The last Thursday in the month of November is one of significance in American culture: it’s the day when we take a moment to stop and celebrate with the ones we love over a home cooked meal and give thanks for the blessings we have received throughout the course of the year. It is a moment when family turmoils seemingly subside and all gather together to appreciate the little things in life. It is a holiday which we call Thanksgiving.
Many families have different cultural traditions that adorn the Thanksgiving dinner table, and especially for students studying abroad during this time, those traditions are missed. Turkey, ham, stuffing, sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, an assortment of freshly baked holiday pies, sometimes even tamales… The list of home cooked remedies to make this one day transform into a holiday full of family and celebration is endless.
Being on the other side of the world, while being an amazing experience, does have its drawbacks. These traditional foods we’ve all grown to love, the ones that truly commemorate the spirit of this holiday, are not always easy to find in Rome. So this year, in the true spirit of Thanksgiving, the students of Accent Roma, an extension of the University of California program from the United States, decided to bring a slice of America to Italy by preparing their own meal, bringing a taste of home to another part of the world.
PREPARING THE MEAL
Yams and turkey, stuffing, glazed ham… Delicacies such as these are absent from the traditional Italian cuisine. So this holiday, students worked with what they had to bring a piece of home to their apartments here in Rome. Pumpkin pies were made with canned pumpkin purée instead of real pumpkins, green bean casseroles were not as crispy without the French fried onions easily found on the shelves of American stores. But perhaps the biggest and hardest change to endure this holiday season, was cooking and celebrating without family.
“Nothing compares to a home cooked Thanksgiving meal. Regardless of how well I can cook, there’s something special about my Mom’s cooking. And trying to replicate it as hard as I may try, nothing tastes like home as much as when I take a bite out of my Mom’s turkey. That’s something that I will truly miss this Thanksgiving,” says Andrea, a member of the Accent Study Abroad Program.
Although Rome may not be home, however, the students at Accent still got together to celebrate and attempted to recreate the feeling of home with their new friends.
“Even though I’m abroad and being away from family is hard, I’ve grown to love the friends I’ve made here in Rome. I miss home, yes, but I have made a second family here. And if there is anything I am grateful for this holiday, it’s that,” says Giovanna, another Accent student.
So, this holiday season, we put away our sadness and embraced our inner chefs and attempted to create the feeling of home. Some made roast chicken in the ways of their parents, recreating the same spice rubs and adding an Italian flare to their recipes. Instead of yams, we used sweet potatoes. And for the pumpkin pie… Well, sometimes canned pumpkin can taste just as sweet.
Aside from the cooking traditions, there are also family activities that some partake in on Thanksgiving as well. In my apartment, for example, we talked about how gifts are sometimes exchanged on Thanksgiving day; a preemptive glimpse into the Christmas season. So here in Rome, we decided to create our own “Secret Santa.” We went out, each purchased something small for another member of our apartment, and as we all sat down for dinner, going around the table mentioning something we were grateful for this past year, we presented a gift to another person.
In that moment, there was a fleeting glimpse of home. All different cultures bringing together the traditions of their families in an attempt to celebrate something that to many may seem trivial, but to us, means the world.
Being away from the ones we love on such a family-centered holiday may cause many to nostalgically look back on past years and regret not savoring that last bite of grandma’s famous pecan pie. But one thing is for sure, we have all cultivated a close relationship with one another here in Rome. We have embraced the Italian culture, and created something magical combining our tastes from home with some traditional Italian remedies. But most of all, we have become family.
So this Thanksgiving Day, while our families back in America celebrate with one another, we celebrate here in Rome. We raise to all of you our glasses of wine, wish you a wonderful holiday, and thank everyone for the blessing of family; both back home and here in Italy.