Talking Turkey

“Oh, good!  We’ve never had an American Thanksgiving, so you do Thanksgiving, and we’ll do Christmas!”

That was Joelle’s idea, Anthony’s mom. It was the deal we made as we left for the States, planning to return the following November.  While there we stocked up on some necessaries for a Thanksgiving dinner, including a can of pumpkin, since we weren’t certain it is something  you can find in France, but must have given pause to the TSA baggage search guy when he came across it.

We returned on November 15th, and any thoughts that the arrangement may have faded from memory while we were gone were dispelled  within the first 30 seconds we were greeted by Anthony.


“Hi. Is Karen still doing Thanksgiving?”

There would be 14 people for Thanksgiving, which in Thanksgiving speak translates to oh, an 18 to 20 pound turkey.  And that’s when the problems started. We had just stumbled into one of the most basic, elemental, intractable laws of life in France:

“There is a time for everything in France.  If it is not the proper time, then it shall not happen until it is the proper time.”  And as the French do not celebrate Thanksgiving, the middle of November is not Turkey Time.

 December first, that’s the start of Christmas season, which is The Proper Time, and suddenly turkeys are available everywhere. You can probably go into a laundromat and come out with a turkey, but not in the middle of November.  We learned we had problems when we walked into the butcher shop a couple of doors down, and told Manu we wanted a turkey. A big turkey.

Oh, his brow furrowed, and a troubled look crossed his face. He crossed his arms, and rubbed his chin, and muttered a few unintelligible things, but shaking his head in a most apologetic and sorrowful way we knew things weren’t going well for us.

“Ah, non,” said a deeply troubled Manu.  “Je suis desolet, mais  ce n’est pas possible” . Sorry, dude. Not happening. And when we further explained that we needed something in the 18-20 pound range, he gave us a look that was a bit unsettling, but said nothing.

And so, at this point the Quest For Turkey took on the feel of a drug deal, trying to score a turkey when it’s not the Proper Time.

Anthony: “Hey, my mother knows a guy.  In Le Mans,” which is the better part of an hour away. And, ya just  don’t expect to have to “know a guy” to score a turkey for Thanksgiving.

So, phone calls were made, secret handshakes  were exchanged, and  off went Anthony to score us a turkey, accompanied by a chorus of shouts from Karen and me, “Remember Anthony, UN TRES  GRANDE DINTE! TRES GRAND!

A word of explanation here.  In France  they don’t grow their turkeys or chickens with those big, Mae West, American breasts.  No, French poultry isn’t what one would call buxom. And the one we would be getting was one of the best-of-the-best, free range, bio, probably had individual feathers hand massaged daily on the thighs of virgins.  

So, when Anthony arrived the next day, proudly presenting his prized biggest-he-could-find , top shelf, “I know a guy” turkey,  it was not Mae West. Oh no,  it was a lean, mean, pecking machine that looked more like a game bird than the kind of lying-around-all-day, sipping-mint-julips-and-eating-chocolates kinda bird we have in the US. And his biggest-you-can-get turkey weighed in at a measly and disappointing  10 pounds. At which point we actively wondered if we needed to also do a roast chicken for 14 people.

And because  it was not Turkey Time in France, the price of that very special turkey was…wait for it….wait for it….

75-dollars American.

Oh yes, it was.

5 thoughts on “Talking Turkey

  1. Wonderful story, Tom. You know what, I guess Bowie is a lot like France! I had no idea! Every year we need candied fruit for the Easter cheese paskha. Sometimes we forget to buy it when “it is Time” (December, when overly ambitious “normal” folks make fruitcake.) Good luck trying to find that stuff in April, when it is not Time. That’s when we pay an arm and a leg to have it shipped in from what seems to be the only place in America that sells it retail in the “off season”.


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