Austin, Thanksgiving and (American) Football!
1 February 2019
Charlotte studies Arts and Sciences and is at the University of Texas at Austin for the year. For her second blog she delves into football, thanksgiving and vegan food - read on!
Before coming to UT Austin, I was warned by several American friends that, despite my utter lack of interest in the sport, I would have to go to football games. It was part of the ride, apparently. Sure enough, I was dragged along in November to the Texas Longhorns vs. Kansas Jayhawks game, promised by a friend that it was part of ‘the Texan experience.’ My friend doesn’t lie. It was, quite honestly, just how they show it in the movies. Before the game is the tailgate, which essentially involves drinking beer and eating barbecue out of the back of your truck. Does it get more Texan than that? By the time the game starts, most people are pretty drunk, which is probably for the best because football is boring. Even after a friend explained the rules to me, I couldn’t seem to understand anything that was going on – the game stops and starts every 20 seconds and even the moments of action don’t make much sense. Luckily, the pauses in the game were filled out by grinning cheerleaders, a marching band that somehow spelled out the UT logo, a huge drum struck by cowboys, and even an appearance by UT’s bovine mascot, Bevo, himself. The whole thing was unquestionably American, perhaps accentuated by the fact that the date of the game happened to be Veterans’ Day. We sang both the national and the University of Texas anthems with hands on hearts, watched parachuting veterans land in the stadium, and exchanged compulsory high-fives every time UT scored. If the experience didn’t strengthen my appreciation for American football, then at least I had a good time.
To further my experience of the essentially American, I was excited to spend Thanksgiving in the US. People have largely decided to overlook the holiday’s problematic colonial roots, transforming the day into an excuse to eat excessive amounts of food. Thanksgiving on campus involved large vats of turkey and southern gravy (which is, weirdly, white) and two whole tables piled with desserts. I was lucky enough to be able to explore a different area of the States when I spent the 3-day Thanksgiving holiday with a friend in Boston, spending Thanksgiving Day itself at her grandma’s house. Her family appeared to agree that Thanksgiving is a time for over-eating, and dessert featured four different kinds of pie. The next day, we ventured out to the mall for the Black Friday sales – a harrowing experience that I would not recommend to anyone.
On my return to Austin, I tried to make the most of the surrounding Texan beauty by hiking during the weekends. My favourite hike so far has been the River Place Nature Trail, a seven-mile trail which leads up a steep and incredibly tiring incline to look out over a canyon just beyond Austin city limits. The trail was surrounded on either side by small rock pools and waterfalls, which were a perfect respite from the relentless Texan sun, and the view from the top was undoubtedly worth the walk. I’ve also been trying out Austin’s thriving vegan food culture on the request of my sister, who is vegan herself and wants tried and tested recommendations for her visit to Austin in the spring. Although I can’t imagine a world without cheese or butter, Austin has ingenious and surprisingly delicious vegan alternatives: tacos filled with mushrooms so rich they taste like meat, queso made with ground cashews, and dairy-free ice-cream so creamy you honestly wouldn’t know it was vegan.
Although experiencing American stereotypes can be fun, it’s clear that Austin has more than that to offer.
By Charlotte Webster