November 25, 2015

Five turkeys ago, four & a half apples away

photos by Styrous®

In 2010, Tom and I celebrated a glorious Thanksgiving in Barcelona we will never forget!     

I had done that there once before in 2006 with friends from the States who were home sick and wanted to observe the holiday (article on that next year). This time was different for various reasons; the main one being that Tom and I did it for our Catalan friends there in Barcelona who had never experienced our "Day of Feasting". 

It was quite an adventure from the very beginning. I knew it would not be as easy as it is in the States to get the things necessary for the grand dinner so I started the preparations a few weeks earlier. And I was right in so many more ways than I had anticipated. And I loved every single minute I spent doing it!  

My first task was to find a turkey (pavo in Spanish). I regularly shopped at a great poultry shop that Janine had introduced me to in 2006, Aviram Pedro Torán, . . .   

. . . located on a very tiny street, Carrer de les Mamelleres . . . 

. . . in El Raval. 


I would go there to buy eggs mostly and occasionally a chicken carcass from which Tom would make a broth he used for his fantastic meals and soups.

It was a blast to shop there; the owner, Pedro Torán, is a fun kind of guy. I would buy my provisions and joke around with him. As with many Catalans, he has a very deadpan sense of humor.  

When I first asked him about buying a turkey for the dinner; he was astounded at the size I wanted. Here in the States a 25 pound turkey (that converts to about 10 Kilograms) is no big deal. Well, it seems although turkeys are very common in Spain, they are not the gigantic monsters we are accustomed to here. He said he would do his best but would not promise he could find one that size. He did a lot of searching but he finally did find one for me.  

A few days before Thanksgiving I was hurrying on my way to Carrefour and as I passed his shop, there in the front window, beautifully displayed in all its glory with other yummy items, was the turkey he'd found.  

I went in and discovered he was so proud of his turkey he had put it on display in the window. He told me people had been walking by the shop and taking photos of it; so, I had to get a shot as well. I was delighted that it turned out to be great marketing for him.    

The next problem to conquer was cranberries for the sauce: this turned out to be the biggest hurdle. I hadn't realized it before but cranberries are a new world, North America item and was introduced to and only found in northern Europe and northern Asia. I had to learn the Spanish name for them and will never forget it as I had to ask about a thousand times for them; they are impossible to find in Barcelona and I have no idea how many specialty stores, shops and mercados I asked for "arándanos agrios" or "arándanos rojos". I finally found four cans in a boutique import (from the US) shop; I bought them all which totally amused the sales girls in the store as no one in Barcelona EVER eats them. But the good thing was that they were not the canned solid jelly usually found here; they were whole berries!   

An amazing part of the cranberry story is that on the way to the store where I found them I got lost and went up the wrong street. As I was crossing a street I heard my name called out and after looking around I discovered it was one of the guests for the dinner, Marta . . .   

. . . She had gotten off the bus where she NEVER does and bingo, we were face to face. She said she wasn't paying attention and got off the bus by accident. Now, how's that for cosmic destiny?  

The rest of the meal was not a problem; La Boqueria was directly behind the studio (el piso in Catalan) we lived in on Carrer Carme. Every kind of food was available there, well, except for arándanos and un gran gall dindi (a big turkey in Catalan)!      

I picked up the turkey a couple of days before Thanksgiving and with great pride, Pedro turned it over to me. A week or so later, I had a large print made of him with it and gave it to him. When I went in shopping later, I saw it was prominently displayed on the wall.  

It was a beauty weighing in at over 10 kilos. I had to bring it back to the studio through the Raval so I used one of our suitcases that had wheels to transport it the four and a half manzanas (in Barcelona a city block is a "manzana" which means apple; never did figure that one out).  

We invited about 40 people and I didn't want to serve the dinner on paper plates so I went out into the Raval where there are dozens of bazaars, stores that sell every kind of item imaginable. I found some really cool plastic plates with a "cow" pattern and napkins to match and some delightfully gaudy plastic "silver wear". 

We had rented the studio on Carrer Carme in the Raval from Xavi and his wife, Kali, who were the best landlords ever! They had two really sweet kids, Tomás and Rita who is adorable.

We only had a microwave and a hot plate on which to cook so Kali let us cook the turkey as well as the whole meal in their kitchen. Kali ended up helping Tom with the dinner. 

Janine (one of the participants in the 2006 event) made a green bean dish and baked an apple pie . . .  

. . .  she had never baked a pie before, so, this was her maiden voyage. It was super!  

I made the mashed potatoes and I was adamant that there should be enough to go around so, of course, I ended up with a couple of gallons of it after the dinner. There was no room in the fridge so we put them out on the balcony overlooking Carme (the weather was colder than a witch's tit).  

Tom made an haricot dish with shaved almonds. Isabel said they were the best green beans she'd ever eaten!         

Miren helped Tom make an incredible gravy with about 20 lbs. of butter. While Tom was busy with other things, Miren kept stirring it for a bazillion hours and couldn't understand why it wouldn't turn brown until Tom noticed and poured the drippings from the turkey into it. Kali added her touch, a sherry or cognac. Voila! Exquisite gravey!    

The studio was VERY tiny so we had to set up the buffet in the laundry room between Xavi and Kali's quarters and our studio . . .  


. . . with a board covered by an orange cloth on the utility sink as a serving table; we made do as best we could.  

The time came to bring in the Bird . . .  

. . . and the feast began!

Our friends had no experience about how to eat a Thanksgiving dinner so they avoided the beautiful cranberry sauce and gravy Tom had made. All they took was the turkey, the vegetables, potatoes and salad, so, I walked around with the huge bowl of gravy, Janine followed me with the bowl of cranberries and we plopped both down on each plate. When they took a taste, they went ecstatic!  

I'd had a great time the previous couple of weeks putting together a humongous 8 hour compilation of American, Catalan and Spanish music especially for the evening.  

I had NEVER seen a Catalan overeat before but that night, when the feast was finished, everyone was laying around, stuffed and wiped out; there were many groans and a lot of belts loosened (sound familiar?).  

Have a fantastic Thanksgiving!

Pedro Torán
Aviram Pedro Torán
Alimentación Aves
C/Ramalleres, 14
08001 Barcelona
Phone:+34 933 17 36 90

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Five turkeys footnote     

Styrous® ~ Thanksgiving Eve, Wednesday, November 25, 2015  


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