Samantha David is a freelance journalist and writes for various publications including BBC Online, the Sunday Times, the FT, Living France, everything France, and France Magazine

Samantha David, writer

Le Dernier Mot - articles by Samantha David




     The trouble with living in France is the food.  Since we moved here my waistline has become a disaster zone.  Forget tape measures, the only thing that reaches round my middle is a runaway train.  And New Year doesn’t help.

      I remember the days, back in Blighty, when New Year’s Eve was dedicated to dancing with just a short break at midnight for kissing people.  Not here in the Cevennes.  In this village, “Le Réveillon de la Saint-Sylvestre” is decidedly sedentary and definitely gastronomic.

      The whole spectacular show starts innocently enough with apéros and posh nibbles, but with the cry “à table” comes a hint of the sins in store: cushions on the chairs. 

      Smoked salmon, oysters, and foie gras are de rigueur but wild mushrooms, bizarre soufflés, charcuterie, whole fish, stuffed beef, duck en croûte, noix de veau, exotic salads, cheese, gâteaux, mousses, ices and chocolates make star appearances along with countless “amuse-gueules” during a meal which lasts for up to six hours and includes up to fifteen courses because each family brings a course.

      Into the glasses splash a dizzying selection of fine wines, liqueurs, and of course, champagne.  Occasionally a bottle of chilled water hovers in the doorway but tends to  disappear prontissimo into the dressing rooms suffering from stage-fright.  Coffee too often only makes the briefest of appearances just before the final curtain.  

      There is however an intermission: “la trou Normand” - a ball of sorbet served in a glass of fruit liqueur.  Marie-Louise swears that this refreshes the palate and rejuvenates the appetite, but personally speaking, the main benefit is anaesthetic.

      As for burning off calories on the dance floor, ha!  Around midnight there’s hugging and kissing, whistles are blown, funny hats donned, and someone puts a Madonna tape on, but the music is rapidly silenced by the next course and from then on there’s no hope of burning anything other than both ends of the candle.

      All of which means that New Year’s resolutions (usually made on about January 5th, as hangovers recede and livers recover) inevitably include I Will Live on Cottage Cheese and Celery, as well as those two old favourites, I Will Check The Handbrake Is Off Before Driving the Car, and I Will Not Hide Wafts of Pet Hair Under The Sofa.

      This is usually followed up by I Will Not Sneak Ciggies at Parties, I Will Not Eat Fish Fingers and I Will Do My Exercise Video Instead Of Drinking Wine And Making International Phone Calls In The Evening.

      Within days of course these resolutions are replaced by items such as When It Stops Raining I Will Dig The Garden To Make Up For Not Doing My Exercise Video and I Will Only Make One International Phone Call Per Evening.

      Which is fine and left to myself I would keep all these resolutions.  Except.  You know... the effort of writing resolutions lists makes me hungry, and then the supermarkets have a promo on cheese, the Junior Members start cheeping about tartiflette, and as soon as that seductive, delicious combination of smoky bacon, melted cheese, potatoes, crème fraîche and white wine scents the house I’m fingering a runcible spoon and muttering “I can resist anything except temptation.”

      Dolly the Dog says it doesn’t matter.  Her black nose wrinkles up with piggy pleasure as she tucks into her leftover turkey.  “Us expats,” she wags, “deserve our little pleasures in life.”

      And perhaps she’s right.  After all, what’s the point in living in France if you don’t indulge your tastebuds now and again? 

      So if you’ll excuse me, I’ll just go and tidy up those marzipan dates... 





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