A Tapas Thanksgiving: How Food Brings Us Together

Mary Katherine Prehn
November 30, 2017

It is interesting to think back on those special events and memories in my life which were shared around a table. When I was 6 it was with a Barbie birthday cake by the neighborhood pool, doll included. When I was 21 it was a filet of beef on an outside patio. While the food is always great in some way, it is the people and place that make the experience so special.

When I think about returning to the U.S., I know I will return to those special restaurants my family and I have spent birthdays and holidays at over the years, and each one represents a different time or season in my life. Every Christmas Eve my family and I eat at the cozy Indian Palace in Santa Fe New Mexico prior to attending the midnight mass. We order the same plates and partake in discussions and banter.  I look forward to that night not just because of the savory Tikka Masala, but because it is our tradition to share that time together at that specific place.

I knew Thanksgiving in Spain would be a little strange. It would be my first Thanksgiving in 20 years not having pumpkin pie, and my first time spending a holiday away from the majority of my family. The first time in 20 years I didn't have a dog begging for a lick of the turkey on my plate. While my mother was ever so kind to fly to Spain to see me for this holiday, it was odd sharing our dinner sin stuffing or poultry.

But many meals I have had during my time abroad have marked moments I will always remember from my time here. I will remember those new restaurants or foods I have discovered and the excitement I’ve felt when I’ve taken friends to a new spot. When I come back to Barcelona in the future, I know I’ll want to return to those cozy study cafés and hole in the walls where I have spent so much time.

More importantly, I have treasured my nightly dinners with my host family who have showed me such kindness, patience, and generosity. The smell of whatever my host mother has cooked floats through the house and my roommates and I always get excited when we see the kitchen light go off. Every meal has been thoughtful and delicious. I tell my host mother constantly that I need her recipes as I eat every last bit of what she has prepared. But our conversations have been what made those dinners so special. I’ll miss laughing with each other and learning new words or specific things about the Spanish and Catalan way of life. I’ll always remember the thoughtfulness and compassion of my host mother and how she has taken us as her own daughters. I’ll also miss Pongo the dog begging for a bite from beneath the table and waiting for him to eventually find his way up to someone’s lap.

While I had originally groaned at the idea of waiting until 9:30 pm for dinner, I have looked forward to the knock on my door telling me its time and the long conversations around the table each night. I’ve learned that even the most mundane of meals here in Spain can hold significance. No one is in a rush at meal time when taking the time to slow down to enjoy a nice meal is time to simply enjoy each other’s company.

Mary Katherine Prehn

<p>I grew up in San Antonio, Texas and by the 3rd grade I knew I loved speaking Spanish. While my skills have come from learning the colors of the rainbow to reading Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Spanish culture and language has always been a part of my education. Both English and Spanish have been clear interests of mine throughout my adolescence, and both allow me to communicate in different ways while stretching to understand what is around me.</p>

2017 Fall
Home University:
Sewanee - The University of the South
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