January 6, 2016


I neglected to express my New Year's best wishes to everyone in my previous post.

My brain and body might be a little cloudy from the holidays. Look, I know what people are capable of eating around the holidays. I have seen heaping tablespoonfuls of mayonnaise stirred into dips and hoovered in minutes. Whole baked bries don't stand a chance against a crowd of holiday revelers. Entire hams, turkeys, and roasts get destroyed around an American holiday table.

But...it's a little different here. Just a quick sample of the things that were hanging out in my refrigerator over the last ten days of 2015:

  • 50 oysters in their shells, nestled on a bed of seaweed. I get 'em special from a guy in town who orders them express from Brittany.
  • A deer leg, courtesy of my friend who gives me wild boar.
  • Foie gras "nature" and foie gas nuggets nestled into a cushy tub of duck rillettes, shredded meat strings that make children giggle with delight.
  • Figs stuffed with...foie gras.
  • Langoustines, a wonderfully tender and sweet crustacean that has become a bit of a holiday specialty around our table. They're expensive, but hey, the kids can pay their own way to college.
  • Escargots.
  • A castrated rooster, or capon (chapon in French) that had been fattened for 150 days.
  • A beef roast.
  • Duck breast...served with potatoes cooked in, well, duck fat.
  • Jambon persillé.
  • Pâté en croûte
  • Shrimp
  • Saucisson au comté
  • A Christmas tree shaped pastry stuffed with pesto
  • A bûche de Noel, the traditional French Christmas dessert

We were six Americans enjoying all these things, and we did a good job. But it was strictly amateur hour when we compared notes with our French friends. One couple got to Christmas dinner at 9:00pm and returned home at 4:00am. Another family sat down at noon on Christmas day and got up from the table at 10:30pm. 

Just think about being seated around a table for 10+ hours. For most people here, that was, quite simply, normal. Every time I think I have got the chops to keep up with the locals, I recognize that the road ahead is long indeed.

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