Monday, November 28, 2011

Thanksgiving in Toulouse

That's pumpkin pie!

So I know this blog post is late, but I wanted to wish everyone a happy Thanksgiving. Despite how incredibly frustrating French bureaucracy1 can be at times and how much I may want to strangle my students2, I am incredibly thankful to be here. I have friends and family here; I have a job that is interesting and challenging and will help me do what I want to do in life. I am in France, land of food and wine.

So, in that spirit, I wanted to celebrate Thanksgiving even though I wasn’t in the United States. When the weather started to get cold and the leaves started to turn colors, I couldn’t help but think about turkey and pumpkin pie. Why not do it here? The idea of cooking the entirety of Thanksgiving dinner sounded pretty terrifying. Having helped my mom prepare Thanksgiving last year, I had a sense of how much work it was. However, there were other American assistants here. I was willing to bet they wanted to celebrate Thanksgiving too.

So I told my guests that pumpkin pie and turkey were on me, and asked them each to bring something. They were game and I quickly received offers of sweet potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce, salad and…Thanksgiving bourbon. Okay then.

The turkey was my major concern. I had no idea if I could get a full-sized bird in France or how much it would cost. Even if I did get an entire bird, how was I going to carve it? Would it even fit in Therese’s oven? What recipe was I going to use?

I went to grocery stores and stared at the poultry section until my fingers went numb from cold. I perused recipes, talked to my host mother, had her call the butcher, considered making chicken instead. Then I got an envelope in the mail. My mother, on a whim, had decided to send me the November issue of Bon Appetit. On the cover was a gorgeous bird, red-brown from the oven and a long cider marinade.

That. I was going to make that. One thing was decided then. It had to be turkey. I found massive turkey breasts at Auchan and bought four of them. I gritted my teeth and prayed that fermented French cider was going to be a decent enough equivalent to sweet nonalcoholic American cider. I bit my lip at the more “Asian” aspects of the recipe and hoped I wasn’t ruining anything by leaving out the scallions. I went searching for other recipes to find a cooking time and temperature, since I wasn’t cooking a whole bird. Nothing was particularly certain.

I did a test.

Perfect. Tender and flavorful, with every spice noticeable but not overpowering. I guess that something to be thankful for too. Sometimes, when you need everything to turn out exactly the way it should be, it does. The dinner itself followed the same pattern. The stuffing was perfect; the sweet potatoes were cooked but not too mushy. One of the assistants even managed to make cranberry sauce using some sort of weird Scandinavian berry. It was delicious-- and I don't even like cranberry sauce. It was a wonderful evening with wonderful company.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

1-“Declare your primary practitioner now” from my school, “no, do it when you go to see him for the first time” from the Rectorat, “We need your declaration of primary practitioner by the 17th” in a letter from Social Security that I received on the 15th

2-(“What did you understand? Can someone repeat what I said? How about in French, huh? Can anyone explain what I said in French? Qu’est-ce que vous avez compris?” *Blank stares*)


  1. What about the wine? After all, it is France.

  2. Alsatian Muscat for the white and a Southwest red.

  3. Two questions: Is the pumpkin pie Grandmom's recipe? And the "weird Scandinavian berry," was it yellow and do you know what it was?

  4. It was actually not Grandmom's recipe-- I went looking for one that didn't use evaporated milk since you can't really buy that here.

    I think the weird berry was red-- because the sauce at least was red. In Frenc, the word is airelle, which Wordreference translates as bilberry.