His Departure: TOMORROW!

Tomorrow morning, Francis will rise long before the crack of dawn to begin his day-long journey to France. He is in the final stages of preparation. His bags are already packed. His checklist, quickly becoming shorter and shorter.

I can see that he is too preoccupied with preparation to be excited about the trip but once he settles into his cramped economy seat in the back of the plane, his worries will lift and his mind will shift to the delicious anticipation of arrival.

He is headed for one of France’s “most beautiful villages”, Auvillars in the Dordogne where he will do research for our new Live Like a Local tour while he helps a group of half-a-dozen painters with the logistics of their three week visit to France. But, he’ll be going via Paris and Besancon. Paris, only because of the airport. Besancon for family.

He’ll spend a glorious week-end reuniting with his mother and father, aunts and uncles. I know from experience that most of the week-end will be spent passing from one relative’s dining room table to the next: long conversations, luscious meals lovingly prepared, course after succulent course drawing out the pleasure so everyone can enjoy each dish and savor the time together. It was no surprise to me when UNESCO named the French gastronomic meal part of the World’s Intangible Cultural Herritage… it all starts with these family meals and grows from the appreciation nurtured there.

He’s promised to give us updates once there. I’m sure he’ll tell as all about what he eats each day and who prepared what.

My departure for France is now rapidly approaching too. I’m at the 12 day mark! I’m feverishly preparing all our pre-departure material. This year in addition to printing the itineraries that I distribute to our guests upon their arrival in France, I am also preparing dozens of folders for the convention of the American Association of French Teachers… they are having a conference in Austin this summer and Sojourner Tours will have a booth there. The folders explain how to become a Sojourn Ambassador for those who are interested in earning a free sojourn with us by just organizing a group of seven friends to travel together. I love this program because it is so much fun working with groups that have something in common, so I’ve decided to focus on recruiting more Ambassadors.

I’m also preparing to be a cook! The group of painters that Francis is working with wanted to hire someone to cook for them during the second week of their sojourn instead of eating out: this seemed like the perfect opportunity for me to give our Live-Like-a-Local format a try. For our Live Like a Local tours our guests will be eating lavish lunches in beloved local restaurants and fancy meals in prestigious Michelin star restaurants –so we’ll just be offering breakfasts and light French-style dinners. The painters, by contrast wanted lunches and dinners. They especially want me to shop at the local market and buy “the finest quality ingredients” possible. –So this should be a fun experiment. I’m really looking forward to it. I’ve never cooked for two dozen people for a week before! Thank goodness my mother-in-law will be staying with us in Collioure while I do it to watch our two boys.

Below is the menu I initially suggested to them based on French-style eating habits and  the recipes I make the most often (I don’t want to try anything new this week!). Based on their feed-back, I quickly realized that I will need to flip the lunches and dinners so they can have an American-style light lunch with dinner as the main meal of the day.

I’m busy printing out all the recipes to take with me.

This experience made me begin to think: on our tours, we invite our guests to experience French food culture and eat the “French” way. I’ve never even considered offering American style meals in Frence… But, the way we eat is so different from one culture to another. It isn’t just that lunch is the main meal in France whereas dinner is the main meal in the States. As you can see on my menu, in France we spend a long time at the table eating in courses whereas American meals tend to be designed for efficiency so more time can be spent on other activities. And, there are silly little differences like how Americans eat cheese and salad before a meal whereas those two items are always reserved for the end of a French meal (my French-Algerian aunt called salad the “broom of the stomach” –eaten at the end of the meal to help clear everything out). I, personally, like to adapt to the local culture when traveling… but perhaps my guests would be more comfortable keeping their usual habits.

Is it important to adopt local eating habits while traveling?

May 24: Tues
25: Wed
Market Day
26: Thurs
27: Fri
28: Sat
29: Sun
Market Day
30: Mon
31: Tues
LUNCH:
– Main Course:
Pork with Armagnac soaked prunes and a sage-cream sauce. Accompanied by roast potatoes and rosemary-maple caramelized carrots.
*Vegetarian entrée: eggplant with pine nuts and parsley. Braised Fennel.
– Green Salad
– Cheese Board
Bread
– Dessert:
Apricot-Frangipane Tarte.
– Main Course:
Mediterranean Thyme Chicken roasted with zucchini, fennel, tomato, black olives, artichokes, etc. Accompanied by couscous made with the juice.
*Vegetarian option: Couscous with Ratatouille (if there are gluten-free diners, rice will be made instead of couscous)
– Green Salad
– Cheese Board
Bread
– Dessert:
North African Fruit Salad.
– Main Course:
Bagna Cauda:
(using the renowned local anchovies to make the fondue-like dipping sauce). Steamed veggies: asparagus, red and yellow peppers, cherry tomatoes, haricots verts, etc.
*Vegetarians can enjoy the vegetables with a non-anchovy dipping sauce.
Green Salad
– Cheese Board
Bread
– Dessert:
Flowerless chocolate cake.
– Main Course:
Duck Confit
Accompanied by green lentils and kale.
*Vegetarians can enjoy the lentils and kale.
Green Salad
– Cheese Board
Bread
– Dessert:
Sorbets with brandy snaps.
– Main Course:
Fresh fish and vegetables according to that day’s market. Accompanied by rice.
*Vegetarians can enjoy the fresh vegetables and rice.
Green Salad
– Cheese Board
Bread
– Dessert:
Poires belle Hélène.
– Main Course:
Steak au poivre (pepper steak). Accompanied by Gratin dauphinois perfumed with truffle.
*Vegetarian option: red beet carpaccio with parmesan and parsley.
Green Salad
– Cheese Board
Bread
– Dessert:
Poached Pears.
­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­DINNER:
– Main Course:
Pumpkin Soup with optional cream and fried sage leaves.
– Green Salad
– Cheese Board
Bread
– Dessert:
Fresh Fruit or Yogurt.
– Main Course:
Pasta with fresh pesto.
– Green Salad
– Cheese Board
Bread
– Dessert:
Fresh Fruit or Yogurt.
– Main Course:
Melon
French Taboulé
Charcuterie platter (assortment of local hams & salamis)
*Vegetarian option: Salade niçoise without tuna.
– Green Salad
– Cheese Board
Bread
– Dessert:
Fresh Fruit or Yogurt.
– Main Course:
Celery root salad
Croute aux champignons
(There should be gluten-free bread)
– Green Salad
– Cheese Board
Bread
– Dessert:
Fresh Fruit or Yogurt.
– Main Course:
North African Red Lentil Soup
– Green Salad
– Cheese Board
Bread
– Dessert:
Fresh Fruit or Yogurt.
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