Sunday, November 29, 2015

Thanksgiving in France: As Easy As 1-2-3

Hosting a Thanksgiving party in France is nearly impossible, but we Americans do try.

First of all, it's not a national holiday here, so the dinner is usually pushed to the weekend before or after. That's not such a big deal, but there's less time to digest, watch football, and do that Christmas shopping.

Source: Duckshow.com
Second, we have to find substitutes for family. Again, this is not impossible, as there are always random Americans around without turkeys to go home to. We usually check the passports at the door.

Third, and this is the hard part, what about the turkey? Again, this is not impossible, because many a Parisian butcher has played this tune. They are very thankful for this holiday. You see, the French don't eat turkey this time of year, so a whole bird is not generally available. But if you're willing to pay double, a French butcher will sell you anything.

This year, we hosted a Thanksgiving party last night, finding only two stray Americans at our front door at the appointed time. But what guests! They brought a bird, fully cooked, flowers, and a box of chocolates.

As one of the guests unwrapped it, she told the story of the fowl's fate. A colleague has a farm, and every year offers me whatever she slaughters. “It's an organic farm, and the animals range free,” she explained. Wow, that's going to be one tasty bird, I thought.

We could nearly see the bird. “And she gives you whatever she has roaming around. You'll never know what you get.”

It looked small, the size of a chicken. “Yes, it is small,” my friend explained. “The farmer apologized, but she never knows how big they are going to be until the day she catches them.” 

Sounds like a very free range farm, I thought.

“I hope you don't mind having … duck for Thanksgiving?” she asked, as we all give it a gander. It looked naked, with its stubbly skin, as if it had just shaved. I had goosebumps. 

Carving the Thanksgiving duck.
So we carved the canard, and filled our plates with more of the usual Thanksgiving fare: sweet potatoes (though tossed with black beans to make a salad), a crazy cranberry sauce, and the best classic stuffing this side of the Atlantic, made better with a slab of French butter. 

We washed it down with an 8-euro Burgundy and polished it off with serial pieces of Jeff de Bruges chocolates.

How did the duck taste? Like Thanksgiving.

Rose Marie Burke, an editor and journalist, writes a blog about her personal insights into life in Paris. After 20 years in the City of Light, she still calls her native Pittsburgh "home."