Christmas Day is usually the one day of the year when it seems the rich food just keeps coming, you keep eating and drinking, all day, relentlessly. At some point you may feel you need some exercise and join in with a family backyard cricket match, but you’ve consumed too much food and possibly over-done it with the wine and champagne, so you’re not really match fit and prone to an accident. As was the case with me last Christmas Day with a spectacular collision with a family member whilst both of us were trying to catch the same high ball and looking up at the sky and not around us. Thud, down for the count then a slow limp back to the couch nursing slight concussion and a packet of Panadol.
Recently while travelling around Europe and playing music, I had a similar day of eating, a true French Provincial Feast in the Hamlet of Peyrebernède, a small country town in France near Bordeaux at the home of some dear musical friends. The quantity and richness of the food we consumed this day reminded me of a Christmas Day eating experience.
Firstly the hors d’oeuvres are presented. No meal in France is complete without a plate of Fois Gras, and there is a pallet on the table, along with more Duck Pate, olives, salamis, pistachios and the omnipresent crusty fresh baguette and this is all washed down with a lovely glass of Sauterne as we are in this region after all. I try to have little samples of each, as I know there is much more to come. Also bearing in mind that French Women are exposed to this kind of eating all year round, and remain slim because they ‘graze’ only.
Next the main course. Here we have a divinely rich, succulent Coq Au Vin prepared by George who started assembling this the day before, so the flavour of the chicken and mushrooms are nicely infused. Claire has prepared a beautifully baked classic ratatouille and golden baked new potatoes and I put out some Balsamic marinated and baked fennel with red onions. As an afterthought, a salad of rocket, raddichio and lemon juice is also presented along with even more crusty bread which is essential to mop up the Coq Au Vin juices. This is all washed down with a compulsory bottle of 2010 Chateau Balac Haut-Mèdoc, in other words a nice velvety, robust glass of local Bordeaux red.
Rather than participating in a game of cricket after all of this food, we are inspired to get the instruments out and have an impromptu jam session with our musical friends. I play the piano accordion today and it’s a physically demanding instrument so subconsciously I am thinking that will burn off a few Fois Gras calories after a few hours of pumping those bellows. We do consume more Bordeaux Red during this time, so it’s wishful thinking really.
Dinner is now on the horizon and this consists of a BBQ. Dave has sourced some rib-eye steaks which are in ‘Flintstone’ proportion and for someone like me who only eats two good quality steaks a year is slightly confronting, however I’m going in. I prepare a Gremolata from freshly picked Rosemary abundant in the garden and loaded with Garlic to accompany it. More ratatouille and potatoes are also served along with a selection of French Cheeses and more bread. And more Bordeaux red of course.
Chocolates and a strawberry tart by Claire appear afterwards, but the computer says no at this point.