The Secret Cevennes - articles by Samantha David
Christmas, according to the Junior Members of the team, simply isn't Christmas without crackers. And then there are items such as cranberry sauce and parsnips. How can you have Christmas without them? I do agree. There are some things you have to have.
I tried ordering fresh cranberries in all the local supermarkets last year, thinking that at least one of them would come up with the goods but after lots of clucking and consulting of the computers, all they could produce was cranberry juice. As for parsnips, forget it. They do exist up in the north-east of France, but when I grew them in my garden down here the sanglier came and scoffed the lot.
Then there's the mince pie thing. Make your own or buy them? Make the mincemeat or go for jars? Whichever way you do it, you still need a British grocery because of the suet. I suppose you could do some sort of solid vegetable fat mixed with flour as a substitution, but there are limits to the torture one is willing to undertake in the kitchen. And the same debate exists on the Christmas Pudding front, not to mention The Cake...
Our lot also demand chipolatas. To put in the roasting tin round the turkey. Not those horrid French ones made with actual pork, Mummy! Don't be silly. They want luverly Brit bangers made with rusk. Of course. And you can't buy any of this stuff anywhere in the Cévennes. Not a hope.
But am I downhearted? Not a bit of it. It's marvellous in every way because it means a shopping trip. The annual all-day trip-to-town with a pack of girlie mates - and we treat ourselves to a decent lunch while we're about it. Why not? After all, don't Mums deserve a Works' Christmas Dinner? I think so.
Some years we've gone to Toulouse, some years to Millau. Last year it was Pezenas and this year we're going to the Best of British shop in St Remy de Provence which naturally means that we are obliged to make a detour to Marseille. I can't wait. I love Marseille; all the hustle and bustle of a large city with the added attraction of boats and seaside and ethnic markets.
Better and better, we will be absolutely forced to have lunch there. To keep our strength up, of course. For the rigours of the Shopping Mall. Poor us. Just think of it, there we'll be - sitting in the Old Port drinking up the atmosphere along with anything else that comes to hand, whilst we contemplate an afternoon of consumerism on an industrial scale.
Naturally when we get home, we'll be perpetuating the myths about the Hell of Christmas shopping. "The crowds! The prices! No time for lunch, no time for coffee. You were so lucky not coming. It was Ghastly. I'll never do it again..."
But secretly, I'm wondering about Lyon for next year. They say it has fabulous lights, a huge Christmas market and a really extensive Shopping Mall, not to mention some seriously decent restaurants... and the girls are well up for it.
Next column will be uploaded around 1st January.
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