Expats around the world will agree with this statement: Celebrating American holidays away from home is tough. But, do our eyes always swell up with tears and our ears fill with ‘nails-on-a-chalkboard’ pain when the holidays approach? The answer is too obvious to note…
I could go on and on about how fun and awesome Thanksgiving is in America (games galore + a food coma…anyone?!) and how Thanksgiving in France will “Never” be the same; however, I prefer to drink my wine (haha…), not bore you with it, merci. Honestly, this Thanksgiving was très cool! Not only did I celebrate Thanksgiving, but I also celebrated Friendsgiving! (shhh! C’est pas la même chose…or is it?)
Instead of filling my belly with wonderful food and drink with family, I entered into the food coma with other Aixpats and French friends.
As I stuffed my face with Sweet Potato Soufflé and 3 different types of salad, I knew this Thanksgiving…er… Friendsgiving was going down in history as the best Thanksgiving-with-out-a-Turkey Thanksgiving.
Who knew that a rotisserie chicken would be so much better than a dry turkey? (plus, turkey, chicken… they’re both birds anyway…) Turkeys in France are not as easy to come by as Turkeys in the US. First, you have to pre-order the Turkey directly from a boucher, or butcher. Then, you have to wait until the turkey arrives at the boucher before the turkey is truly yours. After that, you pay for the turkey, and then viola! It’s ready – feathers and all! Thankfully, some bouchers pluck the animal before you take it home. Turkeys can also be pricey. According to the boucher familial, or family butcher, a turkey for about 6 people costs 40€ (~$55). Try feeding 20+… and you’ll opt for the rotisserie chicken (it’s already cooked and ready to go!).
In addition to Friendsgiving, mon chéri and I hosted a Thanksgiving party for some family and my host mom (and her boyfriend).
Dinner started out très Français: there was the apéritif – saucisson (dried saussage) and tomatoes with caramel; then, there was the salade Américain and guacamole (with tortilla chips). Once the main course came; however, dinner turned très Américain.
Mon chéri and I made Stuffing (la Farce Américaine), Sweet Potato Soufflé, châtains, or roasted chestnuts, and côtelettes de dinde, or thinly carved turkey breast. For dessert, there was chocolat and Apple turnovers in the form of Stockings. Our thanksgiving dinner for 6 in our studio appartement (27m2) turned out perfect.
5 Reasons Why Thanksgiving is cooler in France :
- Fresh ingrédients. Most of the marchés in the Chicagoland area are already closed by the end of November, so, fresh ingrédients aren’t even an option. In Aix, the marché is always in its comfortable nook in the Place Richelme everyday, in the Place Romée-de-Villeneuve every Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday, and in the Places de la Madeleine des Prêcheurs every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. Not only are the fruits and légumes, or vegetables, fresh, but also the meat is fresh! Who wants to pluck the Turkey?
- No work at midnight! In the US, I worked in retail… Thus, I sympathyze with all of you Black Friday employees that start at 8:00pm on Thursday. Not having Black Friday in France is certainly one thing to be thankful for! That, and being able to drink several glassses of vin, or wine… This Thanksgiving was rather liberating!
- (Speaking of vin…) Vin, vin, and VIN! The French guests always show up with at least 1 bottle of wine… and then, there’s the Americans expats that just can’t get enough of it, either (it’s so cheap!), and I can’t forget to include the other international guests… how many bottles did we end up with? I’ll never know, but I know that they were all empty by the end of the night. I’m not even going to mention the guy who brought the beer… VIN (it’s France, buddy).
- Frangermspanlais. There were a mix of cultures gathered around the salon, so, how did we communicate? Well, for me, it was English, Français, or Franglais. It was nice being able to speak to everyone – whether it was speaking Français with Germans (unfortunately, I don’t speak German), English with Irish and Spanish (unfortunately, I don’t speak Spanish), and Franglais with Americans (hey, it happens). We got our points across in some form or other.
- Cultural melting pot. Friendsgiving as an expat is the best way to mélange or mix several cultures. By mixing our cultures together, we created a très bon menu! There were typical Américain ingrédients like gravy and mac & cheese…
…and then there was haggis, french cheeses of varying kinds, Fried Jamaican cod fritters, and tortillas de patatas. This expanded menu enabled everyone to appreciate one another even more than ‘normal’ because we took part in other each other’s cultural experiences. In fact, being appreciative for those around you is what Thanksgiving is all about. It’s not about the Turkey or the green-bean casserole, instead, it’s about the people you appreciate in your life (add skype and you can expand the melting pot to include your family back home).
I’ll always treasure the ‘normal’ Thanksgiving celebration in the US, but it’s comforting to note that celebrating Thanksgiving can be enjoyable everywhere. ♦