This past week, my oldest brother visited me in Amiens. He arrived, groggy and exhausted from two long flights, in time to attend my first ever Thanksgiving in France. I had organized an elaborate meal with my German-American friend, basing our recipes on family traditions and the offerings of local Picard farmers at the Saturday market. This was only the second time I had missed a family Thanksgiving, traditionally held in Arizona, where the dusty red landscape and prickly cacti vont de pair with turkey, stuffing, cranberry relish, and pumpkin pie. Desperate to hold onto my favorite holiday and cherished traditions, while making room for the multicultural, multi-national reality that is my life, I sought to create the best of both worlds.
My German friends have been so gracious and eager to prepare meals in my apartment, making it almost a weekly habit. The weekend previous to the Thanksgiving extravaganza, at my request, we had made Kartoffelpuffer (potato pancakes), Apfelmus (apple purée), and American apple pie. It took us hours to grate and peel a kilo and a half of “firm-fleshed” potatoes and to fry them in a pan, while we boiled down and baked a crustful of regional apples. The following weekend, myself and my fellow-foreign American were back at the local farmer’s market, where all the market gardeners know us by face and frequently banter with us. On the menu for my first French Thanksgiving:
- roast halal chicken (courtesy of Amiens nord)
- pumpkin pie, made from scratch (canless, with a homemade crust)
- baked sweet potato fries
- green bean casserole
- mashed potatoes
- vegetarian stuffing
- vegetarian herb gravy
- glazed carrots
The meal was delicious, a true success. While Brian slept, the rest of us chopped multicolored carrots, peeled potatoes, cut up green beans, and tried not to be overwhelmed by the many different and strange dishes (for some) that we were preparing. The pumpkin pie turned out wonderful, even better than the from-the-can staple that most households make. Nothing can beat my grandmother’s cooking, but the conviviality and esprit de corps that my group of friends shared this day was worthy of the original event. Thanksgiving is about coming together, being present in the moment, giving thanks, and sharing food.
Brian invited us all to reflect on what we were thankful for, and while this idea might have struck some as funny, it stuck with me throughout the week and throughout his visit. I’ve decided to look back on his trip through the same lens:
I am thankful that Brian arrived safe in Amiens, without losing anything (besides a glove!), and that he got to spend a wonderful week with me, getting to know my life and friends here, and sharing with them his own experiences and culture.
I am thankful that I was able to sit for my translation thème exam on Monday, despite the fact that I had to walk forty minutes in order to arrive on time. I hope that this exam will help me pull up the disastrous grade I received for my translation version exam on Tuesday.
I am thankful that I am able to do a Master’s in France, no matter what grades I get or how I do in the long run. I am thankful that I speak French relatively fluently, that I am able to communicate with others and share almost everything I have on my mind. I will be mindful to keep working on my French and try to do my best to succeed at my Master’s.
I am thankful that I am part of such a wonderful group as the Tombés d’la charrette, and that I was officially “adopted” into the community over a week ago. I will do my best to contribute to our different events and group meetings, in order that others are both educated and empowered to make a difference in their local community. I am thankful that Brian was able to attend both a logistics meeting and one of our sponsored events.
I am thankful to have received my vignette d’OFII, which allows me to stay a year in France on a visa de long séjour.
I am thankful to have been able to go to Paris to meet up with our cousin, Annie, who’s studying for a semester in Angers. Even though I could only stay for a few hours, our trip to the Louvre and throughout Paris was totally worth it. I am thankful to have a family that travels, learns about different cultures, and dares to go outside of its comfort zone. My family is the primary reason I am the person who I am today.
I am thankful to be able to teach English, even if it’s only one hour a week. Even the small things add up to big things, and you have to start somewhere… :p
I am thankful that I can walk everywhere in my fun-sized city, and that I am healthy enough to be able to walk around and up the five-flights of stairs to my apartment every day.
I am thankful for this beautiful holiday season in Amiens, where the marché de Noël tempts with its various regional and international boutiques, and the lights and songs and people everywhere add to the festive cheer. I am thankful for the gorgeous light display on the Amiens Cathedral.
I am thankful for my wonderful friends here in Amiens. You are incredible, and I am a better person for having known you. Thanks for the delicious cooking, and the wonderful meal of Flammkuchen last night!