I never knew a bag of fresh cranberries could be so exciting.
Since a lot of cranberries are grown in Massachusetts, it's usually not a big deal for me to find them in the Boston area where I normally live.
But spotting them in Paris, France, where I am currently based — now that’s unique.
As a French resident of Massachusetts, I have reported previously about the thrill of discovering a French fine foods store in Lexington, Mass, called MA France.
As of today, that thrill is gone — or temporarily replaced perhaps — by the thrill of discovering an American grocery shop in Paris.
Thanksgiving (yes that's its name) is a small shop in the Saint Paul neighborhood of Paris. Its shelves are filled with all the stuff that you would find in a regular supermarket in the United States, the no-big-deal and slightly junky items like Fruit Loops, beef jerky, pancake syrup and peanut butter. But come Thanksgiving, Americans flock to the store to grab exactly what they’d get back home: Beside the traditional pumpkin and apple pies and fresh cranberries— which aren't grown in France — you will find all kinds of canned goods, pumpkin, corn and creamed corn, broth, evaporated milk, clam juice and boxed and bagged goods, like Kraft Macaroni & Cheese, Jiffy corn bread, stuffing and spices.
I got a few items at the store today, and as I waited in a very long line to pay, the owner told me, not surprisingly, that the store largely makes up in just one week, this week of Thanksgiving, for the quieter 51 other weeks when people trickle in to get Hershey Syrup and Aunt Jemima syrup.
Turkeys are hard to find this time of year, as French customers will not request them until the Christmas season. But you can order them through this store. In fact, a large refrigerated truck was parked outside the shop this afternoon. It was filled with fresh whole turkeys. The poultry vendors told me they had at least 300 turkey orders just this week for this one store alone. But they lamented that, unlike the French, who will bake lamb, ham, turkey and other poultry around the holidays, Americans “just want their turkey.”
I bought cranberries, sweet potatoes, Jiffy corn bread, canned pumpkin and “real” American Skittles for my sons. And then all of the sudden, something inconceivable happened: I felt the need to grab a jar of Fluff, even though I have never used the stuff for Thanksgiving back in the US. And why not? As a dual citizen, I may be a French expat in Boston, but here in Paris, I am an American expat. So I got my Fluff to prove it, in extreme American solidarity. If that even makes sense.
But it wasn’t just getting my American food fix that was exciting today. It felt really good to see a packed and festive store in Paris, and to share the excitement with customers in it, amid the deep sorrow the city is going through.
I have never celebrated Thanksgiving outside the United States before, but there is no other place I would rather be than Paris right now.
Still, as a dual citizen, I am holding onto those Massachusetts cranberries as precious red gems from my other home, and a key to the success of my first overseas Thanksgiving.
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