November 2009

Thanksgiving in Mexico

Originally uploaded by Pat and Amy’s pics

Yesterday marked the first time we’ve had to worry about getting typhoid from our Thanksgiving dinner, but with any luck, it won’t be the last.

We had been invited to Thanksgiving dinner by a lovely retired artist, but sadly her mother’s health has declined so she had to cancel. We found out Monday, and there was plenty of time to make other plans. Because of the huge number of Americans living in San Miguel de Allende, many restaurants were offering a full Thanksgiving dinner of turkey and the works, so we knew we had options. Unfortunately, we didn’t make a decision on Tuesday and only started considering the possibilities on Wednesday, when it turned out to be too late to make reservations at some of the restaurants.

No worries, we decided we would just fix our own Thanksgiving dinner. I love to cook, and our very first Thanksgiving together was spent by ourselves, cooking our own meal, so this would just be like old times. Besides, we’re used to spending holidays on our own, having spent last Christmas in Egypt. I scouted the stores, trying to decide on an appropriate menu that could be prepared in our somewhat limited kitchen. We decided on a menu of beer-butt chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, homemade dressing, fresh baked bread from a local bakery, carrots, corn, apple sauce, fruit salad and dessert. We felt like this was a pretty good approximation of a Thanksgiving meal, considering what was on offer in town. The closest we could get to dill pickles, for example, was dill relish, so we would have to make do.

At ten o’clock Thanksgiving morning our power went out. We assumed it would be back on shortly but hour after hour passed with no change. I didn’t want to buy a chicken that may have been sitting out with no refrigeration for hours (this is done regularly at some places already even when there is power) which made me nervous the longer the power outage lasted. It turned out the power outage was limited to our neighbourhood, so we knew we could find properly cooled chicken when the time came. The apartment has a gas oven, so we could cook, but if we didn’t have lights we’d never be able to finish cooking once the sun went down.

It was a waiting game, and we lost. Because the power wasn’t back on until around six, we had no chicken, and no time to buy, prepare, and cook one. So, off we went to our favourite taqueria (in this case, a street vendor selling tacos) and feasted on gringas de pastor, which is like a quesadilla. I don’t really think there’s a risk of getting typhoid from places like this, but one of Amy’s friends said we were chancing it if we ate street food in Mexico. We’ve eaten at taquerias a dozen times with no ill effects, but I have to admit they don’t quite follow procedures that would stand up to the scrutiny of a county health inspector.

So, while it wasn’t exactly traditional, it was great food in a great city, and for that we were thankful. Besides, we simply pushed back making the full meal until tonight, and we did a pretty good job, if I do say so myself.


Pat and I have been talking about how much we are enjoying our time in San Miguel de Allende, but rather than just continuing to talk about the place I thought I would show you what one of our days is like.  Below is a photo essay on how we spent Pat’s 40th birthday.

We are house-sitting for a friend here in San Miguel and looking after her dogs, Mario and Jake.

Pat went out this morning to get a bottle of coke, and encountered a fiesta down at the end of our street at the nearby catholic church.  There seemed to be a battle of the bands going on.  In front of the church, young men and women dressed in native Indian costumes were dancing to a pounding drum beat…

…while at the same time, directly across the street about 20 feet away a band with trombones, french horns, clarinets , a tuba and drums played Mexican music.  Both groups seemed to be intentionally playing as loudly as they could in friendly competition.

While we were watching the festivities, our friends Eli and Joseph called and invited us to a birthday breakfast for Pat at Posada Corazon.

Pat's 40th birthday

We walked back home through the Jardín, where a Mexican Artisan Market is happening until 29th November.  They are selling tapestries, hand painted wall-hangings, and mirrors like this one.

Things really picked up at the fiesta this evening with a live band, people dancing in the streets, and a small carnival with rides for the little kiddies.

Crowds at the fiesta

Carnival rides

This may seem like a unique and special day (and it was because it was Pat’s birthday), but we have stumbled across several parades and fiestas, and we bump into new friends and go to social events several times weekly.  This is just the way things are here in San Miguel.

San Miguel de Allende

Originally uploaded by Pat and Amy’s pics

It’s been harder to keep up writing blog postings because things are so busy for us right now. We left Guadalajara to come to San Miguel de Allende, where we are spending fall term, and we’ve never been more active. San Miguel has about 70,000 residents, of which about 12,000 are ex-pats, mostly Americans, and the ex-pat community is really a community. We’ve been here less than three weeks and I think I know more people by name here than I did after living in Cork for 18 months. There’s always something happening, and we often run into people we know as we walk about town. Just this afternoon, Amy ran into Chip and Deborah, a couple from Texas we met shortly after we arrived, and today marked the fourth time she’s seen them since (I’ve seen them three times).

Let me use this week as an example of just how busy it gets here. The local paper has an insert with a calendar of events for the week, and after looking at this week’s issue, which came out Friday, Amy commented that there wasn’t much to do. So, Saturday Amy went to Zumba (an exercise/dance class) in Parque Juarez. Sunday we went for drinks at a retired artist’s house. Today I graded papers in the morning and afternoon, while Amy went to her photography class. We met to go to a movie made here in San Miguel, and tonight we are seeing an photography exhibit from the teachers for the Sante Fe Workshop, which runs classes here.

Tomorrow and the rest of the week, I’ll grade papers while Amy will continue to take her photography lessons. Tomorrow we have a dance lesson (which we bought at a silent-auction fundraiser a week ago) and tomorrow night I’ll go to a life-drawing session while Amy will attend a language exchange program at the library. Wednesday we have salsa lessons in the evening, and Thursday we’ll both go to the language exchange. Friday we have our Spanish lessons. And this will have been a slow week.

Really, we promise to do better and write more, if we can just find the time.