Saturday, November 27, 2010

American Thanksgiving

This past Thursday was American Thanksgiving, as Canadians call it to distinguish it from our own Thanksgiving, which takes place about six weeks earlier. Thanksgiving has never been that big a deal to me, probably because my parents grew up in Québec, where the holiday was not really celebrated. Even compared to English Canada though, Thanksgiving seems to be a bigger deal in the United States. The Canadians on the program here were not very organized and therefore we did not celebrate Thanksgiving. The Americans were thinking about it well in advance, and a friend of mine, Kathleen from Georgia, even brought two cans of pumpkin for pie, boxed stuffing, and gravy mix.

As both ovens and spacious apartments seem to be luxuries in France, I volunteered my flat for the American Thanksgiving festivities.

On the day before Thanksgiving, Kathleen arrived at my flat bright and early and we started by preparing the crusts for the pumpkin pies using this foolproof recipe for flaky pie crust.

Next, Kathleen went to pick up "la grosse dinde," the large turkey she had specially pre-ordered from a butcher (because apparently the French do not commonly eat whole turkeys). Our freshly killed grosse dinde was 12 lbs., smaller than its "large" American cousins, probably because it was likely a heritage turkey and was not pumped with growth hormones (vive la France!).

As neither of us had every roasted a turkey before, Kathleen called her grandmother the night before to ask for tips. It proved especially useful, as Kathleen's grandmother was old enough to have roasted freshly killed turkeys before (rather than getting them plastic-wrapped from the supermarket as is more common today).

Kathleen's grandmother suggested that because it was freshly killed (and a bit bloody), we should rise and soak it in salt water for an hour to clean it.

Me giving a thumbs up, proud that we had so far managed to handle the turkey.

Kathleen, my room mate Andrenne, and I affectionately and alliteratively named the turkey Didier la Dinde. After soaking Didier, Kathleen and I wrapped him back up in the brown paper he came in and put him in a plastic bag in the fridge until we were ready to roast him the next day.

Kathleen left to go tutor. Meanwhile, Andrenne made stuffing, I went out to go buy carrots for the side dish I was making, and my friend Jacky from Los Angeles came by to use our oven to make yam casserole--an American dish combining mashed yams, sugar, cinnamon and marshmallows.

Later that night Kathleen returned with our friend Marryn, and we baked the pumpkin pies one at a time because the oven was only big enough for one pie plate.

Pumpkin pie baking in the oven. Note the oven thermometre next to it, because our oven dial does not have temperature settings like a regular oven, it has settings 1 through 9.

It truly felt like the holidays, as we cooked all day the day before and all day on Thanksgiving day. It was so cold outside, and we had so much food prepared, we were able to keep what did not fit in our fridge out on our balconies.

The next day Kathleen came by at on o'clock to have a light lunch and roast Didier. We stuffed Didier with onions and stuffing, buttered him and into the oven he went for the next several hours.

The roasting of Didier la Dinde

My room mates and I all had to work that afternoon, so Kathleen kindly kept a watchful eye on Didier with Marryn and Amanda.

Kathleen proudly bringing Didier to the dining room table.

Our 20-25 guests started arriving at seven o'clock with their appetites and side dishes for our Thanksgiving potlatch. It was a a huge success. There was more than enough food for everyone. I packed a little tin foil of turkey leftovers for each guest to take home. Our fridge is full of left overs and I have had yogurt with cranberry sauce and granola for breakfast two days in a row now--yum!

(Photos: my own, except pumpkin pie photo by Kathleen Campbell)


Unknown said...

Looks like you guys had a really nice thanksgiving! Congrats on cooking a very delicious looking turkey!

Anonymous said...

It looked like quite an exercise in logistics to bring Thanksgiving to a great success. Congrats to all involved.Wish I was there....