Here are a few notes and quotes from my first Thanksgiving spent away from home.
On Thanksgiving day, I peeled sweet potatoes while Barcelonnette received its first big snowfall.
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.
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!
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