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Celebrate what you eat

UB students share their ways of celebrating the holiday season through food

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Some students are itching to ditch their university meal plans and get back to their family’s dinner tables over the coming holidays.

On average, people eat between 2,000 and 2,500 calories per day – but some traditional Thanksgiving meals may be upwards of 3,000. But for many, a calorie count is irrelevant to a holiday feast – the meals hold too much meaning.

Food over the holidays serves as more than the means to fill a hungry stomach, but rather a way for people to connect and express cultures. UB students remember their favorite holiday memories through the use of savory and sweet dishes.

Sophia Matragrano, a sophomore communication major, has an Italian background. Every Christmas, her grandmother prepares the traditional “Feast of the Seven Fishes,” she said. Her grandmother prepares all month for this dinner.

The Feast of the Seven Fishes is an Italian celebration of Christmas Eve with meals of fish and other seafood. The meal includes around seven types of fish, with the most popular Southern Italian dish, baccalà – salt cod.

“We’ve been doing it my whole life, and it ends up being over six tables just for food,” Matragrano said.

Shafiul Azam and Zack Szabo prepare their own cultural foods and incorporate them into the traditional Thanksgiving feast.

Azam, a junior electrical engineering major, said his family combines Indian food with the traditional American feast.

“My family is from India, so on all holidays we include traditional Indian food in our meals,” Azam said. “On Thanksgiving, we have Indian butter chicken, which is a really popular Indian dish.”

Szabo, a freshman engineering major, said his family acknowledges their Irish roots by including corned beef and cabbage in all major holiday meals.

“It just makes our family gatherings more unique,” Szabo said. “The holidays are all about family and tradition, and personally, I love ours. It’s amazing how such simple traditions can mean so much.”

Jessica Hillery, a junior pharmacy major, uses the holidays to reconnect with her family. Her family observes basic traditions like carving a turkey, but she puts more emphasis on the people rather than the material things.

“It really just means a lot to be with my family since I rarely see them,” Hillery said.

She said her grandparents live far away and the holidays are one of the few times she gets to see them during the year.

Charles Shu, a senior exercise science major, said the holiday season is a time for him to settle down with his family and not worry about anything other than how much to eat for dinner.

“Food tastes better when others are around me,” he said. “It makes the time that much more enjoyable.”

His favorite memory is going back home from UB for Thanksgiving his freshman year. The feeling of eating with his family made him realize how much he missed his mother’s home cooking. His mother teased him about missing her food when he left for UB, and he admits she was right.

“I didn’t gain freshmen 15 from college, I gained it from eating at that Thanksgiving,” he said.

While the ways UB students celebrate the holiday season are as diverse as the UB community is itself – at least 15 percent of UB’s population is international students – Matragrano said these differences are “linked” together.

“Celebrations vary, but it’s all about being with the people you love and care about,” she said.

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