Any event I have been to here always involves lots of champagne and wine. Which I am totally okay with, in fact they think it is funny that I love both so much until I explain how ridiculously expensive really good wine or champagne is back home. Either way I feel like I should explain how dinners work here. For Christmas there are traditional meals (at least in this region anyone know about the others?). Here it is salmon, oysters and foie gras. All of which are delicious and all of which I ate.
We always start with a cocktail hour. Always. Usually this is champagne and then little quiches and snacks (for Christmas Eve we had smoked salmon on bread and a few other little things). Basically everyone just sits around and talks for awhile but at Christmas I felt like I was in a movie. The tree was decorated and lit up and everyone was laughing as we started to pour the champagne. The wife of my host mom’s brother said that she wasn’t drinking champagne….they announced they were pregnant and expecting the baby just before I leave in July. Then we sang Christmas carols in English and french. It was a really cool way to see both cultures blended, since I was their first American at Christmas.
The food is always absolutely fantastic after an entrée of boudin blanc, we moved onto a chapon (which is a rooster) complete with sauce, roasted chestnuts and green beans. All the while, keep in mind, the wine is flowing. I have a wine book that my friend Nicole gave me for graduation, that everyone loves. I record what wine, the flavors and give it a number on a scale of one to ten. It is always a source of entertainment as people rate the wine we are currently drinking and look back on past ones.
For dessert at Christmas, the tradition is a “bouche de Noel” which is a thin cake that you add some sort of filling to and then roll it up with ganache on top. It is decorated to look like a log. I also made three different cookies with American flavors: peanut butter chocolate chip, pumpkin chocolate chip and oatmeal.
The traditions may be a bit different here but Santa is still just as anticipated by the children, I actually showed the kids something I used on the internet that can track Santa anywhere he is in the world which everyone just loved.
Joyeux Noel, Merry Christmas.
Christmas Day we went to my host father’s uncle’s house. Christmas Eve is spent with the mom’s side and Christmas Day is spent with the dad’s. Our appetizers were little puff pastries with various things in the center and something resembling caviar. So fancy. So the first bottle of champagne was opened with success, although not by me. There were several things that I learned about champagne that day, such as “how not to open a bottle of champagne”. One a champagne bottle there is first the foil on the bottle, then this little metal thing that holds the cork in and the cork itself. Apparently also if the champagne is cold, the bottle is not as pressurized. If the bottle is warm, however, the pressure inside the bottle builds up faster so that after you start to open the metal clasp, you have to get the cork out quickly as the pressure inside can pop the top off.
I wish they had shared this information before I opened the champagne bottle.
I took too long between taking the metal thing off and taking the cork out. This resulted in the cork being shot to the ceiling as I for some unknown reason turned the spraying bottle towards my host father’s uncle, showering him and soaking him in champagne. Not my best moment, although luckily no one was mad at me for it.
For the big Christmas lunch, we ordered from a nice restaurant all the things. After fresh oysters and foie gras, we had a lobster salad on a bed of turnips. So delicious. They have “lard” here which is pretty similar to bacon, or the closest I have found here. For my main course I had pheasant with lard/bacon on top on a bed of green veggies with a bacon/lard sauce. It was fantastic. And of course for dessert another delicious bouche de Noel, this one complete with a gnome (I named him Mike) and his hatchet and a polar bear. It was adorable. Also, they think it is like a game to make me finish the bottle of everything. I hadn’t slept muh the night before so when we went to the movie theaters later….I fell asleep for a few minutes.
All in all I had a really great Christmas and really felt like I was a part of the family here. My host dad even said to me after “I hope you were too busy and having too much fun to be sad about not being home”. It was hard not being home but Christmas was really great here as well, still a good time with a great family. Merry Christmas from our family to yours!