29 November 2009

Bringing Thanksgiving to France

Thanksgiving is never easy when spent away from home, so last night, seven homesick and turkey-starved Americans, three Frenchies, and an Aussie gathered to recreate the traditional American feast à la française! Michelle hosted the event at her apartment, and with a little innovation, couches and coffee tables were rearranged to comfortably seat 11! I brought Hélène as my guest, and when we stepped inside from the blustering cold and rain, our senses were greeted with a room full of cheerful friends and the aroma of Thanksgiving dinner and hot spiced wine. It felt like we were all at a family gathering in the States. Homemade decorations graced the walls, and the apartment was filled with laughter, music, and an abundance of food.

We all pitched in for the dinner, and the delightful fixings were all there:

  • A large turkey (not commonly eaten in France, and was finally located at a butcher)
  • Cranberry sauce (again nonexistent in France, and was made from scratch.)
  • STUFFING!!! (Michelle's boyfriend Brett was briefly on leave in the USA, and brought back several boxes for our Thanksgiving fête!)
  • Mashed potatoes and gravy
  • Sweet potato bake topped with pink marshmallows (marshmallows are also hard to find here! I notice that the French like to add pink dye to things like marshmallows and toilet paper!)
  • Corn, salad, and brussels sprouts
  • Pumpkin pie (you won't find canned pumpkin in France, so Kathy made it from scratch... as in she went to the market and bought an actual pumpkin!)
  • Apple pie (can't go wrong here!)
  • Homemade whipped cream
For me, the dinner was an enormous morale boost. Not only was I able to eat my favorite meal of the year, I was surrounded by my fellow assistants, Hélène, and our French friends. As homesick as I've been lately for my own family, it's reassuring to have formed a family here in Metz with people from all over the States, France, and Australia. We assistants have weathered what seems like years of experience together in only two short months, which has obviously created a strong bond. We all understand what it feels like to be thousands of miles from home, missing our loved ones, and we support one another. 

It was also so wonderful to share it with Hélène, Thierry, Cyril, and Elli, who had never celebrated Thanksgiving before. They eagerly participated in the overzealous rounds of eating, and would have made any American proud! One of the best moments was trying to explain what to do with the cranberry sauce and gravy. It was also fun assuring them that pumpkin could indeed be consumed as a dessert!

This Thanksgiving (albeit a few days late) was one of the more meaningful of my life, not only for helping me appreciate my loved ones at home, but also for granting me the opportunity to break bread with new friends from different cultures and parts of the world. Thanksgiving is not uniquely American. As I've said in earlier posts, the most important things in life can be reduced to loved ones gathered around a table, sharing good food, drink, and conversation.


  1. We sure missed you at our Thanksgiving table. Jim represented you. Love Mom

  2. Happy thanksgiving, hope you enjoy our Christmas market and is hot Vine :D, the town is now ready for St nicolas and christmas

  3. I had a Thanksgiving here, too, and it boosted my spirits, too. It's amazing what a little stuffing and pumpkin pie shared with friends can do!


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