December 2002


Thanksgiving-Roanne style.
(How to host a Thanksgiving dinner party for 26 people when you live on a boat.)



Step 1:  Find two really nice people, like Martine and Otila, who will let you use their café for your party. The people you find must let you come over and rummage around in their kitchen looking for baking dishes or matching salad plates.  They mustn't mind when you stop in for a drink with friends, and start moving all of the tables and chairs around trying to figure out how to seat everyone at one long table.


two chefs
Step 2:  Have good friends who are professional chefs. If they owned the best French restaurant in Cape Town for many years, that's even better. This is probably the most important step in having a great Thanksgiving dinner party.

After they agree to help you with your party, hand them a couple of aprons, and let them run wild in the kitchen where they will create masterpieces.
Step 3:  Walk around the port to invite your friends.  You will need to do this in person because, if some of your friends don't speak English, you may have to use some sign language to help them understand your invitation.  This is an easy job because walking around the port is a pleasure, and your dog will be happy to go along with you.
port of Roanne

After everyone has been invited, find all of your favorite traditional Thanksgiving recipes and start making your shopping list. It will take you a long time to shop for American products in France.  After you look up the word for yams in your dictionary, and ask for them at the produce market, you will be shown something so unfamiliar that you will decide to use sweet potatoes in your recipe instead.  This won't be a problem as most of your guests won't know what sweet potatoes are and after your party they will tell you that the carrots were really delicious.

Margaret Joyce's famous Applesauce Spice Cake


Be sure to go to the bulk spice stand at the Sunday open air market to buy fresh spices, so that you can make your mom's famous applesauce spice cake.
If you want to dance after dinner, your next job will be to listen to all of your CD's to find appropriate songs, songs that will make everyone want to jump up and dance.  You might choose to make a composite CD that starts with couple French songs, Ricans, a song about how the Americans helped the French during W.W.II, and J'habite en France, because you do, and then you can go straight into dance music that your friends will like.  Mostly Motown and Beatles, some Blues Brothers, Beach Boys, Willie Nelson and B.B. King to add to the American ambiance of the evening. You can add Y.M.C.A. so that your friends can show off their French skills by singing "igrec, emme, cé, a" while forming the letters with their arms.  You could finish with Louis Armstrong's Its a Wonderful World  knowing that everyone will dance to that.
 a couple dancing
In the weeks before your party, it will be necessary to search the Internet to find a simple account of the story of Thanksgiving, because most of your guests will not be familiar with the holiday and it's history.  You can then run it through an Internet translator, and print versions in French, Dutch, Swiss German, as well as English.  The translations will be more amusing than accurate, but at least your friends will know that you tried. While you are searching around on web sites, you can find pictures of turkeys, pilgrims and Indians to print out for your table decorations, because you will not be able to find these items in France.
Table place settings
the entrees ready to be served

The week before Thanksgiving, at your chefs' request, you can walk over to the plumbing supply store near the port to buy a length of plastic drain pipe. When you see that your neighbor has set up his table saw out in front of his barge, you can run over with your pipe and ask him to cut it into equal pieces. Then you can take the pieces down to the kitchen of your chefs' boat where they will use them for molds for the Ceviche of Salmon in Watercress Sauce starter.  Thanks to the drain pipe, they can be made and chilled ahead of time, and then gently pushed onto the plate and topped with caviar just before dinner is served.

Early on Thanksgiving morning, look out your kitchen window to see if the Café Santa Monica is open before you run over to borrow something else, like a cup of sugar or another baking dish. They will be happy to see you, as they always are, and you will need to be sure to kiss everyone while saying "ça va?" "ça va". This will be one of many trips between your boat and the café before your guests arrive, but you will only have to kiss the first time.

Be very careful when you are running back and forth decorating, setting the tables and carrying over the apple and sausage stuffing, homemade cranberry sauce, baked sweet potatoes basted with a lime and rum sauce, and your mom's famous cake. Because you have a lot to do and it is getting late, it will be tempting to try to dash across the busy street when you see a tiny break in the traffic. Don't do it. With your arms full, you will just be a bigger target.
finger foods

Later in the afternoon, just before your guests arrive, your chefs can drive the turkey from their boat to the café, where he can be delivered to his place of honor on the buffet table.  Together with your chefs, you will have just enough time to finish the canapés, and then dash back to your boat to change into something nice before your guests arrive.
Voila, a traditional American Thanksgiving dinner in the middle of France.

C'est simple comme bonjour.
 our guests raising their glasses for a toast