Monday, October 24, 2016
Given that much of my time here has focused on trying new foods, eating well, learning how to cook French meals, shopping for food, prepping food, etc,... it seems appropriate that the last couple of days focused on, well, yet more food.
On Sunday, as a thank you to the family, I took them out for a dinner in Nancy. Letting them choose the restaurant with the only caveat that it not be MacDo, I looked forward to seeing where we would end up. They selected Les Freres Marchand, a restaurant currently run by three brothers, carrying on the tradition that had been supported in the family for six generations, since 1880. The menu offered various meats, fish and even vegetarian dishes but most of us quickly bypassed those to review the 'Menu Gourmand,' a four course plan that made me, for one, salivate. Throwing caution to the wind (as well as the pocketbook and our waistlines), four of us ordered that while Myriam ordered à la carte, to accommodate her intolerances. The feast started with a small plate of 'saucisson', which was followed by a heavenly 'fois gras' served with toasted bread and sweetened onions (sorry, Abby, but I couldn't hold out any longer). We were then served a plate of quenelle (cooked, creamed fish), potato cutlets, and veal with mushroom sauce. All very rich, creamy, and decadent. Profiteroles was the last course, served with ice cream, chocolate sauce and cream. We rolled out of the restaurant about 3 PM, having enjoyed the repast and good conversation.
The evening was spent with four of us playing Settlers of Catan, a game to which we had introduced Nico when he was living with us. We had purchased the game as a going away gift for him and he has been promising for three months to play it with me, knowing I remain a big fan. Realizing we were getting down to the wire, he dug it out and we played a rousing game, ending in Myriam beating the rest of us handily. (She's like a French Judy, however, apologize for making offensive, strategic moves and shrugging her shoulders with contriteness when winning).
You might think that with two recent, very filling restaurant meals, Myriam would feel content with cooking simply on my last day. You might think that she had already prepared enough local dishes to give me a sense of what it means to live in Lorraine on a daily basis. You might think that I should focus on activities like gift shopping and packing as I didn't have much time left. In which case, you'd be wrong. Certainly, I did manage to get packed and readied for my early morning leave taking on Tuesday, but not without pausing for the more important activities of eating and spending time with the family.
Myriam had realized on Sunday that she had not yet made me homemade 'choucroute' (sauerkraut served with fried, boiled potatoes and various types of sausage and ham). Therefore, she was compelled to buy the ingredients at the local store and spend a few hours preparing the dish for Monday, as it was best prepared ahead of time, to let the flavours deepen. Now, I have never much liked sauerkraut so I wasn't encouraging her strongly, lest she be disappointed. But, she had confidence that I would like THIS sauerkraut. And, indeed, it was a more mild version of the cousins I had tasted previously, but with the fried potatoes and meats, was still very flavourful. And, of course, filling. That seems to be mandatory around here. She made huge platefuls of the stuff, and with us eating mid-afternoon, we all swore we wouldn't be needing an evening supper.
Ever since I arrived in France, I had been hearing about the movie Les Visiteurs, a French comedy released in 1993 about a medieval French knight and his vassal who travel to modern day times. Young and old alike would mention it as a movie I could not miss, and many times, there would be references to it or a repeating of its famous lines within various conversations. Therefore, I knew it had become a real cult movie in this country, with popular sequels coming out in 1998 and 2016. I know now I should have seen it when I first came but better late than never. As I wanted to buy the family a parting gift, and Myriam preferred that I not add another apparatus to their already-stuffed 'placard,' she suggested purchasing the three-movie set. We did that Monday afternoon and settled down to watch . Fortunately, it came with English subtitles which was necessary, as it was a fast-paced show. Funny in its own right (in a slapstick sort of way), I found it even more humorous because I was now recognizing the various phrases and words that had made their way into the popular culture and were used extensively by my French friends. Sadly, we only had enough time to watch the first two in the marathon and I had to refuse Myriam's offer to send the third disk home with me.
As Myriam and I were finishing up the first movie, Thierry came home from the grocery store to cheerfully and proudly announce he had bought the ingredients for 'raclette,' another heavy French meal to which he realized they hadn't yet treated me! Yikes. We all groaned, as we were still full from the 'choucoutre.' However, he was determined so retrieved the 'raclette' maker from the cupboard, from where it was nestled against the plancha grill, the crepe maker, the pressure cooker and however many other appliances are key to the French kitchen. Raclette is actually a semi-hard cheese most often used for melting. In French households, it is often served in an informal dining situation using a table-top grill (see pictures) where the cheese is melted in small, individual cups. We gathered around the large coffee table, Thierry having made a sizable pot of steamed potatoes, served with sliced ham. We then each peeled the small potatoes and poured our melted cheese overtop, eating the dish with the ham and pieces of baquette. Thierry was the only one partaking of the white wine that traditionally complements this. The meal served as the perfect accompaniment to the second film, and despite the Poirots having seen the films a few times before, it seemed impossible for them not to laugh along.