Well, Christmas is here again and all that’s left of the turkey is… er… nothing, because we didn’t have turkey! In fact, we’ve just had two consecutive Christmases and are feeling the effects. Here in France, Christmas is celebrated on the evening of 24th when the family gathers round for a long meal, followed by present-opening at midnight. This year, M-D’s daughter and her family came from Orleans (about 100 miles away) on 23rd and left on 24th. Then M-D’s sister and her two adult sons came on 24th, so we had two consecutive Christmas dinners.
With my daughter-in-law and her family, we opted for goose as a main course, with a cold starter of foie gras (accompanied by a nice fresh bottle of Chateau Romanin), a hot starter of (would you believe) Haggis, Neaps and Tatties, and then the main course followed by cheese and salad, then Chocolate and Walnut Cake (the walnuts having been gathered from my daughter-in-law’s garden in the summer). The main wine was a 1992 Savigny les Beaune, a very smooth Burgundy wine from our ‘Special Reserve’.
What was amusing about this meal was the reaction to the Haggis, Neaps and Tatties starter! The French love to give the Brits a hard time about their food, and there are some particularly easy targets like haggis, because the somewhat biased stereotype does not match the reality of this dish. So I thought it would be fun to serve it as a second starter (after some delightful foie gras) and see what reaction we got.
In fact, I cheated a little because we took our two French grandchildren to Scotland last summer so I already knew that one of them liked haggis (we nicknamed her “The Haggis Vaccum”)! However, the one member of the family who is normally a little “French” and inclined to be very critical of anything un-French is our son-in-law, Vincent. So his reaction was the one we were a little unsure of. Yet he was the one who absolutely raved about this dish and cleaned his plate almost as quickly as his daughter (The Haggis Vaccum). It was about as successful as you could ever hope to have in any meal. In fact, the goose that followed was almost forgotten in the glowing praise for the haggis (despite the goose taking much longer to prepare and costing 50 time more than the haggis!)
Then, at the end, with a nice glass of Mas Amiel (the only wine that goes with chocolate), we tucked into M-D’s Chocolate and Walnut Cake, which is always a treat, particularly since she splits the cake in two and fills the middle with apricot conserve mixed with tiny chips of dried apricot!
So our pre-Christmas Eve Christmas passed off well and left us preparing a much simpler meal the following night, for M-D’s sister, Christine and her sons, Jerome and Corentin. We started (what again??) with foie gras (again, with Chateau Romanin), followed by pot roast duck stuffed with oranges, accompanied by another of our ‘Special Reserves’ – a 2002 Chateau Martet (a Merlot) that was, frankly, like drowning in heaven! Then we moved to salad and a wonderful selection of French cheeses and ended with a traditional rich fruit Christmas Cake that we brought back from UK with us a few weeks ago (complete with marzipan and icing). Again, surprisingly, this was much appreciated by the family because, despite often poking fun at non-French food, they sometimes find other interesting things if we take the time and trouble to introduce them to them.
So, no turkey, but lots of other good surprises. Tonight, it’s just soup, to let everything settle a little!