Monday, November 29, 2010

My First Cuban Thanksgiving

It was 82 degrees, and my husband and I had our door open (to the outside) because Israel was sweeping the floor (our A/C unit lets in a lot of dust) and I was peeling potatoes in shorts and a t-shirt.  I wanted to contribute something to the dinner which was held at Danay's house, plus I really, really wanted to have mashed potatoes on Thanksgiving.  Btw, I should post an essay I wrote in seventh grade on how to make perfect mashed potatoes that my mom just sent me... I would change a few things now.

My husband had prepped me on what a typical Thanksgiving looks like with the family here, and he was not exaggerating much.  As we finished up our house chores, showered and were getting ready to head over next door, we heard a loud boom box sound coming through the wall, blaring salsa and meringue music.  All of the Cubans had collected and the party had begun.

 Pastelitos con guayaba (fried pastries with guayaba, a very sweet Cuban fruit) were in abundance on the main table, along with croquetas (another type of Cuban fried pastry, usually with cheese and ham inside). 

I set the mashed potatoes down on a counter, and it was an immediate hit!  They were almost gone by the time we actually sat down to eat the meal.  Most of his family had tried my pies and other desserts, but this was the first time they had tried something non-sweet, so I was so thrilled that everyone loved the mashed potatoes.

After mingling and dancing, everyone sat down to eat either at one table outside by the pool or the one inside the house.  I sat with Israel, Jorge and my mother-in-law, Bertha.  I really love talking with those two, they're both so warm, friendly and funny.  I still can't believe they're my in-laws!  I always have a good time talking to them. 

With the Thanksgiving meal came an assortment of food I have never eaten on this holiday:  rice, black beans, pork and yuca (a Cuban vegetable that has the texture and taste similar to a potato).  Bertha's boyfriend Tony prepared the turkey for everyone this year, and it was one of the most flavorful turkeys I've ever had!

Throughout the whole evening, salsa music was playing loudly and everyone was chattering the night away.  One of my favorite (and most embarrassing moments) of the night was when I was talking to Israel's grandpa about Gene Kelly, some in English, some in Spanish.  He wanted to know the lyrics to "Singin' in the Rain" so what better way to learn them than hear them sung by the American girl?  I agreed to his prodding, and sang the song much too sharply and awkwardly as a small crowd watched.

My all-time favorite moment came next when we listened to Israel's grandpa sing a number of Mexican opera songs after drinking a little too much rum.  Israel has told me this is pretty common when his grandpa is at a party-- he usually brings his own mix CD and asks to sing.  So he gave a little concert to a few people in the living room, and of course I had to capture it on film.  I had only heard about this for months, so I was pretty excited.  In one number, Israel sang with his grandpa "Silent Night" in Spanish.

We watched our wedding video with everyone, which was really a blessing for his grandma and great-grandma to see, since they couldn't come to the wedding.  It was fun watching their reactions, and they were impressed with our salsa, our first dance.  :)  Even though we left shortly after this, the party was still going on for a while longer, as we heard the loud sounds of domino playing on the patio near our door.

 Israel, Ofelia, me and Bertha

 Israel, Jorge and Julio ("the Russian")

I'm told that no Cuban party is not complete without a game of dominoes!  Here are Tony, Angel, Jorge and Tony

Baby Chris and Danay

All the girls... and Chris. :)  

I leave you with the aforementioned video:

As the Cubans say, Jappy San Givi!


  1. I'm trying to picture ANYONE dancing at one of my family's Thanksgivings...and, yeah...doesn't quite fit. :) That sounds like a LOT of fun.

  2. hahaha, I know!! Definitely a first for me on Thanksgiving! Truly a party!

  3. Love it!!! Oh my gosh. That video is great!! I love how Abuelo conducts the duo :) I'm so glad you had a wonderful new San Givi!

  4. So most everything you mentioned reminded me of an episode from Sesame Street that I watched a long time ago. It was about Cubans. Food, dancing, friends and dominoes. I can't believe it was all so true! Sounds like a lot of fun :)

  5. It was an awesome time! Your mashed potatoes were truly great honey! :)

  6. Reagan, that's hilarious! That Sesame Street episode definitely wasn't lying! :)