My first Winter Break in France was packed with new discoveries. Among them:
Christmas dinner started at noon and lasted 7 hours, which according to my friends is quite normal. The menu: champagne, crackers and chips, wine, three appetizers, more wine, two main courses (with more wine), bread and a platter of cheese passed around twice, two desserts, coffee, a box of chocolate passed around twice, tea, food coma. An hour later, a “snack” of meats, bread, chocolate and another food coma.
“Coquilles St. Jacques” is my new favorite appetizer. Different seafood is mixed together in a white sauce and baked in a seashell. It is usually served around Christmastime in France. Tradition holds that is is named for Saint-Jacques de Compostelle, a Catholic pilgrimage from southern France to Galice, Spain, and the tomb of the apostle James; the pilgrims usually returned with empty seashells. Click here for a recipe!
How to horrify a French person: explain the concept of spray cheese. Describing the powdered cheese mixed with water to make macaroni and cheese will also do the trick. Marshmallow fluff will raise some eyebrows as well.
The Bûche de Noël (logcake) is indeed a staple in the French Christmas meal and is delicious. I especially love the little decorations on top:
New Year’s traditions range from normal (countdowns, fireworks, champagne, dinners, parties) to the more shocking (smashing champagne bottles all over the downtown area and burning random cars-about 140 in the region of Alsace this year).
The Strasbourg Christmas market has closed; the stalls have been dissembled and removed, and the downtown is no longer packed with tourists, but the giant Christmas tree and lights will remain glowing until mid-January!