This summer, I was rudely awakened by a girl on the Paris Metro wearing American flag knee-highs and a stars & stripes bandana. My stomach turned; I knew something was terribly wrong. I had completely forgotten it was the 4th of July.
When the leaves start to fall in Paris, my heart turns to the U.S.. Although Pere Noel is already camping out on the shelves of the supermarche, this time of year always makes me miss the States a little bit more. After completely forgetting our most patriotic of American holidays, I promised myself to make a concerted effort to maintain my own personal traditions despite the preoccupations of my new life in France. Thanksgiving appeared as the perfect cultural bridge between my two homes.
I have been itching to push all of our tables together and host a Thanksgiving dinner of my own. Although a party of two is just fine for Christmas, Thanksgiving requires a big bird and a full house. Rattling off my guest list to my French husband, I realized that after several years of long-distance dating, we have never spent a real Thanksgiving together.
I attempted to describe the enormity of Turkey Day. It is not an informal apero or a formal dinner party; it is an all-day event. Parades and dog shows must first be watched. Board games must be dusted off to reaffirm family feuds. Black Friday Sales catalogs must be religiously studied and marked up.
He does not yet comprehend the backbone of turkey, green bean casserole, Stove Top Stuffing and the heirloom recipes each family proudly shows off every year. Each celebration is a patchwork of all the parties represented. My mother and I always make galaktoboureko, a sweet wink to our Greek heritage, showcasing it alongside the pumpkin pie and the kolaches, a nod to our extended family’s Eastern European ties.
With a holiday as personal as Thanksgiving, part of me (selfishly) wants to share it only with American insiders. People who would never dare to bring cheese to the carb fest of the year. And it would take the cultural show-and-tell off my shoulders for one night. But this is not in the spirit of Thanksgiving, the original, all-inclusive event. Just as my own family has embraced random exchange students and undergrads at our Thanksgiving table, this holiday is really about being together, being present and being grateful for everything on the table.
What could possibly be more French? But I must not leave the French to bring the wine and the Americans to take care of the rest. The French know how to overcook green beans, too. This year, I’m requiring everyone to bring a taste of their own family histories to my table. After all, the American enthusiasm for inclusion and the French enthusiasm for eating could lead to one hell of a dinner party.
David Lebovitz has some great tips for a successful Thanksgiving in Paris
La Cuisine Paris has cooking classes for a fabulous Thanksgiving meal overlooking the Seine
Paris by Mouth has a great list of dining recommendations if you happen find yourself in Paris for Thanksgiving
Written by Jessie Kanelos for the HiP Paris Blog. Looking for a fabulous vacation rental in Paris, London, Provence, or Tuscany? Check out Haven in Paris.