A golden-skinned turkey, aromatic stuffing, tart cranberries, and the warm spices of pumpkin pie…everyone’s mouth starts to water sometime in November just thinking about the traditional Thanksgiving menu. But what about a Costa Rica Thanksgiving? Can you still celebrate a US/Canadian holiday in a Central American country?
There are about 70,000 U.S. expats in Costa Rica that say yes to celebratingThanksgiving in the tropics! Also let’s not forget the 10,000 Canadian expats who enjoy celebrating Thanksgiving in Costa Rica on the second Monday in October! Every year, these expats gather with what family is on hand combined with new friends and neighbors to commemorate that first harvest meal.
A few Ticos who have ties to the U.S. also celebrate Thanksgiving in Costa Rica, even though it has nothing to do with them. Ticos love nothing more than to gather as a family and share a meal regardless of the reason! But some are opposed to Thanksgiving… saying it is part of a larger process of Americanization in Central America, but you always have a few crabby people in the world, even in Costa Rica.
If your cravings are more traditional, no need to fret! Nowadays, supermarkets such as Auto Mercado and MegaSuper in Playas Del Coco stock all the necessary ingredients. Restaurants in the area offer Thanksgiving dinners (Both U.S. & Canadian) as good as any that can be found in North America for around $35-45. You’ll enjoy roast turkey, stuffing, salad, sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, mashed potatoes, apple and pumpkin pie. Now that’s Costa Rica Thanksgiving!
It was not always so easy to satisfy the North American Thanksgiving palate in Costa Rica whether Canadian or American. With the exception of greenbeans, none of the traditional menu items are native to Costa Rica or commonly consumed, but that does not mean you can’t get them. Limited availability of Thanksgiving dinner ingredients in the past had expats packing frozen turkeys, boxes of stuffing, and cans of cranberry sauce in their luggage. Creating many disaster stories… involving delayed flights, thawed birds, and cranberry covered laptops.
Even though Thanksgiving is becoming a bigger deal due to an influx of U.S. expats, the ingredients can be pricey! Turkeys running around $50-$80 for a whole bird. Remember, it is not a local item so it has to stay frozen all the way from North America. Substitutions and improvisations are the order of the day for those of us trying to duplicate favorite recipes.
Chickens can be roasted in place of turkey, and stuffing can be made, the true and old fashion way, from scratch with bread, onions, celery and herbs. Most markets sell butternut squash and “ayote sazon”—both excellent stand-ins for pumpkin. Green beans are always in season and Maggi or Knorr make a pretty decent cream of mushroom soup mix, so with some imagination you can put together a tasty green bean casserole. The Costa Rican sweet potato has a light yellow flesh and is not as sweet as its northern cousin, but if you smother them with toasted marshmallows, who cares?
There may be some controversy about Thanksgiving… But Costa Rica has no objection whatsoever to Black Friday, which it adopted a few years ago. The official start to the Christmas shopping season is very popular with Ticos and the stores are swamped! It is so popular that Black Friday has been extended to include the whole month of November—Black November. So a Costa Rica Thanksgiving also means shopping.
Whether or not you chose a date in November or October to sit down to a turkey dinner in the tropics, any day of the year you live in Costa Rica you have a lot to be thankful for! Afterall, the most important part of Thanksgiving is being thankful!
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