Tastemakers: Confinement Thanksgiving
Thanksgiving is hands down my absolute favorite holiday of the entire year. (Yes even more than my Queen's day aka my birthday!) As someone who loves gathering, this day is like the Super Bowl of all gatherings for me.
Almost every year, I take the kids out of school and fly to Texas and basically tornado through my little brother's house (and he would probably say life. hahah). My sister-in-law and I get up get early on Thursday to start cooking while gossiping and listening to music in her kitchen. My aunts and family friends start arriving around noon with foil covered dishes and the house progressively gets louder.
The kids and my brother's dog are running in and out of the house, the TV is blasting sports and my two brothers are usually talking at the same time, excitedly discussing whatever game is on or making fun of one another. The house is utter chaos. It smells good and feels even better. By 4pm we finally sit down at the table and take turns going around the table to say what we're thankful for. Then we say grace and dig in.
The years I stay in Paris are equally as joyfully chaotic and I usually end up going to several dinners or lunches and hosting my own with a table full of friends that who become family. The expat version lasts Thursday through Saturday, which is a bonus in my opinion.
So when President Macron announced we'd be on confinement for the month of November my heart sank. Would my fav holiday be cancelled? I can't just make a meal for my Swiss husband and two little bellies aka my kids, can I??
In all honesty, I have moped about it for a little longer than a minute but time to get over it and make plans. I want to decorate a table and need some motivation so I emailed some friends and fellow "expats" for inspiration. Enjoy! xx, Ajiri
How do you normally spend Thanksgiving in Paris?
I used to have a big dinner with friends, invariably Americans (and their French partners and spouses) since we are the only ones who celebrate American-style Thanksgiving, i.e.; a whole roasted turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, gravy, and pumpkin pie. It’s not something the French are particularly drawn to, but it was fun to do with American friends and a good excuse for a yearly get-together. But over time, many of those friends have moved back to the States, which happens when you have “expat” friends: Eventually some move back home. I do have a friend who is half-American, half-French, who was born and raised in France and her family does a Thanksgiving dinner, which we’ve been going to the last few years. But since we’re in confinement, that’s off the table this year.
- David Lebovitz, Pastry chef and author of many books, the latests of which is Drinking French.
For years, I didn't celebrate. That was mostly a result of the holiday holding minimal importance in my family of vegetarians while I was growing up (I know, how disappointing!). Once I developed a strong network of American friends in Paris, a new tradition began: Friendsgiving. A handful of friends gather at one friend's home, which is perfectly suited for entertaining, and celebrate potluck-style. I'm usually in charge of cornbread, the one dish I enjoy making!
- Lindsey Tramuta, Journalist and author of The New Parisienne
I usually spend it with fellow American friends and sometimes one or two curious French friends will join us!
- Sutanya Dacres, writer and podcast host of Dinner for One
Since the actual day of Thanksgiving is always a regular old work-week Thursday, I usually spend it feeling vaguely melancholic and making turkey meatballs to compensate. Once the weekend rolls around, I'm ready to host a crowd. "As many stuffings as possible" is my motto. BYO Sweet Potatoes and we're good to go.
- Lauren Collins, Journalist for the New Yorker and author of When In French: Love in a Second Language
We host a Friendsgiving feast for all our expat friends with nowhere else to go on Thanksgiving. We usually have a turkey delivered from Le Grande Épicerie, I make a dessert or two and each guest brings a side dish of their choosing. Some years we've had so many guests show up that it turns into a big buffet where friends grab seats where they can and fill up on all the delectable dishes on offer.
- Frank Barron, Cake Maker and creator of Cake Boy Paris
What will you do differently since we're still in confinement?
This year has indeed been a whirlwind and I’m happy just to have some downtime, and to be honest, fewer dishes to wash! (During lockdown it seems like my sink is always full.) So I think we’re going to order from some of the small businesses around town. I haven’t figured out which but I see Izzy’s is doing pumpkin pie and delivered cocktails, La Buvette and Cravan are offering an impressive selection of wines, and Henri at Glazed churns up wonderful ice cream, so I’m browsing Instagram accounts of favorite food and drink addresses in Paris to see what they’re offering, if we decide to go that route.
I'm outsourcing this one entirely! I'm putting every course in the very capable hands of Sunday in Soho, a fantastic coffee shop and canteen that has run sold-out Thanksgiving dinners the last two years. Due to confinement, their doors must remain tightly shut but they're going to be very busy: Shortly after announcing pickup and delivery options for the holiday, they apparently received well over 200 orders! I'm excited to do little work and a lot of indulging.
I will still make Thanksgiving dinner, but just enough for one :). I enjoy the ritual of cooking all of the Thanksgiving specific foods too much to let it go.
To be totally honest, more is not only merrier, but the entire point, for me, when it comes to Thanksgiving. I'm not sure I'll do much without the joyous prospect of feeding at least a dozen friends. Thanksgiving in March or whenever it's possibly, may be my 2020 approach.
This year will be very different but I'm looking forward to a relaxed and intimate spread for two. I think I'll plan a long leisurely lunch and focus more on presentation since we all have the extra time for those little details like pressing the linens and adding extra frill to the dessert.
What’s on your menu?
If we decide just to “shop locally” we’ll probably get a dozen oysters from the market, number 2 Fines de Claire are favorites around here. I like mine with mignonette (shallots in white wine vinegar with fresh cracked black pepper) but Romain, my French partner prefers lemon. We both agree on eating them, Breton-style, with rye bread from Maison Landemaine and salted butter. For a main course, I may do braised turkey in white wine, which is perfect for two people, with wild rice, bacon, and mushrooms. Dessert hasn’t been planned out because if I made a cake or a pie, since there are just two of us, there will be leftovers. And I can’t be trusted around three-quarters of a cake or pie!
Everything here :) : Sunday in Soho Thanksgiving menu
I will probably do a small cornish hen for myself this year and limit myself to three small sides: a leafy, herby green salad, butternut squash soup and mashed potatoes.
Wine! Pizza? But in normal times: turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, Brussels sprouts with bacon, my great-grandmother's coleslaw, apple sauce, cranberry jelly with a little twist of orange, green-bean casserole, old-school pumpkin pie from the back of the can.
I'll start with roasted acorn squash soup followed by turkey for him and dorade (sea bream) for me. Some traditional sides are mandatory like creamy mashed potatoes, tart cranberry sauce, parker house rolls fresh from the oven and roasted brussels sprouts. For dessert I'm planning either a pear galette or apple tart served with a healthy dollop of creme fraîche.
Have a recipe to share?
Sure, the braised turkey recipe is here.
I have advice: just trust Ina Garten aka Barefoot Contessa and follow her recipes to a T. She's a better cook than I'll ever be. :)
I swear by Saveur's apple, sage, and sausage stuffing. (For the white bread, I use brioche.)
This year I thought I'd try to spice up the brussels sprouts with Nik Sharma's recipe that was recently featured in the New York Times. The combination of date syrup, labneh and pickled shallots sounds enticing....recipe can be found here.
Ok last question: Is there 1-2 ways you'll make sure to keep some joy in this year’s celebration considering the changes?
The upside of the confinement is that I don’t feel the need to stress out over dinner or making something fancy for dessert. We are fine eating “home-style” and fortunately in France, you can eat well with things you get from your local market. I tend to break out the nicer glassware and dinnerware and set the table up with candles and maybe some flowers or greenery, to make the occasion feel more special. I also will likely serve champagne, which to be honest, we should do more often!
I want to make it a legitimate, sit-down affair at home. My husband isn't particularly attached to the tradition but he knows it has become important to me, more as a celebration of friendship than anything else. So if I can't gather with friends, I'll eat and drink in gratitude for having them in my life and support the businesses that could use steady orders at this time of year. At home, that means there will be a jazz playlist, lots of candles, a delicious spread, and a very late bedtime!
I will respect the traditions and remain grateful for my health and the health of my friends and family. Oh! And the day after Thanksgiving I'll start playing only Christmas music. :)
I will set a beautiful table, light some candles, and pour a proper drink no matter how big or how little the spread.
I'll definitely plan on lots of fall florals to keep things festive and warm at home and of course curate the perfect playlist with all our favorite songs.
Merci darlings for the inspiration!!