With Thanksgiving nearing (for Canadians in October and Americans in November), it is a challenge every year for newbies to find turkey and cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving in Mexico. Why, you ask? Because in Mexico, there is no such thing as Thanksgiving, therefore turkeys are not readily available this time of year and cranberry sauce, non-existent.
I’m not here to scare you into thinking you’re going to have to eat chicken tacos with some red vegetable to have the feel of Thanksgiving this year, because the truth is many things have changed since I arrived. When I first moved to Cancun, cranberry sauce was unheard of as were stores stocking turkeys before December, so during those first few years, yes, I did without. Now however, with so many foreigners (from all countries), finding your favorite home foods has become much easier.
Local shops have spent years watching half-crying foreigners scramble their isles in search of the red jelly in cans then jumping for joy when they find it (price at this point is not an issue). They then see us hover over the meat sections, often combing the isles two or three times in search of something that resembles a turkey. They get it. We celebrate a holiday that they do not. So in keeping with tradition, sort-of-speak, the larger brand stores now carry turkey and cranberry sauce. Yeahh!!
Cranberry sauce is not widely known here, so don’t bother asking a store clerk. Those who do know “of” it will refer to it as a salsa, which is technically correct so don’t give them grief. Just nod a polite yes and hope they find it. Otherwise, they have no idea, which is okay. Unless you know where to find the red sauce used to make their popular bistec a la Mexicana, you can’t complain.
If you want to find cranberry sauce, I suggest you start looking a few weeks ahead of time. I’ve seen cranberry sauce stocked in the import section, in with the jams and jellies, beside coffee and in with canned fruits. Seriously, they don’t know where to put it.
Also, shop early. There are usually more foreigners looking than there are cans to be found.
Buying turkey during the months of October and November is pretty straightforward. You find your favorite Butter Ball and take it home. However during the Christmas season, which is huge here being a Christian country, turkeys are stuffed with pork.
Turkey and pork are both served equally in Mexican homes during the Christmas holidays, and since not every home has an oven (or some just don’t want the additional heat in the house), the larger grocery stores sell pre-baked turkeys that are usually stuffed with pork.
You can tell from the price, it’s often a fair bit more than a “regular” turkey. Sometimes the bird is stuffed with an actual large piece of pork and other times its stuffed with ground pork stuffing (Pavo relleno a la Mexicana). If you want “just turkey” but are one of the people looking for pre-cooked, just check the cavity if you don’t want pork, or better yet, enjoy your first pavo relleno a la Mexicana Christmas!