I love the word miam, which corresponds to our word yum. It’s a kid’s word, but adults can say it when we’re tired of trying to find yet another synonym for delicious. And in this case, the Miam! in question was the name of a food salon in nearby Alès, where dozens of sorts of deliciousness were on display and for sale in advance of the holidays.
I confess that the first time we went to one of these salons I didn’t quite know what to do. There was an overwhelming profusion of food and drink, to be tasted and purchased, and I ended up buying almost nothing. But later I realized that this is how French people prepare for the holidays, by stocking up on lots of good things, like a case of this 2005 Champagne that was made by the fourth generation in the family business and found its way home with us because it is truly miam, and all of the other foods that make a holiday here special.
Miles of charcuterie,
including the tantalizing little fribbles and frabbles of fried duck that I love to warm up and scatter on salad,
and mountains of mushrooms, notably these cèpes, which we call porcini, and most especially the cèpes du chataignier, those that grow at the feet of chestnut trees and are incredibly aromatic.
On the sweet side there were jewel-like candied fruits,
an unimaginable selection of macarons,
and beautiful chocolates made with olive oil.
For before-dinner drinking there were guys selling cartagène, the local apéritif made from wine and grape juice,
for a main course you could buy the most beautifully decorated beef roast I’ve ever seen (too pretty to cook, I thought),
and for before-dessert nibbling, cheeses of every description.
Should anyone feel peckish at the sight of all that food, there was hope: escargot sandwiches,
the famously stretchy potato and cheese concoction called aligot,
and if you were a young baker who had been working hard all morning making tarte aux pommes, you could sit down to a nice glass of…..Coke. Yes, they hid the bottle under the table while I took their photo, but Coke it is in those glasses, proving that all in France is not foie gras and finesse. At a place like Miam! a lot of it is about people making things by hand, and selling to other people who want fingerprints on their food. And yes, it’s also about Coke-drinking teenagers who are in the midst of preparing themselves to become bakers, the true backbone of French society.
When we crack that Champagne we’ll raise a glass to those kids, and to all the people who spend their lives creating wonderful things for us to eat. Miam!