(Photo used by permission of Schep)
Now-sophomore Héloïse Schep, center, dines with her parents at the American Girl Doll cafe in Chicago on her 2013 trip to the East Coast .

It’s late in the evening on Thanksgiving in 2013. Everywhere families are gathering together to eat warm, unappealing food.

I, however, have been roaming the streets of New York City for hours in the freezing cold.

It all started on Thanksgiving when I was 3 or 4 years old.

That’s when I tasted turkey for the first – and last – time and nearly threw up. So I vowed to never eat it again.

My parents aren’t too fond of excessive Thanksgiving cuisine, either, but this was never an issue as my Dutch family celebrates the holiday with both traditional and European dishes.

Until, of course, I moved here, and my parents and I traveled to New York City for our first American Thanksgiving. Everything was going well. After a great day, it was time for dinner.  

My parents and I agreed on one thing: we wanted a meal we would enjoy, so we were not going to eat any classic Thanksgiving food.  

Had we made reservations anywhere? No.

Did we know any restaurant that served non-Thanksgiving food today? No.

“I’m sure we’ll find something,” my parents said. “Let’s just go outside and see what’s open.”

First we tried the restaurants in the two blocks surrounding our hotel. All were either full or served only traditional dishes.

We trudged on, block after block. It became colder and colder, and I hadn’t eaten for hours.

I love history lessons, but I was starting to feel a little too much like a Pilgrim.

To make matters worse, I wasn’t feeling very well, so the chance of another Thanksgiving throw-up grew larger and larger.

Luckily, my Pilgrim self was rescued by a feast to rival Plymouth Colony’s.

After what felt like hours in the cold, we finally found a French restaurant that offered an à la carte menu alongside a Thanksgiving one.

The food turned out to be wonderful – though I was still sick – and we visited a second time later that week.

After nearly five years in the U.S., I’m trying to get with the program, so last Thanksgiving I tried some traditional food. Though turkey, yams, and green bean casserole still make me shudder, I’ve found that mashed potatoes are pretty okay.

—By Héloïse Schep

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