Just Merveilleux?

Life at № 42

Chinese Ancestor Portraits, Dog Blankets & Tapas

In practical news I’ve had blankets made in the same colours as the sofas in the green salon. As you can see in the pictures, I can just yank them off and pop them in the washing machine. Underneath each blanket there’s another thicker blanket. Not as elegant as seeing the seat cushions, but much more relaxed living in a home that has three dogs.

The Chinese ancestor portraits I got from Beijing are now framed and hanging. They work very well with the incredibly difficult to work with (original to the house) Zuber wallpaper.

Last night was the first time we had a larger group over. They were all absolutely lovely. I did an absurdly exaggerated tapas menu:

wild salmon tartare, spicy chorizo in parsley, mini-beef-empanadas, prawn & mango salad with sweet chili-dressing, serrano & pata negra ham (which btw cost an obscenity outside Spain!), manchego cheese, marinated fillet of beef, spiced lamb koftas braised in tomato sauce, warm hummus with jumbo prawns & chili flakes, Andalusian orange & red onion salad, octopus ceviche. The attendant at the gourmet shop in Castres jokingly asked how one got invited to my house. A discount would have been a very good start.

The only ready-made bits were bread and ice-cream for dessert. Needless to say it was too much. The timing had to be militarily precise. Except for the mini-empanadas which were 10 minutes late because I accidentally turned off the oven at one point- it all worked. But halfway through I was utterly exhausted. I used to be able to do stuff like this without blinking, and for much larger groups. Being nearly 38 feels a whole lot different from being 28.

I’ve also discovered that tapas are a very unique and individually Spanish cultural experience. You have a drink, you try a little of one thing, you have another drink then you try a little of another. You get up, you move around, talk to different people, sit in a different spot. It’s slow and laid back. You try the different dishes individually, little by little.

Of course that’s not the way people do things everywhere else in the world. People are used to the aperitif, starter, main course, dessert and coffee method. Eating is done as the experience itself rather than being the punctuation of the experience. Mike says that if we do it again, we have to rethink the organization and have pauses before bringing out each dish. Maybe first only bring out foods that are the equivalent to a starter, 30 minutes later only salads, 30 minutes later warm foods and so forth.

I think people mostly enjoyed the food, but not in the same way they would have had they been sitting in Madrid, Seville or La Linea. Anyway, we’re in a different country now so we’re the ones who have to adapt and let people do things whichever way they enjoy and find most comfortable, so I’m not going to obsess over not having been able to create the experience I was aiming for. In any event a table was set up in a corner of the grey salon with a white tablecloth. It looked nice, that’s where are the food was laid out in too short intervals:

We’re invited to drinks next Friday by an uber-charming group of people who own a lovely property in the countryside (Monatgne Noir). They live in the main house which is surrounded by four smaller properties which they rent out. They were part of the guests last night.

We’re also invited to a New Year’s party by a Spanish couple, also out in the countryside but in the Castres direction. Mike was resistant at first because he’s the one who has to drive (which means not drinking), but I promised we’ll stick to our guns in France and not stay too long.

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33 comments on “Chinese Ancestor Portraits, Dog Blankets & Tapas

  1. carmen
    December 13, 2015

    Well, that was certainly a cultural experience. . .I mean, me reading this. . . sheesh! I’ll say no more, lest you think me a mountain hick.

    Wait a minute. . . 🙂

    It all sounds divine! As in, lovely and elegant. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mr. Merveilleux
      December 13, 2015

      You’re very kind! The thing is there’s a high bar in my head because I grew up in a house where we had a cook and also someone to serve the table. And a woman who came twice a week just to make (wonderful) desserts. I’m still adapting to this modern world where one person has to do everything for themselves without staff 🙂

      Like

  2. Cara
    December 13, 2015

    It is lovely and elegant and divine. You have Chinese ancestor portraits (I don’t know who’s Chinese ancestors sat for said portraits, but a portrait of anyone has character), you serve tapas for dinner (most likely to people who are mature enough not to make ridiculous “topless” comments and laugh), you have dinner parties like a real grown up.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mr. Merveilleux
      December 13, 2015

      LOL 🙂 goodness knows whose ancestors they were 🙂
      And NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO not tapas for dinner!!! Tapas is its OWN THING!It’s not quite dinner and it’s not quite cocktails and nibbles, it’s tapas 🙂

      Like

      • Cara
        December 13, 2015

        Ok tapas isn’t dinner, and it’s not the same as the pigs in a blanket my brother in law puts out with beer at his football parties. It’s a separate entity.

        Like

      • Mr. Merveilleux
        December 13, 2015

        YES 😀 Lots of food on lots of tiny plates, like this:

        Liked by 2 people

  3. roughseasinthemed
    December 13, 2015

    I guess you had a lot of vegetarian guests? Ah. France.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mr. Merveilleux
      December 13, 2015

      We only know one vegetarian in real life. Remember those English sisters who spend the summer with us, one of them 🙂

      Like

  4. tildeb
    December 13, 2015

    How can you, on the one hand, appreciate fine delicacies, be acutely aware of different social niceties, and exercise such refined artistic taste while, on the other, allow dogs on to the furniture and bedding? The incongruity is rather jarring to me.

    Now, don’t misunderstand; I love dogs and they thrive with me… living very long and healthy and deeply contented lives each with personalities and activities that are not just memorable but held in family lore. But they are not human and so they neither eat human food nor use human furniture. Why should they? They’re dogs and require respect based on that fact.

    The dog bedding is for dogs only and available on every level of our home, Each comes with washable coverings that is cleaned only when the dogs are also clean and groomed. I’ve often thought every house should come with a dog wash station near the entrance that is used for them (also handy for people’s footwear if necessary) so that if they are to share the living space of the people who care for them, they do not contaminate even the floor of the house when they come inside. I can only imagine what might be transferred to human furniture and bedding if my dogs were allowed to use them, and none of it would be delicate, nice, or of good taste. Hence, the incongruity.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mr. Merveilleux
      December 13, 2015

      I’m by no means terribly focused on anti-bacterial living 🙂
      We enjoy the dogs being on the furniture, the dogs enjoy being on the furniture, so I work with that. We only take on difficult abandoned dogs which would be very difficult to home. Creating a bond and getting them to relax is sometimes a lifelong process. In our experience too many restrictions don’t help the process 🙂

      Like

    • roughseasinthemed
      December 13, 2015

      My god. You remind me of the UK chief medical officer. He fretted on planes about absorbing bacteria.

      What are you worried about? Seriously? I mean, just really?

      Liked by 2 people

      • Mr. Merveilleux
        December 13, 2015

        I haven’t had any sort of illness that required a doctor’s appointment in the past 15 years. Not the flu, not even a cold. That coincides with my dog days. It’s just a guess but I imagine animal owners develop more of a resistance to disease.

        Like

      • roughseasinthemed
        December 13, 2015

        There was a study years ago that said the more you were exposed to, the less you would succumb to. So to speak. ie if you ate dirt as a kid you wouldn’t have problems 😀
        When I first started working in the health service, one boss pointed out that people normally fall sick in the first couple of years to the local bug. Not sure of that. Doctor? Who is that? Try twenty or thirty.

        Liked by 1 person

      • roughseasinthemed
        December 13, 2015

        PS snowy is on the bed. That’s where he lives. I want my dogs to feel, well, just whatever I guess. There is a brill site on Facebook called Podenco friends forever sofas. Or something like that. Taking in street dogs is something only a few people will understand. Either way, dogs should still get on furniture. Go Rudy!

        Liked by 1 person

      • tildeb
        December 14, 2015

        Weird how you’d jump to that conclusion… obviously, you’ve never owned a Wheaton. We do. And we’re out with him all the time in all weather. If the snow is the right texture, each paw can accumulate upwards of a kilo of packed snow and ice. Letting that melt on the bed wouldn’t be very clever. In short order and as any Wheaton owner would know, the house would be filled with mud, dirt, and detritus because that’s what gets into the fur on almost every trip outside. But yeah, there is a lot of stuff brought into the house by dogs that can be reduced easily with a few basic procedures at the door and what can’t isn’t a welcome addition to furniture and bedding. So why even get in the habit… ever? The dogs don’t care, assuming they have padded bedding… except as a matter of social standing in the pack and that can cause a lot of confusion in the dog when they can lie on the bed now but not later, sit on furniture not now but later, be treated differently depending on which humans are about. And why should I make a guest feel uncertain about which piece of furniture they can sit on based on the whim of a dog who will use it as an opportunity to establish dominance? Keeping dogs off furniture and bedding solves a myriad of problems instantly.

        Like

  5. Helen Devries
    December 13, 2015

    Social occasions in France do seem to be somewhat static affairs – I could get people to shunt about a bit in the summer by putting the food out in the dining room and tables and chairs outside on the balcony, but in winter it was an uphill job.

    Your tapas sound delicious…very envious.

    Those blankets are a really good notion – preserving the colour scheme and the furniture.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. clubschadenfreude
    December 13, 2015

    I get a catalog here called La Tienda that has the insanely expensive hams in it from Spain. I’ve always wondered if those were truly worth it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mr. Merveilleux
      December 13, 2015

      It’s really a question of taste. Some people adore it. I don’t love the really fatty varieties (you’re supposed to eat the fat)- but pata negra does have a very unique taste, unlike any other ham 🙂

      Like

      • clubschadenfreude
        December 13, 2015

        I will have to say that I initially found the air dried hams to be very weird tasting, having grown up on a farm where “ham” was hickory smoked and salted intensely. I may have to order a slice just to entertain my jaded taste buds 🙂

        Like

      • Mr. Merveilleux
        December 13, 2015

        If you do decide to take the plunge go with a Bellota variety. Those are made from pigs who only eat acorns. Very special taste. What’s really expensive are the whole legs, a small pre-sliced packet isn’t too bad.

        Like

      • roughseasinthemed
        December 13, 2015

        I see your quasi vegetarianism hasn’t lasted long.

        Like

      • Mr. Merveilleux
        December 13, 2015

        Actually it has. I considered doing all Moroccan vegetarian mezze because we had that at a restaurant last week and it was amazing- but I thought the concept might scare people to death 🙂 Vegetables and spices at the same time probably gets people arrested in the Languedoc.

        Like

  7. Arkenaten
    December 13, 2015

    but I promised we’ll stick to our guns in France

    Concealed carry or in plan sight?

    😉

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Your party sounds lovely. But now that you are living in France why not call it by it’s French name an hor d’oeuvre party? Or hor d’oeuvre dîner? However I agree that Tapas is easier to spell & type out :-‘) One nice thing about having the party at your house though is you don’t have to drive home afterwards, the downside of course being the dishes.

    I very much like the round picture frame in the corner above the table. Your home is looking quite elegant, at least the rooms you have touched, I wonder what the previous owners would say if they saw it now? By the way, is the grass growing well?

    Like

    • Mr. Merveilleux
      December 13, 2015

      If you invite for hors-d’oeuvre here they’ll definitely be expecting French food! I wanted people to be prepared for “foreign” food- which for some reason doesn’t seem to have caught on here yet. Most of the restaurants have menus that are incredibly old fashioned. Not a single thai place in sight…

      Like

  9. Test

    Like

  10. acflory
    December 13, 2015

    Oh wow…so much cooking, Pinky. Did you get to enjoy the guests at all? In my old age I try to have almost everything cooked in advance so I can relax and enjoy the meal as well. That said, I would kill to be served such sumptuous food.

    I’ve always loved entrees more than main courses so tapas seems like the most civilized way of eating possible. 🙂

    Like

    • Mr. Merveilleux
      December 13, 2015

      Everything was ready by the time they arrived. Hot dishes were kept in the oven to stay warm. Everything cold was laid on the table. Had they gone slowly it would have been a breeze!
      I promise you that if you come this way I’ll do you an evening of tapas.
      It’s Mike’s favourite sort type of food (mine too), so I do it about once a month as a treat. With much less variety, of course 😀

      Like

      • acflory
        December 14, 2015

        Deal! And if you’re ever in Australia I will cook you something that tastes like a fusion between French Provincial and good Hungarian peasant food. 😀

        Liked by 1 person

      • Mr. Merveilleux
        December 14, 2015

        Perfect!

        Like

  11. wcs
    December 14, 2015

    Up our way, people are used to the “apéritif dinatoire.” Perhaps not with Spanish yummies, but it’s the same idea. Yours sounded mighty tasty! What did you serve to drink?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mr. Merveilleux
      December 14, 2015

      The coffee table in the green salon was turned into a “help-yourself” drinks station with bottles of red, white and rose. Enough bottles to make sure no one would be shy in their pouring 🙂

      Like

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This entry was posted on December 13, 2015 by in life, Mazamet and tagged , , , , , .
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