Alternative Thanksgiving

Typical "farmer's market" fruit and vegetable stand in Spain.
Typical “farmer’s market” fruit and vegetable stand in Spain.

While all my OU friends were tweeting out complaints about having Monday and Tuesday classes during Thanksgiving week, I was sitting in my bed alone eating olive oil flavored Lays potato chips—the closest I would get to an American Thanksgiving. I did not have anything close to a traditional Thanksgiving, but since coming here I have tried a cornucopia (pun intended) of Spanish foods and typical madrileño dishes. What I did instead of having an American Thanksgiving is think up a list of what a Thanksgiving would be like if I tried to host it in Spain. I like to think of this as “Alternative Thanksgiving.”

American dish: turkey

Spanish alternative: jamón

Ham is basically the staple of all Spanish diets, and comes prepared in all different ways. Cerdo, which means pig, is usually used to describe pigs’ feet and can be purchased at any deli. Cochinillo is a famous dish of Segovia, and means baby suckling pig. Jamón Iberico, by far the most popular preparation, is the very thinly sliced Iberian ham good for sandwiches and tapas. Nearly all restaurants have Iberian hams hanging from the windows and inside ceilings and use them to shave off bits at a time.

American dish: stuffing

Spanish alternative: paella

Paella, the most stereotypical Spanish dish, is really as popular as people make it out to be. It is available at every restaurant, most joints offering a daily special. For those who do not know what it is, it is a rice dish with peppers, onions, seafood, chicken, and anything else mixed in. One thing I learned in a paella cooking class (yes, that actually happened) is that paella is not naturally yellowy-orange; it is dyed with a powder food dye to make it look better.


American dish: mashed potatoes

Spanish alternative: Patatas bravas

On of the most common tapas in Spain, patatas bravas are incredibly simple to make and come as a side dish to any main course. They are cubed potatoes, fried in olive oil with whatever spices. The potatoes are drained and covered with salsa brava, which is comparable to a very mildly-flavored Russian dressing.

American dish: rolls

Spanish alternative: tortilla Española

No, it’s not a tortilla. Tortillas, along with nachos, tacos, and burritos, are all Mexican; however, tortilla Española is a thick carb side dish, made of primarily eggs and potatoes. It is over-boiled, mashed up potatoes mixed with whisked eggs and mass amounts of olive oil, fried up in an egg pan.

 American dish: gravy

Spanish alternative: olive oil

Spain has the second-highest life expectancy rate in the world, and anyone you ask will tell you it is because of the olive oil. Supermarkets with a mere three aisles will devote an entire corridor to EVOO, and it is cooked with and put on top of just about everything. Spain produces the vast majority of the world’s olive oil, and most of the bottling takes place in Italy. If you see a bottle labeled “made in Italy,” it was probably made in Spain.

American dish: holiday beer, specifically Great Lakes Lager

Spanish alternative: wine

In addition to olive oil, Spain is a major wine exporter. I did not expect coming in that the wine would really be that different, but it is incredibly good and very accessible. It is a cultural drink, something you have with meals, and a bottle of good wine is cheaper than water or juice. Can you imagine if beer was cheaper than water? Oh Lordy.


*Anna Lippincott is a sophomore in the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism studying journalism, political science, and Spanish. She is currently using an OU partner program, Academic Programs International, to attend Antonio de Nebrija Universidad in Madrid, Spain. Follow her travels @anna_lippincott.


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