While Thanksgiving 2020 was a strange one for many around the world, it was a particularly interesting one for me as I celebrated it away from my family for the first time ever in the least thanksgiving-esque setting you can think of…the Cayman Islands.
To be honest, Thanksgiving was not even really on my radar. Living on this island is like Groundhog’s Day in the weather department. I realize that to most people 86 and sunny every day of the week sounds pretty darn good. No need to cuss at the weatherman with a forecast like that. And of course, it IS wonderful. However, for someone who is used to extreme seasonal changes, this Groundhog’s Day vibe has me very mixed up.
The other reason Thanksgiving wasn’t totally on my radar is because it is not really celebrated here. Cayman is a British territory and we know of course that Thanksgiving is an American holiday. Whereas in Wisconsin I would have enjoyed Wednesday thru Friday of vacation, here I had to work the whole week! (Poor me).
Alas, despite my lack of seasonal awareness, I must accept that the holiday season has arrived. However strange this year may be, 2020 has taught me to stop wishing for a different reality and simply make the most of what I have. While I wish I could have celebrated Thanksgiving at home with my family, I was able to take part in the next best alternative: Friendsgiving…Cayman style!
While I have participated in a few small Friendsgivings while living in the Midwest, Cayman Friendsgiving 2020 definitely will go down as the most special and memorable one to date. What really gave it WOW factor was the amazing lady who made it possible…my good friend and fellow American, Christine! I cannot tell you how many people I have met in Cayman that I initially suspect to be American but then later find out are Canadian. (Classic mix-up). The fact that Christine “sounds American” and IS actually American (New Jerseyite to be more specific) is such a comfort to me. Not to mention she is one of the most warm, kind people you will ever meet!
Christine hosted Friendsgiving at her place on Black Friday. When I walked into her apartment the first words out of my mouth were OH. MY. GOD. I thought for a moment that I had driven myself to the Ritz Carlton by mistake. She had rented banquet tables complete with linens, table settings, lights, and candles. She lined the living room with fresh flowers and added a finishing touch with name tags at every spot. While helping her with the final details, I spotted her open excel spreadsheet complete with guest names and their respective dishes. (Yes, she is an accountant…and also basically the Martha Stewart of Cayman).
I had signed on to prepare apple crisp (to honor my family’s tradition) and an autumn salad to add some green to the line up. My autumn salad called for sweet potato, a product I KNOW they have in Cayman. However, on the particular day I went to the supermarket they informed me they did not have the AMERICAN sweet potato but they DID have the JAMAICAN sweet potato. This was a learning moment for me as I never thought of the sweet potato as being classified by country. My ALDI days did not prepare me for this. Anyway, dazed and confused I purchased the Jamaican sweet potato as recommended by the produce man. Upon cooking it, I realized it does NOT provide a pretty orange color pop, but rather has an ugly yellowish, gray-speckled color. NOT something I wanted to put in my autumn salad. So, with a sigh of defeat I decided not to add it to the salad. But upon trying it a bit later, I can report that it DOES taste a bit similar to the “American” sweet potato and is rather yummy.
ANYWAY, back to Friendsgiving. Thanks to Christine’s spreadsheet, we all prepared something a bit different and had a wonderfully delicious variety for our Thanksgiving dinner. We were greeted at the door with welcome shots which we renamed “Gobblers” as their original name was a bit too explicit for a Thanksgiving celebration. They are made from Kahlua, Irish cream liqueur, and whipped cream. This really set the tone for the evening as we mingled about among our group of 14 friends. I even got a bit crafty myself in the mini bar department (AKA the washer and dryer covered with a festive sheet), preparing my brother’s Negroni recipe for a few people to try…shoutout Chase!!
After we had finished eating we migrated to our gender role areas: the men outside on the patio smoking cigars, the women sitting on Christine’s king bed in slumber party mode. In typical Thanksgiving fashion, we were too tired to move but were very happy to be chatting away in each other’s presence. And yes, that is a cup of coffee in my hands in the picture below as that is exactly what I would be drinking after Thanksgiving dinner at home 🙂
In total, there were 14 guests representing 8 countries: USA, Spain, South Africa, Slovenia, France, China, Canada, and England. I am so grateful to have shared Friendsgiving with this amazing group of people. We were first and foremost incredibly lucky to have the freedom of getting together freely and safely due to the near non-existence of COVID on the island. I also feel very fortunate to have made such good friends in my short time living on the island. Sharing with them the sentiment of togetherness and family that Thanksgiving brings during a time when I can’t see my own family was something I will never forget.
Thank you so much to Christine and to all the other lovely people who have made Cayman feel more like a home to me.
Thank you for reading and stay tuned for the next edition of Island Diaries by Kate!