I can count on one hand how many times I’ve felt homesick this year. Once the night we left my Mom’s house in Wisconsin. A few times around the six month mark of our travels, and this year as the holiday season started.
While I was mentally prepared for the time spent away from my family, I never took time to process what being abroad for the holidays would feel like. Last week, as my Facebook feed started to fill with friends traveling home, families reunited with pets, and cooking frenzy’s beginning, I truly felt homesick.
Thanksgiving has been a long standing family tradition in my family, and the day is typically filled with a kitchen full of chefs, met later with a giant table of hungry friends and family members. The smells of pumpkin pie and hot apple cider waft through the house as shrieks of laughter from little ones add the perfect ambiance to the ultimate “family day”.
This year, I was at a complete loss on how to celebrate Thanksgiving in India. We’ve been staying in hostels since they’re actually nicer than Airbnb’s and many hotels in India. Though our accommodation had a massive kitchen, there was no oven, no family, and certainly no chance of a turkey.
Greg, ever the optimist, suggested that we splurge a little, and celebrate Thanksgiving in India, turkey and budget be damned. After several prods I agreed, and turned to the ultimate source of inspiration: Pinterest.
Typing phrases like “no bake stuffing” and “pumpkin puree from scratch” had me feeling like a Thanksgiving fraud, but Pinterest came through for me in the end. After a few hours of creative searching, I compiled a list of recipes and ingredients that I was reasonably confident existed in India.
The next day Greg and I headed to the most modern part of Jaipur, where Google said two expat grocery stores existed. The grocery trip ended up taking three hours, two Hindi translators, and a bit of improvisation when we couldn’t find western ingredients.
Fun fact: Mix white sugar with molasses or honey to create a DIY brown sugar!
Some luxury imported ingredients ended up costing us extra, like $15 for a bag of frozen cranberries, and $11 for 250 grams of pecans. Luckily, we made up those costs by the low cost of fruits and veggies, and only spent $5 on apples, potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, onions, and 2 pumpkins. In total, the entire shopping list was around $120.
When we returned to the hostel, I ran into two girls from America. Sarah, from Minnesota, and Chloe, from California. We were all feeling the Thanksgiving blues, and decided to cook the meal together for a ‘Friendsgiving’.
Word quickly spread of our endeavor, and over the course of the afternoon we acquired waves of people eager to help chop, slice, and whisk together the meal. I am so grateful that Sarah and Chloe were cooking as well, because I largely underestimated the amount of work it was to create every dish scratch.
After four hours of cooking, we had prepared a meal of fresh pumpkin soup, garlic mashed potatoes with bacon bits, sweet potatoes with a caramelized pecan topping, apple onion stuffing, brown sugar glazed carrots, and cranberry marshmallow fluff.
Twenty people, most of whom hadn’t grown up with the holiday of Thanksgiving, embodied it’s namesake and traditions in an incredibly beautiful, authentic way.
What had started as a resentful holiday ended up being one of my favorite travel moments of the year. As the meal wrapped up and everyone slipped into their respective food coma, I FaceTimed with my family to wish them a happy start to their Thanksgiving. Greg and I have much to be thankful for this holiday season, and will remember our Thanksgiving in India forever.