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Student Reflections

Thanksgiving in Spain

Jake Austgen
November 30, 2022

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, but it wasn’t always that way. When I was younger, I preferred Christmas. Christmas was like Thanksgiving but better. With Christmas came music, cookies, lights, pajamas, Santa, gifts, and much more. Even in sunny Southern California, it was magical. Then I got older, and the magic started to fade. The songs got tiring, and I stopped wanting gifts. Christmas became stressful. I didn’t like receiving gifts because I was afraid I wouldn’t like them. I didn’t like giving gifts because I could never find the perfect item. So, Thanksgiving became my favorite holiday. On Thanksgiving, I get the same gift every year: family, food, and football.

Each Thanksgiving, my parents, and siblings would drive up to my grandparents’ house. The whole family would be there, aunts and uncles I hadn’t seen in months, cousins I hadn’t seen in years. I would help prepare the meal, catching up with relatives while we peeled potatoes. I would help set the dining room table, which was actually multiple tables lined up, stretching all the way out of the dining room. When the turkey finally finished cooking, we would all sit down and dig in. Stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce. I would fill my plate twice or three times. When I finally shoved the last bite of pie down my throat, I would sink into the couch and watch football until I recovered from my food coma. Family, food, and football: the perfect holiday.

However, I spent this Thanksgiving in Spain. Far from the United States and its grocery stores full of Thanksgiving deals. To Europeans, Thanksgiving is a mystery. Something that only exists in TV shows and movies. By choosing to spend the fall semester in Spain, I sacrificed my Thanksgiving. I had accepted that I would miss out on my family, food, and football in 2022. But then I got a glimmer of hope. My roommates wanted to celebrate Thanksgiving. They didn’t do it for me but for their own curiosity. They figured if they had an American roommate, they might as well make him cook a Thanksgiving dinner. I was skeptical at first. Would I be able to find the right ingredients? Would I be able to cook an entire Thanksgiving meal on my own? Even if I nailed the food, would it be Thanksgiving without family and football? In the end, I gave in. If my roommates wanted a Thanksgiving, I would do my best to give it to them, even if it wasn’t the Thanksgiving I was used to.

A few days before Thanksgiving, I went supermarket to see what I could find. Surprisingly, they had almost everything. The only Thanksgiving staples I wouldn’t be able to cook were cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie. The market even had a whole turkey, but I didn’t even consider cooking that. I didn’t trust that I could cook a whole turkey, so I went for turkey breast. Even with all the ingredients, cooking everything would be a challenge. We had limited pots, pans, and serving dishes. We had no measuring cups. I spent the night before Thanksgiving planning, making sure I would have the time and resources to cook everything. It was possible, but I would have to spend all day in the kitchen.

On Thanksgiving morning, I woke up and started cooking. I cooked stuffing, gravy, and candied sweet potatoes. Soon the familiar aroma of Thanksgiving began to fill the kitchen. Someone put the World Cup on the TV, which brought out more of my roommates. With soccer on in the background, my roommates helped cut vegetables and peel potatoes. One even baked an apple pie. After cooking the mashed potatoes and green beans, it was finally time to pull the turkey out of the oven. And just like that, we were ready to eat.

The food came out great, nearly as good as the Thanksgiving food I was used to. If I closed my eyes, I could almost believe I was back at my grandparents’ house, surrounded by family. Thanksgiving in Spain turned out to be less different than I initially thought. Instead of family, it was friends who helped cook the meal. I didn’t get to catch up with relatives, but I was able to introduce my roommates to Thanksgiving and give them their first taste of the traditional meal. The only thing missing was football, at least American football. I watched lots of the World Cup. All in all, my Thanksgiving this year was better than expected. It wasn’t exactly family, food, and football, but it was something very close. This Thanksgiving was friends, food, and fútbol.