Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Thanksgiving Nica Style

On Thanksgiving 2009 at La Mariposa, guests, jefes, and staff--teachers, grounds keepers, cooks--gathered to share a special meal honoring the U.S. holiday. Guests insisted that the cooks, who always tend to us so well, be first in line at the hors d'oeuvres table and then at dinner. They lined up in their aprons, laughing and enjoying; the rest of us followed. After dinner, we shooed them out of the kitchen for a little dancing on the patio, and finally sent them home early, as we did our best to clean up and put things away where they might be found the next day.

It was a memorable Thanksgiving, filled with spirit, as we offered thanks for families and for friends new and old, for connections across boundaries, for the opportunity to know each other and to share the good food prepared for our table. As a guest, I felt particularly grateful for the place in which we were all gathered, for the amazing teachers who came every day to teach in animated & highly individualized ways; for the staff of La Mariposa who were also our teachers, the cocineras who taught me the names of kitchen implements and foods, the gardeners who taught me names of plants and explained patiently why they were digging a hole or trimming a bush. I was grateful for the daily privilege of encountering the Nicaraguan people, who impressed me over and over with their spirit, their skillful work, their courage in the wake of historical and economic challenges.

The event would have been wonderful and inspiring even if we had been sharing peanut butter sandwiches, but the Thanksgiving spread was a feast of vegetables, roasted chickens, a fabulous cranberry sauce. Here, Paulette stirs the pumpkin soup, which was one of my favorite parts of the meal.

And this is the ill-tempered turkey (el chompipe) that lived through Thanksgiving and continues to terrorize women who go near the kitchen's back steps. (This turkey is sexist; men go un-harassed.) Jokes about putting that turkey on the dining table ran rampant for days before the holiday, but Paulette is devoted to all her creatures, and she consistently pointed out this turkey's finer points, most notably that he will eat things that the generally omnivorous chickens will not--potato and beet peels, for example. At La Mariposa, absolutely nothing must go to waste. And so the turkey serves his purpose, living to see another Thanksgiving Day and, no doubt, another round of turkey-on-the-table jokes.

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