Skip to main content

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 Fête 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...




Comments

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

GRAND CAFE OCCITAN: RESTAURANT REVIEW

  We made our way to a new restaurant the other day, up toward the hills past La Liviniere in the small town of Felines-Minervois. None of our party had been there before, but a friend had visited and said that she'd enjoyed it. She's a vegetarian. First clue. Now don't get me wrong. I have no gripe with those who choose to go meatless. I understand the environmental concerns and I understand the horrors of factory farming. But I also understand that form follows function in the design of tools, in the design of appliances, and in the design of human teeth. Our incisors and canines did not develop over the course of hundreds of thousands of years to rend the flesh of a fresh-caught broccoli. We are omnivores by design, Darwinian design. And I enjoy eating omni. Enough preamble... I never went inside the Grand Cafe Occitan. A young lady who would be our server met us at the front door of the nicely pointed old stone house, leading us to a pebble-covered courtyard on the side

Kreuz Market vs. Smitty’s Market: Texas Barbecue in Lockhart

I was born and raised in New Jersey. I didn’t taste Texas barbecue until I was twenty-two years old. What the hell do I know about barbecue? And what could I add to the millions of words that have been written on the subject? Well, I know a bit about food. I’ve managed to check out a few of the finer joints in Texas – Sonny Bryan’s Smokehouse in Dallas, Joe Cotton’s in Robstown before the fire, the dear departed Williams Smokehouse in Houston, and the incomparable New Zion Missionary Baptist Church in Huntsville . So I can speak from a reasonably wide experience. This will not be a comprehensive discussion of the relative merits of Texas barbecue as opposed to the fare available in places like Memphis or the Carolinas. It’s simply a take on our recent visits to Lockhart and the relative merits of Smitty’s versus Kreuz from our point of view. I’ll get all over academic in a later post. On our way out to the ranch in Crystal City, we stopped at Smitty’s. You have to look

GRACE SLICK, BREXIT AGAIN, SELF CHECKOUT, AND MORE: #18

    GRACE SLICK I just listened again to Volunteers , the last Jefferson Airplane album with the 'classic' lineup. 1969. Perfect. Sometimes sloppy. Sometimes over dramatic. But perfect. And Grace Slick. Grace. Slick. Perfect. BREXIT & CONSERVATISM Except for the 30% or so who've drunk the Kool-Aid, can we all agree that Brexit is not working out as advertised? And that the Republican Party in the USofA has sold its soul to a cadre of authoritarians who think they are the true small-d-democrats but who don't want everybody to have a vote and won't abide by a vote that they don't like? How did it happen that, in the name of political conservatism, two countries put into power incompetent leaders financed by greedy elites? And I just read that Michael Gove thinks that Liz Truss is toast because her agenda has been shredded. Whose agenda has been shredded more thoroughly than Gove’s and why would any thinking person be interested in his opinions except to liste