2017-11-19 / Insight

Food, family key to Latino Thanksgiving gatherings

810-452-2616 • pfoley@mihomepaper.com

IMLAY CITY — While Americans celebrate Thanksgiving on the fourth Thursday in November and Canadians mark it on the second Monday in October, Mexico doesn’t have an official Thanksgiving Day. That doesn’t keep Mexicans living in the U.S. from marking the day in their own way.

At its heart, Thanksgiving is about food and family — two key elements of Mexican culture.

Rosa Menendez, senior coordinator at the Hispanic Service Center in Imlay City, said her house is full of family and food for Thanksgiving, it’s just what’s on the table and television is a little different.

Menendez said turkey and cranberries aren’t a holiday fare in Mexico. She said you’re more likely to find pozole, a soup made with beef, pork and hominy; gorditos, a plumper tortilla filled with beans, potatoes and sausage; and ham on the table.

Menendez, who came to the U.S. as an 8-year-old 23 years ago, said, “My mother never cooked a turkey, but we always celebrated Thanksgiving.”

While Americans often cover a ham with pineapple rings and cherries, Menendez said her mother would make a salsa of guajillo peppers, oregano and garlic; strain the blended mixture and pour it over the ham before baking it.

Pozole (the Spanish word for hominy) can be made as a soup or a stew and is a central dish of any Mexican celebration. It’s a dish that has almost as many recipes as there are grandmothers.

Menendez said she makes hers with beef and pork and seasons it with guajillo peppers, which add flavor and color, but not too much heat. She finishes it off with a little lemon and tops it with chopped lettuce or cabbage.

She said her friend Maria Torres, who came to the U.S. five years ago, gets a turkey every year at work, but gives it away.

Menendez finishes off her Thanksgiving meal with flan, a rich egg custard made with evaporated milk and sweetened condensed milk and topped with a caramel sauce.

After dinner, she said, her kids tend to watch soccer and at some point, everyone plays Mexican bingo.

Mexican bingo, also known as lotería, is a board game when you win by making row of four across, vertically, horizontally or diagonally on a 16-square board. But instead of numbered letters, the game uses a deck of 54 cards with pictograms.

Mexican bingo is a regular feature at the bi-weekly senior luncheons at the Hispanic Service Center, 204 E. 3rd St, Imlay City. “It’s a lot of fun,” Menendez said.

The next luncheon, which is open to all seniors, will be at noon Wednesday at the center. “We’ll be doing a turkey,” she said.

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