Compare/Contrast Thanksgiving

Where are my castanets?

Piece de la Resistance

Two Thanksgiving dinners. A Spanish turkey and a French turkey. Only one American family. Swedes, Mexicans, and Brits, most of whom had never celebrated Thanksgiving before. After the 4th of July, Thanksgiving is the hardest American holiday to celebrate abroad, mainly because it is so food specific. I just couldn’t pull it off in Brazil, for example – too hot to stay in an un-airconditioned kitchen, even if you could de-pickle the turkey. Not to mention the fact you can never find the right food: no cans of pumpkin puree or cranberry in Latin America. China, amazingly, had both. Vis a vis the poultry, as my photos amply demonstrate, I have not cooked enough turkeys over the years to overcome foreign obstacles; given cooler climates I will persist.

The Spanish turkey, for example, had most of the neck on it and was scrawny at 4 kilos. The Skinny Swede and I each cooked one. She tied the legs of hers together with foil. I did not, kitchen twine not being in stock. I, however, used a Williams Sonoma flavor injector and, although the bird was splayed, it was flavorful and moist. The head of the baby you see emerging from my turkey is an apple. The Skinny Swede’s husband brought fresh cranberries in his suitcase from Philly so we had fresh cranberry relish. That alone almost made the meal. Then there was the wild rice and “duck butter”, the latter of which is a recipe my grandfather picked up from a Minnesotan while they were on a ship in the merchant marines together in WWII. Numerous bottles of wine, new friends, Swedish love cake, Tres Leches, and staying up past our collective bed times – next year demands a repeat performance.

Then there was the French turkey, cooked this past Sunday and purchased by my friend BananaJo at the American School of Paris. (We met the British BananaJo family in Brazil.) Double the size than the Spanish turkey, it was a much cleaner bird and it’s neck was chopped off closer to its base. The French, as we all know, know their way around a guillotine. I got up at 7:30 Sunday morning, after an evening out with the families at Cremerie Restaurant Polidor, to wrangle the poultry into the oven, after first smearing the inside of skin with herbs and butter. It barely fit in the oven. Again confronted with the question of the legs, which, I might add, were naturally tighter together, I googled how to tie them together. BananaJo has even fewer cooking accoutrements than me and I could not find the twine she said she had in her kitchen. Solution: unwaxed dental floss. This worked well enough but was rather thin and I had to really wind it around. Bronzed, gleaming, the finished product was a work of art and delicious to boot. The side dishes were typically British: cauliflower with cheese sauce, brussel sprouts, yams, stuffing, carrots, most of which was prepared by Mr. BananaJo. BananaJo bought escargot for hors d’ouevres, which I actually tried. Unlike Thing 2, I did not gag. Nor did I when she forced me to eat a brussel sprout. Mr. Understanding carved the turkey and forced everyone to eat cranberry from a can. The pecan pie, a first for the Brits, was pronounced yummy. Next year demands a repeat performance. Perhaps BananaJo can fit a French turkey in her suitcase?

Like my new-fangled flavor injector, Thanksgiving in Paris with old friends was a much-needed shot to my psyche. It was not just the Eiffel Tower, the Christmas lights, and the Champs Elysee. Walking arm-in-arm with teen Thing 1 through the grounds of Versailles during dusk, after a lunch at La Flottille, a restaurant inside in the park, and sharing her iPod, one ear bud a piece, and listening to the theme song from Mulan was exhilarating. Previously, I had been thinking that Europe was wasted on teenagers but it’s not. Paris certainly isn’t. I forced BananaJo to take me to the Flea Markets, which, once we got to the correct arrondissement, was just as good as Martha Stewart proclaims. Champagne with lunch, shopping, and old friends, can it get any better? Je ne pense pas. But next year, I’ll remember to order the kitchen twine …

Question of the month (?): what is your favorite Thanksgiving dish?

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13 Comments

Filed under Domesticity, Family, Fine Dining, Friends, Holidays, Life, Luggage, Moving, People, Princessdom, Shopping, Sightseeing, Traditions, Travel

13 responses to “Compare/Contrast Thanksgiving

  1. mood ring mama

    I hope you move to Turkey next so you can make a Turkish turkey . . .

    My favorite is the dressing, with lots of sausage, large country bread croutons, onions, and other tid bits. This year I added dried cranberries and it was great.

  2. Katyess

    Love, love, LOVE Thanksgiving! It is the best holiday with its comfort food (lots of it), family and friends, and all without the pressure of having to find ‘just the right gift’ for everyone.

    We left Switzerland the morning of Thanksgiving (BA served a mini-Tday meal). My SIL had been on a quest for an affordable and sizeable turkey for her Fakesgiving and we found a 9lb one in Germany for about half of what it would have cost in Switz. My daughter was also having her own Fakesgiving the weekend after we left. She’s our piemaker and she had to home-make corn syrup for the pecan pie (which she said looked great, but tasted like poop).

    We’ve been deep-frying our Thanksgiving turkeys for 7+ years and love how much better they taste, with the added bonus of oven space for stuffing, sweet potatoes and white-trash beans.

    Favorite dish: creamy mashed potatoes and my mom’s cranberry waldorf salad.

  3. MRM: your dressing sounds good! I always hated it when the Radish made it with oysters, though.

    Katyess: loved your Swiss photos! I love the term Fakesgiving – good enough for government work but not the real McCoy. Considered BBQing the Spanish turkey and may do it next year. Deep frying sounds scary – a heart attack on a drumstick? I had the foresight to pack my corn syrup, recipe and pecans! Sometimes I am, in fact, prepared. But we had to grind the cloves for the pumpkin pie.

  4. Random Tom

    We pouched our cheeks with lots of goodies on Turkey day. My favorite is the bird itself, both white and dark meat. We have the dinner (we make lots) several times. The humungous beastie is eventually reduced to a tummy warming soup. We then push ourselves to the couch for prone dreams of next year’s feast.

    We do it all with yams,sprouts, beans, potatoes, squash, cranberries and a bucket of gravy to drizzle over the smashed taters and stuffing. We didn’t do the pies this year. We usually have apple, pumpkin and mincemeat, but when you have this stuff sitting around you tend to eat it. Your T-Day sounds wonderful; surrounded by family and friends you can’t wish for more.

    P.S.- Spainiards on average live 1 year more than Americans. Imagine what they could do if they practiced good hygiene? Sorry, couldn’t resist.

  5. Susan

    My first Thanksgiving as a married couple and away from home was in Brussels. It was my first Thanksgiving where I actually cooked the meal. I had ordered a 22 lb turkey which of course was only about 14 pounds. They could not understand why I was upset. However, my biggest surprise was yet to come when I opened the turkey with all feet and many feathers intact. Only the head was chopped off. Some of the other expats took off the skin and their birds were dry. I tried to pluck the feathers which was impossible and ended up just cooking as it was. I did shed a tear or two through the process. All ended up fine. But, I’ll never forget.

  6. 425Heidi

    For me, the Thanksgiving meal comes 2nd to spending an evening with my extended family. Our meal is served buffet style, because there are usually 30-40 people to feed. This year, my sister-in-law made a melt in your mouth turkey and my step-brother made the best mashed potatoes. Those were my favortie dishes this year.

    Your Spanish turkey cracks me up everytime I see the picture! I am never sure if I should salivate or gag.

  7. mood ring mama

    Katyess – I’m dying to have a deep fried turkey! My old neighbors started making it every Thanksgiving soon after I moved away from them, but they swear by it. I obviously talked about how much I wanted to try one, because my husband one year ordered one for VALENTINE’S DAY! I was livid and made him cancel the order when I heard about it. Who knew I had to specify that I wanted to try one for Thanksgiving (or Christmas)?

    • Katyess

      MRM- Besides having a turkey that tastes juicy and fabulous in less than an hour, I haven’t had to cook one in years! Sexist as it may sound, deep-frying is a ‘dude thing’ and my brother and husband are responsible for getting the bird done. Most of the side dishes are prepared and warming and us dainty womenfolk get to relax and we’re not sweatin’ like pigs when we come to the table. You should try one, borrow 425Heidi’s; hell, you can even get the peanut oil at Target now. Do it!

  8. 425Heidi

    Mood Ring Mama- I have a deep fryer in storage. You are welcome to use it, but you have to share the turkey with us :-).

  9. MCV

    A turkey for Valentines??? This is quite possibly the FUNNIEST / most wrong thing I’ve read in a while. My B-I-L does crack me up, though I’m not sure he intends to . . .

    Favorite dish=wild rice with duck butter.

  10. Sarah P

    My favorite dish was a homemade cranberry relish which was more like a chutney. Unfortunately, my husband prefers the cranberry jelly out of a can. I guess he will always have a little hick in him.

  11. Great post. I got some very useful information from it. I’ve been trying out some new Asian recipes lately and am having a great time experimenting with them. Do you have a favorite cookbook? If you’d like to see my blog it’s here. Thanks again for this blog – it is really educational.

  12. Jesse: thanks for writing in! I like your blog too!

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