No Snow… but Lots of Turkey

This article was published in the Escape Artist Weekly Newsletter on November 29, 2017. If you would like to subscribe to the newsletter, please click here.

Some of my most vivid childhood memories took place over Thanksgiving at my grandfather’s hunting cabin in upstate New York.  Pre-winter, yet the crisp air always had a defining chill, and if we were lucky, a thin dusting of snow covered the frozen ground.

No Snow... but Lots of Turkey

On the road to Grandpa’s, November 2014

My cousins and I would bundle up in heavy flannel jackets and thick scarves and run around the barren woods, playing some game we just invented while our parents prepared the big turkey feast.

As we got older, not much changed except for our added participation in the cooking and preparation.  The holiday tradition still lives on.  Every year, no matter how hectic our current situation may be, the cousins always look forward to catching up on our recent adventures, while sitting around the outdoor fire pit cooking s’mores.

No Snow... but Lots of Turkey

Candid video of my cousin trying to teach me how to use my Go-Pro (plus a guest appearance of my pug).

This year, however, my presence was pardoned.  In lieu of a winter jacket and snow flurries, I opted for shorts and tropical palm trees in Belize.

Island living is quirky, as you may recall from last week’s article.  Well, this Thanksgiving it got a whole lot quirkier.  It was my first Thanksgiving on Ambergris Caye, and thanks to the large American expat population, this U.S. holiday is recognized among many stores, bars, and restaurants.  What I realized is that because of this recognition, I was off the hook from cooking… and after hearing about Dan Wilhelm’s National-Lampoon-style Thanksgiving in Portugal, I am thankful that I was able to avoid a (would’ve been) mess.

My colleague, Betsy, and I toyed around with the idea of hosting a traditional dinner for our Belizean co-workers to experience, but the reality is that the scavenger hunt we call grocery shopping didn’t entice either of us.  So, we took it to the streets.

We were looking for a post-work dinner.  Being in the tourism industry, holidays are smack dab in the middle of our peak season, so we weren’t planning to go into a turkey coma mid-workday.

But get this.  On the island, “Turkey Dinner” is not actually a dinner, but instead a lunch.  So, when I called around asking different restaurants if they were serving a Thanksgiving dinner, they said yes.  I asked what time, and they said it would be hosted around 12-3pm, at lunchtime.  But when asked if they had “Turkey Dinner served at dinnertime,” most places said no turkey, and instead they had a special lobster dinner for Thanksgiving dinner.

We then called Maria, a delicious lunch chef, but her Thanksgiving lunch (really a lunch) was going to be on Friday, not Thursday.  Huh?

Wow, that was confusing.  So “Turkey Dinner” = turkey lunch.  And “Thanksgiving Dinner” = lobster dinner.

Betsy and I were craving turkey, so we decided to risk the tryptophan-induced sleepiness and go for a turkey dinner, i.e. a midday lunch.

After doing some research, we ended up at El Divino, an island hot spot well-known for its incredible ceviche and steak.  They were hosting a turkey dinner buffet (remember, that means lunch) which was highly-recommended by many.  Along with a handful of other U.S. (plus a Brit) expats and tourists, we enjoyed a full buffet of juicy turkey (even the white meat was juicy, yummm!), mashed potatoes, stuffing, green beans, cranberry, bread, pumpkin pie, etc. – exactly what you’d expect on your dining room table.  Thank goodness we both strategically skipped breakfast that morning because the authentic, homemade taste had us up for a few rounds…

No Snow... but Lots of Turkey

Betsy at Thanksgiving Dinner at El Divino.

And after a couple of full plates, what came next was exactly what you’d expect…

A wave of tiredness.

We took one look at each other fully understanding the condition we were each in, and then jetted off to The Baker for an iced coffee to subdue our oncoming food coma.

The caffeine didn’t quite do its job, but the meal was well worth the effect.  It was exactly what we were hoping for and brought Betsy and me back to our younger years, reminiscing about our most-treasured Thanksgiving memories with our families.  Over many laughs and out-loud “mmmmm’s” as we appreciated each bite of our food, we returned to the office feeling extremely satisfied.

No Snow... but Lots of Turkey

Pumpkin pie for dessert at El Divino.

Our Nicaraguan, Belizean, and Canadian colleagues, who were in the office when we returned, asked how our meal was.  “Tasty,” both Betsy and I responded, and they smiled and nodded, happy that we were fulfilled.  But for Betsy and me, it was much more meaningful than just the scrumptious food.  It was the fact that while both living abroad, we were able to get together and celebrate a holiday that had significant meaning to both of us.  While we weren’t back in the States with our relatives, we were still able to spend time with the people who are meaningful in our lives.  And that’s what the holidays are about, right?Consumer Resource Guide

Now, what’s better than Thanksgiving dinner on Thanksgiving?  Leftovers from Thanksgiving dinner the following day.  However, on Friday, we didn’t have leftovers from the El Divino buffet, so we called in Maria.  Remember, she was serving her Thanksgiving meal on Friday, so this worked out perfectly.  She delivered, directly to our office, full plates of freshly prepared turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, vegetables, and bread for only $7.50 USD/person.

And, oh my goodness, was it amazing.  The entire meal tasted like it came fresh from my grandfather’s oven.  The mashed potatoes were rich and creamy, mixed with little pieces of potato seasoned to perfection.  The meat was warm and tender, to the extent that we didn’t even need a knife to cut it.  Our Belizean colleague, Christian, who ordered a plate as well, was also in heaven.

After extreme satisfaction from Maria’s lunch, we needed another coffee.

The following day, just when we thought the turkey-kick was over, we ended up at The Truck Stop only to find out a Thanksgiving special was still being served at Rasa.  To keep in line with the Asian-style food served at this food stand, they were offering Thanksgiving Day Spring Rolls.  Description in the photo below:

No Snow... but Lots of Turkey

No Snow... but Lots of Turkey

Now, this meal may sound a bit strange, but being that we were still in the Thanksgiving spirit we decided to give these unique rolls a try.

WOW.  At first bite, my taste buds were spiraling out of control from this distinctive combination.  It was unlike anything I had ever tried before.  A crispy exterior with a warm, multi-textured inside, a splash of bitter cranberry, and a side of gravy.  It was simply incredible.

No Snow... but Lots of Turkey

I returned to The Truck Stop the following Sunday to share this exotic special with a few of my friends who were in town, but it was no longer being served.  Luckily, I did a lame job of describing the roll because they quickly found other options at the other food stands.  And for me, it now gives me something to look forward to next year.

Although I missed out on this year’s family get together, my cousin did remember to send me a family portrait from their dinner table.  And to be honest, it doesn’t look like they could’ve fit another personal at the crowded table.

No Snow... but Lots of Turkey

For the American readers out there, I hope you had an enjoyable Thanksgiving.  For those non-American readers, thanks for letting us live out our turkey-craze traditions.

Looking forward to a happy, healthy, and prosperous holiday season together these next few weeks, and thank you for your continued readership.

This article was published in the Escape Artist Weekly Newsletter on November 29, 2017. If you would like to subscribe to the newsletter, please click here.