“San Guivin” and #ChefsForPuertoRico

A few years ago I wrote this post, recounting memories of Thanksgiving (or “San Guivin”) in Puerto Rico. This holiday marks the commencement of the long Christmas celebration, quickly transitioning from Thanksgiving’s pavochón to the actual lechón (pork), accompanied with arroz con gandules (rice with pigeon peas) and pasteles.

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From a past Thanksgiving meal, featuring pavochón, arroz con gandules and mofongo stuffing. 

This year, the holidays will find Puerto Rico in post-Maria reconstruction. In light of this occasion, I wanted to use this post to highlight the ongoing work of Jose Andres, World Central Kitchen and the many local chefs and volunteers assisting with this effort:

World Central Kitchen, Andrés, and their coterie of chefs and volunteers plan to serve an estimated 40,000 Thanksgiving meals this week. They plan to serve “families throughout the island including San Juan, Vieques, Naguabo, Adjuntas, Ponce, Dorado, Utuado, Aguadilla and Manatí” as well as volunteers. – From Eater.com

Photo: @chefjoseandres / Twitter (in Eater.com article)

Chef Jose Andres has provided a spotlight on the chronic food crisis in Puerto Rico. His efforts have been supported by many local Puerto Rican chefs, including: José Enrique, Enrique Piñeiro, Victor Rosado, Wilo Bennett, José Santaella, and Manolo Martinez, as well as the food truck network – Ocean Deli, High Kitchen, Lemon Submarine, Pisco Labis, El Churry, Yummy Dumplings, Peko Peko, Acai on the Go, and The Meatball Company (see here).

The work of World Central Kitchen and these chefs underscore the important role of members of the culinary sector in assisting communities in times of need. I will continue to follow their efforts and contribute to their ongoing work. If you want to join me, follow this link for more information.

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San Guivin

San Guivin is “Puerto Rico’s favorite saint”, or so the joke goes. We celebrate this “saint” by gathering around with family, eating pavochón with a side of arroz con gandules, morcilla, pasteles, potato salad and anything else that makes it to the table. Before eating, people give thanks for the good things that have happened throughout the year. The meal ends with a nice dessert, flan being the one of choice in a lot of Boricua households. In recent years, this celebration is followed by a day of extreme shopping, where people gather in lines and fight over, mostly, electronics and toys on sale.

San Guivin is our adapted version of Thanksgiving. For many schoolchildren in the island, celebration starts a day prior to Thanksgiving break with the ‘Maraton del Pavo’ (the turkey marathon). The winner of this race gets a frozen turkey, the next two a frozen whole chicken, and from fourth to tenth place, a live chick. How this part of the celebration came to be? It is unknown, but it seems to point to a charitable custom that stuck thereafter.

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This North American holiday is also known to Puerto Ricans as El Dia del Pavo (Turkey Day), or, as El Dia de Accion de Gracias, a more proper translation. In Canada and the US, Thanksgiving is inspired by the Pilgrims’ arrival the northern continent and it was first celebrated in the 1600s. In Puerto Rico there were no Pilgrims. In fact, while Pilgrims were settling in North America, cities were already up and running on the island as well as in a lot of countries in Latin America. The celebration of Thanksgiving is part of the cultural influence of the US, just like Christmas replaced the more traditional Three Kings Day, especially in San Juan. We have adapted the holiday through the dishes, seasoning the turkey with our spices (sometimes stuffing it with mofongo), and adding our own dishes, such as the rice with pigeon peas (gandules) and the pasteles, the two dishes we continue to eat through December and the start of January. And, of course, we are not the only ones adding a cultural twist to this “American” holiday,

San Guivin is a delicious holiday. While ever more distanced from its Puritan roots, the celebration has changed to a wonderful excuse to get together, eat, and then eat some more…

Happy San Guivin’ and buen provecho!

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Post written with Omar A. Dauhajre