Despite the fact that we have a satellite dish, we don’t watch very much television. Most days, it doesn’t go on at all.
There are, in fact, only two programs we watch with any regularity:
One is the popular French singing completion Nouvelle Star. It’s so bad that it makes American Idol ( of which it is an imitation) look like a high-quality program of refined taste and exceptional educational merit. I’m not sure why I watch it. I’d be tempted to say «It’s because I love music », but that’s precisely why I SHOULDN’T watch it.
Well, perhaps some mysteries are best left unsolved.
The other program that we often watch is Un Dîner Presque Parfait . It’s a great show to watch as a family and it’s really interesting. It’s actually a cooking contest that takes place over the course of one week. Each Monday, they present a group of five contestants living in the same town. Then every night one of them must give a dinner party for the group. You are expected not only to cook really well, but also to decorate the table elegantly and provide some kind of activity or entertainment for your guests. At the end of each meal, the four guests secretly grade the host on three points: cooking, décor and ambiance. On Friday night, the last meal is served and graded and then the averages are revealed. The top scorer wins 1000 euros, which is really just symbolic. It’s an awful lot of work and expense for the chance to win a pretty small amount of cash. But this is France and people take their food VERY seriously. It’s not for the blé, its for the honor and the gloire!!
Even a small, cow-intensive village like ours is filled with hard-core gastronomes. Take Saturday night: JP and I were invited to a dinner that some friends threw together at the last minute. We saw Martine on Friday afternoon and she said « Come for dinner! Maybe tomorrow? We’ll do it at our house, or maybe Lionel’s place. I’ll call you. »
She called and so it was that on Saturday night at about 8pm, we showed up at Lionel and Andrée's beautiful old farmhouse high on the hillside that overlooks the main part of the village. (One day I am going to BEG them to let me photograph their house and post it on my blog. It’s SO amazing and they did it all themselves!)
Our friends Lionel and Michel were already busy in the kitchen, looking very fetching in that »capable guy in an apron » kind of way.
Then another couple from the village arrived and the guest list was complete.
First of all, we were served an impressive homemade aperitif that our hostess had made from red wine and hawthorn flower buds. It was really lovely.
Then we sat down to this:
I’m sorry the light is so poor. I took these with my cell phone and I didn’t dare turn on more lights. I think poor JP was embarrassed enough.
« We ‘re just tourists » he told everyone. But when I go into my « This is SO going into my blog » mode, there’s no stopping me.
The dinner was very simple, elegant and good. It was:
Batavia salad with cherry tomatoes and herbs
New potatos with herbed yogurt sauce
Fromage frais with herbs
Round zucchini stuffed with pork.
For dessert there were apple slices sautéed in olive oil, served warm with whipped cream.
Though conversation touched many topics: politics, philosophy, language, travel, etc, much of it revolved around food.
Three of the men present had just gotten back from a road trip to Perigord to track down local wines, foie gras, magret de canard and other gourmet specialties. A six hour drive just to go hunting down food. These guys are all about the cuisine.
Before the end of the night, I was sure to warn them all that I’m not a very good cook and that they shouldn’t expect much when they come for dinner at my house. I figure that if they start out with low expectations, they won’t be disappointed…