By Felicity Clarke, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO – Last Thursday the city’s American community gathered to celebrate the US holiday Thanksgiving with a spectacular event organized by The American Society of Rio de Janeiro. Held in the decadent setting of the JW Marriott on Copacabana beach front, the Thanksgiving dinner and drinks provided a special opportunity for those away from the home shores to share the occasion in style.
On a balmy hot evening on the Marriott’s rooftop bar, traditional cocktails from both sides of the equator were served against a distinctly Rio sky. The tangy refreshment of the caipirinha was better suited to the setting than the creamy spiced eggnog, but eggnog represented as part of the US holiday tradition.
Before heading downstairs to enjoy the Thanksgiving feast, the US Consul General Dennis W. Hearne read President Obama’s Thanksgiving Proclamation, in which the 44th president articulated the uniting quality of the holiday: “As Americans, we hail from every part of the world. While we observe traditions from every culture, Thanksgiving Day is a unique national tradition we all share. Its spirit binds us together as one people, each of us thankful for our common blessings.”
Food is a significant part of the history, and the Thanksgiving meal continues to be a central part of the holiday. With a room full of “my Mom’s cooking” to compete with, The American Society feast had high standards to maintain – and certainly did so. A buffet of buttery smooth mashed potatoes, fresh vegetables (including sprouts), succulent turkey and ham, rich gravy and the cranberry sauce brought over especially from the States constituted a delicious, skilfully prepared traditional Thanksgiving meal.
It is a comfort meal to insulate against harsh North American cold weather, to help hibernate through the winter. In-other-words not ordinarily the kind of meal well suited to Rio in November and so the menu catered not only for tradition, but also for the heat with a range of cold salads (tabbouleh, cous cous, caeser), meats and cheeses.
In the warmly-lit dining room food was augmented by the spirit of sharing and friendliness that is integral to the good will sentiment of the holiday. “Thanksgiving is a time to really switch off and enjoy spending time with each other” said Pauline Nalikka, a student from Maryland currently doing a semester at PUC.
Pauline’s thoughts were echoed by Roberto Abib, country manager for Brazil for Anadarka, one of The American Society’s sponsors: “Thanksgiving means taking a moment to be thankful for all the blessings of the past year and indeed in life”. He went on to praise the event, “ The American Society have gone all out to create a really special Thanksgiving for us to share in, and I know many of us really appreciate this”.
Stuffed full of sweet pecan pie or fluffy chocolate mousse dessert, those still able to move took themselves for a nightcap at the hotel bar where to round off the tradition an American football match was showing.
For the expats in Rio, The American Society event successfully brought a US flavor to the city and more importantly provided a warm, friendly environment to bring people together for the original US holiday.