Tastemakers: Confinement Thanksgiving (Part II)
Hi darlings! Back to share Part II of how some of my expat friends in Paris will celebrate Thanksgiving under confinement this year. I really enjoyed sharing Part I and your reactions and messages were so encouraging that I decided to do it again. xx, ajiri
How do you normally spend Thanksgiving in Paris?
I haven't been in Paris for very long and so far it's been a mixed bag. In 2018, the year I moved here, we went back home to Maryland and spent it with family. 2019 was my first thanksgiving in Paris and we were invited to a dinner that an american friend of ours was giving at Brasserie Cezanne in the 16th. It was a combination of American traditions (turkey) and their typical brasserie menu. There was a wonderful mix of around 30 American expats and it was decorated beautifully. They did a good job in setting a convivial mood and the company was so nice.
- Nony Odum, founder of In Vibrant Company
I usually organize a semi-elaborate dinner party for friends at home. I try to take the day off to cook all day just to replicate how I used to celebrate at home. A lot of people don't really like Thanksgiving food so I try to prove them wrong by making it as delicious as possible with seasonal French ingredients.
- Jessie Kanelos Weiner, Illustrator and author of many books, including Paris In Stride and New York In Stride
Since being in Paris means it’s hard to go back home to my family twice in a year and typically I’d rather go back in December, Thanksgiving is usually spent with friends. Nothing has really become tradition yet, but last Thanksgiving was definitely one for the books. My sister and brother-in-law came to visit and, since we’d just moved into a larger apartment with room for a big dinner table, they helped us cook an amazing meal for a group of friends — none of whom were American. Up until this, I hadn’t thought of myself as one who enjoyed entertaining (and the small apartment had made it difficult) but this meal completely changed that sentiment. Seeing the people I love, none of whom knew each other, all gathered around my table speaking a mix of different languages and getting along like old friends was incredibly moving. It really revealed to what extent friends become family over here and it was something I won’t soon forget. In many ways, that was an especially important realization given what this year has looked like. We’ve had to depend on friends more than ever and figure out how to stay close even when we’re physically distanced from one another.
- Kate Devine, writer and photographer of Dear Everest
With American friends at someone else's house. I'd love to host myself one day, but a) my current apartment is a bit small; b) I've never made a turkey (but all the more reason to try!) and c) people tend to complain about climbing all the way up to the 6th floor—sans ascenseur. I just see it as the perfect way to work off that extra helping of pie!
- Sara Lieberman, Journalist
I normally spend Thanksgiving with friends in Paris. We get together potluck style for a traditional Thanksgiving meal of turkey and all of the fixings!
- Tanisha Townsend, found of Girl Meets Glass
I have never really celebrated Thanksgiving traditionally as I don’t agree with the ethics of the holiday. The mother of my niece and nephew is full Native American so we fully understand what this holiday really means. With that being said, I have always taken advantage of everyone being home and off of work to spend quality time together and eat. Since being in Paris it has been more of a friends get together which is now my absolute favorite.
- Ciara Constenoble, Hair stylist and hair educator
What will you do differently since we're still in confinement?
This year my husband and I will spend it together at home. Since we are in confinement I won't make myself crazy about finding and serving the traditional Thanksgiving dishes and knowing Alessandro, who is Italian, he will insist on making something hearty and Italian. Thanksgiving, to me, is about being with those you love and are grateful for and sharing a delicious meal together, so I'm not too hung up on maintaining strict tradition this very strange year.
We'll be celebrating as a nuclear family this year. Our baby is 16 months old so it's always a joy seeing how he responds to new food and traditions. I'll probably still cook as much food as I usually do even though my French husband always pleads that I keep things simple. Simple is boring lol
Before we’d even left the table last year we had decided to make this new way of doing Thanksgiving a tradition. This year, ideally, I think we’d have gotten together with the same group, perhaps with a few additions, but sadly with the current situation that won’t be possible. With that said, my partner (who is French) and I definitely still plan on making the evening a special one -- we’ve ordered tons of food and we’ve still got a lot to be thankful for.
I may actually still go to a friend's house because she lives nearby and offered to have me. (See? Being single has its advantages!) It'd probably only be the three of us. If for some reason that doesn't happen, I guess I'd at least buy a small chicken and attempt to cook that myself and make some mashed potatoes and stuffing. Always gotta have the stuffing!
This year will be really different! No large gathering with my closest friends, no multiple dinners and I’m kinda sad about it too. I don’t have any family here and I live alone so the idea of Thanksgiving or the holidays in general totally alone, is very daunting. So, I have a couple in my ‘COVID bubble’ and we will meet up for a small meal together.
There will be no large gatherings. I will have one friend over and we will keep each other company. Watch classic black movies, listen to good music and eat!
What’s on your menu?
Primo (first course) will be Lagane e ceci which is homemade pasta with chickpeas. You can see how we make it here. Secondo (second course) will be Pesce al forno (oven baked fish with lemon and garlic). Contorno (sides) will be Melanzane alla scapece (sliced eggplant with mint), Melanzane a funghetto (cubed eggplant with tomato sauce), and roasted potatoes. For dolce (desert) we will have gelato.
I usually do a turkey breast roulade filled with a mushroom and herb stuffing because turkeys can cost an arm and leg here. I usually do shaved brussels sprout salad, roasted sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, stuffing. For dessert, I've really liked making pumpkin flan the past couple of years because I hate making pastries.
Some sort of bird, ideally turkey; mashed potatoes; stuffing (honestly, I love Stove Top, but will likely make my own); green bean casserole (or maybe brussels sprouts); canned cranberry sauce (THE BEST) and this carrot kugel/cake thing that is actually made using baby food!
On the menu is turkey, mac-n-cheese, cornbread and perhaps a green bean casserole. And the finest of French wines of course!
So I make really good cornbread, mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole. I can cook fried chicken a tasty mac n cheese. Not sure, if I will cook all that though.
Have a recipe to share?
Here is the recipe for the Melanzane alla scapece. We always get asked for this recipe when we entertain.
Melanzane alla scapece
Ingredients (for 4/5 people):
2 large eggplants
Red wine vinegar
Slice the eggplants in long vertical strips and deep fry them in olive oil. Once they are golden, remove them and put them in a plate with paper towels to absorb the oil (eggplants drink up a lot of olive oil!). Move them to a big plate where eggplants are well spread (not all on top of each other), add sliced garlic, fresh mint leaves (a lot), salt and red wine vinegar (not balsamic). Mix. Put the plate in the fridge for a couple of hours and pull it out 1 hour before dinner so they are not cold.
Melanzane a funghetto
Ingredients (for 4 people):
1 big eggplant
Tomato sauce (polpe or diced)
Cut eggplants into small cubes; fry them with 2 garlic cloves; when done put the garlic cloves aside
Pull the fried eggplant out and mix with fresh oregano in a separate plate
In a new pot, saucepan place fresh tomato sauce (polpe or diced) add the 2 garlic cloves you used earlier with the eggplant. Cook in medium heat for a few minutes, stirring so it doesn't stick
Add fried eggplants to tomato sauce mixture, mix together
Add salt, more oregano as desired and let cook for 5/10 minutes (until the tomatoes or done)
Sure! People seem to love the "Carrot Kugel" — especially when I reveal that it's made using baby food.
4 jars of baby food carrots
1 egg + 1 white
1 stick butter
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp lemon juice
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
Bake 1 hour at 350.
My recipe is for a cocktail of course since I’m Girl Meets Glass lol. Adding a bit of Thanksgiving flavor to a basic cocktail and batching it beforehand makes things really easy!
1 ½ parts cranberry juice
¾ parts lime juice
¾ parts tequila
½ orange liqueur
Mix the ingredients together and serve over ice. Garnish with cranberries and a salt rim.
The cornbread recipe from The Kitchenista is the bomb!
Ok last question: Is there 1-2 ways you'll make sure to keep some joy in this year’s celebration considering the changes?
Just as I did at Easter, which we spent confined as well, I plan to use my favorite china, linens and flatware, set the table nicely and get all dressed up. We'll make a beautiful dinner and probably face time with my family back in the US. Eating well at home with Alessandro is truly a joy in and of itself and I'm grateful for being able to do that.
Being in confinement, I really like having holidays to anticipate and plan for. I'm going to make a 3D illustrated Thanksgiving table runner just to have something on the table we can pull out every year (see sketch)
Otherwise I had the idea of doing a side dish swap with other Americans in the neighborhood just to taste other people's family recipes and share a moment together. I love Thanksgiving because there are guidelines to the basics and the rest is freestyle. I have Greek heritage and will probably make spinach pie just to celebrate that part of me and feel more connected to family this year.
This year will definitely include a call home to my family in the states and obviously it will be pretty low-key. Fortunately, since we’re ordering most of the food this also means less clean-up which is definitely a silver lining. Since I’m a photographer I’m sure I’ll snap a few photos, something I didn’t do last year because I was too busy with organization. Other than that, I’d say we’ll raise a toast to making the best of things and to next year being the big gathering we’d been dreaming about with family and friends all together safely in one place.
Extra (good) wine. :) Also, I'll probably look into doing a live yoga class with other people to feel a sense of togetherness.
I plan to keep the joy in this year’s celebration by reaching out to friends that may be by themselves, a video call perhaps. No one should feel alone. I also plan to dress up. Like go all out with the attire. We've been home for a while and not really seen by anyone, who is dressing up? Thanksgiving is the perfect time to put on your best clothes, I feel so much better when I’m dressed up!
To me joy is all about being close to the things and ones you love. Be it via Zoom, phone calls or in person if we can. Being away from family during this time of the year is really hard so I am focused on FaceTime all my family and making a meal that reminds me the good ol times. Also watching classic movies makes me so happy.
Merci darlings for the inspiration!!
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