Happy New 2008 to everyone!
We hope that y'all had a lovely holiday happenin' with the ones you adore. Cheers to everyone, here's to many adventures in the new year.
This year's holiday season we escaped from Paris and ran away to the countryside. We hopped on to the métro from Barbés and made the always-too-long-métro-trip to Gare Montparnasse and headed southwest to Le Mans on the TGV. It only took us 45 minutes to leave behind an urban existence and arrive at what has to be arguably one of the most beautiful regions of France, Pays de la Loire. It isn't coincidental that french royalty (when it was still around) decided to set up shop all along the river called La Loire. The landscape is gentle, the climate moderate as a result of the river, and the sky reminds me a little of the dramatic skyscapes of the prairies.
Well, Bernard's countryhouse isn't exactly along the Loire, it is actually in a département called Sarthe not far from the grand river. The area is covered with rich agricultural land and farms. So lucky for us being in the country also means being surrounded by chickens, geese, cows, horses, sheep and feral cats. And if we're lucky we get to see a fox.
So how does one celebrate Christmas in a largely atheistic/agnostic country like France? Like most other people I suppose, around a table heaped with food. *WARNING* We are entering a portion of the blog that can only be referred to as the food porn section.
Christmas Eve after midnight mass we dove into oysters from Brittany (only €17 for 3 dozen and they were delicious!), smoked salmon from a traiteur in Le Mans who charged too much, mini boudin blanc, foie gras (this country consumes it like Americans kick back bacon), and a bûche de Noël which got attacked faster than I could get my camera out.
History moment Why are those nutty french eating a cake shaped like a log? For some the reason may be apparent but if it isn't please read the following abbreviated explanation. The cake is a reference to a time when families burned an enormous yuletide log for numerous days in an equally enormous hearth. And why the burning of the log? The tradition apparently dates back to the druid celebration of the winter solstice and along the way became appropriated by the Church and invested with much symbolism associated with the birth of Christ. The transition from huge log to consumable cake occurred relatively recently during the mid 20th century, though no one is quite certain how...
Here are some other fabulous foods that we enjoyed after Christmas.