A neighbourly invitation to Raclette night
We have been living in France for over 4 years now, and have settled in very nicely within our village community. Our nearest neighbours, Didier and Maryvette, were the first to give us a very warm welcome as soon as we moved in, and we feel blessed to have them live so close by. They are a very sociable couple who have lived in the village most of their married life, so they know absolutely everyone, and often organise get-togethers at their house over a drink or a meal.
Last Saturday night, they invited us over for a meal. This is something they often do, either for apéro (drinks and nibbles: a real institution in France), Sunday lunch, or dinner at the weekend. We are always happy to accept as these evenings are fun, and such a great way to mingle with other villagers. There is a great community spirit in our village and even though most people still call us “Les anglais” (they know I am from Bordeaux but we still are “Les anglais”!), we feel that we have been fully accepted.
Maryvette is an excellent hostess. She doesn’t flap or panic (how does she do it?), makes her guests feel extremely welcome while busying herself preparing, chatting, and serving, and, last but not least, her food is always delicious and plentiful.
A great Winter dish to share
The weather has been incredibly cold recently, and, while walking over to Didier and Maryvette’s house, we were looking forward to a warming, comforting meal. What can I say? We certainly weren’t disappointed. As usual, quite a crowd had been invited (over a dozen guests), and our hosts had planned to serve a French Winter classic, the convivial meal by excellence: la Raclette.
In a nutshell, a raclette is a simple, sharing meal: boiled potatoes cooked in their skin, alongside great big plates of cold meats and cheese. The meat can be anything from jambon sec (Bayonne, Parma, or Serrano ham), to Rosette (a cured saucisson from the Lyon region), and Coppa (a form of salami from Corsica), and the cheese is usually the traditional Raclette cheese, as well as Morbier, Reblochon, Blue cheese (Gorgonzola or Saint Agur): any cheese that melts easily is suitable.
When we sat down for our meal, 2 large electric raclette grills had been placed on the table, each containing a hot plate and non-stick spatulas (coupelles) which are used for melting the cheese. The melted cheese is simply poured over the potatoes, accompanied by the meats, et voilà!
Needless to say, Maryvette had also provided large bowls of fresh salad for good measure, as well as beautiful vegetables such as peppers, mushrooms, and onions, plus a tasty leek fondue. Delicious crunchy gherkins added a lovely tang to the meal. We certainly didn’t go hungry… or thirsty!
Wine is Didier’s domain. He likes to think of himself as a bit of a connoisseur and enjoys marrying dishes with their respective wines. He had chosen various dry white wines, (white wine goes so well with a raclette meal): we enjoyed Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, and Chardonnay, as well as a wonderful Pinot Noir for those who preferred red wine.
Raclette should be enough. But no, there has to be pudding!
You will never be invited over for a meal in France without being served pudding at the end of it. However, as raclette is a very rich dish, and because, in true French fashion, Maryvette is such a fabulous hostess, pudding had to be perfect: satisfying while remaining reasonably light. We were treated to a choice of a beautiful Winter fruit salad, poached pears, and tarte fine aux pommes… or all 3 for those who still had the stomach for it!
The French certainly know how to live! We had a fantastic evening: lots of banter (in French, obviously…. good for Martin’s language skills!), fun, gossip, food, and drink, followed by an invigorating crisp walk back home under a clear, starry sky. I wouldn’t change this life for anything in the world.
The photos that were chosen to illustrate this post were taken on a different day. Martin and I own a dinky raclette grill and regularly enjoy a little feast for 2 on a much smaller scale. Our neighbours already think of Brits as being pretty odd at times. We didn’t want to prove them right by taking photos of our plates and of the food during the soirée raclette!