Back when I was a little girl, my mum and I used to visit my grandmother at work at a dentist’s office in Boston, where we would meet up with my aunt and cousin. I’m sure it only happened a handful of times but I have very fond memories of the five of us girls going out to lunch at Friendly’s where we’d share BLTs and grilled cheeses with chocolate milkshakes. Remembering the lunch rush bellowing around us, taking refuge from the winter wind, brings back a cozy feeling of being loved and a part of something special.
The weather lately in Lyon has been beautiful during the day but grumpy in the evenings – windy and brisk with some out-of-the-blue rain to top it all off. It’s one of those weeks that calls for real feel-good food. Anticipating a big upcoming culinary undertaking (stay tuned!), I decided to experiment with the basics this week and worked off of the “Broke & Fabulous Grilled Cheese” recipe highlighted in Glamour’s new recipe book, 100 Recipes Every Woman Should Know and Emeril Legasse’s recipe for Perfect French Fries.
The first summer I lived in Charlotte, North Carolina, I worked at Banana Republic. The following summer, I worked as a lifeguard at the local Y. These were my first “real” jobs – my first non-babysitting, tax-paying gigs. I loved feeling like an officially productive member of society. To complete my new grown-up vibe, I would often have lunch at Dean & Deluca and spend way too much on a curry chicken wrap and bottled water, if only to admire the sharply dressed banker-types and their spouses connecting before shuttling off to the next board meeting or tennis lesson (or so I imagined).
Last week I found a great curry chicken salad recipe that brought me back to that grown-up-feeling place. My job situation is potentially starting to look up and I’m getting into the real swing of living in Lyon – it feels like I might just be setting myself up for something great. This mid-week sammy was just what I needed to cement the sentiment.
Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. Period. It’s not just my favorite American holiday; it’s my favorite holiday ever, without qualification. There is nothing better than being surrounded by the people you love and who love you, working together in the kitchen all day, with intensely delicious smells wafting throughout the house, thinking about how awesome it is that this is your life, and being grateful for what and who you have. Some people like Christmas for this reason, but I think Christmas is too burdened by consumerism and pressure to give good gifts and to like the gifts you’re given – there are too many expectations. Thanksgiving is just about people and food, two of my favorite things.
On a separate note, moving to France has been an emotional roller coaster for me. I love living with my boyfriend (the adjustment to seeing each other every day and sharing space has been smoother than I expected) and I feel totally stimulated by the immersion in a new culture. But I have a very close relationship with my family and, given that my boyfriend has to work a lot to make this move feasible, I feel lonely sometimes and miss the life I had before, despite how unfulfilling it was.
In any event, when Boyfriend and I moved to Lyon, we decided that we should host a Thanksgiving dinner for his family. The purpose was multi-fold: to share a part of me and my Americanness with his family, to thank them for their love and help while we transitioned here, and to debut our apartment as a place where family and friends can and should gather for love and food and laughter.
The preparation for Thanksgiving was a monstrous undertaking, in part because I live in France but also because I’ve never coordinated a Thanksgiving before. I’m usually a gofer in the kitchen, taking orders. My grandmother and mother ended up mailing me some critical ingredients that are not easily available in Lyon (corn syrup, cranberries, etc.) and I practiced my French pronunciation for days before we ordered our dinde (turkey) from the butcher at a nearby market. There were a few tense moments in the cuisine on the big day but with the help of my boyfriend and his younger brother, we pulled it off.
Here was our menu:
- Appetizer – Mulled Wine, Pesto Crostini
- Dinner – Turkey with Gravy, Stuffing, Garlic Mashed Potatoes, Green Beans with Ginger, Roasted Carrots, Cranberry Sauce
- Dessert – Pecan Pie, Old Fashioned Mixed Apple Pie
As an American-in-France/honorary Frenchie, I thought it was absolutely necessary to make a croque monsieur immediately upon arriving in Lyon. The “immediately” part proved more challenging that I had anticipated because, frankly, the Farenheit-Celsius conversion is harder than it sounds, our brand-new oven is super finicky, and we lacked (okay, still lack) many common modern-era cooking tools. Finally, though, last Tuesday, I made my first croque monsieurs.