HOW MY FRENCH HUSBAND HIJACKED THANKSGIVING
It happened over several years, with the subtle finesse we’ve come to expect from the French.
He entered our family just under fifteen years ago.
He is a foodie extraordinaire and an accomplished cook in his own right, but he ingratiated himself in the beginning, acting as the sous chef for my mother who is the culinary queen of our family—then slowly, skillfully, and sneakily—He hijacked Thanksgiving.
The only demand he acquiesces to is that it must be an ORGANIC turkey.
“No antibiotics, no hormones…no taste” he sing-songs sarcastically under his breath as he places the order every year.
I suppose we should be grateful that he hasn’t decided to switch fowl on us yet. Next year it could be pheasant or duck in the center of the table.
See, that’s the thing, we, my siblings and I, we LOVE and crave all year ‘round, my mom’s traditional Thanksgiving feast.
The one we ate as kids. The meal whose perfection is so sublime it should never be messed with. EVER.
Yet…the now reigning chef in our holiday kitchen—the one with the red passport—HE little by little, year after year has modified each dish so completely that it bears little if any, resemblance to the original.
And my mom doesn’t give a hoot!
She’s just so thrilled that someone has taken over the culinary heavy lifting; along with the fact that I finally found a husband—and he’s French—that she sits back and happily eats what she is served; doling out the compliments like Tic-Tacs at a cigar shop.
This European guy feels no sense of urgency—he doesn’t start the turkey until late morning.
I remember waking up as a child, the house already heavy with the aroma of a turkey that had been in the oven for hours. Now I sit and watch the Thanksgiving parade, eyeing him suspiciously as he lingers over his coffee and sudoku.
You can’t rush the French—about anything, most especially cooking—it shows disrespect and they just won’t stand for it.
Yet…he shows the old hen no respect. He’s rude to her, slathering her with butter and olive oil and then flinging her, breast down, legs in the air (the turkey, not my mother) into a 500-degree oven for the first twenty minutes.
His mashed potatoes are loaded with creme Fraiche, truffle salt, and a pound of butter…yet oddly enough—not a single calorie. Oh, the French.
His vegetable of choice is the brussel sprout. The recipe is so elaborate, with shredded bacon and gruyere in a balsamic reduction; that he’s only allowed to make them every other year.
That allows us to have the green beans in mushroom soup with the dried onion rings on top for the alternating years. He would never deign to eat that slop. We, on the other hand, squeal with delight in gleeful anticipation of this mushy mess of soupy goodness while his face assumes that pinched look of French disapproval.
Maybe the worst atrocity against the holiday is the stuffing; or lack thereof. He was raised in France. They don’t know from stuffing. They have bread pudding.
This year he is repeating the mushroom and leek bread pudding that he served last Thanksgiving. It really is delicious, don’t get me wrong, it’s just not my mom’s stuffing and it doesn’t go well with gravy – if you can imagine that.
As long as we’re talking gravy. His gravy is ridiculously smooth and savory, I’ll hand him that.
No one can figure out how he does it and I still haven’t caught him in the act of making it. I’m convinced it is delivered by Trappist monks to the back door just before we sit down.
Yams and sweet potatoes are not his things either so he’s given us the okay to make my mom’s killer Sweet Potato Casserole. It is heart-stoppingly delicious. La petite mort— it is THAT good.
It’s been ten years, and I’m just getting over it.
Nope, no Norman Rockwell moment at our house.
Instead, with knives so sharp they can slice a tomato, he carves the turkey up in the kitchen like a skilled butcher, arraigning it artistically by sections on a white platter; placing the drumsticks on the sides like exclamation points. I’ve actually come to appreciate the expediency of serving the bird this way.
White meat on the left, dark meat on the right.
But this is a day about giving thanks and although He has hijacked this most American of meals, I must admit that we are lucky and ever so grateful to have this Frenchman in our family.
Every. Single. Year. He takes us on another culinary adventure, expanding our palates by spending weeks shopping, hours chopping and delivering to our family such a carefully thought out and meticulously prepared and delicious feast.
We love you!
Now let’s eat!