A girl and her cat take on the world with nothing more than a cup of tea and a good book and enough dreams to fill the universe.
Since we’re nearing Thanksgiving, I thought I’d share a Thanksgiving story.
There’s a funny moment of realization you have as an exchange student during the month of November. Wherever you are doesn’t have Thanksgiving. Your host family is not making plans to go see their family or whether they’re going to have turkey or ham. The fourth Thursday of November slips by just like any other Thursday. It was then I decided that I would ask my host mom if we could celebrate Thanksgiving. She said yes.
This kicked off the largest turkey search I have ever seen. Turkeys are not everywhere in the grocery stores or at the butchers. My host mom, Pascale, called every butcher in Lille to see if any of them had a turkey. Not a single one said yes, but there was one who said he could get us one. That’s how I ended up with a 20lb. massive bird the day of Thanksgiving and I’m pretty sure it’d had a beating heart the day before.
Surprisingly rare bird in France at Thanksgiving.
I also ran into trouble with finding pumpkin to make pumpkin pie with. They do not sell canned pumpkin in the grocery store. They don’t even sell it in the English section next to the maple syrup and the weird British sodas. So, we improvised and bought a fresh pumpkin, which I cut open, removed the seeds from and cooked until I had more pumpkin than I knew what to do with.
As Thanksgiving was fast approaching, civil unrest was bubbling up amongst my peers at school. The government was doing something with their education system and they didn’t like it. I can’t even remember what all the fuss was about, but one day as I got off my bus and started my walk over, I saw that the whole school seemed to be outside the front gates, chanting, not allowing anyone entrance. They even blocked one of our professors. My friends then explained to me that we didn’t have school that day since we obviously couldn’t get in. They called it “le blocus,” which translates to “the blockade.” While I was astounded and confused by this political action, I didn’t waste anytime sticking around. I had some serious cooking to do. It was Thanksgiving after all.
But not before I snapped some cool pictures of trash cans students set on fire before the police came.
I returned home and I made two pumpkin pies, a cranberry jam/dressing thing. I had biscuits instead of rolls. I boiled potatoes and mashed them with garlic and I stuffed all 20lbs of bird into the tiny microwave oven on the counter where the wire rack smiled with the weight. I made stuffing and green beans. My host parents realized, as I did, that we had way too much food for our tiny family of four. So we invited the neighbors and I invited my American friend, Chelsea. The French did what they do best and Thanksgiving became a glorious dinner party.
Imagine a much larger turkey inside this oven.
Everything was set by 7 PM. Pascale had gone to the effort of decorating the table with little place cards wishing us all a “Happy Thanksgiving.” Our guests all arrived to see the table laden with food, but first we had to have the aperitif. As we were sipping our champagne from the living room, we all looked up to see the cat, Berlioz, inside the giant bird on the table. His tiny body tucked right in and he was sniffing about the inside of the ribs. Pascale flew into action, swiftly removing the black cat from the dinner table and sending him outside. We all laughed and still ate our turkey au chat that evening in one of the best Thanksgivings I’ve ever had.
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Brian Marggraf, Author of Dream Brother: A Novel, Independent publishing advocate, New York City dweller
Psychological, thriller, mystery, secrets, betrayal, adoption, romance, poetry, art
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Stefan Falke photographs artists who live and work along the 2000 miles long U.S.- Mexico border to document the vibrant culture of the region on both sides. All photos © Stefan Falke (use with written permission by the author only)