I’m learning a lesson from my new friends this Thanksgiving in France. If it’s not your holiday, celebrate anyway!
Wouldn’t the world be an excellent place if we just celebrated it together instead of fussing about what to call a holiday? Spending Thanksgiving in Uzès this year showed me just how that might feel. As we stood around the kitchen in a circle, holding hands — just as my family has done for years — we all had something in common. We were all thankful. No translations are needed.
Thanksgiving in France
There are some things Americans take for granted, like turkeys. It’s not easy to find a turkey in November in France. They’re for Christmas. Finding the ingredients for other items in an American holiday meal isn’t easy either, especially in this part of France.
Finding The Turkey
One evening just before dark, my British friend and host for a “traditional American Thanksgiving,” Geoffrey, called to say: “Time to get the turkey.” Minutes later, he picked me up in his blue van, which I’ve named the “Blue Devil” We took off to pick out a turkey. A live one.
I wasn’t looking forward to the event. You see, Geoffrey told me that when we went to pick out a turkey, he would have to kill the turkey on the spot. It was a French law. The people at the fowl farm would then run the turkey through some kind of machine to take the feathers off. None of that sounded like anything I’d enjoy watching; however, I decided to go for the experience. Besides, Geoffrey says” “if you can’t kill it, you shouldn’t eat it.”
I’m still thinking about that.
When we arrived at the poultry farm, it was much like a warehouse. All fowl ran around in well-maintained cages and had plenty of space, food, and drink. I looked for the turkeys. None were to be seen. There were many chickens, geese, and rabbits, but no turkeys.
I took a big sigh of relief, thinking we would stop by Carrefour for a nicely packaged chicken.
When we were preparing to return to the Blue Devil, a man came behind us with a turkey. Ugh. He held her up for us to take a look, slammed her down on a scale big enough to weigh trucks, then threw her into a box. Geoffrey went off to “negotiate” the deal, put the box with the turkey in the back of the van, and told me to “jump in.”
On the way back to Uzès, Geoffrey explained why things didn’t go as I was told earlier. Some “poultry edict” in France now forbids live fowl from being killed at this facility. It has something to do with health requirements, I’m sure. So it was up to Geoffrey to kill the bird and de-feather it himself. I’ll just say he wasn’t looking forward to it.
Shopping for oysters was left up to me. Or, better, it was left up to me to pick them up exactly where I was told to go — to Nimes and Geoffrey’s favorite “oyster man” at the downtown market.
Geoffrey was going to spend the day “preparing” the turkey.
The market in Nimes is a colorful place. It’s on the ground floor of a multi-level shopping mall in a very fashionable part of town. The vendors are at the market until just after noon, six days a week. They sell primarily fresh food items, wine, olive oil, and the like. You can buy oysters from Sete (the Mediterranean) and some from the Atlantic Ocean. The selection of seafood, meats, cheeses, and prepared specialties — like tapenades and pastries — is enormous.
I started out early for the 40-minute drive. I brought a cart with wheels to carry the oysters to the car. There was no time to do any other shopping, so Sally and I returned soon to Uzes with two crates of oysters — eight dozen of the most beautiful, fat, and juicy oysters you can imagine. And yes, I did sample a few from the nice oyster man.
Cranberry sauce and pecans
Pecans and cranberry sauce were the most challenging items to find for the Thanksgiving menu. After searching Carrefour for longer than you can imagine, I discovered them both. Guess where? You know, the aisle in the grocery store where they keep all the “international” food. Should have looked there first, I guess. Since they were “special,” they were pricey. One package of pecans and one small jar of cranberry sauce cost more than US$12! (Perhaps you can tell how small the packages are from the set of keys nearby.)
Thanksgiving in France: The celebration
After all the planning, shopping, and cooking — done almost entirely by Geoffrey — it was time for Thanksgiving. Let me say no more. The pictures and video speak for themselves.