Thanksgiving in France is an unknown, much like Bastille Day might be in the USA, the French have heard of it, but it’s just another Thursday, kids have school, parents work, stores are open and “black Friday” has no meaning. American expatriates typically celebrate this rare secular holiday on the following weekend, combining it with the French tradition of a Sunday meal, and we like to invite a few frenchmen just for the comic relief as we watch thier tentative turns at the various unknown dishes.
The French do step up, they embrace what is perhaps, some of the best of what America has to offer. It’s a holiday about the harvest and about food, two things very close to the average frenchman’s life. Fresh wine and seasonal vegetables, and a more direct connection to America’s historical roots than most of what we spread around the world.
Thanksgiving is one of our best export items, even if it is based on a myth about pilgrims sharing a table with indians who would have killed us off if they had known what we had in store for them! But we can revise that history and focus on the shared aspects and the fresh food, and community of the event, it may in fact have been the first thing that was as good as sliced bread!
|Thanks New Yorker|
It is always a challenge to set the Thanksgiving table, The turkeys are never bigger than 7 pounds, cranberries are frozen and one is lucky to find even that, pecans don’t exist as a native plant, and they compete with the french national nut, the walnut, so those are tough to source as well, but somehow America does Sweet Potatoes really well! Here there is only one version and it's closer to white than a good Jewell or Hernandez from America! Seating plans are more important too, there is never a haphazard "sit anywhere". In France there are relationships, senority, titles, hair-pulling etiquette, and faux pas , or false steps, that are somehow more important in this oldest of worlds. The forethought usually pays off, if only in hindsight to us naive Americans, as like minds are often seated together and conversations seeded in clever ways.
But we Americans in France are an adaptable, if stubborn group, especially at Thanksgiving, we decorate with autumn leaves, we share recipes, we wave flags, sing, make toasts and even dance on tables!
It's reassuring that we can somehow make new traditions in new places that rival, or at least serve to remind us of those we miss “stateside”