Thanksgiving in France

Thanksgiving in France

Thanksgiving for our family is celebrated whenever we can.  Sometimes that means mid-December, but this year we were almost right on the mark. The stars aligned so that we could celebrate last Saturday, a bit early but still in line with the Thanksgiving moment.

Almost ready to eat.  Note the   rolls!
Almost ready to eat. Note the rolls!

I love Thanksgiving, even more than when I lived in the land of the turkey, an emotion I associate entirely with pride.  After all, at Thanksgiving I get to demonstrate all that is good in America.  The notion of sharing; the idea of an earth and harvest celebration; a moment when most of the nation takes enormous pleasure in sitting down to eat with friends and family and, the best part, the reality that we have scrumptiously good and original dishes in America. This is a confounding idea for many French as they tend to think we all eat out of paper in our car.  To see the warm, colorful dishes assembled at Thanksgiving fills them with awe.

This is not eating from paper in a car
This is not eating from paper in a car

I know pride is a sin and I shouldn’t take so much out of Thanksgiving anymore; I’ve been doing huge meals once a year here for a very long time. This year, in fact, I had friends texting and emailing long before the date “When are you doing Thanksgiving this year? We want to be sure to mark it on our calendar.”

This was gratifying. All that prideful cooking has resulted in a group of French people making Thanksgiving their own.

When Louis walked in Saturday evening, he saw crescent rolls rising on the entry table.  “Ahh,  your grandmother’s rolls,” he said.  “They are Thanksgiving to me.”

Louis and Nicholas
Louis and Nicholas

Bernard headed straight for the oven.  “Where is the beast?” he asked as he bent down to look at the larger-than-life turkey roasting within.

Betty, my arbiter of good taste who came with the crudités perfectly cut and arranged, set them near the candles then started right in on the dishes.  “You cannot have a full sink when guests arrive,” she said.

Me, Betty,David
Me, Betty,David

Lena arrived with her gorgeous caraway and rye crackers and set them near the smoked herring they were intended to compliment.  Her Swedish crackers are an integral part of my Thanksgiving feast.

Philippe came with enough macarons to feed the entire town of Louviers; David came with a beautiful dried fig, candied orange and cranberry relish and sweet persimmon bread.

Fiona, at nearly fifteen, was my sous-chef in earnest this year. She demonstrated her prowess with apple peeling, using the right tools without my having to tell her, making the pumpkin custard pie in a flash, rolling out the pastry perfectly, and treating the scraps as I would (she turned them into crispy little apéritif treats, seasoned with curry powder).

 

Fiona with apples
Fiona with apples and squash

Seventeen guests clicked champagne flutes in the kitchen in front of the roaring fire. I surveyed the group and realized they had all heard my pilgrim and Squanto story so many times that I didn’t need to tell it again.  Instead, I raised my champagne glass to give thanks.  My thanks were for the food in front of us, but even more for the friendship in the room.  I am the pilgrim; they are the indigenous people.  Together, we’ve shared so very much, right down to the late night glasses of Calvados, when the table was cleared, the candles were low, the fire still burning.

It was a fine, French American Thanksgiving.

The dinner table
The dinner table
Stuffed Jack Be Little
Stuffed Jack Be Little

Stuffed Jack Be Littles

“Be Leetles” Farcies

 

6 Jack Be Little Squash, rinsed

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

The white part of 4 leeks, washed and diced

Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 cup crème fraîche

1/4 cup toasted hazelnuts, finely chopped

2 tablespoons hazelnut oil

1. Preheat the oven to 400F (200C).

2. Place the squash in a heavy baking dish, pour 1 cup water around them, and bake until they are soft, about 1 hour.

3. While the squash are baking, place 1 tablespoon butter in a heavy skillet over medium heat. When it is melted, add the leeks and stir so they are coated with butter. Cook, covered and stirring occasionally, until they are softened, about 15 minutes.   Stir in 1/4 cup cream, and season with salt and pepper.

4. When the squash are baked, remove them from the oven, cut off the stem end (to make a lid), and carefully scoop out the seeds.

5.  Divide the leeks among the squash.  Drizzle with the hazelnut oil

6.  Whip the remaining crème fraiche until stiff, and divide it among the squash. Sprinkle with the toasted hazelnuts, and return to the oven just long enough to heat through the squash, about 10 minutes.  Serve immediately.

6 first course or side-dish servings

 

This Post Has 20 Comments

    1. Susan

      Aren’t they cute? But more than that, they’re scrumptious. I wouldn’t have believed it until I tried my first one a few weeks ago. Merci, Baptiste!

  1. Denise Bennett

    What are the 3 tarts in the foreground of the photo? Pumpkin custard and ??? They look glorious! Thank you for sharing

    1. Susan

      Denise,

      There are two pumpkin custard tarts, and two apple tarts! You’re seeing most of them! Thank YOU for sharing.

  2. Mary Louise Sevetson

    Loved seeing your home and friends and family. Merci beaucoup for the pictures.

    1. Susan

      Thank you, Mary Louise!

  3. Margaret Stansfield

    What a wonderful set of pictures! Loved your class in Paris earlier this year and looking forward to more very soon!

    1. Susan

      Margaret,

      I look forward to seeing you very soon. Happy Thanksgiving!

  4. Cheryl

    Having read ‘Tarte Tatin’ a couple of summers ago, I very much enjoy hearing about your current cooking exploits. We share a passion for la vie en France and every 6 weeks or so at the beginning and end of the UK school Holidays we drive through Rouen passing Louviers en route to our place in Indre. We once took a detour and found your lovely home just as you described opposite the Church.
    We feel so luckily being able to enjoy a region of France which offers such amazing culinary experiences. Look forward to reading your next blog.

    1. Susan

      Cheryl,

      How lovely to hear from you and, yes, we live in God’s country. It’s a hidden treasure, which I love helping people discover.

      a bientot!

      Susan

  5. Cathy Bennett

    aren’t you the best !!!! Looks like a fabulous day/evening! How could it be bad with you at the healm?? Happy French American Thanksgiving! ………..love, ya, Cathy

    1. Susan

      Cathy,

      It was such good fun! And the leftovers, oh the leftovers! Love you too, Cathy!

  6. Susan Zinner

    Susan, I took your class in 2002 when Fiona was 3!! Thanks for the photo of her. I remember she made all of us guess where “Mommy is taking me tomorrow.” When we couldn’t guess, she clasped her hands together, smiled and said, “Pawis!” (Paris). 🙂

    1. Susan

      Hello, Susan!

      What a lovely memory. Now, she says “Paris” and she still claps her hands!

      Happy Thanksgiving

  7. Carmelita Puno

    Lovely lovely Thanksgiving dinner Susan. And Fiona is sooo pretty…Am missing Rue Tatin…

    1. Susan

      Carmelita,

      On Rue Tatin is missing you, too! Come back soon.
      xx

      Susan

  8. David

    Great day – and great food (and great company!) xx

    1. Susan

      David,

      My thoughts exactly, and the tastes go on!

      Thanks, friend.

  9. Renee Waldron

    Emily and I are sitting here remembering our fabulous experience with you in Louvier. How did Fiona grow up so fast? Last time we saw her she was 3.
    XXOO

    1. Susan

      Oh! Renee, you won’t believe how often I think of you! Can you please send me your email address?
      How did it happen? Eleven years, that’s how! She’s fourteen now, very tall, and happy in the kitchen!

      Happy Thanksgiving to you and Emily. Send pictures!

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