Last year I couldn’t help it, so I made a big batch of ground beef, extra wine, and cut dozens of ground beef. I gave it to people and companies that helped us settle in and feel at home. I had the same confusion as Vic with his cards – they were happy to receive them, but why? In January, our real estate agent said, “Thank you for the little bags! I was greeted with joy. But I don’t know if I’ll repeat the experience this year.”
What I’ve learned this year living in France, and especially from Christmases here, is that we can set such standards of perfection for ourselves that when we fail, we’re usually the only ones to worry about. What if we decided not to celebrate the “perfect” Christmas? What if we cut back on the cards, gifts, and excesses in food and drink and just focus on the festive aspects of spending time with family and friends, watching movies, walking, and sleeping? Looking back, what do you think was the most fun part of the Christmas holidays?
There is no reward in heaven for getting up at 3 a.m. to peel 10 pounds of potatoes. “New” is not a guarantee that Santa Claus will fall down the chimney with that line that caught your eye; Either buy them all, or because you can’t be bothered with parsley or sprouts, your stockpile is full of charcoal. What I wonder about – a very devastating idea – is that a good enough Christmas could be the best Christmas ever.
How the French do festive food differently
First, last, and with everything, champagne.
Like us, the French use smoked salmon at Christmas, and Scottish smoked salmon or artisanal smoked salmon made by small producers has a certain character as a starter. The French love all kinds of seafood, especially generous bowls of oysters served with slices of lemon or a few drops of reseda, made with finely chopped onions in red wine vinegar. I live in Étang de Thau, which is a saltwater pool full of shells. Our Christmas platter includes oysters, green oysters, prawns and spiny sea urchins.
Here in the Southwest, foie gras is an extremely popular part of any holiday meal, perhaps served with pains d’épis (gingerbread). Our butcher offers seven types of foie gras on his Christmas menu, and several dishes that make him the star.
Truffles add an extra touch to many Christmas dishes, such as butcher’s boudin blanc trève (white truffle pudding).