Thursday, 25 December

Attempts in France (minus Alsace-Lorraine) at being gemütlich at Christmas time, such as Christmas markets, just seem fake. Decorations in Paris always nudge into the gaudy and/or the tacky. Along the boulevard St Germain, near our apartment, trees have been surrounded in lights to look like champagne glasses. It just doesn't work.

Food is the main concern. At the butcher last week, with many turkeys and capons dangling just over our heads on hooks, still with some feathers around their necks and hind quarters, the customer behind me asked the butcher's advice: "Which is better?" A long discussion followed on the merits of each. Turkeys are traditional but sometimes a little 'lean' (read dry). Capons are fattier but less traditional. The woman remained conflicted. 'My husband is turkey but I'm capon.'

I brought this question home, where four/fifths of our brood are gathering. Capon won the vote for Christmas Eve dinner. When I picked up my order (no leaving these important decisions to the last minute), the butcher told me how to cook it. I thought I was all set until, on the way to Normandy in the car, I heard a chef on the radio giving advice on festive fare (these shows go on forever with a zeal that verges on the fanatic). A woman called in, asking if it was good to poach the bird before the oven.

"Yes," said the chef. Hmmm...I started thinking..."but the bird has to be completely sewn up."

"My husband will do the sewing," she said brightly.

I looked at David: "No poaching for our bird."

But it was a hit nevertheless. And we are all happy to be together in our house.

Today, after stockings and our traditional breakfast of French toast (pain de mie being the best bread for this dish--I challenge anyone to find a better type), we move on to a sea feast of oysters, langoustines and smoked salmon, also ordered in advance.

Wishing one and all a merry, happy day and as much good food as we're having.