Happy Thanksgiving!

As soon as my husband and I settled in the United States, we did our best to embrace the traditions of our new home. Christmas came without any effort, similar enough to French Christmases. We bought candies for Halloween to make sure we could give them away to the trick or treat visitors. Fourth of July and its fireworks was definitely a close cousin to the French Bastille Day celebrated on the 14th of July. Veterans’ Day fell on the same day.
Martin Luther King Day, Groundhog Day, Presidents’ Day, Saint Patrick’s Day, Valentine’s Day, Memorial Day, Labor Day, Columbus Day, and the Jewish holidays little bit by little bit replaced the Catholic calendar I grew up with and if I missed the extended weekends they offer to the French, I adopted all the American traditions with enthusiasm.
I have kept a couple of French favorite holidays. I still bake or buy a Kings’ cake on Epiphany Day, first Sunday of January and I make crepes on the Chandeleur which is the American Groundhog Day. I’m used to celebrating Mother’s Day twice since in France it’s at the end of May or even early June.
And I immediately liked Thanksgiving. Wasn’t it a long dinner where eating good food was the goal? It fit pretty much any French native’s agenda.
On my first Thanksgiving, my two children were only toddlers, so I bought the smallest turkey I could find and searched for chestnuts that traditionally accompany the turkey on Christmas Day in France. In the early 90s, they were nowhere to be found. My husband purchased Chinese water chestnuts and we decided that it would do. We ate cheese and baguette and I baked a pie.
Over the years, we have been either guests or hosts for Thanksgiving dinner and I added new recipes to my cookbook. My children are now teenagers. On Thanksgiving Day, they chop and dice, peel and grate, bake and set the table. Each has a favorite dish that they request year after year.
My oldest daughter, who is, for the first year, away from home, called this morning to wish us a Happy Thanksgiving. She said, “Please don’t tell me you are making my sweet potato carrot puree.”
And I’m thinking of the woman who asked me once when Thanksgiving in France was. Since she was nice, I politely said that we didn’t have Thanksgiving yet I thought it was a weird question and wondered why she thought the French should also have Thanksgiving.
Today, Thanksgiving is as big at my home as it is anywhere in the USA. Pecan and pumpkin pies have replaced my French cakes. Corn bread is my French baguette. Stuffing has taken the place of the chestnuts. Apple cider is my champagne. And cranberry jellies, well, they don’t even exist in France.
And I think that the French are missing a great tradition.
Happy Thanksgiving!

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