IMG_0311Christmas was just yesterday but I am so over it already. It was lovely and quiet and cozy, but even though our celebration was low-key, I feel like I’m coming off a sugar high from the saccharine consumerism everywhere. It permeates the air. It’s like second-hand smoke.

Don’t get me wrong–I love the decorations, the carols, the food. We joined the no-gift movement, so there was no pressure for shopping. We spent Christmas afternoon baking cookies. For Christmas dinner (on Christmas Eve), we ate favorite dishes–ris de veau  (veal sweetbread–the thalmus to be specific) in a mushroom cream sauce for the Carnivore and tofu turkey loaf with risotto for me and our kid. The Carnivore even flambéed his ris de veau. Cut no corners.

After dinner on Christmas Eve, we watched “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” AND the Charlie Brown Christmas special. Childrens’ shows were so classy in the 1960s, with jazz on the soundtracks. Even the Grinch song has a jazzy feel.

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A mocha bûche de noël…from a bakery. Very good!

We are gearing up for a little party on Friday with our neighbors–about 18 people, so too many for a sit-down dinner. Instead, we are hosting an apéritif dinatoire, or appetizer buffet, as we did last year for the Fête de la Lumière, which came and went earlier this month without us getting our act together.

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Count on a wine region to work the local specialty into holiday decorations.

In fact, today I must get the chicken wings in their marinade and make a few dishes. I can do the crudités and the ranch dressing while our kid decorates the cookies that we made yesterday. Thinking about buffets I have known and loved, I realize that while cheesy potatoes or green bean casserole are delicious, they aren’t in the French style. For one thing, it’s hard to eat with a knife and fork from a plate perched on your lap. So almost everything in our buffet is cold (except the wings and meatballs) and made in single servings that are easy to pick up and eat with one’s fingers.

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The reindeer lights just above the fake cacti made me smile.

The plates are dessert size, which is easier to hold with one hand. They’re real china, not plastic, and have gotten a lot of use in the 20 years I’ve had them. We noticed a happy side effect–the small plates mean people get up to serve themselves again from the buffet. And they often sit down in a different spot, which encourages mingling. Only the eldest member of our gang stayed in one seat for the entire evening; everybody else played a kind of musical chairs.

I’ll try to get some photos and will share recipes next week, because it’s unlikely I’ll post on Friday.

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The Carcassonne Christmas market and produce market hip by jowl on Saturday.

How was your Christmas? Do you also feel overwhelmed by the consumerism?

 

 

 

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27 thoughts on “Party Prep

  1. Merry Christmas, it sounds like the low-key mode is a good way to celebrate Christmas. It is a more intimate and less frantic, which leaves room to actually enjoy it more. I used to feel overwhelmed about consumerism, especially during the holiday season, when it is put on steroids. About a decade ago I proposed my family to drop the habit of buying gifts. First, it was a lot of skepticism and awkwardness involved, but now everyone loves it. These days we just buy presents for our own children and we keep it low-key as well. For me, consumerism now is just a nuisance, it doesn’t get the best of me anymore.

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  2. I don’t know if the French approach is quite as intense, but in the US the hyper-consumerism and the sense of things closing in as time grows short is quite appalling. There is little time left to reflect on what the solstice and new year are supposed to be about when you’re being chivvied to dash from one big box to the next. I avoid it all as much as possible.
    Your pictures are lovely, and it looks as if there’s just enough decoration to be festive but not too much.

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    1. Many of the retailers are global now, and so are the messages. The gilets jaunes added to the tension by making weekends off-limits for shopping, so the stores were nuts during the week and empty on weekends.

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  3. Joyeux Noël! Sounds like you enjoyed your low-key Christmas and the classic TV shows. I love the season and its traditions, and am not ready to give up gift-giving, but I do feel the food prep and fuss in France is a bit much. We did dinner on the 24th to satisfy the French tradition then an all day food fest with dinner again on the 25th. We have our daughter, the vegan vet student, home for the holidays, so our kitchen has been busy. We did a combo of veg and carnivore dishes over two days. Amazing what you can do with mushrooms, coconut milks and various nuts! Hope you have a fun holiday apéro dinner with the neighbours!

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    1. I was listening to an interview with an economist/psychologist who said researchers found people remember the end of a meal the most, and then the beginning, and don’t remember much about the middle. So the main dish is basically filler, emotionally and physically.
      I’d love to know what your daughter cooked up. We haven’t gone full vegan, just less-meat. But I’m always interested in new recipes.

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  4. We had a lovely Christmas in Germany – quiet family time on Christmas day! As I am getting older, I have found that giving the gift of time is far more precious than anything money can buy. So this year we took my parents to the opera, revisiting some of the places where they lived when they were young. It was absolutely wonderful!! 🙂

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  5. As always, a very informative and aesthetically-pleasing post. As regards consummerism, I’d rather call it 21st-century gourmandism. Looking for something special, very much to one’s liking, not sticking to ‘one size fits for all’, which is, in fact, – as I see it – a way of self-expression, are multiple ways of dolce vita, which I cannot welcome enough. Thank you.

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  6. I traveled to be with dear friends on Christmas. Perhaps it’s because they have two children and lots of extended family but they had two indoor Christmas trees in order to hold all of the presents. I love your idea of a Christmas buffet with small plates, festive yet not over the top. What do the French think of American green bean casserole?

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    1. I have never served them green bean casserole. I will have to do that one for an upcoming dinner party. For our party, it’s more that people here eat with knife in the right hand and fork in the left, using the knife to push food onto the fork. That is hard to do while also holding a plate. Or even while balancing a plate on your knees. Plus you can’t set down your fork and knife. So it’s best, in this not-sit-down situation, to stick to finger food.

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  7. That last shot really stands out.

    I admittedly find this a very difficult time of year- I’ve been in a black wall mood for a few days, which was expected, as I live with depression. This year it was the Christmas music that set it off. Now that it’s done, the mood should lift. I know I’m on the losing side of the equation- most shoppers want Christmas music- but I wish stores wouldn’t assault us for weeks on end with Christmas music.

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    1. William, I too am sorry that the holidays get your down. I hope that now that they are over you are feeling better. I could not agree with you more, I love holiday music but honestly I do not think we have to start playing it on Novemeber 1st.

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  8. Our Christmas was low key and at home alone this year, frankly it was fabulous. No traveling, and lots of relaxing. After 22 years of splitting our time between two families it was nice to be at home.

    I hope that you had/have a wonderful party. I wonder, do you ever miss things form home, and not being able to make or serve them because the french don’t eat them or simply “don’t get them?’ I went to school in Limoges for a summer and fell in love with a French man, I won’t go into all of the details here of our years long relationship, I will say that there were simply things that we could not overcome. 25 years later we are still friends and although I am married, he is single, and still asks me why I would not give up everything for him.

    Happy New Year.

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    1. Actually, my French friends count on me to make “exotic” treats from America; I just have to cook them myself. What I miss from home are the people–family and friends. There are other differences I find hard, but they aren’t French/U.S. or European/U.S. but one family style vs. another.

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  9. One of the first things to learn is to hold a glass and a small plate in one hand leaving the other to help oneself from a buffet, shake hands with fellow guests and eat and drink. We were out to Christmas Day lunch hosted by neighbours and were very well looked after. This meant no ‘festive cooking’ for me this year. Wonderful. A Happy New Year to you and the family.

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  10. After over 30 years of being the holiday house for Thanksgiving and Christmas, I declared, “I’m done.” I decided then that I am no longer going to celebrate Christmas. I have chosen not to be a Christian. I grew to hate the hyperconsumerism with the nightly news reporting on how good we were doing on our spending. Enough. I give gifts when I feel like it, not when I am guilt manipulated into doing so. I’ll turn 70 next year. I do as I please. I love to please my husband of 44 years who is a grateful eater. He declared the beef tenderloin with chambord onion jam and gorgonzola garlic compound butter the very best! I turn on white lights on shrubs by our porch on the night of solstice and continue doing that until the first day of spring. Each night gets a little shorter. The sun returns. Time to plant new seeds for another grateful season. Works for me. Happy holidays in your own way.

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  11. Do I find myself overwhelmed by the consumerism? Ohhhh…do I ever! My last adventure of the year was working at J. Crew during the holidays – I love the store and thought it might be fun. But, oh the things I saw! The mall was absolutely ridiculous and people were scurrying everywhere to find the ‘right’ gift. I wanted to scream “People, please!! THIS is NOT what Christmas is about!!’ I LOVE your blog and am going to spend the next hour perusing your beautiful pictures and reading your articles.

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    1. I like that people want to please their friends and family, but a lot of times, the “right” gift is about hitting the right price point or ticking off the recipient’s shopping list. My favorite gifts have been the ones made by the giver themselves.

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