November 16, 2011

Thanksgiving as a Verb

Thanksgiving means different things to different people. For American expats, it often holds a certain nostalgia … a reason to celebrate with friends and family.

As W.J. Cameron said, “Thanksgiving, after all, is a word of action.” And so, first and foremost, we give thanks. Thanks for good friends, caring family members (no matter how crazy), opportunity to live a rich and creative life in Paris, and freedoms that we should never take for granted.

For Americans, also, it is a holiday about eating (punctuated for some by football). Americans gobble up roughly 535 million pounds of turkey on Thanksgiving. However, in France, we must rise to the challenge of creating a true Thanksgiving experience.
There are many options. You can have a traditional Thanksgiving dinner out (see the choices below). If you’re more of a Picard kind of cook, you can order in (see suppliers below). You can create your own French version of Thanksgiving (with oysters and organ meats … yum). Or, you can recreate an American Thanksgiving by visiting your friendly local butcher to order an American-style turkey (lots of white meat) or the leaner and gamier French turkey (dinde fermière). (Some say once you’ve tried the French turkey, you can never go back.) (Tip: the French turkeys are smaller, take less time to cook, and need to be barded … wrapped in a layer of fat to keep them moist while cooking. Your butcher will give you the fat if you ask.) Get your market-fresh accoutrements, such as potimarron, potiron, or citrouille (all from the pumpkin/squash family), châtaignes (chestnuts), fresh green beans, and fresh cranberries (in the past just available at specialty stores … now available in Monoprix and Carrefour too!)

At your dinner party, be sure to tell your French guests that it is an American tradition to eat everything at once from one huge plate stacked with food (a truly American experience) … and not to spread the cranberry sauce on everything just because it is called a sauce … (although they may have something there!)

Happy Thanksgiving! (Bon Jour de Merci Donnant … as Art Buchwald calls it). Let us know your thoughts and tips for a great Thanksgiving.

Traditional Dinners:

American Church, Saturday 26 November at 19h30. Reservations are required. 10 euros donation per person. (Click here for more info.) 

Joe Allen’s Restaurant, 30, rue Pierre-Lescot, 75001. 45 euros per person. (Click here.)

Breakfast in America, 17, rue des Ecoles 75005 or 4, rue Malher 75004
Already booked this year for Thanksgiving, but great for pancakes and hamburgers any day. (Click here.)

Le Saint-Martin, 25, rue Louis Blanc, 75010 Thursday, Friday, or Saturday evening. 35 euros per person. (Click here.)

Some Newcomers:

Some other restaurants are catching on to Thanksgiving. Try the Hôtel Vernet, L’Edouard, or the Blues BBQ if you feel like stepping out (and avoiding the cooking and dish-washing chores).

For Thanksgiving Foods:

To buy some of your ingredients (like hard-to-find fresh cranberries, stuffing, cornbread, sweet potatoes, American-style turkeys with lots of white meat, and even Jello for that 1950s jello mold):

Thanksgiving. 20, rue Saint Paul, 75004. (Click here.) 

Le Saint-Martin (see info above).

The Real McCoy, 194 rue de Grenelle, 75007 (This site is great for the kitsch product pictures alone … you’ll wax nostalgic looking at Aunt Jemima, Betty Crocker, Libby’s canned pumpkin and Kraft Stove Top Stuffing.)

Post by Meredith Mullins
Thank you to everyone who contributed ideas to this post.