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November 22, 2001
Thanksgiving (and not a Christmas decoration in sight) (Gail)

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Happy "Jour de merci donnant"!

Our Thanksgiving Day started out bright and early when Joss came in and woke us at 8 a.m.  I had spent all yesterday not feeling very well and hadn’t slept well, so getting out of bed was not high on my list.  But since I was awake anyway I decided to join Russell and Joss downstairs (Cameron was still asleep).  Coming downstairs I found that Joss had set the table for a very nice breakfast, but I also noticed that nothing was cooking.  He was so adorable I didn’t have the heart to refuse him and started to look for a crępe recipe to surprise him.  That was my first mistake of the morning.  All the cookbooks are in French so I had the dictionary close at hand to translate things like “cuil. a soupe bombe” (rounded tablespoon) and “verres de lait ou eau” (glass of milk or water).  These are not exact measurements are they?  I mean just how big should this glass be, anyway?  And should it be a full glass?  How rounded is rounded?  Well how bad can it be if I’m a little over or under?

Once the batter and the orange sauce were made I searched for the perfect crępe pan.  The first choice let everything flow to the edge, in the second the batter stuck and things didn’t get any better.  So after four different failures (not necessarily the fault of the pans) I gave up and took a look at the mess I had created.  There was half-cooked batter in four pans, flour and butter everywhere and a delicious orange sauce with nothing to go on.  The boys were great and had bread and jam.

The next disaster involved the cranberries.  Yes, we found some, but whole berries not jellied like Cameron was hoping for.  They are tiny little berries in water and I needed to cook and crush them.  Crushing was a disaster as I spilled berry juice all over the counter, burned my hand and generally made another mess.  By now I was feeling very worried about my ability to concentrate on cooking an entire Thanksgiving dinner.  I was sure I would hurt myself or blow up the house.

Over the past few days we have been hunting for our dinner supplies and after breakfast Russell went out to get the remaining ingredients.  Our menu was simple: turkey, stuffing, corn, mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberries, and apple pie with ice cream.

We had previously discovered that you can’t buy a whole turkey in France at this time of year, they appear for Christmas.  We did find a turkey roast.  Stuffing is either unavailable or unrecognizable.  Cranberries are called “airelles.”  So once Russell got back from the store with everything we needed I went to work.

Cameron helped with the pie crust, for a recipe called “American Apple pie,” which included such exotic ingredients as “canelle,” “muscade” and “gingembre” (cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger).  It was to be cooked at “thermostat 7-8” but the oven here is in Centigrade and so Cameron had to find a translation for this (about 225 degrees C).  Joss helped cut up the apples but he soon jabbed himself with the knife and quit helping.  He howled until he had a band-aid, convinced that he was going to bleed to death.  He’s fine.

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Cameron and Joss making "American Apple pie"

I put together the stuffing from bread I had been saving guessing on the amounts and what other ingredients to use (“sauge” -- sage -- was one).  The cranberries, unmolested by me, cooked happily on the stove.

By now it was lunchtime and I hadn’t sat down except to eat breakfast.  So a quick lunch of onion soup (the boys were polite about it and ate bread), and we were ready to start again.  The boys went outside to collect leaves for decorations and with them created our dinner table placemats.  Joss couldn’t find his mittens and his hands got so cold that they hurt and itched, so we had another episode of Joss dying.  He’s fine and we found his mittens (after Russell had gone back to the store again to buy him another pair).

The pie was now cooking, the potatoes were peeled, the stuffing ready to go in the oven.  3 p.m. and it was time for a rest.

Dinner was planned for about 6:30.  After the bad start to the day the meal turned out beautifully.  The turkey and stuffing were moist, the cranberries mushy, the gravy had no lumps and the apple pie was golden and delicious.  Unlike earlier in the day everything came together so well and we all enjoyed the meal.  Like Thanksgiving dinners everywhere there were leftovers.

The only thing missing was our families and friends.

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The cook enjoying her work (note the leafy window decorations and place mats, and the custom glass holders and napkin rings)

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