Thanksgiving, with the ritual turkey and various sides – particular to each family – is a holiday that lends itself to fanatical outcries of the *right* way for Thanksgiving. Are you dressing, or stuffing? Cranberry sauce straight out of the can or cranberry salad? Pumpkin or apple?
Our collective memories have a way of codifying what Thanksgiving is supposed to be. But how many of us really have that?
Living abroad, where there is no Thanksgiving, allows from some freedom. Do we celebrate at all? It can be a bit lonely and I know that Thanksgiving is often the holiday of the year that the expats miss their families most. They think of them gathered around the table, and themselves at….work. Since it’s Thursday.
This year was so easy for me – my entire family scattered into little separate nodes. On brother here, the other there. Father with his wife’s family, Aunt and Uncle visiting my cousin. Mom and stepfather in the absence of visitors went to a hiking lodge. So I wasn’t missed anywhere, no imagined empty place-setting.
Perhaps it’s time to do it myself. However, Thanksgiving to me implies a group, a party. A dinner home with just the four of us on Saturday evening is not the same. I suggested to a friend – another franco-american family – to join in. And so the discussions on what makes Thanksgiving the feast day began.
For me it’s all about the dressing. We can have pretty much anything else but we *must* have dressing. And sweet potatoes. And cranberry compote.
We decided right away – no turkey. Who wants the hassle? We don’t need that much food. So we thought – a good roast chicken would be the stand-in. Until the French contingent weighed in. A roast chicken was so….Wednesday night. Nothing special or particularly tasty about that. A baked ham was preferred. Okey-dokey! No bird whatsoever!
Dessert was discussed and decided before. I like to make rustic and homey desserts. Our hostess wanted to make something more celebratory. Hence the amazing cake pictured above (thank you, Martha).
My friend cobbled together some turkey-related activities for the kids. I brought the champagne. Once gathered we hustled, fed kids, drank our wines, fed ourselves, served the amazing dessert, intervened in squabbles and finally all settled in on the sofa, at 10pm, watching scenes from mid-century musicals –both American and French.
Sleepy, fed, content. Together enjoying silly things. This is Thanksgiving. Wherever you are.