Friday, December 26, 2008

Le gros souper de Noël

The Christmas Eve dinner was quite an affair. Dinner started around 8:00 with some drinks and snacks and then progressed into a multi-course dinner that lasted until after midnight. All the while accompanied by a warm fire in the fireplace.

I don't have pictures of everything, but I do have pictures of a couple of F-M family/French traditions. The first is the main course: gîte de chevreuil, or leg of roe deer, a kind of deer that's only found in Europe and Asia. The French are very clear about distinguishing it from other deer and someone at dinner even tried to tell me it was a goat. However, it's not. It is a relatively small, squatty deer, which I guess makes it more goat-like, but I think the real reason I was told it was a goat is because chevreuil sounds a lot like chèvre (goat). There definitely is something a little funny looking about the animal, though, as you can see in this picture originally uploaded by Sylvain HAYE to the Wikipedia entry. Interestingly, the distinction between biche (doe) and cerf (stag) is also relevant even to non-hunters, who find it odd that doe, stag and chevreuil are all grouped under the category "venison" in the US. Whatever you call it, it was tasty and absorbed the flavors of the garlic and herbs it was roasted in.

The second traditional item was the bûche de Noël. There seems to be some question about the origins of the bûche and its ties to celebration of the winter solstice, but eating a rolled cake that is decorated to look like a log has been a Christmas tradition for just about as long as anyone at the table could remember. On this night, we had two: the one in the photo that was made by the hosts and a more abstract ice cream "bûche" that with its pale color and squared-off corners bore no resemblence to a log, whatsoever. It was, however, also very good.

We had a wonderful time and felt right at home with some very kind new friends.

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