One reason I despise being abroad in the fall is because, IMHO, fall/mid-winter have the BEST holidays. Personally I think that’s hard to debate given that fall/mid-winter have pretty much ALL the holidays, or at least the biggest ones. Missing Halloween is always a bummer, but at least I’m too old to be trick-or-treating, so I’m not missing so much action there. Missing Thanksgiving, however (and for the second year in a row!) is truly just so upsetting.
Because my mother makes some KILLER stuffing, people. I mean we’re talking fight-tooth-and-nail-for-the-last-spoonful kind of good. There are also rolls and butter and mashed potatoes and even that whole “turkey” thing if you pay attention to that. (I tend to focus on the carbs. Naturally.) So, knowing that this would be year #2 of missing out on all the goods and relaxation at home, I made some backup plans. Two, as a matter of fact.
The first took place on the actual date of Thanksgiving. By a stroke of luck, my classes were cancelled that day due to students being off working at internships. By a double stroke of luck (well, ok, there was some planning here) Sean still happened to be in town. So we decided to get our America on as best as we could. I, however, am microwave/freezer/ovenless in Paris, so we knew we weren’t going to cook anything. And looking online, all of the restaurants we found serving Thanksgiving meals were charging excruciatingly high prices…so we decided to nix that plan and recognize that we would be turkeyless on the day of giving Thanks. No sweat for us there given that he was going home in two days and would be celebrating “Hamsgiving”, a tradition amongst our friends going back a few years, right away, and I knew I would be having Thanksgiving part 2 (see below) that Saturday.
So we just went full out ‘Murica around 11 AM and popped into Breakfast in America, an American-style diner pretty well known amongst expats and those seeking some real pancakes in Paris. There are two locations, and we went for the one within walking distance of myself in the 5th arrondissement. We walked in and felt right at home-the hostess greeted us in French but then almost immediately followed up with English in the event that we needed it (she was not American or British, or French, but honestly I could NOT place her accent) and led us to a booth in the back. The place is loaded up with film posters and all sorts of random knickknacks that you would find in a diner back home, along with the trademark stools at the bar, big red booths and a nice open kitchen where one can choose to watch the magic happen.
And kids, that magic sure did happen. I was dying for some good American breakfast food (obviously I was in the right place, non?) so I went straight for the 2x2x2: Two pancakes (I added chocolate chips, although they were on the bottom so they didn’t show in the pictures) two pieces of bacon, and two eggs, scrambled. And a bottomless “cup ‘o Joe” which I then proceeded to turn into “sugar and milk and all of the non-black-coffee things”. I have to say, that order was a complete mistake.
Because I SHOULD have gone for the 3x3x3 and gotten more of everything! The pancakes were pretty legit American pancakes (my mouth was watering watching them sit in the window before our waitress brought them over) and were SO satisfying, although I feel the need to point out that A) The waitress asked if I wanted white or black chocolate chips…like…what!? WHO PUTS WHITE CHOCOLATE CHIPS IN PANCAKES, I ASK YOU? and B) in a REAL American diner, the goal is to cause a heart attack the moment consumption is over, and thus the pancakes would have been about 2-3 times bigger. I’ll let that slide, however. The eggs tasted a little different, needed a bit of salt but were pretty scrumptious. Of all the things bacon was what I was most nervous about trying, and it was definitely a bit different than in the US. Bacon of the American style doesn’t really exist here so I imagine they sort of have to fanangle some way to get ahold of some, and although this held true in looks it tasted perhaps a bit overly sweet? I couldn’t really put my finger on what it was. Don’t get me wrong, it was delicious and I ate every bite of it. Close enough, as they say. Sean opted go to a more lunchy route and feasted on a bacon cheeseburger with some lip-smackin’ fries. We were pretty satisfied, people.
Fast forward to Saturday, and Sean had left me to return to the USA. I, however, wasn’t totally alone as I was planning a Thanksgiving meal for the evening for 6 people. I ran to this magical store called Thanksgiving in Paris (located in Le Marais) in an attempt to get some ingredients such as canned pumpkin, cranberry sauce, and whatever else I could get my hands on…alas, it was too close to Thanksgiving still so they were still out of pumpkin, which sort of threw a wrench in my plans. No matter, I just changed out the pumpkin pie for Pecan pie, another specialty in my house over the holidays and another pie that the British had never had. (Also on the dessert menu was apple pie.) I also picked up some tiny packets to make gravy, corn syrup/pecans for the pecan pie, and a can of cranberry sauce. Oh, and some tinfoil baking dishes as I knew my friends’ place wasn’t completely equipped for that sort of thing. I requested that others take care of wine, bread, mashed potatoes, and veggies…and of course bringing the turkey.
Didn’t go for an entire turkey because frankly that just seemed like a huge hassle for a small French oven. Instead, I made roast turkey legs with a honey/rosemary sauce. (It was also supposed to have pumpkin in it, but I sort of just ignored that bit since I had none to add.) When I arrived at my friends’ place I was a bit later than intended and immediately set to making the pie dough/pies, and eventually moved on to stuffing, and finally the turkey (which arrived with another friend a bit late due to train mishaps.) It took a long while to get everything done since we were all late, so instead of eating slightly late around 8 as I had imagined, it was actually more like 9:30.
In any case, everything turned out much better than I could have hoped. I was nervous about the turkey but it was pretty tasty if I do say so myself, I used my mother’s stuffing recipe (WHOO!) and that also went over quite, QUITE well with all of my friends. The side dishes were spectacular and the pies were well received. I was quite tired by the time all was said and done, but I felt pretty damn accomplished. It’s not often that one hosts one’s first Thanksgiving for a crowd that’s never had it before…in a foreign country…with foreign measuring systems…and one tiny oven.
Something to be thankful for indeed.