* Between The Sea (the Med) and The Alps -- {Pronounce: ontruh la mair eh lay zalp}

Friday, November 21, 2014

A pre-Thanksgiving dinner

TG I 01

As Thanksgiving is a very American holiday (Canada has their own version not related to ours), and as I don't live in America, trying to celebrate it has been an interesting challenge over the years, often frustrating, sometimes amusing, always successful. 

In Paris, I let the American community serve itself and only invited my French and international friends to my house for as traditional a dinner as I could manage.  Down here, my friends are still quite mixed, but my American friends are not part of a larger American community, so I try to involve them, too.  However, I have too many friends to invite for one dinner, so this year I've broken it in three!  I thought I'd share how we enjoyed the first one last Sunday.

TG I 08
A glass napkin ring

The typical challenges we face here involve acquiring the proper ingredients in a foreign environment.  Over the years, I've learned how to beat those challenges, while some of the imperative foods that didn't exist here have become more internationally available.  To replace that particular headache, we added some new ones. 

We live outside the main bus line, which doesn't run at night to our area, and some of our friends live down in town with no cars.  So they can't get back home after our official dinner on a Saturday night.  But we've also made friends with a drummer in a band, and his livelihood involves working almost every Saturday night. 

TG I 04
The youngest guest

So, for the past several years, I've done an advance dinner on a Sunday afternoon, when the buses were running and bands weren't performing.  While the dinner has been a big success, it's taken me back to one of my original challenges, getting a turkey. 

While the French enjoy turkey, their time for roasting a whole one is at Christmas, more than a month away; otherwise, they just buy pieces as a more sane quantity for normal meals.  The only way to get a whole turkey in time for Thanksgiving is to order one from a butcher in advance.  They just order an extra one and don't chop it up into pieces.  But even that is not guaranteed this much in advance.  So this year, I didn't even try.

TG I 02
Non-Americans anticipating a great traditional dinner
TG I 03
Not so thankful yet

We had a really fun group of friends, in a very eclectic age and lifestyle range, rather than like our typical Parisian group of friends who were mostly in our same world at the time.  We had a young couple with a baby the same age as our second grandson, a young married but middle aged Italian couple, a mixed American/French couple who recently moved to France from the US, and a single French lawyer who helps us move dirt!

My camera had to be sent back for an adjustment error they made, so I'm back to using just my tablet's camera for now, which doesn't have a flash and apparently doesn't like window contrast.  Thus, my pictures are both limited and not very sharp.

Having come from a very casual background myself, I learned to really enjoy setting a pretty table in Paris, and I've had fun playing around ever since as I've added the means to do so.  Doing three dinners with the same theme is allowing me to use other decorations than I typically set out for my official dinner. 

TG I 05
My pretty autumnal table setting
This time, I used a very nice tablecloth my Paris neighbors got together to give me for my 50th birthday, normally too big for most dinners, but had the right colors for fall.

Because it also had blue, I picked up on that with blue glasses and a blue candle.  I think it came together really pretty.

I've never put this particular combo together before, so it was a lot of fun for me.

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For the girls
TG I 07
For the boys

As I had to do a little mixing and matching, I had a boys setting and a girls setting. 

Thinking a bit ahead, the girls got the more delicate glass napkin rings, which looked quite pretty on the table while hopefully being more protected by daintier hands.  However, the boys got kingly gold.

TG I 11
Yummy yummy

We feel that Thanksgiving is a traditional meal, thus we don't like to vary it much or play around with totally different recipes.  But as this wasn't the actual dinner, I had a good time being different.

We started off with cheese stuffed hot mushrooms, as well as a hot mulled wine.  Then I served a butternut/apple soup to go with the lovely fall salad a guest brought.  

TG I 12
Describing cranberries

Instead of turkey, I did little miniature hens.  I found this lovely fennel seed rub, so I made a lemon fennel rice dish to go with it.  Another guest provided a very interesting hot carrot combo. 

Doc Leo requires a raw cranberry orange relish for the actual dinner, so I took advantage of this early one to make a cooked cranberry chutney for the first time.  That provided a nice change.

I should explain the cranberry dilemma.  For us, they are mandatory in some form; we can't imagine a true Thanksgiving dinner without them.  The problem is that until recent years, they didn't exist in France.

During our Paris years, the Doc went back to the US several times during cranberry season and brought some back.  My sister came to visit and brought some with her.  I hoarded them in the freezer, as it seems the French really loved the relish.  It doesn't matter what they cost here, the fact that they are now regularly available (as is the juice we missed for so many years) means I can make not only my relish but play with a few other ideas as well, including bread!

TG I 13
Finishing a delightful dinner with a lovely fall pie

For dessert, keeping with the fall theme, our young mama and papa (I'm not sure which one was the actual baker) brought a lovely apple/orange pie. 

It was absolutely delicious, not a combo I've ever had before.

TG I 14
I'm human, too

I hope you've enjoyed this little pre-Thanksgiving teaser as you look forward to preparing your own dinner at the end of the month. 

Next we will have some young families, then our own son and family will be joining us for the actual dinner the weekend after the official big day. 

I'll leave you with our last guest who felt quite at home joining in the festivities. 


  1. Glad to read this worked out well for you. Up to three! Goodness.
    The butternut soup sounds yummy. Recipe?

  2. This all looks so very elegant and sounds delicious. As always, you provide a lovely ambiance for your guests and amazing meals, too!


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