Vanessa had declared a truce with Jack to help her and her mother cook a real Thanksgiving dinner in France. The Chateau's old world dining room sparkled with crystals dangling from centuries old chandeliers. But their light fell softly on the bright modern art that hung on the dark paneled walls bringing a touch of vibrant life to the ancient room. Michelle had decreed that an heirloom, cutwork lace linen cloth would be used on the eight foot walnut table. It was topped with the family's vintage Limoges Haviland china, its edges swirled with delicate lavender flowers.
Three young women from the village had been hired to help prepare and serve the traditional American meal under the direction of Jack and Mrs. Tippett. This allowed Jack to sit at the table with the rest of the family. Michelle's husband Wilhelm and his mother, Madame Heidi Werner, sat upright at the table looking skeptical. Lucy and her attorney friend, Claude, smiled in happy anticipation.
Vanessa still mad at Jack had gotten Michelle's permission to invite their neighbor and lavender competitor Ricard. He had not won the contest either so at least he wouldn't be an unwelcome reminder. He said he was looking forward to the most unusual meal.
Sylvia decided to stay rather than fly back to Chicago for TG dinner with her family. She grinned. “Give up the chance to eat a traditional Thanksgiving in France. No way.”
Edmund was invited to join them at dinner. Vanessa had insisted as an egalitarian American, but he said he would prefer eating in the kitchen with staff. Since she had seen him smiling at Genevieve, one of his helpers, she agreed to let him eat where he wanted. There he would also keep an eye on Charlie to make sure the helpers did not spoil him with too much rich food.
The meal was a great success, even Vanessa's dad who considered himself a great turkey roaster declared it was a masterpiece of a bird.
As a first course they were served a creamy, fragrant pumpkin soup. After a breif pause while the guests sipped light Beaujolais and conversed in a mixture of French and English, Edmund carried in the browned and glistening turkey. He set it down on the enormous serving buffet where he proceeded to carve it with the deftness of a surgeon. He glided around the table presenting a platter filled with serving sized pieces to the diners. Following him, the helpers presented bowls and platters of mashed potatoes, gravy, sweet potatoes (but without the marshmallow topping which Jack absolutely refused to allow in his kitchen), green beans, cranberry sauce (Vanessa had insisted, giving in on the marshmallows but not this) and a special Tippett family stuffing.
Bowing to the French tradition, after the plates had been cleared there was a light, palate cleansing green salad dressed with balsamic vinegar. Vanessa said it would allow their stomachs to get ready for the rich desserts of pecan pie and apple pie. Wines, of course. A Chardonnay with the soup, a hearty Beaujolais with the turkey, and Viognier with the dessert. Jack explained the latter was usually paired with spicy Thai dishes, but he felt it would be a good match with the flavor of the pies.
There were no American football games to watch after the meal, but there were also no dishes to wash as the smiling young women got through them in no time. They were anxious to get back to their families and friends and discuss the unusual American meal the Sevignys had consumed.
Jack was stowing his chef's knives in their special flannel wrap when Vanessa came into the kitchen. “I just wanted to thank you for helping us prepare our traditional meal. I know it's not the kind of food you prefer so it was especially gracious of you to go along with our project.”
He looked at her with a wry smile. “I felt it was the least I could do after the trick my family played on you.”
Vanessa grinned. “Well, my mother was involved in the trick and they tried to trick you, too.”
He waved his hand as if that was nothing and asked, “Is Ricard still here?”
“No, he had to get back to his family. I'm sure he'll love telling them about the strange customs we Americans have regarding food.”
“Are you disappointed he had to leave?” Jack started rearranging the spice shelves.
Vanessa thought what an odd question, but answered, “No, but again I thank you for allowing me to invite him. He has been very helpful to me.”
“Yes, he's helpful all right.” His voice was tight.
“What do you mean by that?” Vanessa annoyed, wondered if the old Jack was back.
“It's none of my business, but I thought you might be interested in him.”
Vanessa's mind floundered. Was Jack jealous? “Yes, you are right. It is none of your business. However, I am only interested in him as a friend.”
“Ah, that is good.”
“Why is that good?” Vanessa's body flushed with heat as she remembered how Jack had embraced her and was about to kiss her. She wondered what might have happened if her mother had not come in then.
He ignored her question. “Are you going back to Chicago now?”
“Yes, that's the plan.”
He stopped fiddling with the spices and looked at her. “I've been offered a chef's position in Chicago, at Le Perroquet. I just wondered if I might run into you when I'm there.”
Vanessa felt like a balloon lifting her up. “You're going to Chicago? Of course you'll run into me. My folks will want you to stay with them while you find a place to live and get settled.”
“Bien. I wasn't sure if you would want to see me again after this disastrous month.” He reached out his hand. She took it, but this time she pulled him to her, put her arms around him and kissed him. Charlie barked, dancing around them in excitement, always ready for a new adventure.