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Friday, October 2, 2009

Food for the Palate; Food for the Soul

The word for breakfast in French is petit déjuner, which translates literally as "little lunch." And logically, the word for lunch is déjuner. The word for dinner is dinner. Last evening, inspired by a wonderful dessert cheese called Petit Suisse, we had a petit dinner. Small glasses of Pastis as an aperitif accompanied by skewers of little pieces of pork served with cornichons and pearl onions.
A cup of vegetable soup, ramekins of "mac and cheese"--the cheese was a combo of Roquefort and Luberac and there were cherry tomatoes on top. The next two courses were salads. (The French do not eat the salad first.) Salad #1 was tiny new potatoes in creamy dressing. Salad #2 was lettuce and petis pois topped off with a baby carrot in a mustard vinaigrette. Then came the Petit Suisse served with a miniature plum drizzled with Armagnac and a single square of dark chocolate on the side.
Finally, a real dessert--canelé. A pastry we'd complain about in the U.S. because it's so small. Then Armagnac served in lovely hand painted glasses--tiny glasses, of course, with lilies of the valley painted on them.
The obsession with food in France is anything but petit. When I first visited France as a 19-year-old, all the fuss over food struck me as enjoyable, but a bit over the top.
But now, I see that relationships are nourished at the table. That love and friendship as well as food can be served up on a pretty plate. Three or four hours lingering in the candlelight with family or friends is a feast for the palate and for the soul.

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