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Native Americans and Colonists Talk Turkey

Later today I’ll be on the TGV headed to Aix-en-Provence, where with a friend, we’ll be renting a car and then driving to the little village of Ansouis in the Luberon, Provence. Just about every year for the past many years, this has been the Thanksgiving ‘routine’ of choice — to celebrate with American friends in a beautiful village house — a home-away-from-home for long-time friend, Barb Westfield.

Barb sets a fine table with a French turkey made “sous-vide” that will beat the pants off of any Butterball. A French turkey costs a fortune —  7,40€/kg for a farm-raised turkey and 5,90€/kg for a “certified” turkey. Translated, this means that an average turkey of 7.5 kg (16.5 pounds) will cost about $60 at today’s low rate of exchange. I can certainly remember when one turkey cost me $75. By comparison, a Butterball is selling right now for 99 cents a pound, so that translates to about $16.35 for the same turkey.

But it’s not the same turkey! I’ll trade a French farm-raised turkey for a Butterball at four times the price any day of the week. It’s like trading all that space one has in a U.S. house for a tiny apartment in Paris. It’s not the price that counts — it’s the quality.

The color of the meat of a French turkey is slightly pink white and redder in the thighs. It is raised between 10 and 20 weeks for an average weight between 2.5 kg and 3.5 kg for the Thanksgiving or Christmas turkey, ready to cook and between 5 kg and 10 kg for those intended for being sold cut into pieces. The birds are bigger than a U.S. turkey, but the meat is less dense, therefore they cook in one half the time (!) and trust me, they are juicier and tastier than any American bird.

One year I researched and wrote about how turkeys are raised — those in the U.S. raised considerably less humain than those in France. Should I repeat this information, you would be off turkey the rest of your life. The poor birds don’t have a happy existence, however short, thanks to our need and desire to cook them and serve them up this time of year, or any time of year. I admit to being among the guilty who love turkey and contribute to their demise.

Tomorrow we’ll be guilty as charged while enjoying the scenery of the Luberon. If you don’t know this part of the world, you should plan a trip there. It’s one of the most beautiful spots on the planet. It is here you will find hill-top perched villages, some more than 1000 years old such as Ansouis, Bonnieux, Gordes, Isle sur Sorgue, Lacoste, Lourmarin, Ménerbes, Oppede le Vieux, Roussillon…to name just a few. (These are my favorites.)

Peter Mayle put the Luberon on the map, with his memoir “A Year in Provence” written in 1989. He created such a stir that he lost all privacy and ended up moving to Long Island…but only for four years. “But it wasn’t Provence,” he said in an interview on Connexion France. “I have lived at various times in London, New York, Devon, Barbados and the Bahamas. For me nothing comes close to Provence.”

Anyone who visits Provence gets it. Barb is hooked and I’m hooked, too. A Thanksgiving without Provence is like a Thanksgiving without turkey. And so it is that I make the annual trek south to celebrate with fellow Americans in a land far away from where the pilgrims gave thanks for their first harvest in the New World (1621), attended by Native Americans and colonists. In France we fill both roles as the Native Americans and the colonists!

When T-day is over, the tradition is to visit the open-air market in Lourmarin on Friday morning before driving into Nice for the rest of the weekend. It’s one of the largest farmers’ markets of the region taking over the tree-lined avenue all the way into the center of the village, as well as the square just above it. My first trip to Provence in the early years of living in Paris included a brief stay in Lourmarin, just a few minutes drive from Ansouis. Little did I know then that this town, along with the others in the region that took my heart would be visited every year and sometimes more often.

Tomorrow is a ‘break’ for French Property Insider, so you won’t be hearing from me, but come Monday, there will be much to tell about the Thanksgiving week in the South…Provence and the Côte d’Azur.

A la prochaine…and Happy Thanksgiving!

Adrian Leeds
Editor, Parler Paris

(with Barb Westfield)

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P.S. Time to improve your French? I recommend the Institut de Français, a language school for adults offering true French immersion, set in the lovely fishing village of Villefranche sur Mer. Contact them today to arrange you language adventure! And please tell them I sent you.

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