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November 04, 2008

Parisian Pumpkin

Pumpkin Pie
The first Parisian pumpkin pie ever?

by Bryan Pirolli

I don't get homesick. I'm not sure what the magical vaccination was, but I'm glad I had it now that I'm living in Paris. That being said, I'm not totally immune: Paris doesn't do nonstop subway service, it doesn't have good diner food, and it surely isn't the City of Reese's--all very much to my dismay. But I refused to believe that I'd lack pumpkin pie this autumn, even if the French don't embrace Thanksgiving.

I could have purchased a whole pumpkin and created a pie from scratch, but my little galley kitchen did not smile on that idea. And of course, no normal Paris grocery store carries canned pumpkin purée. Some specialty shops have hard-to-find American products; Thanksgiving, located in the Marais, sells overpriced Campbell's soup and Zatarain's jambalaya mix, but who wants overpriced?

Thank goodness for the grands magasins, the big Parisian department stores, like the famed Galeries Lafayettes, that have expansive grocery departments. I decided to visit Le Bon Marché, a historic department store near the Latin Quarter. The Christmas decorations were already up, and I was pumped for some pumpkin pie mix. Sure enough, under a sign that read Etats-Unis (United States), I found Festal brand pumpkin pie mix. Equally obscure brands of peanut butter cups, yellow mustard, and marshmallows filled the shelves, and I wondered how many of these products actually came from the States--and when they came. I blew the dust off three cans of pumpkin deliciousness and headed to the register. Ten Euros lighter and three cans heavier, I strutted home prepared to bake a Parisian pumpkin pie. 

Together with a few dashes of cinnamon, a little nutmeg, some sugar, and a tart shell, my pumpkin pie was a crowd pleaser at work the next day. By 10 a.m., my French colleagues had almost licked the baking pan clean. They may not celebrate Thanksgiving, but at least the French can appreciate the bounty we bring--and isn't that what it's all about?

Further reading:
* Try Pumpkin Meringue Pie, the Franco-American Thanksgiving dessert (Food & Wine)
* Get a jump on Thanksgiving supper (Gourmet)
* Catch of the Day: International noshables

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