I've moved around a lot, so I've had my share of newcomer Thanksgivings. I've always found a seat at a family dinner table and I'm grateful for that.
My favorite newcomer Thanksgiving took place in Paris in 1995, during a college internship. Soon after I arrived, the woman I boarded with declared that I would cook Thanksgiving dinner.
Francoise and her college-age son, Alex, of course, had never experienced the gluttonous American tradition. They were curious. And they loved food, naturellement. Francoise went to the farmers market every weekend. She picked out the best cheeses. She had wine delivered by the case.
But she left Thanksgiving totally to me.
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Try finding a turkey in France. Ducks, yes. Chicken, mais oui. But turkey – difficile.
I didn't even know the word for turkey at the time, but I've never forgotten it. Dinde. I went to butcher shops saying “dinde” and holding my hands open wide to indicate I wanted a big bird. Most shopkeepers laughed at me – turkeys aren't widely stocked in France. I finally ordered one. What I got was more like a big chicken. A Butterball never would have fit in the Holly Hobby-sized oven in our apartment anyhow.
I'd never cooked Thanksgiving dinner before. Thankfully, Mom sent me recipes. And I had friends – Sonya in Paris and Mieke, who came in from Frankfurt, Germany.
And fortunately, I found a grocery store near the Eiffel Tower that specialized in American products. I got pumpkin pie filling there and a graham cracker crust. But I made my own stuffing, because a box of Stove Top was like $10 and I couldn't bear the ridicule from Francoise.
As it turned out, Francoise had a family emergency and didn't spend the holiday with us. But Alex was there, along with his cousin and some friends. My favorite part: Someone – Alex's girlfriend, I think – asked what order we ate everything in. We Americans said to pile it on all at once and the French looked at us like we were nuts. I remember Alex graciously saying the meal was good, but I didn't believe him. I don't remember much else. Thankfully there was plenty of wine.
Have a fun Thanksgiving memory to share? I'd especially like to hear about holidays spent in new homes. E-mail me and I will follow up on my blog. You have until end of day Tuesday, because then I am taking off. I have a dinde to cook.