Excuse my French, but throwing Thanksgiving in France was a complete shitshow.
For starters, I cook in a tiny kitchen with one oven, no microwave, no freezer and a stove you have to light with a match. On top of that I foolishly gave myself less than TWO HOURS to cook everything.
And you know what? It was one of the most delicious Thanksgivings I’ve ever had.
Let me start out by saying that I have shamefully never lifted a finger at Thanksgiving so I had no how to make any of these recipes. Thankfully, my friend and fellow American expat in Paris, Edna from Expat Edna, came over and helped me cook.
When I told Catherine and Olivier, the French couple I work for, that I wanted to cook Thanksgiving dinner, portion size and wine pairings came up very quickly.
“Which wine do you traditionally drink at Thanksgiving?” asked Olivier.
“Um… um… there isn’t really a traditional wine, I guess.”
“Well, red or white?”
I don’t know, what goes with turkey?”
“Well it depends on the sauce.”
This took me a while to figure out. What sauce is there for the turkey? Oh yes, gravy, duh. In the end we decided to go with red wine. Because gravy’s like, thick, right?
Then I had to fight with Catherine about the amount of meat we were going to serve a party of six; I originally suggested that we roast an entire turkey, an idea which was quickly vetoed. Catherine suggested we cook one turkey leg, but I implored her to let me cook at least two. The idea of six people sharing one turkey leg is just plain un-American.
I planned out a simple menu: roast turkey legs, mashed potatoes, stuffing, green beans, gravy and cranberry sauce.
When it came time to eat, a baguette was laid on the table to mop up the sauce, as always. (Cranberry sauce and gravy were not laid on the table because there are no fresh cranberries in France apparently and I ran out of energy to make gravy.)
Then the moment of truth came; was the food good? Had Edna and I succeeded in making a good Thanksgiving?
And the answer was yes. It was very good. Ahem. This may have something to do with the fact that I used an entire block of salted French butter.
And even though the potatoes were a little lumpy, Catherine raved, “I really love this meal! Could you make it for us every Sunday?”
THANK GOD for Edna. Not only did she drip the turkey juice all over the stuffing (genius), she was a huge help to me in the kitchen and great company as I frantically ran around like a Top Chef contestant.
And as she said at the end of the fiasco, “Thanksgiving is not a one-man show.”
No, no it is not.
So as for the moral of this Thanksgiving story? Give yourself time to prepare Thanskgiving dinner. Be flexible when you can’t find American ingredients. And when you mess something up, claim that it’s part of the tradition.