“S”anksgiving à Barcelo

Here are a few notes and quotes from my first Thanksgiving spent away from home.

Sweet potatoes are elusive in the Alps, but I tracked some down

On Thanksgiving day, I peeled sweet potatoes while Barcelonnette received its first big snowfall.

The sweet potatoes reminded me of Barcelonnette's peak called Pain de Sucre (on the right)

In order to talk about the American holiday with my students, I decided to show them Norman Rockwell’s famous painting of Thanksgiving.  The most common reactions were “what a big chicken!” or, if they understood that it was a turkey, “it’s Christmas!”  Here are some other gems.

Norman Rockwell’s painting “Freedom From Want”

Students: They are drinking water?!  Why aren’t the adults drinking wine?

Alice: What are those vegetables in the center of the table?  Students: Poireaux!! Leeks!! Alice: Do you eat leeks raw? Students: Endives! Alice: No… Students: Comment dit-on céleri en anglais?

Students: What does ‘thankful’ mean?  Fin, what does “ful” mean? Alice: Well a turkey can be full of stuffing, if you eat a lot you say “I’m so full!” Student: Oh! You give thanks for being full? Another Student:  Hooray for eating!

I also showed my students some photos of last year’s Maggio/McManus/Greeley Thanksgiving at Mayflower Farm, so that they might see a modern Thanksgiving and compare and contrast.  Here, too, there were some funny misunderstandings.

Me (indicating green beans): You know what these are, right? Students: beans… haricots verts…  Me: green beans.  And this?  (indicating puréed peas).  Students:  Guacamole!

Me:  And that’s the gravy pot.  Do you know what gravy is?  It’s a brown sauce made with drippings and flour. Students: Flowers?
Me: No! Flour!  Farine!

After a week of these homesickness-inducing lessons, I was able to pull together my own Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday night at my apartment.  Since we in France didn’t have the day off to spend in the kitchen, our Thanksgiving meal was very simple.  I lacked the driving ambition that it takes to find a turkey in France before Christmas, so Alexandra and Grégory brought roasted chickens to form the backbone of our meal.  The English teacher I work with most often, Claude, brought mashed potatoes made with olive oil (she’s allergic to dairy products), Mariangela and Francesca brought salad, I made a chestnut, pancetta and prune stuffing and our friend Mark Bittman brought his coconut sweet potato pie, which Claude appreciated because there was no dairy in the custard, only coconut milk!  Though the feast was simple the ambiance was extremely lively.  We had children running around and dancing, a frantic search for silverware, glasses, and chairs for everyone, chickens and stuffing and sweet potato pie jostling each other in the tiny oven, and different languages bouncing off the walls.

Towards the end of the evening we did what Grég and I had been discussing for a few days already; we went around the table and each person said, in his own language, what he was thankful for.  All took their  turns very seriously and I was reminded how beautiful Italian and French can sound, and I was thankful for the human ability to communicate in so many languages


About adventuresofaleece

Senior Project Manager at The Working World, a non-profit CDFI with an investment fund that focuses on loans and equity investments for worker-owned cooperative businesses. Recently graduated with an MA in Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning from Tufts University. Formerly Executive Director of the BerkShares local currency program in Western Massachusetts and Director of Programs at the Schumacher Center for a New Economics. Former line cook and prep cook at Txikito Cocina Vasca. Writer, teacher, and traveler.
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3 Responses to “S”anksgiving à Barcelo

  1. Beth Greeley says:

    Tres bien fait.

  2. Janice Storti says:

    I so enjoyed the references to your students! While I’m sure your a bit homesick, I am so envious of your having Christmas in Rome! Enjoy!

  3. ellen says:

    I am thankful for knowing such a thoughtful and eloquent young woman. And I am so proud of you.
    Have a wonderful time in Rome. I wish we could meet you on the Spanish steps and then have champagne in the cafe with Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn.
    Love, Mom

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