Turning a “Dinde de Noël” into a Thanksgiving Turkey


Turkey DayTurkey is the most emblematic and essential dish of any self-respecting Thanskgiving meal…numerous vegetarians would even agree.

Both the French word dinde (from poule d’Inde) and the English word turkey are misnomers since the bird is neither Indian nor Turkish. The bird is purely American, like Thanksgiving. (By the way, the Pilgrims got the idea for Thanksgiving from reading the Bible and the holiday of Tabernacles, known as Sukkot).

So what to do in a country where whole turkeys are Christmas fare and are not ready until a full month after turkey day?

There are a number of alternatives, such as capon (which is a large, castrated chicken in layman terms) or turkey breast (which can be nicely cooked on top of a bed of stuffing). However, my French-style Thanksgiving was never fully satisfying until I pulled a whole bird out of my own oven.

In 2005, when I was pregnant with my daughter, my parents decided to visit at Thanksgiving so I had to put on a show. I called the two volaillers (butchers specialized in poultry) in Lille to get a turkey. Neither of them was able to procure me a dinde before mid-December. So I called a number of poultry farms in the Lille area until I found one willing to provide a Thanksgiving turkey. But it came with a warning : the turkey would not receive it’s final milk- based pre-Christmas meals, which would serve to make the meat tender and juicy. After some negotiation, the farm told me they could slaughter it for an extra fee, but I would have to clean and defeather it myself. When I went to the farm to pick up the bird two days before our feast, I was happy to find a clean bird ready to meet my oven.

A whole turkey between 4-5 kilos tends to cost about 50€. By going directly to the farm, even with the extra slaughtering fee, I paid 50€ for two 5 kilo turkeys.  As opposed to American turkeys, you may notice that the French turkey is a bit gamier and is more evenly proportioned. Where American turkeys are raised to have a maximum amount of white meat, French turkeys have bigger legs, especially if they are free range as my turkeys are.

If you are not interested in celebrating Thanksgiving at home, but rather with a group of other expats and Americanophiles, contact the local American clubs which organize Thanksgiving meals. If there is no American club in your area, you can contact universities that host the study abroad programs. You will find that many exchange programs organize Thanksgiving meals for their students and you may be able to latch on.

Thanksgiving is also a time for children. Some fun Thanksgiving activities include making hand turkeys by tracing your child’s hand, drawing a turkey face on the thumb, the fingers as feathers and adding legs at the bottom of the palm. You can also have your children make decorations for the guests including cranberry and popcorn garlands or drawing a cornucopia otherwise know as the “horn of plenty,” the traditional harvest symbol.

If you wish to bring Thanksgiving into your child’s school or provide a simple explanation to French friends and relatives, here is a basic explanation of the holiday in French.

Glouglou (gobble gobble in French) to all!

Make a full Thanksgiving meal away from the US by putting on the menu a perfect american pecan pie, and pumpkin bread, classical or with a cranberry twist.

If you too have a Thanksgiving recipe that you would like to share, you are more than welcomed to post it on our Facebook page or on this blog.

If you’re missing some American products to prepare your Thanksgiving dinner, you might find them on our online grocery store Thanksgiving aisle :



  1. Avatar

    The farm is in St Amand (59) – ferme avicole bauduin. they have 5 kilo birds but not before the end of november. In general, butchers do not have them until december, unless you are lucky. You can also sometimes find them at hypermarché now a days, but not until the first week of December. good muck !

  2. Avatar

    Hi there ! 😀

    I’m sorry…. are you from Lille in Northern France?!

    Great!!! I’m a French girl from Lille, who loves English &American stuff! And, this year I decided to organize Thanksgiving for my family and it will be at home!!! Unfortunately, for one week (End of September…) I couldn’t even find a person or a store or a ….. butcher (volailler) who can book a turkey of 4kg for me…. :'(

    May you help me? What was the farm? Please help me! And can you advise me
    to cook it?
    Because in France we have smaller oven than America or England… :-s
    Thanks in advance for your answer!
    Otherwise, see you one day! 😉




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