Sunday, December 28, 2014

OUR FIRST FRENCH CHRISTMAS DINNER PARTY

We've been resident in France for about eight months now and I think that our French neighbors are finally convinced that we're here to stay. They're happy that a property that had been vacant for many years is now permanently occupied. And I feel as though we've been accepted into our cloistered little neighborhood that's situated between the church and the town hall on a narrow, cobbled pedestrian walkway smack dab in the middle of Quarante. Here's why. The other day as I was walking down our little alley, one of our neighbors wished me 'Bonjour' as our neighbors always do when we pass. Then, noticing the envelop that I was carrying, she asked if I was going to the post office. I was. Would I mail a letter for her, stamped and ready to go? Of course I would. Very neighborly. And not something that you would ask of a passing stranger. I was honored.

If I had been one of the many Brits in the village, I would have been honoured.

I should be studying the French language more assiduously. We've purchased Rosetta Stone and it seems as though it's a good program. But I've relied on my four years of high school French combined with one of college and a couple of more recent night school courses. Coupled with eight months of immersion, I do OK. Day to day tasks - buying our daily baguette, for instance - are accomplished easily enough. For less mundane tasks, though, I've learned to look up vocabulary first. I use Google Translate at my desk and on my tablet. If I know the correct term for the device that operates the power windows on my Citroen, I can ask the junkyard dealer for the right replacement part. (Leve-vitre, by the way. Literally: up window.) It's a good plan that's worked well. I just have to remember to use the feature that pronounces the words that I need through my speakers. Very important, as you will learn.

We've invited our friends Simon and Julia for a holiday dinner, not right on Christmas Day or New Year's Eve but during the weekend between. Cathey wants to prepare something special. The pork here is fabulous; it actually tastes like pork. So she decided she'd like to serve a marinated, roasted pork loin as the main dish. The menu will include her signature faux pate and other nibbles at the start, chestnut soup, appropriate veggies, bread pudding, cracklings, a fruity syllabub (sort of a parfait, sort of), and don't forget the homemade Christmas cookies. But the pork loin roast will be the centerpiece.

I confess that I didn't use Google. I checked out the packaged pork loins in the super. Longe de porc. Simple enough. We visited one of our two village butchers. (Can you imagine? Two old-style butcher shops in a village of 1,500 souls.) We'd used Alain on the Grand Rue at the top of the village for our Thanksgiving turkey, so we decided to give Philippe down below a shot at the loin. We dropped by a couple of weeks ahead of time.

We want a longe de porc, we said. Sufficient to serve four. The entire longe, not trimmed. (Cathey wanted to use the rind for the cracklings.)

No problem, Philippe said.

Then he started massaging his throat and indicating that we would get the whole thing. We smiled and nodded. Yes, we wanted the whole thing. But we weren't certain about the throat business. In fact, we were sufficiently nervous that after we returned home, I went up on the internet and printed out a graphic showing the various cuts of pork. I went back to the shop and showed Philippe the printout.

Those of you who are proficient in French may have figured out the problem by now. Longe is pronounced with a soft gee, like lounge. I pronounced it with a hard gee, like long. With a hard gee, the butcher assumed that I was asking for tongue: langue. I should have known. We live in the Languedoc (Language [Tongue] of the Oc), hard gee.

Well, we straightened everything out. When we arrived at his shop the day before our dinner, Philippe brought out a full loin for our inspection. We negotiated how much of it we wanted. He cut the chunk off and deboned it at out request. Cathey kept the bones. She always keeps the bones. Back at our house, we skinned off the rind, scored it in preparation for making the cracklings, and put it aside. Cathey bagged the roast with the marinade and made room in the fridge.

Next day, voila! It neither looks nor tastes like tongue. And I don't think that you get cracklins' from tongue, either.











3 comments:

  1. Ira et al Bonjour: Have lived in my beloved France for many years. First with the USAF after a tour in Korea in 1953 at a small air base near Vichy. Then 3+ years in Algerie (Story for another time) followed by long stint in the Haute Savoir then Aix en Provence and just recently the 7thArr in Paris. Now back in New Jersey but planning the next adventure which will naturally include FRANCE. Have dual passports (Irish and US) so no problems with the immigration. Qualified for a French Passport also but who needs more than one. More later. A Bientot Bob Jeffery provence@enter.net (Internet by Enter.net of Allentown, Pa for at least 20 years and follows me wherever sans problem!

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    1. I'm a Jersey boy myself although our base in the States for over 30 years was the Lehigh Valley in eastern PA. We moved to France permanently in April and we're loving every minute of it. It's a move that we've been planning for 15 years. For about ten of those years, we owned a holiday home in the region. After a while, coming here felt more like coming home than when we returned to the States. So we sold our holiday home and bought this place in Quarante and here we are. Let us know if you're ever in the neighborhood.

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    2. Bonjour: Grew up in Reading but moved to NJ in late 40's due to better opportunities for work. Had a rather large and historic place in Milford NJ owned by writer Louis ADAMIC but sold in 2005 to move to Paris and regret nothing. France will always be my first love but getting a bit old to own again so next move will definitely be a rental. Best for now Bob Jeffery provence@enter.net

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