Life at № 42 by E.M. Coutinho
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.