French Lunch, A Bunch

We’ve had some great lunch invitations lately.  One thing I love about France is that lunch can be a real meal, an event, and an occasion.  It’s really sweet to hang out with nice people, eat great food, and drink good wine, while the sun’s still shining.  In the above case, we were invited by some Belgian friends for a raclette lunch, which I’m here to say beats a Swiss raclette lunch hands down.  The Swiss thing is a huge round of cheese, melting bit by bit, served with a potato, and a cornichon or two, and maybe a pickled onion.  In other words, virtually all cheese.  And however good the cheese, it’s still all about the cheese.

Whereas Belgian raclette, at least chez Henk and Greete, involves rolls of smoked salmon, cauliflower, green beans, onions, pickles, mushrooms,

gorgeous jambon cru, a delicious cured raw ham,

as well as the inevitable (not approved for diabetics) potatoes.  Actually, this proved to be a perfect meal for anyone eating low carb, diabetic or not.

You lay a slice of cheese on your own personal tray, cover it with whatever suits your fancy, and top it with more cheese.

Then you slide your creation into the raclette toaster and wait until it becomes all melty and gooey.  I took a picture of the melty gooey phase of this lunch, but it looked like just what you’d imagine, yellow goo.  Thus permit me to leave it to your imagination, and believe me when I tell you that leeks and smoked salmon are fantastic with that special variety of yellow goo.  Really fantastic.

For those who weren’t worrying about their blood sugar there was cake and cream and

coffee from their nifty built-in Miele espresso maker.  It was all enough to make me resolve to visit Belgium as soon as possible.

Then, not long afterward, we had lunch with our one-of-a-kind neighbor Jean-Claude and his adorable mom, who is 94 years old and a treat to be around.  As opposed to a build-your-own lunch, Jean-Claude made us

his own special brand of beautifully composed food.  He was a restaurateur before he retired, and his plates always reflect that sensibility.  Here we had olives that he cured in salt from the tree in his back yard

and he sent us home with a jar of green lovelies that he’d cured in brine.

I wish I had a picture that did justice to the inside of this pastry pyramid, which was filled with beef tenderloin and tiny vegetables.  But alas, as with the yellow goo, my camera skills lagged behind those of the cook.  Suffice it to say that it was tender and succulent, a delight to the eye and the palate, even if the camera refused to cooperate.

Dessert was a beautiful, and, from what I heard, delicious, choux puff with a transfixing caramel mirror glaze.  I’d love to be able to tell you how it tasted, believe me I would, but you’ll just have to imagine it for yourself.

What I can tell you, without hesitation, is that it is truly a wonderful thing to be cooked for.  Normally I’m the one who cooks for my friends, something I adore doing.  But really, there’s a fantastic little something about being a guest, about having someone else standing over the stove, chopping the ingredients, presenting them beautifully.  I scarcely even regret the things I do not eat while I revel in the dishes that someone has prepared with me in mind.  I love to be a guest, it’s that simple.  Feeeeeed me!

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7 Comments on “French Lunch, A Bunch”

  1. zuleme Says:

    meeeee toooo!
    What kind of cheese in the raclette? We talked about that dish at French class last night. It would go over big here, and I like the idea of veggies wrapped in cheese so a simple dish.
    How do you meet all these lovely people? I guess I have been lucky too, in France. We were served wonderful sea food by our French family friends in Brittany. Love it.

  2. Lori Says:

    What a nice distraction from the research paper I am working on. Haven’t been cooking as much due to work and grad school – so nice to peek into your life and see this beautifully presented food. Although I consider myself to be a good cook, I am alway so impressed by the way food is presented in your blogs – gives me something to aspire to!

  3. Abra Bennett Says:

    The cheese used for raclette is called…raclette! Here it comes ready sliced to fit into the little pans. If you live near a reasonably large city you can probably find it, or order it from I’d say try it with Cantal or Reblochon if you can’t find raclette, but they’re probably all equally available/unavailable in the US.

    As for meeting people, well, everywhere! But for us, one of the best ways to make new friends is at the Université Populaire, which is where we study French, as well as other fun stuff.

  4. Abra Bennett Says:

    Thanks, Lori! Presentation is really important to me, not that I always do well with it. Often doing something that takes only 30 seconds makes all the difference.

  5. geri Says:

    feeed mee toooo

  6. michelle Says:

    how fun! where are you from in france? i’m finding it hard to navigate your site, i want to eat what you’re eating.
    can you suggest yUm places for me?

  7. Abra Bennett Says:

    Michelle – when in France we live in Uzès. To eat what we’re eating, just click the link on the right that says Find French Letters recipes. To read all about our adventures, just click on a month and year, again on the right panel.

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