, when I was a kid, we’d go to a relative’s house, sometimes we’d do the hosting, but even when it was just the immediate family, we’d open the table in the dining room up to its full size and, what was really rare for us, we'd even lay on a tablecloth. There were, of course, a lot more dishes to wash, but the promise of no school and a few days off made up for the extra work.

Mark and I don’t have much of a Thanksgiving tradition together, mostly because Mark fairly hates Thanksgiving. But Mark is also an accommodating guy, and, even if he weren’t, he knows force majeure when he sees it. One occasion on which the force majeure was too strong to tangle with, we were in Buenos Aires. Americans we knew there were going to go and have their Thanksgiving turkey in an American-style restaurant called Kansas Grill in the suburb of San Isidro, where the Presidential residence is also located. These friends courted us energetically. There was nothing else we had to do that particular Thursday. Not even Mark was able to think of a convincing excuse, and we joined them and we had a good time. The Kansas Grill was kind of like the biggest and glitziest diner in any American suburb in which a stack of pancakes are called for on a Sunday morning. As I remember, we all got to sit in a huge booth, and that’s something that doesn’t happen every day in South America. Good turkey and good trimmings, too.

Sam Flowers
Last week, after several years of abstinence, I finally got my turkey-with-all-the-trimmings again. We had to be in Rio for most of the week, so we did the appropriate Googling and we discovered that we had two options. But it was easy to rule out Thanksgiving at the Marriott Hotel. Too Republican, and we'd have had to dress for the occasion to boot. So we reserved for three in the afternoon at the Gringo Café in Ipanema, more down-home and much more us. The place is real '50s-style, right down to the turquoise-colored chairs. It's run by Sam Flowers, an American from — well, I’m not sure, but I’d guess California, only because he sounded like my brother-in-law who is Californian. Sam is a good-looking guy and a great host, and he sure knows how to pile up a plate with turkey and trimmings. 

Just one thing that was a little odd. Thanksgiving is not a Brazilian holiday. Could be that other Americans were planning to stop by the Gringo Café for their turkey later. But, at the seemingly traditional Thanksgiving hour at which we turned up, the Americans were few and far between, and the Brazilians who stopped in would order a burger or a piece of cake and then go on about their everyday business.

Here was our menu (or rather, my menu). Scrooge ordered meatloaf.

Um um good!

 Now you see my pumpkin pie . . .

           . . . and now you don't!

So thanks, Sam, for my little taste of home! Same time next year?

A brief footnote to this. Brazilians may not give a hoot about Thanksgiving. But they sure seem to give a bunch of hoots about Black Friday, plus they give it a colorful Brazilian touch:

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