29 November 2014

Thankful in France

We had a lovely little Thanksgiving this week. We had invited a couple from church, but the morning of, they fell ill and were not able to come. Sad for them, sad for us. But nevertheless, a full day at home (I let the kids skip school!) with good weather and excessive amounts of food is still a good day!

I had been told that whole turkeys are not available until mid-December here, but the boucherie could order one for me ... plucked, but with the head, feet, and innards intact. Uh non, merci. The butcher at my everyday market had a large cuisse de dinde, which is something like a turkey leg with the thigh. Sounds good to me.

He also insisted that I cook the turkey with marrons,  or chestnuts. Chestnuts are a big thing here. I bought a pre-shelled pack and just layered them under the turkey with some sliced carrots. Turned out lovely!

Incidentally, the butcher also gave me detailed instructions on how to cook it. Which honestly, I appreciate! I love how their job here is really their craft. They take it very seriously and want to send their goods off to a home that will cook it properly! He recommended rubbing it with butter not olive oil, seasoning with herbs and salt/pepper, and cooking for 1h15 on setting 6. (Not only is everything celsius here, but the ovens have single digit settings. Honestly, I just guessed on "setting 6" and it all seemed fine.)

At one point, I also thought the butcher was telling me I needed to cut the piece between the leg and the thigh at the joint. So, I just nodded my head and said, "oui." (Like I always do.) Apparently, he was asking me if I wanted him to do it for me, so after my "oui" he nods his head in approval, turns around, slaps the piece of meat on the cutting board and wields a cleaver the size of my face .. wham, wham! Done. Wow.

While at the grocery, I could not find yams/sweet potatoes, corn meal for cornbread (corn is feed for animals here, not people!), cranberries, or pumpkin. A challenge to make a traditional meal! However, we ended up accompanying the bird with mashed potatoes, gravy, fresh bread and roasted veggies. Jane made poached apples and pears (wow!), I made a pumpkin pie from a coveted can of tinned pumpkin my mother brought me, and Lucette made:

a triple layer chocolate cake with chocolate ganache frosting. Wowzas.

Most of the holidays here overlap some with American, but quite obviously, Thanksgiving isn't a on the French calendar. Such a shame really, because it is a truly lovely holiday, isn't it? Family, food, and thankfulness? Love it. It was rather strange to be here on this day, knowing we'd have to carve out our own version of the holiday instead of falling back on tradition. But truly, we have much to be thankful for.


  1. No pumpkin, no sweet potatoes, no cranberries? Do cranberries grow only in bogs on the Cape? :) But it sounds like you had a very delicious dinner. Thanksgiving isn't about what you eat anyway, it's about having a real feast with close ones and being thankful. Every country should have it.
    That cake looks terrific! The chocolates around the edge remind me of those chocolate mint candies, but why should I imagine that American candy can be found in France?

    1. I haven't seen the Andes mint chocolates here, but I do love them!

  2. What a beautiful job you did of creating an American celebration in France, Anna. Perhaps the very fact that this celebration was so different will be the reason it will be so memorable in years ahead. Love, love.

  3. I remember our first Thanksgiving in France, it was as you've described! Except the local butchers knew American expats would be in the turkey market and so les dindes got quite expensive! I believe I used squash instead of pumpkin and found some sort of cranberry in a can... I'm having fun reminiscing on our French experience and look forward to reading more about your adventures in la belle France!