Growing up, Thanksgiving wasn’t that important of a holiday to me. It just wasn’t.
When the recession hit, my mom and I moved to Texas while my dad stayed behind to work in Maryland. For years, it’d be just me and my mom celebrating Thanksgiving alone. Sometimes we’d go to our next door neighbor’s house and sometimes my dad would fly in. Other times we’d just go to a Brazillian steakhouse or order Chinese if it was possible. I didn’t care for turkey, and my mom didn’t care for the work and the overwhelming sense of loneliness.
Then something strange happened when I moved across the country to go to college. Although I thought I hated Texas and Thanksgiving, I started to crave dishes I just couldn’t find up north. I dreamt of enchilada platters, brisket tacos and queso. I longed for the days I could roll up to the Tex-Mex restaurant that was an eight-minute drive from my high school and order a plate of enchiladas (with rice and beans, free refills on chips and salsa, and a drink) for less than $12, including tip.
And despite the fact that my mom never made enchiladas—like, ever—and that Thanksgiving enchiladas were typically a solution for leftover dry turkey, I became enthralled with making my own enchiladas. When my friend group started planning a Friendsgiving, I knew it was go time.
That first Friendsgiving was kind of an unmitigated but lovely disaster. Me, being a stupid 19-year-old, didn’t do any research on how to make enchiladas suizas. I had eaten probably upwards of 300 enchiladas in my life at that point and had mastered my mom’s salsa recipes, so I felt pretty confident. Enchiladas suizas are just chicken enchiladas, but topped with salsa verde, crema and queso fresco. That’s it. I didn’t even think to prep the day before our huge gathering. Instead, my friends and I hit up the Union Square Whole Foods (bad) a few hours beforehand (also bad).
When one of them decided to cook at my dorm room because it was a closer commute to our meeting point, I agreed. Unfortunately, we ended up napping for two hours because we were so exhausted from carrying all the grocery bags. When we realized our egregious error, my friend hustled to make cornbread in my toaster oven, my frustrated roommate was finely slicing potatoes for potatoes au gratin, and I was struggling to blend tomatillos and poblanos in a tiny Nutribullet I bought from my freshman-year roommate for $25. We plopped our respective dishes into giant Pyrexes and dipped as soon as we could.
We were so late that the rest of our friends, who refused to eat until we got there, sent angry videos of them hungrily withering away to our group chat. When we finally made it downtown, we got yelled at, sure, but our dishes were arguably one of the most beloved that evening. Granted, I definitely did not make enough enchiladas for everyone, but I knew I had to make them again, and that I could get them right. Making enchiladas suizas activated something in me that November night. On the train ride home, I couldn’t help but feel that my feelings against Thanksgiving were misplaced.
A few days after that Friendsgiving, I took an Amtrak down to Maryland to spend Thanksgiving with my cousins. It was too expensive for me to travel to Texas for only a few days, but my mom surprised me not only with her presence, but with the news that she planned to move back to Maryland. I haven’t been to Texas since. Of course, I became more attached to making enchiladas every Friendsgiving. It’s my way of saying thank-you to a place that I did not appreciate enough when I lived there.
I’ve been living in New York City for three years now. You would think I’d get over myself and just make a pie or something, but I refuse. The magic of Friendsgiving is when each person brings a dish that represents them. And there’s no other dish that speaks to me like enchiladas suizas.