It is true that France, along with Canada and many other countries, tantelizes the tastebuds with lots of great food to celebrate. The difference, however, is that one “family meal” takes up to three to four hours. Lucky me got to take part in this family gathering during the celebration of two birthday parties; Mathilde’s younger brother, Antoine, and older sister, Anaïs.
First, everyone sits at the table, already set up including the “aparetif” while the wine is poured (not touching the wine yet, of course) chatting and laughing, catching up and reminising old times. Once the wine is poured, everyone “chins” aka cheers, making eye contact and making sure to acknowledge every person (then we drink…).
Once the aparatifs are over, there is another wait, another drink (if desired) and more chatter. The entrée comes next, and a different kind of wine.
This is about half an hour into the meal. Once these are gobbled up and the wine is gone, the chatter continues and then we wait for the main meal. This usually consists of a meat, a vegetable, and a carb.
All the while there are people up and down, checking the food, clearing plates and helping to serve.
Next, one of my favourite parts, is the cheese (and of course, more wine). A huge plate of varied delicious french fromage; comté, brie, cambert, livarot, epoise, etc. From my experience the cheese has varied in every home, depending on their personal preference. Thankfully, I love it all.
Served with this beautiful plate is some salad, bread and a tiny amount of jam. It’s eaten together in order to have a “salty sweet” taste, or they can be eaten separately too.
Don’t think it stops there, as I did. Dessert comes next, which was a birthday cake and a “tart tin tin”, something similar to an apple turnover.
After dessert and a well needed breather, coffee is served with chocolate. A full three and a half hours later I took my last sip, accompanied with a tiny piece of chocolat noir.
It may seem like a huge meal and a lot of food, but that is the only food of the day. For breakfast we had a piece of fruit and bread, and didn’t eat again afterwards until before bed which was about 3 hours later and only consisted of a yogurt or piece of fruit.
We also went for a two-hour long promenade around the country side. So, it is true that the French love their buttery croissants, wine and cheese, but all in moderation, accompanied with long walks to even it all out. They also never eat in between meals.