This is Stephanie Ohagi. The first thing you notice about her, besides her impeccable style sense and witty humor, is her strong Texan accent and her excessive use of y’all. But don’t let this Southern twang fool you. Steph is Nigerian and won’t let you forget it.

Nigerian Thanksgiving

Photo by Natalia Espinosa

Steph loves telling the story about how her mother said “Let’s make this Thanksgiving American” and plopped a pumpkin pie down on the table. She says that she laughed because she immediately thought that one American dessert did not Americanize an entire African feast.

Stephanie celebrates a very American holiday in a very non-American way, and here’s what she has to say about it.

Spoon: Coming from Nigeria, what were your parents’ reaction to American Thanksgiving?

SO: I assume it was pretty easy to adjust. It was a holiday, from what they’d heard, about celebrating family and eating a bunch of meat so they were so on board with that. They also liked the idea of saying what they were thankful for. There were a lot of other American holidays that took them a while to get sold on, but they love this one.

Spoon: Ok so set up the Ohagi Thanksgiving scene for us. What kind of food is on the table? And what happens after the feast?

SO: Thanksgiving starts at approximately 9 am, when my dad makes us a nice breakfast. Then, he makes the turkey, which he usually starts at four o’clock. He always gets some new Food Network recipe and adds his own twist. Then my mom cooks all the African food, like Jollof rice and goat, which my dad will drive an hour for just to make sure that it’s fresh, and chicken and beans.

Nigerian Thanksgiving

Photo by Stephanie Ohagi

Spoon: Wait, what’s Jollof rice?

SO: Oh, Jollof rice is this African dish. Jollof means happy, so it’s happy rice because it tastes so good. You make the rice first, and separately make this red sauce with meat, spices, tomato sauce, and palm oil, which makes it distinctively African, and then you put them together and bake them in the oven.

Spoon: That sounds amazing. So what’s your job on Thanksgiving?

SO: Ever since we got older, my sister and I help to make something really American. I usually make something bread based, like cheddar bay biscuits. My sister always makes some artery clogging dessert. She makes something that we call the heart attack because it’s cookie with an oreo inside, and its approximately 600 calories.

Spoon: I wish that I could have one now. What’s your favorite Thanksgiving memory?

SO: When my Aunt Ekwi came, she brought my Uncle Chris, and that was amazing because it was their first American thanksgiving. They took out their iPads and were trying to take pictures of the turkey. They even wanted a slow motion video of my dad carving it. It was so much fun because they were so excited about how big the turkey was.

Nigerian Thanksgiving

Photo by Stephanie Ohagi

Spoon: What influence do you think celebrating American thanksgiving with a non-American family has had on you?

SO: I didn’t really notice that I was celebrating Thanksgiving differently until I heard other people saying they had cornbread and sweet potato pie. We’re very distinctly African, but there are definitely some things that are very, very American about us, like the fact that we’re even celebrating Thanksgiving just shows how American we are.

Spoon: So, going off that, do you ever wish that you’d had a traditional American Thanksgiving?

SO: You don’t miss what you don’t have. I’ve seen Thanksgiving on TV, and everyone watches the football game, but in my family, no one understands football, so it’s not a tradition my family can adopt. It’s different to see how it is, and I think that that it would be a really cool experience, but I never once thought ‘Oh I wish we did Thanksgiving like that.’ I like the way my Nigerian family does Thanksgiving.

Spoon: That’s so sweet. Even if you don’t want an American Thanksgiving, what American dish do you hope that you have on the table this year?

SO: Two words, PECAN PIE!

This year, Stephanie traveled to Maryland to celebrate Thanksgiving with her extended family, which proved be a new experience in itself.