In real estate the mantra is location, location, location. Here in Paris I think it’s safe to say that food follows the mantra presentation, presentation, presentation. And what’s more, it tastes so good too! At Christmas the patissiers (pastry chefs), chocalatiers and traiteurs (caterers) out do themselves.
The displays of gateaux, particularly the traditional buche de Noel (Yule log) are absolute works of art. The decision on which delectable treat to choose is impossible.
Today the food shops and markets are buzzing with shoppers buying their Christmas provisions. Typically, the menu will include fresh oysters; and guess what, it’s been reported that oyster shucking injuries are a common presenting ailment at Accident and Emergency centres over the festive season. At our local Carrefour supermarket the boxes of oysters-in-shells are stacked high. I remember last year they were all gone in a couple of days. Scallops, smoked salmon, and caviar are all readily available for the Christmas menu as is foie gras – duck or goose – and for the main item; poultry.
The poultry on sale is eye-catching to say the least. I’ve seen pheasant, goose, duck, quail but not a lot of turkey. Most commonly though I’ve seen large capons (in English it’s a chapon – a neutered rooster, generally fed grain). They are sold in the butcher shops usually with the head, feet and tail feathers still attached so that you can see the provenance of the bird – actually it’s a bit gruesome for me. For Christmas dinner last year I cooked delicious duck in orange sauce with duck breasts I had bought from a producers market which meant I didn’t have to deal with the head, feet and feathers. This year I am the guest so dinner is going to be a surprise.
Its interesting that there has been quite a lot of debate in the media about the ethics of foie gras production, but despite apparently increasing numbers of French who declare they won’t buy foie gras because of the animal welfare issues, it’s sold in abundance for the traditional festive menu. Our local traiteur has a fine display of ready to serve foie gras and other mouth-watering pates and terrines.
Food is a big part of the spectacle we are lucky enough to experience here, and the French set the standard. My culinary skills don’t reach the dizzying heights of the French chefs, but I had fun making a platoon of bonhommes de neige for knitting group friends. They tasted good too. (Edmonds cookbook recipe for Yoyos, white icing, marshmallows and chocolate chips and sticks.)
Wherever you are and whatever you will be eating, I hope you have a wonderful time and enjoy your favourite traditions, culinary and otherwise. Merry Christmas.