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Christmas in France - by Martin Dwyer

Martin & Sile Dwyer at their Chambre d'Hote, 'Le Presbytère'  in France.
Martin & Sile Dwyer at their Chambre d'Hote, 'Le Presbytère' in France.

We have been in France for quite a few years now but we have the same problem every  year  when we celebrate Christmas here.

We are of course Irish and enjoy Christmas as we always celebrated it before we left the old country, but France has presented us with a problem.

We all know the traditional Irish Christmas: Roast Stuffed Turkey, Boiled  Ham, Potatoes (possibly both roast and mash) Sprouts, Celery , Gravy, Bread Sauce, Cranberry Sauce and then a few either or’s- Red Cabbage (for the sprout haters), Roast Parsnips (for the Parsnip Lovers ), Cocktail Sausages Roast with the Turkey and ditto Bacon Rolls and even I have heard a possibility of Parsley Sauce (for the ham)

So there it is, a nice restrained Christmas dinner groaning on the table by mid- afternoon on December 25th.

Then you spend Christmas in France and discover that the traditions are just totally different.

Thézan-lès-Béziers, Martin's French home in the very rare snow.
Thézan-lès-Béziers, Martin's French home in the very rare snow.

The tradition in France is that The Feast happens on Christmas Eve, December 24th and it consists of none of the previous. On the night of Christmas Eve the French eat their Christmas dinner and instead of Turkey with all the trimmings(as listed above) the French indulge in their passion for Coquillage- Shellfish. Their groaning Christmas Eve table will likely have Oysters in the Half Shell, Plates of Mussels barely opened in white wine, Cooked Prawns with an attendant bowl of fresh mayonnaise, and then large platters of Lobster and Crab. The dessert part of the French tradition consists of what they call the thirteen desserts but as a plate dried apricots, figs and dates can constitute three of these I have decided to let this particular tradition pass.

Now I have tried, I promise, to do the right thing by both cultures. Tackled the shellfish on the eve and the turkey (or Goose) on the day itself but have ended up exhausted and strangely lacking in appetite.

Recipe for Martin's La Tranche St. Remy

Martin Dwyer's La Tranche St. Remy
Martin Dwyer's La Tranche St. Remy

The solution finally came to me this year. Instead of pigging out on both cultures I have decided to give my first allegiance to by country of birth and just to pay token homage to my adopted country.

The obvious dish to do this is one from Provence in the South of France, the town of St. Remy where they have a tradition of producing one of the most delicious starters of all time- La Tranche St. Remy.

This combines a lot of the traditional foods from the French tradition but in far easier to consume portions.

Most important of all is as it is a cold dish it can be consumed as a supper dish from the night of Christmas Eve, thereby fulfilling at least some part of the French tradition.

The second option would be to have it for lunch on Christmas day- but be sure to eat the turkey dinner in the evening.

The third option, and this is purely for trenchermen, would be to have it as a starter before the dinner .

Which ever way you go be sure and have an excellent Christmas .

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