This was our first Thanksgiving in Panama, as well as our first-ever Thanksgiving outside the United States.
Thanksgiving dinner — turkey, cranberry sauce and all the fixin’s — is a uniquely US traditional meal. So much so that, years ago, we celebrated Thanksgiving in August with our French exchange student so that he could enjoy a truly American experience.
For me, Thanksgiving was always the one holiday when my family made a big effort to get together. Although that happened less often once we had high-school age kids, Thanksgiving has always been the big family holiday for me.
I admit it, I was facing my first Thanksgiving abroad with a bit of worry. Trepidation, in fact.
Fortunately, my friends Jim and Priscilla came through with flying colors.
Jim and Priscilla own a restaurant here in Las Tablas, Panama. It’s called Ponchalos, and it’s on the main drag (the doble via) by the town’s only traffic light.
Normally they serve American-style hamburgers, wings, fries and pizza. But on November 22, they put on a full Thanksgiving spread.
Ponchalos is a sports bar as well as a restaurant, so football fans gathered early to watch the big game. We wandered in a few minutes before 4 PM. We had plenty of time to socialize before dinner.
It was a nice crowd. We already knew about half the folks who showed up, and got the chance to meet some new faces.
No, I didn’t get to spend Thanksgiving with family this year, but we had a fun afternoon and evening with lots of friends.
And the food was good.
Priscilla’s the cook — Jim handles marketing and PR — and she produced a meal that included turkey with gravy and dressing, cranberry sauce, green beans, broccoli, carrots, a vegetable medley and a scoop of something green that I assumed was guacamole — but wasn’t. Turned out it was a dish of spiced, pureed green peas.
For dessert, pumpkin and apple pies with ice cream. (I forgot to take a picture of it. My bad.)
I also realized at some point that this was the first Thanksgiving in over 30 years when I hadn’t cooked!
Here’s a little video clip.
Did I get to see my family? No. But it still felt like Thanksgiving.
How do you handle Thanksgiving overseas? Do you have a special food or ritual that makes the day for you? You can share in the Comments below.
Ponchalos Restaurante photo courtesy of Ponchalos.