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

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Our official Thanksgiving


The American Thanksgiving was the first major holiday we missed when we first moved to France.  So we invited our new French neighbors to share a traditional dinner with us, especially as they had helped us so much just like the Indians did with the original Pilgrims (from whom Doc Leo is directly descended). 

We've been sharing it with the locals ever since, and this is how it turned out this year.

When we were typical Americans, we always had a traditional meal, either with our own family of varying size or with other young couples with no extended family around.  We would set as pretty a table as we could, which usually involved using a tablecloth and some company-only serving dishes.  However, when we moved to France, not only were we regularly exposed to much more formal table settings in French homes, but also we had to create a Thanksgiving ambiance which didn't exist over here while everybody was already full swing into the Christmas mode.  Little by little over the years, we've amassed quite a bit of ambiance, as well as a unified formal table setting.

Such a festive table

In Paris, I discovered that with a little effort, I could seat 12 people.  I didn't have anything matching for 12 people.  Eventually, I collected a whole matching setting, including some new silverware a few years ago. 

One year I was back in the US at the right season, and I got some really pretty fabric for tablecloths, then made 12 dinner sized napkins that matched.  I end up doing the same setting every year because I think it's so pretty; I just have other dinners to use some different combinations!  Unfortunately, my table options down here are a bit different for my tablecloths to work as well as originally designed.

Creating that holiday ambiance

In Paris, I made a really pretty ambiance spread on my coffee table with a cornucopia and fall décor, as well as lots of leaves, acorns, wild chestnuts, etc., all over my fireplace mantle. 

Down here, I end up putting the appetizer table in front of our old pump organ, which is very centrally located, so now I put most of the décor there.  It definitely creates the otherwise missing ambiance in a country without the holiday itself.

Enjoying hot mulled cranberry

We always start the evening off with an appetizer table, although we try to keep the nibbles fairly light.

Now that cranberry juice is available here, we make a hot spiced pot, which the French find fairly odd but usually really enjoy.

. . . but entertaining them anyway

Bored with the adults . . .
I had my full complement of 12 this year, which included the two children of a regular guest family.

But when the neighbors I'd invited for the first time arrived, they brought their neighbors with them!  While we've all gotten together in the past, I have no idea how this came about for this dinner.  I'd already used up every space possible!  I always include these kids as part of the meal, but they were very gracious and let themselves be ostracized to a card table we hurriedly set up in the living room.

Presentation of the bird

When the French serve something that needs to be carved or cut up, they usually do that in the kitchen before serving.  When we served the whole turkey to be carved at the table, in a typical American style, not yet having learned the French style, The Presentation became an occasion. 

The Parisians ended up always applauding the bird.  I think it still elicits comments down here, but it doesn't seem to still have the same impact after all these years.  I think our American customs are becoming fairly normal to most of our guests now.

I've already explained that a whole turkey at this time of year has to be ordered in advance here.  We tend to order an average of 8-10 kilos (17-22 pounds), with no guarantees of what we'll actually get.  The past two years, it's come in at around 13 kilos (30 pounds), which not only costs a fortune but also barely fits in our smaller ovens.  This year, it was only half the size, at 6.5 kilos (14 pounds).  Yes, that's a nice sane size, but it barely makes waves as The Presentation.  It still impressed the first timers, although I would have assumed it was a normal size for their Christmas dinner.

Doc Leo was definitely front and center!

For our traditional group picture, the Doc set up the tripod for the first time so we could all be included at once.  Then he went and sat in front of half the guests!

Fortunately, with all the other group pictures, I think we ended up with memory markers of all who were there after all.

Romea loves parties


As usual, Romea also felt invited and inserted herself into the evening.  One of our guests happily enjoyed making her feel welcome, which ended the evening on a very warm and fuzzy note. 

With three Thanksgiving dinners now history for this year, it's time to break out the Christmas music already being played everywhere, get the Christmas tree, and get right into the Christmas spirit before it will all of a sudden be next year!


  1. Hey wait, I recognize your outfit! :) I thought you did a post on it but maybe I just read your pattern review for it since I don't see a post now. Looks like you had a good time and things came out well. I also downsized to a 14 lb bird this year. It was still plenty of turkey, although Alex immediately noticed it was smaller than in many past years.

  2. Can't believe you pulled three Thanksgiving dinner together. I did one in Texas with a 19 lb. bird, which we did carve in the kitchen and it was a lovely time with just 8.


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