How to Have Thanksgiving in Paris

Thanksgiving-dinner2-760380For American, the fourth Thursday in November can be a hard day to be in France. Besides the occasional co-workers or waiter who asks–Wut iz zis Zanksgiving, the day will be just the same any other Thursday in November. But don’t despair! There are an estimated 50,000 Americans living in France. If you got to have some turkey and stuffing, it can be done in Paris.

According to the NY Times, the Thanksgiving essentials are turkey, stuffing, gravy, cranberry sauce, potatoes, something orange (yams, squash or even mac and cheese), a green and snappy vegetable, and pie. Now here is how you are going to find them all!

Une Dinde
The French traditionally eat turkey (une dinde) at Christmas. The bird is definitely part of the culture, but unless you live in an area of Paris with tons of other Americans, a turkey will be hard to find in November. We recommend ordering your turkey ahead of Thanksgiving at your neighborhood butchers. Make sure you remember to convert pounds to kilos to be sure to get the right size bird. If you have a tiny stove, we’ve heard that some butchers will cook the turkey on their rotisserie too.

Gertrude Stein famously couldn’t decide if she wanted chestnuts (les châtaignes), mushrooms (les champignons), or oysters (les huîtres) in her Thanksgiving stuffing and so Alice B. Toklas created her signature dish by using all three. All three can be easily found at any Parisian market.

Cranberry Sauce
Cranberry sauce is a little trickier. Dried cranberries and cranberry juice started appearing in French supermarkets a few years ago, but fresh cranberries or canned sauce are still hard to find. The closest thing to fresh cranberries that you can find at most French markets are groseille. They are not the same, but their tartness and color make them a decent substitute. Otherwise, for the real thing try one of the shops that specialize in import American foods, such as the Thanksgiving Store, 20 Rue Saint-Paul, 75004.

Something Orange
A sweet potato (une patate douce) is probably the easiest thing to go with here and you’ll be sure to horrify and delight your French guests if you have the courage to put marshmallows (les guimauve) on top of it. Add this one too to your market-shopping list.

A Green and Snappy Vegetable
If you are a traditionalist and believe that only green bean (les haricots verts) casserole is the only acceptable green dish to serve, be prepared to make it from scratch or import it from the U.S. Cream of mushroom soup and pre-made crispy onions are not stocked in most French supermarkets. Here’s a great recipe and you can find everything in France if you’re feeling up to the challenge.

The saying goes that there is nothing more American than apple pie, but for us Thanksgiving isn’t Thanksgiving without a pumpkin pie (tarte a la citrouille). The Thanksgiving Store sells a limited number of Pumpkin Pies. If you feel up to breaking from tradition, just a little, there are the pumpkin cupcakes from the Sugar Daze Bakery, 20 rue Henry Monnier, 75009.

Since you don’t get off work for the holiday, we understand if you don’t have the time or energy to cook a full meal. Here are a few addresses where we’ve been told you can find the traditional meal:

[list type=”check”]

  • American Chuch in Paris (communal meal): 65 Quai d’Orsay, 75007
  • Harry’s Bar: 5 Rue Daunou, 75002
  • Joe Allen: 30, rue Pierre Lescot 75001
  • Bistrot St. Martin: 25, rue Louis Blanc 75010
  • Breakfast in America: 17, rue des Ecoles, 75005


Ready to practice this new vocabulary before going to the market? Call or contact us to start taking lessons.

Photo from Paris Breakfasts.