Pass the Spanish Turkey - A Tale of Thanksgiving Abroad

Katie Moore
November 29, 2021

I distinctly remember that one of my biggest reasons for not applying to any colleges outside of the U.S. was the fact that nowhere else in the world celebrated Thanksgiving, and if there was no holiday, then I wouldn’t get time off to go home and visit. Fast forward to spring of 2019 when I’ve committed to going to school across the country, and while we of course celebrate Thanksgiving in California, I still wasn’t going to be able to go home. My freshman year of college was the first time I didn’t spend Thanksgiving at my house, but I can confidently say it was not nearly as strange as the Thanksgiving I just spent here in Spain. 

Highschool Katie was right, Thanksgiving simply isn’t a thing here. Spaniards don’t really know what it’s about and didn’t seem very interested in it. I, however, as someone who comes from a family that always hosts the holiday feast, was wildly concerned about how I was going to properly celebrate. I knew IES Abroad was hosting a fancy meal on the actual Thursday, but it was at a restaurant, and was very much a Spanish take on the food. Now, that’s not to say it wasn’t a lovely dinner — in fact, I quite enjoyed the chance to get dressed up and share a meal with most of our program participants. But it simply wasn’t the same. 

Thanksgiving is different for every family. Some people eat at 2 PM, others eat at 9. Some houses host 40 guests, others only host 4. The menu is obviously pretty standard, but everyone makes things their own way. I knew a lot of the students were determined to have as close to a “normal” Thanksgiving as possible, which is how me and the other thirteen IES Abroad students in my dorm ended up taking over the kitchen on Black Friday and making enough food to feed our entire building. It took very little effort to convince our ‘house mom’ to let us put together a feast, and soon enough we were divvying out kitchen duties and making grocery lists. 

Now, if there is one hill I will die on, it’s that my family makes the best mashed potatoes. Hands down. So naturally, I immediately signed myself up to make them, and thus began my hunt for the (now not so secret) secret ingredient: sour cream. Yup, my grandma's recipe calls for a small dollop of sour cream which makes the potatoes a little less bland and mushy. Little did I know that sour cream is apparently impossible to find in Spain right now due to a current fad diet where everyone is putting sour cream on everything? I have virtually no idea what the deal is with that, but it became a major obstacle. Nevertheless, I persisted and after checking three different grocery store chains, I finally found a suitable pseudo-sour cream (creme fraiche). 

So, that Friday afternoon I came into the kitchen triumphantly carrying my creme fraiche and used it to make the largest vat of mashed potatoes I’d ever seen. Later that evening as my entire dorm sat around our makeshift massive dining room table, I received many compliments on my potatoes, and it was perhaps one of the best moments I’ve had on a Thanksgiving. I think the Spanish students were still a bit confused about the premise of the holiday, but I know it was a truly rewarding experience for us Americans to be able to bring a bit of home overseas, and have a fun day of cooking together. It was certainly a challenge to cook for so many people and to spend the holiday without my family, but I am lucky to have spent it with great friends and am thankful for yet another unique abroad experience.

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Katie Moore

<p>Hey Y'all! My name is Katie and I am so excited to be studying in Granada, Spain this fall! I go to Occidental College in Los Angeles and am a psychology major with a double minor in linguistics and journalism. I am very active in my school's dance community and have choreographed twice for our all-school showcase called Dance Production. As a dancer, I can't wait to learn more about Flamenco and explore new music from the area. I love going on long walks, trying out new foods, and I'm very much a movie nerd. I'm looking forward to sharing my adventures with you, and hope you enjoy reading along with me!</p>

2021 Fall
Home University:
Occidental College
Arlington, VA
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