Thursday, February 12, 2009

The day we ate Bambi and Babe

Sunday was our annual 'Repas de la Chasse' or 'Hunter's Lunch' where the good hunting folk of the village share their bounty with those of us who have spent the past few months ducking at the sound of gunfire and wondering whether Helmand Province would be any quieter.

I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with the chasse. Love them when they are hunting a long way from us and hate them when they are hunting on our hill - which fortunately isn't too often. But hey, Napoleon gave them the right to hunt so who am I, a mere immigrant and a woman to boot, to tell them they can't?

My lovely parents sent the CH some money for us to go out for a meal to celebrate his recent half-century, having extracted a promise from us not to spend it on paying bills.

It being the CH's birthday, I imagined a lovely diner à deux at our favourite restaurant, La Maison sur la Place, or perhaps even a family meal at our own Cafe du Centre but no, the CH chose the Hunter's Lunch at our local village hall. Soup, four courses of meat and finished off with cheese and a pastry - it's a bloke thing!

"We're going out for lunch on Sunday" I announced to the offspring, working hard to maintain my smile

"Yippeee!" they shouted in unison "Where are we going?"

"The Hunter's Lunch" I replied brightly.

"Ah, actually I think I'm busy" said DS.

"You're only 13," I replied "What could you possibly be doing?"

"My homework"

DD was marginally more cheerful about it.

"Well, it is Dad's choice as it's his birthday.... but I'm NOT eating Bambi.... or Babe".

Never mind, I thought. There's always the cheese.

So Sunday midday found us spruced up and ready to go. Usually they bung all the English people together but being a last minute booking we were on a nice mixed table of ver pleasant French, Dutch, a Pole with a squeaky voice and a mad Belgian woman.

DS sat down and immediately plugged in his iPod flicked his long hair over his face and looked about as approachable as a Grizzly bear with an ingrowing claw

"It's like a day trip from the Maison de la Retraite (Old People's Home)" he moaned. "There's no-one here under a 100"

"Well I'm here", I joked but he just looked at me with a 'see what I mean' sort of stare.

To be honest though, he did have a point. The younger set were markedly absent this year. I wonder why?

DD, knowing that she was in for 5 hours of meat, primarily Babe and Bambi who's remains she had sworn not to eat, was at the bar troughing down plates of crisps and bemoaning the lack of children.

Replete, she returned to the table to try and find a way to entertain herself for the next 5 hours (Yep, that's how long it takes). She found it

The first course arrived.

Soupe de Gaston. I don't know who this Gaston chap is but it's about time he learned to make another soup because this recipe is getting a bit tired. It's a funny mishmash of garlic.... lots and lots of garlic.... baguette and Emmental cheese. It's quite nice but always lacks a certain je ne sais quoi.

"Pipi de Chat" (Cat's piss) announced La Belge Folle, tipping the remains of hers back into the soup bowl. Ah ha, things were looking up!

She introduced herself as Pia.

"I'm not French" she said firmly "I'm Belgian".

We did our introductions and I apologised for the fact that the CH speaks little French.

"Ah, but you speak it very well" she said "you can translate".

The second course arrived.

Endive Salad with Roquefort and Walnuts. Very nice, but I'm afraid I can't even look at an Endive these days without thinking of Jaywalker and all the wonderful things she manages to carve from them.

"So, why did you move to France?" asked La Belge Folle. Hmmm, a question I often ask myself but I vaguely remember it was do with a change of lifestyle, leaving behind the rat race, hamsters on wheels running like buggery and not getting anywhere.

"How about you?" I enquired.

"My health. I have very bad asthma. Hate the bloody French though"

I looked round nervously but fortunately all our other French neighbours were deep in conversation and seemed not to have heard.

"More wine?" suggested the CH (To her, not me)

DS was, by this time, sitting with his hood up.

"Soup was revolting. Don't like endives" he said before returning to his music.

This was going really well.

The third course arrived.

Paté de sanglier (boar) and bread.

"Bambi or Babe?" demanded DD

"Babe", I sighed.

She pushed it to one side.

The waiters came round with paté de chevreuil (venison)

"Let me guess... Bambi" she said.

"Uh huh".

She pushed it to the other side.

"So do you like living in France?" asked La Belge Folle.

"Well yes" I answered.

"But they are such peasants round here. Look, they even make us eat off the same plate. It's like going back to the dark ages. Belgium and the UK are such modern countries. Why is this place so backward?"

I looked around nervously but she seemed to have got away with it again.

"More wine" asked the CH.

I kicked him under the table.

The fourth course arrived

Daube de sanglier which is boar in a very rich red wine sauce. I was starting to flag.

"Bambi or Ba...."

"Babe" I said, pre-empting her.

I reminded her how much the tickets had cost and how it would be really nice if she'd eat something.

A Dutch friend appeared and suggested a quick walk around the village to let our food settle. Great idea! We had a nice walk and a chat. It was lovely day, clear blue skies but cold, cold, cold. I asked where here daughters were.

"Oh, they hate going to a repas only slightly more than they hate going anywhere with us. It's great that you've still managed to get yours to come"

I thought back to DS sitting at the table with his earphones on and his hood up - a picture of adolescent ennui - and DD resolutely refusing to eat anything that had previously walked this fair land and smiled weakly.

Back at the hall, the fifth course had arrived.

Saucisse de chevereuil (venison sausage) and flageolet beans.

"It's Bambi before you ask" I said to DD.

In my absence the CH had clearly been regularly refilling the glass of La Belge Folle, who had developed a bit of a list in his direction and her previously impeccable French was starting to show signs of it's Flemish roots.

"So whydya bring your kids to France for? There's nothing for them to do here"

DS nodded emphatically.

"Yeah, it's sooooo boring"

He's not even 2 months into teenagerdom and already he's got it down to a fine art.

"I'll tell you what. I live near the town so you can come and stay with me and I'll take you out to all the hotspots. I've got three bedrooms and two extra beds"

DD looked faintly worried. "Do we have to go, Mum?" she asked under her breath.

"Gosh, that's a kind offer" I said thinking if you think I'm going to entrust my darling offspring to you then you must be, well, mad or even well mad!

"Have another drink" suggested the CH.

By now he'd knocked back so much himself that his shins were anaesthetised.

Course number six arrived. Hooray..... cheese!

I've never been so pleased to see a piece of brie in my life.

"Neither Babe nor Bambi so EAT it!" I told DD.

By now La Belge Folle was starting to slide off her seat. She and the CH were giving each other mutual language lessons. I think it's fair to say that his Flemish and her English have made little improvement.

Enfin, the end was in sight. One more course to go and, assuming La Belge Folle didn't get us killed by the local populace that she was declaiming so loudly, we were on the home straight!

"Your kidzaneyer gonna have sush a lotta fun" she slurred.

"Muuuuum, do we HAVE to go and stay?" DD whispered

Time for some fun...

"Bah oui, cocotte. The nice lady has offered so it would be rude to say no!" I answered

She shot me a look of pure horror, mentally recalling the number of Allo Enfance Maltraitée (French equivalent of childline).

"Have another drink" said the CH, helpfully.

I smiled back sweetly.

I ate my brie (with knife and fork, French-style, bien sûr) and looked forward to the arrival of....

The LAST Course

A slightly dry looking sacristan (a sort of twisted pastry thing) was thrust in my hand along with a cup of steaming, stomach stripping black coffee (I'm a sissy latte girl, me) . We'd done it. We'd completed the 2009 Repas de la Chasse.


Ali said...

Sounds like my husband's idea of a fabulous day out! The poor kids, I also have a just turned 13yo who is mostly monosyllabic so I can imagine how fun it was!

Le laquet said...

It sounds like the fete meal/mechoui in Carlucet ... the best I can say about those, you get to laugh at the dancing!

Anonymous said...

Oh moi - what a repast! As a vegetarian I don't eat Bambi or Babe either so can totally sympathize.

And I am still left here wondering why the drunk Belgian woman stays in France if she doesn't like it...

Very funny post!

lakeviewer said...

This is charming and clever, full of colorful details.

(Very) Lost in France said...

Ali - it's definitely a man thing. There was one table of men who'd sensibly left their wives at home. Maybe we should let our offspring be monosyllabic together! Thanks for dropping by. VLiF

(Very) Lost in France said...

Le Laquet - we didn't even have dancing! VLiF

LadyFi - I was vegetarian for 8 years after an unfortunate incident with a zebra but sadly my pregnancy craving with DS was shepherds pie so that put paid to that. I asked the Belgian why she stayed and she said the the climate suited her asthma. I would have thought she could have found somewhere with a similar climate but that bothered her less! Thanks for dropping in. VLiF

(Very) Lost in France said...

Hi Lakeviewer - thanks for you kind comments and welcome to my blog. I hope you'll drop by again some time. I shall pop over to yours soon. VLiF