Every year around this time, Americans new to Paris panic: where are we going to celebrate the holiday that one of my favorite butchers once called “American Christmas?”
Never fear – things have improved leaps and bounds for turkey-loving folks in Paris since the 80s, when my mother had to ask her local baker to roast her turkey for her in his industrial-sized oven, and even since 2007, when I couldn’t find orange sweet potatoes or pecans anywhere in the city and had to buy white Japanese potatoes and walnuts for my “pecan” pie.
1. When to Celebrate
This is a divisive topic: some people hold fast to the fourth Thursday of November and refuse to celebrate any other day; others (including yours truly) default to the Saturday after, because seeing as Thanksgiving isn’t a holiday in France, most people still have to work. Part of what I love about Thanksgiving is the day-long buildup, so having people over for a turkey dinner after a day at the office just doesn’t feel the same.
That said, there is one benefit to opting for celebrating on Thanksgiving Day: all the stores stay open, so if you have a last-minute butter emergency, you can still run out to the store and get some. (Or… you could. Given the current butter shortage, you might be better off defaulting to lard.)
2. Where to Celebrate
A lot of expats, myself included, prefer to make Thanksgiving dinner at home and invite fellow expats over for a Friendsgiving feast. Of course, since most people in Paris live in tiny apartments, this can be challenging, especially because a lot of us only have a toaster oven to work with. It can be done (as I proved for the Impatient Foodie last year – and for scores of expats over ten years here), but some will nonetheless opt instead to go out for Thanksgiving.
Here are just a few spots organizing Thanksgiving festivities this year – be sure to reserve!
- Joe Allen serves up a Thanksgiving prix fixe every year
- Red House will be hosting its annual Thanksgiving potluck
- Belushi’s does an all-day Thanksgiving dinner accompanied by heavy drinking
- Verjus, run by an American husband-and-wife team, does a Thanksgiving pairing menu for the whole week leading up to Thanksgiving
3. How to Pull it Off
If you do decide to make Thanksgiving at home, sourcing may be a bit tougher than it would have been at home. While things have improved since I wrote about how to survive Thanksgiving in Paris for Serious Eats back in 2014, some American staples – Stovetop stuffing mix, cranberries, marshmallows that aren’t pink, and even turkey, which is a traditional Christmas centerpiece here but isn’t widely available at the end of November – may be more difficult to track down.
Over the past few years, I’ve seen cranberries pop up at Monoprix and sweet potatoes go from an “exotic” fruit to a regular grocery store standby. I’ve also learned to make my own chicken stock, though now you can buy the bagged and boxed stuff at Marks & Spencer (or go full-on French and use a bouillon cube).
And for everything you can’t track down at Monoprix, Paris has a few American supermarkets, including the aptly named Thanksgiving in the Marais, where you’ll be able to get your hands on many of the things you’re looking for (and a few you didn’t realize you were, like canned frosting, which while not a Thanksgiving staple, is delicious).
But my favorite tip for a successful Thanksgiving in Paris, which comes from years of making aforementioned toaster oven Thanksgivings, is to forego the turkey entirely and purchase a roast chicken or two from the butcher.
Yes, I know, it’s blasphemy, but hear me out: chicken is so much more tender and juicy than turkey, and since the butcher cooks it for you on the rotisserie, this won’t take up any of your coveted oven space.
And honestly, no one cooks poultry better than a French butcher… and that’s something to be truly thankful for.