During the first year I was with my husband in Reunion, I really wanted to celebrate all of the American holidays. Looking back I guess I was a little homesick, but also I really wanted to share these cultural traditions with him. We had hot dogs and s’mores for the 4th of July, a big costume party for Halloween, and when November came along, I decided to host Thanksgiving dinner.
In the US, hosting Thanksgiving dinner is a huge responsibility. I believe it is the only day of the year where Americans eat like the French, and we aren’t used to preparing such a giant feast! Over there, in true American style, you can buy most of the Thanksgiving essentials already prepared or at least half prepared. You throw the store-bought turkey in the oven, mix the rest of the stuff out of their easy-to-make boxes, and voilà! Thanksgiving dinner in just a few hours.
In Reunion, things are a little different.
Thankfully I had the help of one of my girlfriends and her mother. We woke up very early and went to the butcher to pick up the turkey. We had to order a turkey in advance, since it isn’t something the butcher usually has in stock. This already was a shock for me, but when we arrived and he asked if I wanted him to chop the head off or if I would do it myself…I almost fainted. It was the first time I realized how far removed we are from our food in the US, (and it was also the start of why I became a vegetarian!!)
Then we started cooking. EVERYTHING had to be made from scratch. Normal Thanksgiving foods include: stuffing, mashed potatoes, yams, a baked green bean casserole with fried onions, and cranberries. Ingredients that were so easily available in the US; like canned mushroom soup and fried onions for the green beans, were now things I had to look up separately and figure out how to make myself. And of course, things like stuffing mix, cranberries, and yams don’t even exist here. We somehow found a jar of something resembling cranberries, and we used sweet potatoes for the yams. So in the end, everything worked out…especially the home-made pumpkin pie!!!
Everyone arrived and I played some Youtube recordings of things we usually watch on TV; the epic Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City, and of course, the Charlie Brown Thanksgiving special. I tried to explain the meaning behind Thanksgiving; the history between the British settlersand the Native American Indians…but it didn’t seem to translate as easily as I thought it would. Above all, I explained, Thanksgiving is a day where we give thanks for what we have in our lives. Traditionally, each person around the dinner table says what they are most thankful for. Everyone was happy to play along and we had some great laughs.
They were all quite confused, however, when I put all of the food down on the table. To my surprise, they were expecting the usual number of courses during the meal…something I was not used to! I explained that we don’t really have courses, and that we eat everything together. Befuddled, they helped me bring the food to the table, including the pumpkin pie. Laughing, I told them that we DO at least wait to have dessert until after dinner!
Reunionais Thanksgiving turned out to be the best tasting Thanksgiving of my life!! I was really amazed at what a difference everything makes when it’s made from scratch. I ended up going to the US a week later, just in time again for American Thanksgiving with my Dad…and so I saw the huge difference between what we did in Reunion and what store-boughtAmerican Thanksgiving tastes like.
It was a great day…but that was the last time I tried to host Thanksgiving. Eventually I learned that if I was going to be happy here, I had to stop trying to make Reunion into America. Things just aren’t the same, and I shouldn’t resist the fact that life has changed. Instead, I’ve learned to embrace the unique and special things that Reunion has to offer, live in the present moment, and let the past rest happily in the past.
Holidays (US) – Jours fériés (UK- Bank Holiday)
S’mores – Sandwich sucré fait avec de crackers
Feast – Festin
Stuff – Des choses
Butcher – Boucher
Chop the head off – décapiter
To faint – s’évanouir
From scratch – de A à Z
Stuffing – la farce
Mashed potatoes – Purée de pommes de terre
Yam – Ignames
Cranberries – Canneberges
Canned – en boîte de conserve
Figure out – calculer
Jar – pot en verre
Pumpkin – citrouille
Settlers – colons
Seem to – semble
A good laugh – rigolade
Courses – plats (entrée, plat principal, dessert)
Befuddled – confus
Store-bought – acheté tout prêt
Instead – Au lieu de