In the end our Black Friday was a largely peaceful one, as we’d already done much of the food preparation for our Fauxgiving celebration. We spent the morning cleaning and planning out the meal (guess who did which job?!), then went to the gym to try to work up some semblance of an an appetite again after our big Indian meal on Thursday.

The afternoon we spent catching up on sleep and emails, and around 6 we dove into table setting, cooking, arranging, drinking and — of course — eating. Just to make sure we weren’t poisoning our guests, of course.

We had a grand total of three people over last night, which more or less maxed out our capacity as hosts in this flat. We only have six chairs, six of each kind of dish, glass, and utensil, and six spots on the sofa and armchairs (if you squeeze). So although five sounds like a small number for Thanksgiving dinner, here it was just right. (Unfortunately as usual Gabe cooked for about 20, so we are left with a fridge that is almost as full as it was the other day, including an entire whole chicken. Leftovers anyone???)

Said guests surprised us by showing up exactly at the designated hour of 8 PM. Apparently we’re getting used to the Portuguese way of doing things — i.e. with a certain casual attitude towards timing! Luckily we were also running on time, so I spent a pleasant half hour chatting with our friends, drinking the excellent wine one of them brought, and eating appetizers while Gabe finished making dinner. I get all the tough jobs.

Our party included a colleague of Gabe’s from the university, newly arrived on sabbatical from a school in Colorado. Together with the four bottles of wine he brought, his garrulous, open nature and wild stories provided us all with great entertainment. We did actually succeed in putting a considerable dent into his wine supply, as evidenced by the fact that Gabe is still fast asleep.

We also introduced two of our Portuguese friends to Thanksgiving, which more or less seems to mystify anyone who isn’t American. They seemed slightly taken aback by the amount of food we loaded onto the table, and politely declined when we urged them to keep eating after the first round. Our tradition of stuffing yourself far beyond the point of satiation is apparently one that doesn’t seem to translate very well, especially not when you’re five months pregnant and have a big baby boy stepping on your stomach, as our friend did last night. (These are the friends that hosted us for a wonderful Portuguese meal when we first arrived, and we were delighted to finally be able to return the favor.)

We three Americans on the other hand definitely made a valiant effort at upholding the proud Thanksgiving tradition of overindulgence. We had potato-leek soup and spinach salad to start, and for the main Gabe made roast chicken and potatoes, wilted spinach with raisins, roast squash and apples, gravy, and of course both cranberry and red-currant sauces.

For dessert, our Portuguese friends brought arroz doce, sweet rice, which is so much more than the rice pudding you’re imagining right now. It was in fact sweet, but without being overly so, as the cinnamon sprinkled on top helped to cut the sugar a great deal. Its creamy texture and sweet/spicy taste went perfectly with the “drunken pears” (pears roasted in red wine) that Gabe had prepared. Pumpkin pie it wasn’t, but it was delicious nonetheless.

That more or less sums up our expat Thanksgiving: it wasn’t the same, but it was delicious, enjoyable, and memorable nonetheless. Indian food and roast chicken aren’t the same as turkey and mashed potatoes, but they were really, really good. Celebrating with friends and colleagues in a distant country isn’t the same as being at home surrounded by family, but it was great to spend time with them and to share our holiday with new people.

All in all, the experience was well worth it. After dinner, we had a wonderful time sitting around, drinking more wine, and talking with everyone until late. I will say one thing for sure though: no Thanksgiving dinner in my experience has ever started at 8 PM and lasted til 12:30 AM. But then, this is Portugal. That’s how we roll.

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