A Miracle Thanksgiving in France

Excuse my French, but throwing a Thanksgiving in France was a complete shitshow.

For starters, I cook in a tiny kitchen with one oven, no microwave, no freezer and a stove you have to light with a match. On top of that I foolishly gave myself less than TWO HOURS to cook everything.

And you know what? It was one of the most delicious Thanksgivings I’ve ever had.


Let me start out by saying that I have shamefully never lifted a finger at Thanksgiving so I had no how to make any of these recipes. Thankfully, my friend and fellow American expat in Paris, Edna from Expat Edna, came over and helped me cook.


When I told Catherine and Olivier, the French couple I work for, that I wanted to cook Thanksgiving dinner, portion size and wine pairings came up very quickly.

“Which wine do you traditionally drink at Thanksgiving?” asked Olivier.

“Um… um… there isn’t really a traditional wine, I guess.”

“Well, red or white?”

I don’t know, what goes with turkey?”

“Well it depends on the sauce.”

This took me a while to figure out. What sauce is there for the turkey? Oh yes, gravy, duh. In the end we decided to go with red wine. Because gravy’s like, thick, right?


Then I had to fight with Catherine about the amount of meat we were going to serve a party of six; I originally suggested that we roast an entire turkey, an idea which was quickly vetoed. Catherine suggested we cook one turkey leg, but I implored her to let me cook at least two. The idea of six people sharing one turkey leg is just plain un-American.

I planned out a simple menu: roast turkey legs, mashed potatoes, stuffing, green beans, gravy and cranberry sauce.

When it came time to eat, a baguette was laid on the table to mop up the sauce, as always. (Cranberry sauce and gravy were not laid on the table because there are no fresh cranberries in France apparently and I ran out of energy to make gravy.)

Then the moment of truth came; was the food good? Had Edna and I succeeded in making a good Thanksgiving?

And the answer was yes. It was very good. Ahem. This may have something to do with the fact that I used an entire block of salted French butter.

And even though the potatoes were a little lumpy, Catherine raved, “I really love this meal! Could you make it for us every Sunday?”


THANK GOD for Edna. Not only did she drip the turkey juice all over the stuffing (genius), she was a huge help to me in the kitchen and great company  as I frantically ran around like a Top Chef contestant.

And as she said at the end of the fiasco, “Thanksgiving is not a one-man show.”

No, no it is not.

So as for the moral of this Thanksgiving story? Give yourself time to prepare Thanskgiving dinner. Be flexible when you can’t find American ingredients. And when you mess something up, claim that it’s part of the tradition.

Have you ever cooked a Thanksgiving abroad?

To see the recipes I very loosely used: turkey legs, stuffing and mashed potatoes. God bless Ina Garten and food bloggers.

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About Ashley Fleckenstein

Ashley is a travel and lifestyle blogger who lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Since college she has au paired in Paris, backpacked the world solo, and lived in Uganda. Her work has been featured by Buzzfeed, Forbes, TripAdvisor, and Glamour Magazine.

8 thoughts on “A Miracle Thanksgiving in France”

  1. Haha, sounds like a good time! Glad it all worked out!

    When I studied abroad in France it was just me and three other Americans so when Thanksgiving came around we thought it would be a fun ‘culture experience’ if we put on a dinner for our French friends. Only problem was none of us had ovens! The final menu was a rotisserie chicken (store bought), mashed potatoes, green beans, pumpkin pie shooters and of course baguettes. Our French friends didn’t know what to make so they each brought huge bowls of various pasta salad. It’s definitely an experience to have a Thanksgiving abroad!

    Driftwood and Daydreams

    • I’ve heard of that problem happening in Asia but I would never guess that in France you wouldn’t have an oven! That sounds like a lot of fun though, and obviously quite delicious :)

  2. Haha thanks so much for having me over! It was actually really fun. Undoubtedly one of the best memories I’ll keep from my time in Paris.

    (Also, I’m just waiting for someone to point out that cooking with my watch and rings on is so not sanitary.)

  3. Hahaha @ wine-pairing for Thanksgiving :D

    But in all seriousness, it seems from these pictures that you had a lovely, simple, and tasty Thanksgiving feast. I have to concur about the wonders of butter; I used a LOT of it myself in an expat Thanksgiving dinner this year in from-scratch pie crust, sweet potato casserole, and the wannabee-turkey roast chicken.

    Speaking of substitutes, I ended up making pomegranate “cranberry” sauce here in Spain, since the fruits are so ubiquitous in the grocery stores. I just boiled the seeds of 3 pomegranates in orange juice with a lot of sugar and some spices like cloves & cinnamon for about 15 minutes. After chilling in the fridge for a few hours, it turned out fine! Do French supermarkets carry pomegranates (granades)?

  4. Bold!! I didn’t even bother trying to make a thanksgiving dinner here in Honduras… I’m Canadian and live with 3 Americans so they weren’t interested in doing it in October anyway, and at the time we were living somewhere with an electric stovetop and a microwave… that’s it! Kudos to you for pulling it off beautifully!

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