Sunday, November 21, 2010

Holiday Hopes

The holiday season is upon us, and while we continue to strictly forbid any Christmas movies or music until after Thanksgiving, a debate has surfaced in our home as to whether or not we will permit caroling after Thanksgiving occurs in the States; or, if we will postpone the debut of jingling any bells until after Sunday, November 28--the day on which we will be celebrating Thanksgiving here in France. Either way, we are all looking forward to our seasonal favorites.

But first, we WILL celebrate Thanksgiving. It is truly my favorite holiday, and it has been no small task figuring out how to celebrate it here in France. To begin, Thanksgiving is not a French holiday, so while all you stateside pilgrims are watching football and carving turkeys, we ex-pats will be going about business as usual. Its a normal school day for the the four of us, as is Friday. Therefore, as I just mentioned, we will feast on November 28th. We have invited some new but dear friends to celebrate with us, and since these friends are Dutch, it will be a first Thanksgiving for them.

Besides having to find a day to celebrate Thanksgiving, we also had the task of finding a turkey. I have heard that turkeys are sold in the supermarket around Christmas time, but they are not out now. So I went to my neighborhood butcher and asked if I could order a turkey. I mistakenly used the word dindon, which is a male turkey, only to learn that the French use the word dinde, or female turkey, when speaking of the edible bird. Despite my linguistic faux pas, the butcher knew what I wanted and he assured me that I could order one for the 28th of November. He then asked if I would like for him to cook the turkey. "Oh no," I told him, "I will cook the turkey."

Hours later I returned home, saw my teeny tiny oven, and smacked myself upside the head. What was I thinking?!? Of COURSE I would like for the butcher to cook the turkey. So I learned how to say, "I changed my mind" (J'ai changé d'avis) and I marched back up to butcher shop and asked him to cook my turkey. Its a good idea no matter how you slice it (ha ha) because not only do I lack the oven space to cook a turkey, I'm not sure I know how to cook one. My dad usually handles that part of the feast even when I am hosting the meal. Thus, thanks to a butcher who will cuire la dinde, the problem of the Thanksgiving turkey seems to be solved. I pick up a roasted Tom, or Thomasina as the case may be, at noon next Sunday. C'est parfait! Our guests arrive at 1 p.m.

As for the rest of the meal, there are still some loose ends. Libby's canned pumpkin n'exsite pas en France, and I'm not sure I am up to figuring out how to make a pumkin pie from scratch. I suppose good old Apple pie will have to do. Boxed bread cubes are also an anomaly, but given the abundance of fabulous bread, I think I will attempt stuffing from scratch. I plan to spend Wednesday--my day off of school--toasting bread cubes. Finally, Ambrosia salad, that old family favorite, will have to undergo some major modifications in order to make an appearance at a French Thanksgiving table. There are no marshmallows in France and I think canned fruit is illegal. I will do what I can with a fresh pineapple, fresh mandarins, fresh grapes, and crème fraîche, but it just won't be the same without the marshmallows.

Oh and I'm sure that the moment the last piece of pie is eaten we will be eagerly decking the halls of our cozy little apartment. We are a family that revels in the all wonders of Christmas, so here at chez Williamson we plan to put up a tree, hang our stockings, and savor the advent as much as always. But the culture shock experts have stressed the importance of planning carefully for that first Christmas abroad, as it is a notorious season for arousing a nasty bout of homesickness. So we have also begun to make some special arrangements for the holidays to ensure that our first French Christmas is both meaningful and memorable.

That's all I'll say about that just now. After all, Christmas is a great time for a few surprises.


  1. {{{I type all this lightly and with a smile on my face}}}

    You and the food--

    I can't wait until you've been in France for a few years, come back to the U.S. for a visit-- eat Libby's pumpkin pie and canned fruit and say, "Oh my, I can't believe I used to like this stuff!"

    We'll pray you can "make do" with all that fresh fruit and French, fresh from the bakery bread :D

    I do understand how hard it is to get used to new ways of cooking and eating and some days just really wanting what you know, like, and is familiar.

    So... I found you a recipe for marshmallows :)

  2. Love you! I am missing you, Jenn! Does that help or hinder the homesickness thing? I guess it's just that facts...I LOVE that Lainie found you a marshmallow recipe! That is awesome! LOVE YOU!

  3. Jenn,
    It really is pretty simple to make pumpkin pie w/out Libby's canned pumpkin if you think you have the time. Just bake a sugar pumpkin(not sure what it's called in France-but they grow them here in Germany. They're smaller and a very deep orange color)in your oven or microwave, then mash it by hand or blend in your blender and it's ready to measure and use in your recipe.
    Before next year if you go see the Olsens or they come see you-be sure to have them bring you some Libby's pumpkin. Or you are always welcome to come visit us-we live by Ramstein Air base-about 4 to 4 1/2 hours from where you are. We can get marshmellows on base, too.:-)
    Enjoy your Thanksgiving.
    Michelle Beeman

  4. Loving all the thought you are putting into making Thanksgiving. My favorite too. Someone else mentioned it too but you can make marshmallows. The Martha Stewart recipe is my favorite. Should be on her web site. Been thinking and praying for you lots. Will think of you when i watch the Charlie Brown Thanksgiving special. love jen

  5. Awesome. Glad you are getting to celebrate. Also we don't have pumpkin in Uruguay either, so we made a pumpkin pie using pureed sweet potatoes! With all the spices it basically tastes the same!! -Linds-