Monday, September 10, 2012

Five Courses and Counting

You won't believe this but last night we had another fantastic meal!  I know, we just haven't had the chance to have a gustatory experience here (haha).  I've just resigned myself to the fact that a lot of our activities revolve around meals.  However, the French have a different attitude than those of us from Etats-Unis.  Meals last for several hours whether you're at home or a restaurant.  Restaurants will seat you at your table and assume that you will stay for the evening.  They don't plan on seating anyone else there unless you leave--there's no pressure for you to go and you don't have to feel bad for staying and staying.  You're not eating the whole time necessarily.  You can sit and drink coffee or water or wine or whatever and feel comfortable.

All this is to say that we went to the home of Nancy's friend, Claude.  Another woman, Anne who speaks only French was there as well.  Anne and I bonded instantly because she also had a severe hip fracture so we compared scars, surgery stories and rehabilitation nightmares all through our interpreter, my sister. 

So, we five women met at Claude's home in Toulouse and were immediately seated at an outdoor table where we noshed on the appetizers: foie gras (goose liver which I did not eat), salmon wrapped in something like a croissant and several other wonderful treats.  Our drinks were sparkling wine and a great tasting orange liqueur.  When our huge plate was empty, Claude brought out another. 


 This was a lightly dressed lettuce salad with dried duck pieces and pine nuts.  Now, I have to confess that duck is not on my list of must have's.  I have apparently come to the wrong country because this is a national favorite.  I was going to give it a try and found it to be quite palatable. Note the elegant yet simply set table.  There were four plates stacked on top of one another and we used every one of them.  I will take this moment to introduce you to my dinner mates.  One the left, of course is ma soeur Carolyn.  Claude is next to her.  We were guests in her home.  Next to Claude is ma soeur, Nancy and next to her is another friend, Anne.

 This was a great vegetable side dish, ratatouille.  A blend of eggplant, tomatoes, red, green and yellow peppers, onions and zucchini all sauteed separately in olive oil then mixed together with some
herbes du Provence and served two days after blending flavors in the refrigerator (heated before serving).  I could have made a meal of just this.  The duck breast (no picture, sorry) was grilled outdoors for just a few minutes and was flavorful and juicy. 

 The large silver colored salt and pepper grinders to the right were automatic, dispensing fresh seasoning at the push of a button.  They also had a light that would go on at the bottom so you could see what you were seasoning!


 The cheeses included those made from cow, goat  and sheep milk. In the center is berry preserve which is spread on the cheese.


 This was a chocolate mousse that melted in my mouth!  With fresh whipped cream and chocolate powder on top.  I would have licked my bowl if it weren't completely against the French etiquette code.

That reminds me, we did need a quick orientation before we got there on the "code".
1.  When going through a gate or door, you indicate that the others should go before you.  After a few rounds of "Apres vous"  "Non, apres vous" one person will go ahead saying, "Pardone".  I went first because I'm lame.

2.  When the hostess brings in the food you do not start until she does.  She will also give the signal by saying Bon Appetit and indicating it is OK to start.

3.  Compliment the cook during the meal (NO problem with this meal)

4.  No bodily noises or odors.  This is not one of those countries where a burp is a compliment.

5.  Don't lick out your dessert bowl or glass.

6.  Do have a magnifique time.  Laugh, talk and laugh some more.  Above all, have a wonderful time.

 And we certainly did!

(PS Tomorrow I'll tell you all about our trip to Collioure, an ancient seaside village on the Mediterranean Sea)

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