A turkey cannot cook itself you know.
Would you like to know what an American Thanksgiving in Paris is like? It is simple--a recreation of the Thanksgiving all Americans know and love--only without mom's help in the kitchen, few American food products, and dad standing by to carve the turkey--and not to mention the forty or so French faces staring in anticipation as you fretfully attempt to carve two giant birds with a machete and pair of scissors all the while being expected to provide them with a speech--in French--on the origins of Thanksgiving. All in all sounds of a jolly good time then eh Christophe?
Thanksgiving au Foyer Mignard was to be an American celebration hosted by its seven American residents by whom all of the cooking and preparation would be done. We split the tasks into whose family favorite was most dear to whom, and who had skill with this or with that. I fell to the lot of mashed potatoes (my Dad's reason for living) and my mums marshmallow salad. The salad I know and love is a family tradition in my parents house, both on Thanksgiving and Christmas. Though a devil to re-create in France. Substitutions--what this college dorm cooker lives for. My mum's: tined pineapple, mandarin oranges, mini-marshmallows, sour cream, and shredded coconut. Mine--a wee bit different--as well as intended to feed a small wedding party. Find me sour cream in France and I will marry you.
Parisian Marshmallow Salad:
4 cans pineapples cut into chunks
15-20 satsumas (Clementines) peeled (just in case) and broken apart
chopped dried figs
two bags of marshmallows cut up (thank you American aisle at Carrefour)
3 cartons dessicated coconut
12 oz creme fraiche
12 oz fromage blank
12 oz yogurt
mix mix. And refrigerate over night. This recipe is one to be meddled with in proportions--the measurements are not vital, and the ones given produced a quantity for a medieval banquet. Feel free to halve, quarter, or triple if it is indeed for a medieval banquet.
The mashed potatoes--tender mashing love, more butter than even Paula may dare to use, demi creme milk, salt, pepper, and garlic. The turkey, I may add, fell to my lot as well . unbeknownst to the seven of us, there were none among us with prior Turkey dressing experience. As such the eyes turned to me, and I took the plunge. Bathe the birds, that is what my mum always did. The French birds, dinde, were fresh from the butcher, pink, and fuzzy with a few forgotten feathers. After the washing, my brave accomplice W and I did a bit of tidying up, cutting of a few suspicious flaps, and then seasoning. The dinde was treated to a full body massage with a pound of creamy butter, after which I proceded to stuff the derier full of solid cubes, as well as fresh garlic, chopped onion, rosemary, pepper, salt, and thyme. Game set--carry the two beasts down the road to the corner Sandwicherie where the bakers kindheartedly agreed to roast them for we the oven-less. As the birds cooked the others set about the yams, green bean casserole, stuffing, cranberries (thanks to the Thanksgiving Store in the 4th on Rue de Saint Paul) salads, apple and pumpkin pies, as well as all the decorations and the plethora of wine and horsdouvers to set out.
When the time came and the guests were assembled everyone looked to the birds still whole and crispy perched on the counter. No move was made as the stagecoach brushed across the floor. Oy. Fine. I will carve. To witness me carving a turkey with a saber longer than my arm and a pair of --garden sheers?--was one you thankfully had the privilege of missing. A work-out is a turkey (2 turkeys) carving, not to mention the French man hovering over with his video camera. Up to my elbows in turkey juices as the room awaited my final slice--I was called upon to recite in their language the history of our holiday. Chaos does indeed ensue as i stand palms up, saber in hand, stuttering and butchering the dates as I try to pull out Plymouth, 1620 bad winter...Indians help...1621 plentiful harvest...big feast...Abraham Lincoln first president to observe holiday...and so forth. And yes...the young French girls giggle as I mix my verb tenses and fling turkey juices around.
Enough said let us eat! The bash was a hit--the best in all the years of the Mignard American Thanksgiving we were told. Success. And, I can dress and carve a Turkey, who knew my first true American traditional "for the patriarch-role" would be in France at an American Thanksgiving. C'est la vie.