At my fiancé’s familial home on the western coast of France, celebrations are treated with proper reverence, but none more so than Christmas. Lunch leads softly into dinner; the table is re-set with a hand-stitched cloth, grandmother’s wedding crystal is filled with wine so old it was decanted yesterday. We use silverware plated with real silver—a souvenir of another wedding—and matching cloth napkins. There are oyster forks and cheese knives.
We linger at the table. My future in-laws take a break between cheese and dessert to dance a waltz. Their love and affection after thirty years of marriage makes me feel confident about marrying their son. Lunch is often closed with a measure of Cognac (the region just south of Charente Maritime), a cup of French-press coffee, and a modest dessert. This year, the meal included champagne and miniature ice cream sundaes from local ice cream celebrity Ernest le Glacier.
These flourishes remind me to appreciate where I am; they enhance the experience of eating already special foods. My fiancé, or “the Frenchman,” is the reason I am privileged to travel to Angoulins twice per year. Holiday meals at chez Pinier-Binaud have come to represent the joy inherent in making time to share food and drink with those we love. These meals are worth commemorating, and essential to a balanced life.