Friday, November 28, 2014

Thanksgiving 2014

A moment in a busy time of friendship and art and knowing there's only a month left in Paris to say "Happy Thanksgiving" and record-to-remember the feast we had at our place. Expat Thanksgivings are always wonderful, with this secret feeling as the rest of the world glides past you on their ordinary Thursday. Almost all of the food merchants knew of the holiday, though, having provided countless Americans with precious vegetables and meats to pull off this feat feast. All of them asked what it was really about and, because I was shopping at the market on a Wednesday and thus there wasn't a huge crowd, we talked. Many of them thought that it was a war remembrance meal - thankfulness for survival, for the war being over, more likely WWII since Americans lost more young men there. One merchant was surprised: "So, a celebration of the invasion of the Americas?" Could be that I didn't explain it well. And by that, I mean that I find it complicated to define: the deep love for the food and the gathering and the time that Thanksgiving brackets out for by-then exhausted Americans, and the wincing at history. I should have quoted Robert Reich who, in his infinite wit and wisdom, put it this way (the passage is available on his Facebook page):

In the autumn of 1621, a group of people who had long inhabited this land sat down with a group of immigrants calling themselves Pilgrims to celebrate a successful harvest. Initially, the native born had been suspicious of the new immigrants. The newcomers had come from across the sea without permission and without any rights over the land they occupied (you might even call them undocumented). They dressed oddly, had a different color skin, spoke a language the native born didn’t understand, and appeared to have few practical skills (they were nearly hopeless at hunting and fishing). Nevertheless, the native born shared their knowledge with the immigrants -- of local crops, planting and harvesting, and navigation – and thereby helped the immigrants survive.

In that first Thanksgiving, three hundred ninety-three years ago, the two groups joined together to express gratitude and mutual respect. It seems fitting that today we honor subsequent generations of hard-working immigrants, as well as the native born who have welcomed and helped them succeed in this bounteous land.

Happy Thanksgiving.

I've been thinking so much about immigration and who comes to what lands under what circumstances during this semester in Paris, and so of course Reich's words resonated with me. They also resonated with me because of the shame of Ferguson, and the sorrow and the rage and the loss of so much. There's little room in there for a "sincere" or "simple" explanation of Thanksgiving, of what we are thankful for. It's complicated; makes more for gladness than exuberance.

And we were glad, very very glad to be together with friends from far and wide and near and close. A decision was made early on to maybe not do turkey, and to go the way of duck instead. And so we did and were richly rewarded. We spent all day at the Pompidou (and Frank Ghery's hyper-realities of architecture, and Jeff Koons's cheek, and the permanent collection's insistent testament to striving for better was also intertwined in these Thanksgiving thoughts), and then came home to cook:

Magret de Canard with a red wine orange sauce (here)
Everything else was from the UK edition of Good Housekeeping
Brussel Sprouts with Garlic Butter
Potatoes Roasted in Duck Fat
Ginger-Roasted Root Vegetables
Cranberry Sauce with Candied Ginger and Orange
Apple Marzipan Tart
Orange-Chocolate Panettone Pudding

And so, to wellness and to discussion and to change and to hope and to gathering.

No comments:

Post a Comment