We spent Christmas in Paris. I’m not sure how other people do Christmas here, but I’m pretty sure we nailed it. It mostly centered around…you guessed it: food.
We planned to cook a small French feast for the two of us and decided the French way to prepare would be to get all of our ingredients from as many specialty shops as possible. So the days leading up to Christmas, we went to:
- Wine Shop for Wine and Champagne
- Outdoor Markets (Marché) for vegetables, herbs, and nuts
- Butcher (Boucherie) for meat
- Cheese Shop (Fromagerie) for cheese
- Coffee Roaster (Brûlerie) for coffee. This was the most exciting and unexpected trip. This roaster just opened last week and is minutes from our apartment.
- And of course, we still went to two grocery stores for other items we couldn’t get at these shops
These trips were awesome, felt super-french, and gave us an opportunity to practice our French. All of these transactions, which included questions and asking for recommendations and talking about what flavors I like in my coffee (so fun), were conducted in French.
Aside from that, I worked on tons of Christmas cards that will arrive very late to the US, if they arrive at all.
We split up the cooking over two days. On Christmas Eve, we made our appetizer, did some prep cooking, and listened to S’s poorly-named “Punk” playlist (since it includes every genre of music), and drank our first bottle of Champagne. And we argued about The Clash.
At night, we walked to Saint-Sulpice for midnight mass to experience going to a service in one of these old, grand churches in France. This is the church that is featured in Da Vinci code and now has a sign indicating that the Rose Line is not there. Can’t say we followed much of the homily, but I can tell you that a congregation’s inability to sing the “Glo-oo-oo-ooo-ooo-oo-o-ri-a” part in Angels We Have Heard On High (In Excelsis Deo) at the right tempo is universal. Why is that so hard, people?!
We woke up when we wanted to, admired our trash Christmas tree and perfectly legit stockings, traded the Punk playlist for Christmas music, and started cooking. Our menu was as follows:
- Roquefort and Walnut Gougères (cheese puffs) – these were the appetizers that we munched on with our Champagne while we cooked the rest of our meal
- Roast Chicken with Crème Fraîche and Herbs
- Roast Potatoes (Sweet and Regular) with Herbs and Garlic
- Tarte a l’oignon (Onion Tart)
- Comté cheese
- A Pinot Blanc Champagne and a Côte-Rôtie
- And the pièce de résistance, a 2-layer meringue cake, topped with whipped cream, candied lemons and sage, and flowers.
I don’t really enjoy baking. Call me new-fashioned. I prefer for others to make sweets and to exchange money for their goods. BUT, I am fairly obsessed with meringue right now, so I decided to make a cake…of sorts. We have no electric mixer here, so we whipped the egg whites and cream by hand for this cake.
And for all our LA peeps, you may notice the cake is in Mardi Gras colors. I’m already mourning the fact that we won’t be getting our annual King cakes shipped from Nola.
So after we cooked, we feasted on our delicious meal. It all turned out surprisingly well. And in the evening, we walked to Place de la Concorde and rode the Grande Roue de Paris (big ferris wheel) to enjoy views of Paris at night.
So it was simple – no big get togethers and whatnot. But, it was perfect to be in Paris, sip champagne and cook, find creative ways to overcome our tiny kitchen, and then walk out into this glorious, twinkling city we call home now.
It’s hard not to feel grateful that we have the chance to be here, and to be here right now when we are still young (sorta) and healthy (sorta). This quote is a little played out, but still feels appropriate.
If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.
~Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast