[turkey]It’s Nov. 23 and the scent of warm pumpkin pies and burnt stuffing fills kitchens across the nation. Sound familiar?
Television sets are tuned into football games and much-too-early episodes of A Charlie Brown Christmas, while turkeys everywhere fear their fate. People all over the country eat mashed potatoes, watch the Macy’s parade and have awkward family moments with relatives usually seen twice a year.
But for some MSU students, the last days of November come and go without sacrificing any poultry or witnessing any touchdowns. For international students, vegetarians and students who just like to do things a little differently, Thanksgiving can be an entirely different experience.
Are There Turkeys in Turkey?
Many students spend Nov. 23 going home to see their family and stuff their faces, but for some, home is a 14-hour plane ride to a place that’s never heard of green bean casserole. Not only is going home not an option for most international students, but the concept of celebrating with a large meal of turkey on a particular day of the year is entirely foreign to them. “I’m from Taiwan so Thanksgiving is just a holiday off for me,” Chenmin Lee, a chemical engineering junior, said. “I don’t really celebrate. I will probably just go out with my friends.”
For Nikhil Raut, a PhD candidate in civil engineering from India, November 23 is just like any other day of the week. “I might go to a friend’s place, maybe eat with them,” said Raut. “I’ve heard of Thanksgiving a little, but I don’t really celebrate. It will be a good time to get some sleep.”
[shop2]Though most international students don’t eat a turkey dinner on Thanksgiving, a few still participate in something that nearly all Americans know of – day after shopping. While most people reserve shopping for the day after Thanksgiving, international students have no big family plans holding them back from hitting the stores.
While the rest of the nation is at home watching football, no-preference sophomore Maria Inggita from Japan and food science junior Maria Listiyani from Indonesia both said that they will be spending the day shopping. Frankenmuth, Mich., a German-heritage town near Saginaw, is a Thanksgiving favorite for both students. Inggita said that she goes every year and especially loves Zehnder\’s of Frankenmuth, where she can get all-you-can-eat chicken. Lisiyani agreed that the food and good shopping in Frankenmuth make it much more fun than eating turkey dinners like the rest of MSU students.
“Since I’m here [at MSU], I celebrate Thanksgiving, but back in my home country I did not,” said Listiyani. “I moved here in the fall of ‘04 from Indonesia. To celebrate, sometimes I will eat turkey with people but mostly I would rather just shop. I like to go to Frankenmuth especially.”
Tofu Turkey and More
And while passing up a turkey dinner to shop sounds crazy to many MSU students, for some, a Thanksgiving without turkey is the only way to go. For students who choose to sustain from meat all year round, not eating it on Thanksgiving doesn’t change the holiday for them. With a little alteration to a few dishes, vegetarians are still able to eat Thanksgiving dinner with their friends and family. By buying a variation of the typical Thanksgiving bird, international relations junior Jessica Jean, a vegetarian, is able to enjoy all of the Thanksgiving traditions without giving up her vegetarian lifestyle. “You’ve just got to eat Tofurky instead,” said Jean. “There are a lot of vegetarian dishes for Thanksgiving, too, like cornbread, green beans, cranberry sauce, cole slaw. Stuffing can be vegetarian too and mashed potatoes and vegetarian gravy. We get by without turkey.”
[halloween]Being a vegetarian doesn’t always limit the Thanksgiving dinner. For some, a vegetarian take on Thanksgiving can actually improve dinner. Though her family always has the typical Thanksgiving food, music therapy junior Sara Buccilli brought a new tradition to Thanksgiving by being a vegetarian. “Every year, we eat vegetarian stuffing with cranberries, cooked especially for me, and it has become a family favorite,” Buccilli said.
Making special dishes is not necessary for all vegetarian students. Kinesiology senior Megan Holt just eats all the side dishes and leaves out the turkey. Though she eats less food, she claims it helps her do better in her traditional after-Thanksgiving activities. “I run a 5k the day after Thanksgiving, so it makes me glad that I didn\’t eat a ton the day before,” said Holt. “Otherwise, I\’d feel too mammoth to run.”
For vegan students, who don’t eat any animal products at all, enjoying a traditional Thanksgiving can be tricky. Many families choose to stick to the traditional Thanksgiving foods, leaving vegan family members few options. Luckily for Ryanne Maldonado, her family is very accepting of her vegan lifestyle and is willing to help her cook and prepare dishes she can eat for Thanksgiving.
“I generally eat the same things that everyone else eats on Thanksgiving, just vegan versions of them,\” Maldonado, a linguistics senior, said. “My mom sets aside some of the boiled potatoes so that I can make some mashed potatoes without milk or butter, she uses vegan butter on the corn, buys vegetarian baked beans, lets me make vegan broccoli corn bread, a family specialty, and my grandma and I collaborate on a vegan apple pie. I usually cook some sort of \’tofurky,\’ although I don\’t buy the already-processed stuff, I just make my own. So normally I end up with a very similar-looking plate as my omnivore relatives, just vegan versions of stuff.”
[food]If making homemade vegan food isn’t your thing, some students prefer to buy alternative Thanksgiving dishes. Music therapy junior Diane Dennerll said that, as a vegan, the best place to buy alternative Thanksgiving food is at Foods For Living, an organic food store on Grand River halfway between campus and the Okemos Meijer. There she buys a soy turkey that comes with vegan gravy and stuffing.
However, instead of eating alternate foods on Thanksgiving, some vegan students try to use Thanksgiving to make a political stance against the holiday itself. Social relations senior Greg Holman feels that the tradition of killing turkeys in the name of thankfulness is wrong. During one of his Thanksgivings, he tried to stop it all together.
\”My first Thanksgiving as a vegan I fasted as a protest against the slaughter of a ridiculous amount of turkeys,\” said Holman. \”It didn\’t go over so well with the folks so I will be a little less radical this year and I hope it goes well.\”
Maybe We Could Try Something Else?
Even students who eat meat don’t always stick to the traditional turkey dinner. Family traditions and customs cause a few MSU students to try something different. Education junior Jamie Healey’s family has been eating duck along with turkey on Thanksgiving for generations to give the family more options. This is a tradition that has been passed down from generation to generation and allows her family to make Thanksgiving special in their own way. Other students throw out poultry dishes altogether and use Thanksgiving to remember their culture and their home country.
\”For Thanksgiving I go back to my parents home in Iowa. We do the normal thing, we go shopping and relax but for dinner we don\’t have turkey but traditional Chinese food,\” Jia Sun, a human biology junior, said.
Thanksgiving can be different for other students not because they don’t make the traditional turkey and stuffing dinner, but because they make so many different kinds. For no-preference sophomore Sarah Johnson, cooking Thanksgiving food is a family event. Because each member of her large family brings something different to the meal, she is able to enjoy a large variety of foods. Her family Thanksgiving dinner comes with eight different kinds of stuffing, ranging from sausage stuffing to celery stuffing, and multiple turkeys. For her, Thanksgiving isn’t a few relatives sitting around the table, but a meal with over 30 people.
[table]Whether you’re eating five turkeys, soy turkey, or not eating Thanksgiving dinner at all, Nov. 23 is a time to step back, relax and be thankful for the things that you have around you. It’s a time to be thankful for the invention of tofurky, trips to Frankenmuth and even those early specials of A Charlie Brown Christmas.