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The student news site of Sacramento State University

The State Hornet

The student news site of Sacramento State University

The State Hornet

Student news without fear or favor

More than a meal: Capturing the essence of Nigerian students’ Thanksgiving beyond food

A glance into Nigerian-style recipes and fond memories
A+few+board+members+from+the+Nigerian+Student+Association+share+their+dearest+Thanksgiving+memories+and+recipes.+A+brief+glimpse+into+their+holiday+festivities+reveals+values+and+meaning+that+surpass+the+food+and+feast.+%28Photo+Courtesy+of+Ozichukwu+Opara.+Graphic+created+in+Canva+by+Maishia+Sumpter%29+
Maishia Sumpter
A few board members from the Nigerian Student Association share their dearest Thanksgiving memories and recipes. A brief glimpse into their holiday festivities reveals values and meaning that surpass the food and feast. (Photo Courtesy of Ozichukwu Opara. Graphic created in Canva by Maishia Sumpter)

Thanksgiving Day is a cherished time for many people as family and friends gather together, enjoy delicious comfort food and reconnect with one another. Members of the Nigerian Student Association, which is dedicated to celebrating and sharing Nigerian culture, detail their favorite recipes and memories.

Ozichukwu Opara, a senior psychology major and vice president of the Nigerian Student Association, celebrates the holiday with a plethora of relatives. Laughter often echoes throughout the house as she jokes with her cousins, most of whom she does not get to see until the day of Thanksgiving.

She is the main cook for her entire family and will spend most of her day cooking their favorite dishes to enjoy together.

“In general, it always makes me happy and glad that I suffered for a whole day when they’re eating, having a good time and laughing,” Opara said. “And it’s nice, just being able to be in each other’s space because we’re not always together.”

Opara’s favorite Thanksgiving recipe is the sweet spiral ham, inspired greatly by her mother with a twist of her own. She said she enjoys the sweetness of the ham and her recipe makes it just a bit sweeter.

Ozichukwu Opara, a senior psychology major and vice president of the Nigerian Student Association spin on a classic holiday recipe is a fan favorite at her family’s Thanksgiving gathering. In addition to a sweet brown sugar glaze, she said adding pineapple slices gives the ham an extra kick of sweetness.(Graphic created in Canva by Maishia Sumpter. Recipe courtesy of Chef Lola’s Kitchen) (Maishia Sumpter)

Opara said that her fondest memories of Thanksgiving involve quality time spent with her family and cooking food for them to enjoy while she facilitates. However, she was not always the cook in her family. After her mom had shoulder surgery, she took over the responsibility of chef to help alleviate the burden. She said cooking is now a tradition she intends to carry on with her own family someday.

Beyond the enjoyment of eating delicious food, Thanksgiving recipes can hold special meaning and value to those celebrating the holiday. Sandra Nnanna, a junior child development major serving as the historian for the Nigerian Student Association said that cooking Jollof rice, one of her favorite dishes, with her family is a cherished tradition.

While she is not the main cook in her family, Nnanna said cooking her favorite dishes with them for the holiday holds sentimental value because she loves spending time with her family, especially her mom. This becomes even more meaningful when the demands of school become overwhelming and stressful.

“I just like going home,” Nnanna said. “I miss my mom and need to hug her.”

Sandra Nnanna, a junior majoring in child development serving as historian for the Nigerian Student Association said her favorite Thanksgiving recipe is Jollof Rice, a well-known Nigerian dish. She said she especially enjoys this dish because it gives her special time with her mom and aunt while they prepare the food for the family. (Graphic created in Canva by Maishia Sumpter. Recipe courtesy of Chef Lola’s Kitchen)
(Maishia Sumpter)

Dishes served for Thanksgiving dinner can also be an exceptional representation of culture. Esther Emelogu, a senior majoring in health science and the event coordinator for the Nigerian Student Association said that her favorite dish is Egusi soup because it represents part of her heritage.

“Egusi soup is important because it symbolizes the Igbo tribe. It is a part of me because my dad is Igbo and my mom is Youruba,” Emelogu said. “So I have recipes from each culture, which is nice.”

Emelogu was born in Nigeria and came to the United States about 10 years ago. Back in Nigeria, she said she didn’t celebrate Thanksgiving with her family, so when she moved the concept of the holiday was new to her.

Esther Emelogu, a senior majoring in health science and the event coordinator for the Nigerian Student Association said her favorite Thanksgiving recipe is Egusi soup. As a representation of her cultural heritage as part of the Igbo tribe, she said this dish holds a lot of value to her and her family. She said she looks forward to seeing her parents and eating food this holiday season. (Graphic created in Canva by Maishia Sumpter. Recipe courtesy of Dinner At The Zoo’s Sara Welch) (Maishia Sumpter)

As dishes begin to be prepared and shared amongst millions of people this Thanksgiving, Opara said it is important to uphold the values and traditions and to make the holiday your own thing.

“Just make sure that you’re spending time with family,” Opara said. “And if you’re not spending time with family, spend time with friends, and take that time out for yourself, get some good food and just enjoy life while we still can.”

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About the Contributor
Maishia Sumpter, DEI Staffer
(she/her) Maishia Sumpter is a senior majoring in journalism who transferred in the fall of 2022.This is her first semester on the State Hornet, but she was a writer for her previous school’s online publication, Diablo Valley College’s The Inquirer. She is most interested in covering topics related to civic engagement and social justice and plans to pursue a career in writing and producing stories for those topics.
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