Normally, I don’t get homesick. I never really have, even when I spent almost every summer growing up away from home. I’m naturally independent and I’m used to doing my own thing. Being alone has never scared me the way it scares other people; if you can’t be happy with only yourself as company, I don’t believe you’ll every truly be happy with others as company. And yet, on Thursday as everyone in Paris was going about his or her usual business, I couldn’t help but think of my family back home sitting around a warm Thanksgiving meal, laughing and debating ridiculous issues like whether or not aliens exist (why does this come up at every Thanksgiving dinner?).
I tried to make the day feel as much as Thanksgiving as possible, but I’ll admit it was difficult. I wore the most American outfit I own: my Northwestern sweatshirt and Converse, and I scheduled some food related outings to give me a taste of home. On Instagram last week, I found a cupcake bakery in Paris called Sugar Daze owned by an American woman who had moved to Paris. I followed the account and commented on one of the pictures asking if she would have a special Thanksgiving cupcake. She responded that she would, so I dragged a few friends there yesterday to try the Pumpkin Spice Thanksgiving cupcake and to meet the owner herself. It turned out she was from New York City and we had a lot to chat about. Simply talking to someone from home, who understood what it’s like to miss family and the unparalleled New York City, and eating an authentic American dessert (because how much more American can you get than pumpkin spice?) really comforted me on a day when I felt farther than ever from home.
That night, I took a few friends to a restaurant called La Maison Mère for what I read online would offer an authentic Thanksgiving dinner. My first choice was Breakfast in America, which is famous for its American food, especially the dinner it offers on Thanksgiving, but it was already booked. I’m usually not picky and I hate to complain, but I was thoroughly disappointed by this “authentic” American Thanksgiving. I don’t know why, but here in Paris (in fact, probably everywhere in the world except the U.S.) restaurant kitchens are not very flexible, which can be difficult for a vegetarian. So when I asked if it was possible to get the fixed Thanksgiving menu without turkey or possibly substitute the turkey for a vegetable, of course it was not. There was nothing else on the actual menu that resembled this holiday’s food themes, so I ordered the fixed menu, and my friend offered to eat the turkey. My first course was an unmemorable pumpkin soup. My main course consisted of turkey and stuffing, mashed potatoes, a tiny bit of cranberry syrup, and a square of “cornbread” that, I am not exaggerating, tasted like actual poison. The pecan pie was decent, but nothing spectacular. I must sound like a harsh food critic and I was probably expecting too much, but Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday and my family cooks the most delicious food (props to my French aunt and talented mom!). You would have thought that growing up with Franco-American thanksgivings, I would like the “Thanksgiving” dinner offered by this Parisian restaurant…but sadly it only reminded how far from home I actually was. Maybe the restaurant would have been better if I hadn’t gone on Thanksgiving, expecting traditional American Thanksgiving food, or more likely if I wasn’t vegetarian, since it’s actually known for its burgers. On the bright side, I had fun because I was with my friends, and that’s important when you’re not with family.
On American Patriotism
I’ve realized from talking to people of many different nationalities at my school that Americans are very patriotic, whether we realize it or not. No matter where we go in the world, if we meet another American we automatically feel a connection to this person. Once a friend at EF told me that she didn’t understand why when the American students in the school met another American they immediately assumed they were friends, because when she met other people from her country she didn’t feel that way. I couldn’t tell her why Americans did this when others didn’t, but I agreed that I often involuntarily made such assumptions in my mind without even realizing I was doing so. Maybe it’s because our country was founded on solidarity and patriotism, and that feeling of independence from any other nation has remained a solid foundation of American culture. Or maybe we aren’t as influenced by others since we are only bordered by two countries, unlike other nations of the world that are smaller and bordered on all sides. There is a lot to criticize about the United States, and most Americans are not afraid to do so – in fact many have made a profession of it – but at the end of the day, the majority of us are proud of our burger-loving, football-playing, celebrity-breeding country and enjoy showing it, because despite the negative stereotypes made about American culture, we’re a pretty lucky bunch to have the opportunities and freedoms offered by the United States.