I have made it home to the United States for only one Thanksgiving in the past 14 years. I miss being with my family, but I have tried to make the most of it by sharing this traditional American holiday with non-Americans. For me, food is a way to share my culture with others and Thanksgiving, a holiday that typically has people sharing a meal, is the perfect opportunity for that.
My first year abroad was in Tunisia. I was living with another American and we ‘hosted’ Thanksgiving for a few of our Tunisian friends. As we were about to start cooking, sparks flew … actual sparks, not figurative ones. Our oven and stovetop were busted. We quickly bought a rotisserie chicken from down the street and packets of mashed potatoes that we made with our electric hot water heater. I had brought canned cranberries and boxes of Stove Top stuffing in my suitcase and voila! We had Thanksgiving dinner!
Every year since that first amusing, MacGyver-themed Thanksgiving, I have hosted friends to share this American holiday with me, first in Tunisia and for the past decade in Paris.
I am more than happy to prepare all the traditional dishes even though our carving skills are still quite pitiful and I have to weigh down our suitcases with cans of cranberries and pureed pumpkin on trips back from the U.S. Doing so makes it less sad to not be with my family.
It also gives our friends a chance to experience a ‘real American Thanksgiving’ as they have so often seen in many movies and television shows. I love that our friends in Tunisia and in France (and their kids) have all gotten really into it and embraced the spirit of the holiday. Before eating, I always ask everyone to share what they are thankful for and every year, without fail, one of the answers manages to bring tears to my eyes.
This year, with Covid and the lockdown in France, I’m making turkey for two. The poultry vendor at our neighborhood market laughed when I asked him to get me the smallest dinde (turkey) possible. I am just thankful that my family and friends are healthy and am hopeful that 2021 will bring people together again. To my fellow Americans, I wish you a happy, healthy and safe Thanksgiving.