Thanksgiving, downsized

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Even a crumbling apartment south of campus can be a home for the holidays: just add turkey, pie and a bit of festivity.

Thanksgiving is a fantastic holiday in its own right, but doesn’t always necessitate a trip home for out-of-state students. With Christmas break following so close behind, many students elect to stick Thanksgiving out in Utah Valley instead of trekking home twice for the holidays. For students who stay, preparing their own Thanksgiving meal can be a daunting task.

It’s daunting for a reason. Thanksgiving meals typically include eight dishes — about seven dishes too many for students accustomed to grilled cheese sandwiches on a good day. With some planning and a selective eye Thanksgiving can be doable on a student budget, in a student time frame.

The key to planning a successful Thanksgiving meal is choosing favorites, said Lara Nelson, a sophomore from Gig Harbor, Wash., studying human development.

“Meat, yams and rolls,” Nelson said.  “Those are the three things that make people happy. Without them, it’s not the same.  But you have to have pie afterward.”

Choosing three or four favorite Thanksgiving dishes is a sure way to achieve the Thanksgiving dinner spirit without hours of slaving in an apartment kitchen.  When choosing which dishes make the cut, consider price, preparation time, oven space and festivity.

“I would skip mashed potatoes, you can have them every other night of the year,” Nelson said.  “Yams, not so much.”

Consider the size of the dinner party — figuring appropriate portions can save considerable time and money. Julie Nelson, a senior from Phoenix studying public health, always factors in the amount of people sitting down at the table before making a trip to the grocery store.

“Don’t cook a whole turkey,” she said.  “If you don’t have enough people, don’t get a whole one. Get turkey legs or turkey breasts, they cook a lot faster, there’s less meat and they’re way less expensive. ”

Consider other ways to cut corners and lighten the load of preparing a Thanksgiving dinner.

“Instead of making a whole pie, you could opt for an apple crumble,” Julie Nelson said. “There are less ingredients and there’s far less prep time.  All you need are apples, flour, butter, oatmeal and lemon juice. You still get the seasonal flavor, but it’s so much easier and foolproof.”

When celebrating away from home, be mindful of family traditions from growing up. Including even the smallest tradition can help a Provo apartment feel a little more like home, said Chris Moore, adviser of the food preparation lab and professor of family meal planning.

Most importantly, craft a festive spirit around the meal wherever you are.

“The most important element is doing something  you don’t do every day: sitting down at the table,” Moore said. “Make the table somewhat attractive, fully set with a small centerpiece, something that will make it a little extraordinary. That itself gives the dinner some festivity that’s lacking at other times.  Setting the table even a day or two in advance serves as a centerpiece for the holiday and can bring a lot of festivity into a dreary apartment. By just setting that out, what you eat becomes secondary to that festivity within.”

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