Thank Friday it’s Thanksgiving!
The LSH was away last week and two of our friends took it upon themselves to make sure that I wasn’t lonely (thanks, Stephen & Roch). First of all, we went to the movies on Monday night. We went to see Gravity. What a drag – we were all on a downer afterwards. The high point of the evening was when I almost crashed into two wild boar on the way home. That brought me back to Earth with a bang.
Enough bad gravity jokes… we also made plans for Friday. Stephen is American and, like every American I’ve ever met, Thanksgiving is very special to him. He wanted to organise Thanksgiving dinner for his friends. We couldn’t all do Thursday, so he booked with a little bistro in a nearby village for Friday evening – they were serving Thanksgiving dinner on both nights. Turkey and all the trimmings in a tiny village in the wilds of Provence? Really?
Well it turns out that this particular restaurant, Le Bistrot de Pierrerue, is run by two Americans, Maryvonne Kutsch and Marc Marinelli. How do two Americans end up running a restaurant in the middle of
nowhere Provence? Maryvonne said she’ll tell me next time. I’m guessing it’s a long story.
Our motley crew turned up at the allotted hour, found parking (harder than it sounds) and made our way into the deserted restaurant. There were five of us, Stephen, Roch, Anna, Nicole and myself. I hadn’t met Nicole before, but I think we may have been separated at birth! She’s an agriculturist and is passionate about the countryside and rural life – we have a lot in common and once we started talking there was no stopping us! She and Roch are French, as is Anna, but Anna has spent a lot of time in the US, so she knows all about Thanksgiving.
More than that, both Anna and Stephen are Jewish. We may have been a day late celebrating Thanksgiving, but we were right on the mark for the first day of Hannukah and Anna had brought along a little Menorah as a gift for Stephen.
Maryvonne had the perfect candles for it and after some discussion about how many candles should be lit (they agreed that it should be one but that four looked nicer) it was proudly set at the head of the table and Stephen recited a prayer. Well, as much of it as he could remember, anyway.
The other diners arrived in dribs and drabs; we nibbled on our olives, sipped our Kir Maryvonne (a house speciality) and chatted until Maryvonne stood up to do a Thanksgiving address.
Most of the people in the restaurant were French, so she did it in French. Not only did I understand every word of the story of the first Thanksgiving, I even translated bits of it for Stephen!
Then our starters arrived – a basket of Cranberry and Gruyère gougères. “Doesn’t seem very American,” Somebody at our table was heard to mutter. Maryvonne responded like lightning, “Actually, the recipe was in the New York Times this week!” putting Somebody right back in his box… But, more importantly, how were the gougères? They were delicious and they set the standard for the rest of the meal.
How would the turkey be, I wondered. I’ve heard whispers that it’s really difficult to get good turkey in France but I needn’t have worried, these Americans had it sussed.
It was delicious, tender, juicy and just right, with a bowl of cranberry sauce on the table to go with it. The stuffing was very tasty, too (but SHHH! my stuffing is better). The turkey was served with gratin Dauphinoise (well now, I don’t think that’s very American but I wasn’t going to say anything – I LOVE gratin Dauphinoise!!) and a generous portion of Brussels Sprouts. Family members reading this will snort their coffee at this stage – me and Brussels Sprouts? They’ll be pleased to hear that nothing has changed. I did try them… but there was a large, hungry man to my left who was pleased to received all the sprouts I could spare. The same large, hungry man was also pleased to receive a second serving of the main course and happily worked his way through it, still singing the praises of the turkey in between mouthfuls.
On to dessert – apple and cranberry crumble and pumpkin pie. The crumble was lovely, but to be honest, I don’t ‘get’ pumpkin pie and it was wasted on me. A nice cup of coffee rounded off the meal, but I should have ordered decaf – I was awake for the night!
Was this my first Thanksgiving dinner? I don’t think so – I have a distant memory of a lovely, kind American lady called Floelle inviting 13 young Irish people to her apartment in LA for Thanksgiving way back in 1983. If any of those Irish people read this (and I know some of you do from time to time) leave a comment and let me know if I’m right!
Whether this was my first or my second Thanksgiving dinner, it was a special evening, spent with new friends for whom I am truly thankful.