HISPANIC THANKSGIVING
Sitting down with family and friends to celebrate and enjoy large amounts of delicious food together is…
Dane Fishbaugh, Kids’ Club Spanish School, San Francisco, CA
26  November 2020
about as old and universal a tradition throughout the world as anything else.  The truly uniquely American, Thanksgiving holiday with its famous Turkey, stuffing, green bean casserole and cranberry sauce dinner lineup is a relatively new holiday which was proclaimed by George Washington in 1789 to be an official holiday and It is one of the most endeared and celebrated Holidays in the United States today. Hispanics have made this holiday their own and a Hispanic Thanksgiving is especially unique!
There are approximately 52 million Hispanic people calling the United States home and many will be celebrating Thanksgiving or “Día de Acción de Gracias” this year. While many Hispanic Thanksgivings will be filled with the wonderful smell of turkey roasting in the oven, other traditional dishes will accompany the turkey at the table that reflect the unique Hispanic culinary heritage. We have researched some of the most popular Hispanic foods that are brought to the Hispanic Thanksgiving table to give people a taste of what it might be like to enjoy a meal that expands the horizons of the traditional American Thanksgiving meal.

While this year’s Thanksgiving for many of us will be a smaller gathering than usual, much restricted due to Covid, it is nevertheless important to remain thankful for even the smallest blessings that we have in our lives, even if it means just being thankful for eating a big meal together with just a few family members and friends.

Cuban Plátano Frito 

2.3 millions of cubans live in the US. One of the most common staple side dishes at the Cuban dinner table, and at the Thanksgiving dinner table for that matter, is without a doubt the plátanos maduros fritos.  What the pie is to Americans the plantain is to Cubans. Although not a dessert, Cubans enjoy having something sweet with their dinner. Some of the most popular ways that plátanos fritos are served is with frijoles negros (black beans) with sour cream on the side, or along with a savory pork recipe. By taking very ripe plantains and pan frying them with butter or oil you can achieve the famously wonderful crispy caramelized outsides and soft warm insides of the plantains. The secret is using very, very ripe plantains. The blacker the better although they should be purchased yellow and allowed to ripen at home. It’s hard to know (when you buy them black at the store) if they have truly ripened or just been thrown around a lot and gotten all bruised up. We’ve added a simple and delicious recipe here.

 

Colombian Arroz con coco

One of the best Latino dishes to pair with Turkey and cranberry sauce is the sweet and savory Columbian take on white rice. Arroz con coco (coconut rice) is made using coconut milk, plump, juicy raisins and salt. Columbians usually like to serve this with seafood, but the sweetness / savoriness of the rice is what makes it go so well with the Turkey and cranberry sauce. One of the tasty tricks to making this dish really amazing is to cook the coconut milk separately in a pan so that it comes to a boil, simmers, evaporates and leaves the separated bits of browned coconut.  This way of preparing the coconut milk gives the rice a warm and cozy caramelized, toasty flavor. Another way you may eat this dish at your Columbian neighbor’s house is to actually have it served as a dessert by adding cinnamon and creme to the recipe.

Argentinian Milanesa

In many Argentinian homes Turkey may be accompanied or substituted by Milanesa. Milanesa is either pork, chicken or steak which is cut into a very thin slices. The filet is then breaded and fried by dipping it into flower, egg and then breadcrumbs. It is most commonly eaten with either mashed potatoes or mashed sweet potatoes. The fillets take very little time to cook because they are so thin. Once you achieve a nice brown color on the outside you know they are going to be perfecto and delicioso!

Milanesa was actually originally brought from Italy to South America during a mass emigration that occurred between 1860 and World War I, so it has a kind of immigration story that makes it a fitting dish for the Thanksgiving table. Between these years over 9,000,000 Italians, mostly from the south, immigrated to North and South America. Almost 30 million Argentinians have some way to trace their heritage back to Italy. During this time Italy went through a reunification period which led to a shift in demographics and a population density shift in the south forcing many younger people to flee in search of better opportunities and a better life. They made life better for Argentinians as this is one of their most favorite dishes to enjoy.

Puerto Rican Mofongo

If you are sitting down at the Thanksgiving table with your Puerto Rican family and friends you can be assured that you will be eating mofongo. Mofongo is made of mashed, fried, unripened plantains flavored with garlic and chicharrón (fried pork rind). The mash is usually placed into a bowl acting as a type of mold to shape the mofongo into a dome. It is then taken out of the bowl and from there stuffed in the middle with a meat such as shrimp, shredded beef, or chicken. Some will simply stuff the middle with cheddar cheese or they will stuff it with both meat and cheese. It is then covered in olive oil, sprinkled with salt, wrapped in aluminum foil and baked at 400 for about 15-20 minutes. It is so delicious that you will be saying “I would like mo-mofongo please!”

Dominican Bizcocho

After all of these main dishes and sides, let’s not forget about desert! The Dominicans know how to indulge in what’s called Bizcocho.

If you like rich, creamy, moist, delicate, airy desserts that whisk you away up to cake heaven, then this desert is for you! If you don’t, well then just stick to the pumpkin pie 🙂 Its luscious frosting, and tart pineapple filling will surely leave you with your eyes closed and your mouth metaphorically open upon first bite. And if this doesn’t sound absolutely delicious enough, there is a rum cake version of this desert that is especially popular during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.

Thanksgiving focuses on getting together with family, having fun, and eating delicious food it is no wonder that everyone, regardless of where you are originally from, can feel a special connection to this particular American Holiday. Hispanics add their wonderful cuisine to make this holiday theirs.

 

During our live one-on-one Spanish immersion classes for kids aged 5 to 13, many teachers will teach vocabulary words related to “Thanksgiving”. Homework assignments will be sent to the students for them to study these vocabulary words. Our classes are a fun and dynamic way for kids to learn the Spanish language and to learn culture related to the Spanish speaking world. Sign your child up for a free trial class to help them begin their language learning journey.

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