Tomorrow will be our Thanksgiving, since all of our guests are working on just-a-normal Thursday, when the rest of you will be celebrating. It’s a jet-lag kind of thing. This means that I’m tearing my hair out before you are, although possibly not for the same reasons. Judging by the cute little Martha-esque carrot garnish I made for the salads, all is going well on this, my third day in the kitchen. But if you could see my dining table, which according to Martha should be set with gleaming silver by now but is instead papered with printed-out recipes covered with scribbles, you’d think otherwise.
Why all the scribbling? Because, oh what was I thinking? I knew we’d be here for Thanksgiving, and still I didn’t bring any measuring cups or spoons with me. Normally when in France I just cook with French recipes, so there’s no problem. But Thanksgiving requires American recipes, like the cornbread for the stuffing, measured in American units. However, since there’s no actual cornmeal (sub fine polenta) and no actual buttermilk (sub an Arab fermented milk) it’s a kluge at best, so why worry about eyeballing a teaspoon of baking powder? Oh wait, I forgot to bring baking powder too, so I used levure chimique, which is sort of like baking powder except that it’s different but I don’t actually know how, nor how much to sub for the American stuff. Close eyes, open the little envelope, dump it in. Hold breath to see if the cornbread will rise.
Anyway the cornbread gets all crumbled up in the stuffing, so nobody’s likely to complain about the texture. However, the biscuits might be another story, but if they don’t rise properly, Shel will run next door to the bakery and no one will complain about that either, because they’ll never know. Nobody’s likely to complain at all, in fact, because whereas in years past we’ve had Thanksgiving guests that were a mix of French friends and other ex-pat friends, this year we invited all French people, only one of whom has ever had Thanksgiving before.
Paradoxically, for me it can’t be Thanksgiving without pumpkin pie and pickled peaches. I don’t eat either one anymore, since I don’t eat carbs, but if I don’t make them and serve them, it’s just not Thanksgiving. Only thing is, there’s no pumpkin here. I used courge muscade, and I’m hoping it’ll work out. A piece weighing over a kilo amazingly reduced to just this small jar of purée, enough for one pie. The pickled peaches posed no problems, and I’m expecting them to be as big a hit as they were in 2008 when we had our Rock and Roll Thanksgiving; you can find the recipe here.
At least shallots are the same the whole world round, so I can make my roasted shallot vinaigrette en toute tranquilité, easily and peacefully, without hair loss. It’s a perfect Thanksgiving salad dressing, and you can find the recipe here. We have a splendid turkey this year, although after our last French Thanksgiving, when we thought we might never come back, I shipped home the roasting pan, stock pot, and platter I had acquired here. Thus, no poaching or brining the turkey this year, giving me an excuse to try dry brining for the first time, and heaven help me if it doesn’t work. Roasting the bird right on the oven rack and serving it on a disposable platter? Just one of those things.
The pies seem pretty normal, except for the fact that they’re actually tarts. Pie pans don’t exist here, hence the flatter shape. Plus, heaven help me again, because the butter and flour are different enough here to make a real textural difference, and because I can buy all-butter tart crust in the store, and basically because I have enough other worries, I didn’t make the crusts. (Lucy, I can hear you tsk-tsking all the way from Lyon) It’s utter heresy, and the end result doesn’t look American, but hey, they won’t know, and since I don’t eat pie, by that point in the evening I probably won’t care.
So think of us tomorrow, as we’re trying to explain the meaning of Thanksgiving, and who the Pilgrims were, and what happened to the Indians, and why the turkey has to be so huge (since the French aren’t big on leftovers), and why every American family eats basically all of these same foods all heaped together on the same plate at the same time, the rich, sweet, tart, and savory mix that is the essential Thanksgiving plate. I’m counting on the food speaking for itself, measured or not. And come Thursday I’ll be thinking of all of you, thanking you for being part of my life.