THANKSGIVING IN FRANCE: A PREVIEW #5



I'd like to say that our cousins all sat with us on our living room on Thanksgiving Day, drawing colorful turkeys while our dads watched over us, having loosened their ties just a bit, smoking their pipes. The moms, of course, were in the kitchen, chatting away happily among themselves while they prepared the feast. I'd like to paint that picture, but I don't remember Thanksgiving happening like that. I just don't remember Thanksgiving being a thing at all until Cathey made it a thing some years after we were married and ensconced comfortably in our house in Bath, Pennsylvania. That's when we instituted Second Thanksgiving, a full Thanksgiving gathering on the Saturday after traditional Thanksgiving Day.

You see, we worked on Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving kicked off a big holiday season for us, the money was too good to pass up, and we were young and foolish. But good came out of it. After family and friends had their celebrations with various in-laws and out-laws on Thursday, we had them over on Saturday after all of the holiday craziness had been purged from their systems.

Why am I writing about Thanksgiving several weeks early? Well, I always seem to remember to post about our French Thanksgiving well after the event. By then, stuffed with stuffing, I'm done. Put a fork in me. On to Christmas. So I thought that I'd short-circuit the process and post now instead of later. Here's how Thanksgiving works for us in France.

 Of course, the French don't celebrate Thanksgiving. They know about it, calling it the FĂȘte Americaine. But it’s not on their calendar. And that means that whole turkeys may be difficult to find in November. The French prepare whole turkeys for Christmas, so if you want one a month prior, you have to special order unless you're willing to take your chances. Our local butcher is happy to oblige. In mid October, we order a seven-kilo bird for the day before the holiday so that we have time to brine it. That’s the right size for the eight people who can fit around our little table. Unfortunately, birds of that size are not always available. They are coming through heavier and heavier these days. Twelve kilos and more. Why? According to our butcher, because Americans in posh communities like big birds.

We order our bird, buy the bird, brine it, and roast it according to a process taken from one of Cathey's favorite cooking authorities. And it works. The birds are uniformly moist and tasty. Each time. Every time. If you are interested, leave a Comment and I'll pull up the recipe for you.

Fresh cranberries are not regularly available in France. Buy them when you see them and freeze them. Polenta had to replace corn meal for the stuffing for many years, but con meal is now becoming more readily available. Canned pumpkin isn't available at all for pie making but we have learned that you can buy a frozen pumpkin mousse in Picard, a chain of stores that exclusively sells frozen food. Speaking of pies, pecans are expensive and just don't taste the same as Texas pecans. And molasses and Karo syrup have to be imported in the suitcases of family.

Speaking of family, we have created something of an intentional one. We've introduced several folks to an American Thanksgiving - Brits and Irish and Swedes and, of course, French. We hear through the grapevine that who we include and who we exclude is a subject for discussion among our neighbors. Sorry, but our kitchen and dining are too small to invite a horde.


I'm not going to go into the details of Cathey's Thanksgiving dinner menu. Any discussion of that artful presentation requires pictures to fully appreciate it. It's the full monty. Soup to nuts. Literally. And as many as three different pies. Wine, of course. And maybe an aperitif and a digestif.

Leftovers and sandwiches and, in the dead of winter, gumbo made from turkey bone stock.

How do you slow things down enough during such a Thanksgiving dinner to take pictures? You can't take pictures when you are licking your fingers. Maybe next year...




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