“Pélardon… Yes, please. Two thanks.”
They weren’t pélardons,
They didn’t even look like them,
The crust cracked too much,
The color was cream
Instead of the brightful white of milk
And it was melting too much
And besides, the taste was bland.
Or maybe it was just a poorly prepared pélardon?
This cheese dates from Antiquity
Its crafting has been preserved from generation to generation,
In the Cevennes with chestnut trees
It survives those who make it through human’s oral culture
Farmers pass by, cheeses stay
It is very specific
The copies are bad.
She didn’t have the chance
To be able to remember
A childhood memory
From a taste
Preciously kept by a family member.
“Oh, lucky me, I didn’t know it was your favourite cheese! »
What a liar, according to her memories, she had already told him on at least three occasions.
Her host was only asking again for this magnificent story where her neighbour in the Cevennes made the best pélardons she had ever tasted.
“I was a child, sometimes I drew milk from goats, I went with her to keep the herd. We ate dandelions and picked chestnuts. »
Her host didn’t even listen to the end of the story. Discussions had resumed.
And she concluded, speaking to herself, “she had a rustic cellar; with pélardons of different refinement; from soft to hard, from white to spotted blue. »
He had asked her again this story as if he didn’t know it,
Just to make her swallow a cheese with no taste and no character.
“It’s very good,” she concluded, quite forced because everyone had watched her eat it.
She felt like Howard Hughes, played by Leonardo Di Caprio in the film The Aviator, who was served an animal with his head in a plate that inspired disgust.
Moreover, earlier, her host had insisted on cutting off the capon’s head in front of her.
All she could say was that it was obvious he had intentions. What did he want when he expressed himself through food?
Her host was none other than Gérard, her mother’s new companion. And yes! At Christmas, we meet people… There are also cousins who appear and disappear forever, disputes that make it necessary to reserve a year for one and a year for the other, divorces, people who can no longer even find words to designate their family ties (for example, I am the son of his mother’s companion, no blood ties) … That we may or may not see the other years again. This is what family reunions are like, it’s like being in a pub.
Speaking of the pub, Gérard had an open kitchen with bar stools. He was perched on one of them. He explained the menu very nicely to her. There were supposed to be 25 dishes.
“Are you sure we need all this? I’d prefer: starter, main course, dessert.”
“Come on! It’s Christmas!”
“Yes, well, I’m celebrating it like this.”
“Come and have a glass of punch.”
“Thank you. See, I think we should make either smoked salmon or foie gras, it’s too much if not…”
She was trying to avoid wasting money.
“You know, I went to the market to find the best products. I fought to book the capon. Christmas shopping is not easy.”
“Did you take salad to digest all this?”
“Two days ago, you asked me to write the menu with you and I suggested just a starter, main course and dessert and a salad to go with it?”
“Oh, I’m confused, I forgot the salad.”
“Basically, you’re asking me for my opinion just so you can say I agree with what you’re doing when you haven’t even listened to me… good initial impression,” Joëlle thought.
Joëlle’s mother broke into the room:
“I heard "salad” and look what happens!” She was turning a salad over her head. She had thought about it.
Well, that’s not all, but there’s work to be done….
Gérard took the capon and cut off his head. Victorious, he parried with the beheaded head of the animal. He then took the chestnut stuffing and introduced it into the animal.
They peeled the potatoes together.
Once this work done, which he considered delicate, required someone who knew how to do it, he went to join the drunks on the terrace after shouting instructions about the rest of the cooking operations and then writing them down because he thought his mother and Joëlle would not remember everything.
It was then Uncle Robert’s turn, who decided on his own that he was the most qualified to open the oysters. He was quite jovial and told a succession of jokes, thinking that it was the only means of communication at hand to address them. He ended up talking about his son. “You know, he lives in New ahha ahha ahha hhahhahaha!!”
“Ahhahahhh! Bloody Mary! He cut himself when opening the oysters! Quick, I’m calling an ambulance!”“No, no, I’ll drive him,” objected Cousin Vladimir.
After they left, her mother went out on the terrace to bring clean glasses.
A supersonic “What” boomed. “He drank the whole bottle of vodka”??
Her mother was much more worried about the potential car accident than the blood-soaked cut. When they returned three hours later, she was surprised to find them alive.
Jöelle’s mother was happy to be with her daughter and to be able to be “girls only” in the kitchen.
Fortunately she liked it, because they stayed there all evening. Barely enough time to kiss the children to bed.
As she was about to eat, Joëlle began to sit down as usual, but Gérard ordered, “No, no, no, no, women, near the kitchen. It’ll be more convenient!” Auntie Odile was 86 years old but she still had to comply with the rule; just like the children… At least this year, she wouldn’t spend Christmas alone. Who had been all alone at Christmas this year? Uncle John had not come because it was too expensive for him to come. Granny at the retirement home was no longer able to get out. Of course, the drug addict had no interest in showing up; Joëlle thought he was probably going to get one more dose and stay on his mattress… no way he was missing a dose. She was thinking of her neighbour who was celebrating Christmas alone but whom the rest of the family had refused to invite.
This year, the homosexual family was accepted for the first time, the two babies and the two mothers.
They had eluded talking politics to avoid the fist fights that usually followed. Fortunately, they had shared on WhatsApp the latest Christmas Survival Guide.
It is just that the family pub, had a permit to deliver alcohol only to men (including minors) and that the other side of the table gave on the terrace where all the bottles were stored. The children had a buffet in the next room.
A debate on compost had begun among her cousins and she took the opportunity to gather some tips on how to better use her own. Gérard spoke above her. According to his own judgment, there was obviously only him who had interesting things to say. In any case, he was the only one who was rude enough to share with the whole table the stupid jokes that only Joëlle’s husband was laughing at. The rest of the table was starting to use their arms to support themselves and were looking forward to the end. At least the kids next door were having fun.
Very quickly, Joëlle did not recognize her husband anymore. Drunk, he went much further than Gérard in misogyny and racism. He had even made a "joke” about her, the meat, was supposedly overcooked, because his wife was still not able to use an oven that had been there for three years. It really didn’t look like him. Joëlle was sweet and calm as usual. A little summary of what she had been doing all evening and a little pat on the head came out in defensive reflex. It had calmed her husband down a little bit, who continued his jokes but not on her. On the other hand, Gérard looked at her with shiny eyes. Whatever his intentions, he considered he had won the first set.
Joelle didn’t let him win the second one. Having already lost for the kitchen, she decided it was as if she was working for the “restos du cœur” one evening. Except that she would have preferred to do this for the poor rather than for Gérard and her mother who spent “such a good time with her in the kitchen”. Cooking for drunks… you only see them every other year.
At least the gargantuan remains, her husband would take them to the food bank the next day.
The next day, Christmas, presents!
Joëlle and her husband watched the children open the presents. What a great idea to just be in a nuclear family for once. We could read them books, start playing some games.
“Your dream was too big; your mother wants to see her daughter and grandchildren. Maybe she’ll learn my name one day. She’ll need it to write it on my grave after she murdered me…”
“Kids, come on, Mami Ceselha is coming!” Joëlle was still in her pjs.
“Hello, darling, I’m not disturbing…”
“Not at all Mom,” Joëlle lied, “Oh! Hello Gérard”
“You don’t know, darling, about the young Kevin… After you left, we were all in bed, he made a bet with Jean-Pierre. They made a contest for the one who would climb the tree the highest. Kevin’s father helped him, so they went too high and they ended up in the emergency room too and it was full, they waited until late in the morning.”
“They have a cast up to above the knee. One on the right, and the other on the left… Completely broken, Kevin…”
“Also, it was silly giving alcohol to minors,” concluded Joëlle.
A few noisy and joyful gift openings and after some explanations about Santa Claus so agile that he could do a contortionist tour at the Cirque du Soleil, Joëlle found her husband in the room and let the older generation sympathize with the younger ones.
“They’re going to invite themselves to lunch…”
“I think we should go to the restaurant. I promise you, I don’t drink alcohol anymore in my life. And then I think Gérard will want to pay the bill. We’ll at least see you…… Eventually, he’ll give you a small salary for yesterday.”
“And the other times…”
“The other times, we’ll see if he’s there. Anyway, thank you, you’re the only one who kept track. Your mother is blinded with love, I had drunk too much and I got carried away by this guy; the others crashed, they were almost all flattened on the table. You’re the only one kept track.”
“And Gérard, who derailed and brought some wagons with him. How are we gonna see Mommy alone? You remember, before he was in a relationship with Mom, he almost convinced us to buy a house on credit. He kept rushing us to make a hasty decision… on a house purchase, it’s a big deal there! You are the one who introduced him to Mom; but imagine if at work, if he leads you into the kind of behaviour you had yesterday. You can lose it… We won’t be able to make ends meet on my salary alone!”
“Yes, it’s enough to resell all the toys the children had for Christmas, I mean the 90% they’re not interested in, and sell them on the Internet. The princess kit will go first. It will be a pleasure…”
“So, that, you see, I don’t understand. They know you can’t get away with it, even if you work together. Zero help. They don’t even look after them, they don’t take them on vacation. Same thing from the four grandparents. And I’m not asking them anything, that’s not the point. And then they offer expensive presents to kids who won’t even play them.”
Joëlle was working internationally, and she had noticed that regardless of nationality, people were going to the end of the year holidays in small steps and returning at a brisk pace. When she asked afterwards, “how was the holidays” the grimace was much worse than the one that replied to “Are you going to spend the holidays with your family?”
It’s really time for each family to take back the Christmas and New Year celebrations;
Otherwise, we’re all going to become chess nuts…
Pour lire cette histoire en français: https://aurianneor.tumblr.com/post/181424135970/et-là-il-y-a-du-chèvre
Would it really be Christmas without a family meltdown? I hope to find out – The Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/dec/23/christmas-family-argument-row
The Aviator – Lunch scene: https://youtu.be/FRM0G1wfXoM