Friday, November 24, 2006


One thing that surprised me after marrying my husband was his attachment to Thanksgiving traditions, despite the fact that he left the US at a very young age and grew up in France. When we first moved to Strasbourg, we spent our first Thanksgiving driving around town in search of a restaurant that served turkey. Desperate, we even tried the American hotel chains, but no luck. We ended up eating duck in a Chinese restaurant I think -- a sad compromise for my husband. The following year I scoured books and magazines for recipes on relish and stuffing, and made a small bird for two.

The third year around we invited friends, including French, curious about "authentic American food." It was all about strategizing to find the key ingredients, procuring the whole turkey from across the border in Germany, keeping vigilant watch at the markets for erratic appearances of fresh sage and cranberries. The sweet pumpkin pie was a taste hurdle I'm sure, since most French are used to eating pumpkin in savoury dishes like soups and tarts.

Last year we moved to California. In the supermarkets I saw an abundance of things that had been impossible to find in France: mountains of yams, pure maple syrup, fresh pecan nuts and wild rice. My sister flew in from Boston to help me "deconstruct" a turkey (a process that involves de-boning the bird and reshaping it with stuffing). Since she was our only guest there was zero pressure and we could experiment with various dishes without worrying how they would turn out.

This year friends, family and strangers shared a table, passing around side dishes while my husband carved the 12-pound heritage turkey, finishing with three kinds of pies. It was a Thanksgiving feast in the traditional sense, but after two entire days of shopping, prepping, planning the logistics of seating and tableware, the moment I felt the most thankful was when it was all over. The day after, leftovers received a Mexican makeover -- the remains of the turkey was shredded and folded into corn tortillas and side dishes were brightened up with chiles and
cilantro. This was my real Thanksgiving.


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