When I was a kid, my favorite holiday was Thanksgiving. I loved the tradition of the entire day and even though I came from a relatively small family, the entire day seemed warm and cozy. Once an adult, the day seemed to lose a bit of its sparkle for me. Most of the time, I was away from family and it just wasn't fun to cook an entire Thanksgiving meal for just myself and Dear Husband. Gradually, the extended holiday weekend became a good reason to take a short vacation.
But with Dear Daughter now a part of our lives and at an age where she can comprehend and enjoy, we wanted her to have a chance to have her own holiday traditions. It is difficult this year as we are thousands of miles away from our family. We decided to go somewhere that is truly our own, to our apartment in Brittany for the long weekend. We started out from Kaiserslautern on Wednesday afternoon; taking the high speed train to Paris. Once we arrived at Gare de l'Est, we quickly hailed a taxi and took a mad cab ride across the city (from one side of the river to the other) during rush hour. We have done this several times and we never go the same way twice. Many times, we exit the car at Gare Montparnasse with queasy stomachs but we still love to briefly see the sights along the way; glimpsing the Louvre, Notre Dame or the Eiffel Tower as we speed by.
Once secured on the second train, we settle down for our picnic dinner. While normally this consists of sandwiches on baguettes (we are in France, right...no normal sandwich bread) and a bottle of a nice French white wine, this time, I opted to go a bit upscale and made a wonderful pasta salad with grilled chicken and arugula pesto. What I didn't bargain for was the smell of garlic that quickly wafted throughout the cabin; causing heads to turn and even waking the gentleman sitting next to me. Oh well, we continued on with our meal.
We arrived in St. Malo, shortly before 10pm and walked the short distance from the train station to a hotel, where we obtained our Hertz rental car. Yes, a hotel. The Hertz office closed at 6pm so they left the contract at the hotel next door. The hotel manager reviewed my driver's license, decided that all was in order and took us out the back door to the alley behind the hotel. Using my key, I pushed the unlock button and watched for a car to light up. We found the car, threw backpacks inside and quickly made the 30 minute drive to the apartment. As we walked in the door, each of us felt it... We were home.
Thursday morning was a lazy morning. We slept late, had a decadent breakfast (with a glass of bubbly...it is a holiday) and planned a trip to the market to buy our dinner ingredients. Dear Husband was in charge of the stuffing; Dear Daughter wanted to make mashed potatoes and I got the green beans. Not knowing what kind of meat we would find, this becam a joint responsibility.
The wonderful thing about this time of year in France is that the tourists are gone. We visited towns that we haven't been to in years because they are just too crowded to visit in the summer time. Dinan was like a ghost town; most of the stores and restaurants were closed until April. While our favorite beaches are typically not crowded; this time of year, they are completely empty. We had a wonderful time visiting towns and markets that we hadn't seen in years.
Later that evening, we begin the meal. Dear Daughter makes the best mashed potatoes. Dear Husband has brought a box of StoveTop Stuffing with him, but you know what? It was perfect and his creativity with the dish made it even more delicious. I simply blanched green beans in boiling water and then later that evening, reheated with butter, oil and shallots. But what about the turkey? Do they have turkey in France? The answer is yes, they have turkey (dinde) but not in the whole form. We found a turkey roast and it worked perfectly. It was only about 2 pounds and quite thick. Surrounding it was a layer of fat; perhaps to keep it most and it was bound in string. I browned one side for five minutes in a mixture of oil and butter and then placed it in the oven for one hour. While it was resting, I took the pan that held the turkey and quickly sauteed some shallots, deglazed the pan with white wine and then added Dijon mustard and cream. I reduced that briefly and that served as our "gravy" - French style.
We sat at the kitchen table and talked about all of the things that we made us thankful. We were apart from each other last year and it was nice to be together this year. Dear Husband told stories of his childhood Thanksgivings and you could tell that they were nice memories to pass on to us. I remembered going to the Mess Halls with my family on Thanksgiving mornings to help serve the troops before heading home to my mom's succulent dinner. Dear Daughter had a mental list of the things that she was thankful for and it was an impressive list.
I hope that we have given some memories for Dear Daughter. For me...I stocked away lots of memories to keep for a rainy day. But for now...I am on a mission - to discover why all of the major restaurants in town are serving Tripe tomorrow. What in the world is Tripe and why is it so popular? Maybe I will figure it out!
For now, I have written this in record time and will go back tomorrow and correct all of my grammar. I hope that you have created many wonderful Thanksgiving memories!