Worth Celebrating!

Worth Celebrating!

When I moved to France last year, I smoothly transitioned into my new, ready-made French family.  It didn’t replace my own family back in the USA,  but it made for a soft landing here in this new land.  As with most family units, at the centre of the new family was the matriarch, Kate Hill.  All others were spokes from her wheel hub: her sister, Steph, who was my primary source of info on all things french, my translator, my negotiator; Elaine, an artist in the Pyrenees,from Burma, by way of Harlem,  who was my yiddisha connection here in France (go figure); my Canadian neighbours, Taffy and Bill,  who are my almost constant companions and sit at the centre of my communal living here in Nérac; journeyman butchers passing through in search of training in the art of french butchery and charcuterie; and, the man below, Dominique Chapoulard, and his wife, Christiane.


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Dominique and Kate, and a ham produced by their students a year ago.

Dominique and Christiane, along with Dom’s brothers, work the Chapolard farm where they raise the pigs they butcher along with all the food those pigs eat.  They send the pigs out to a communal abattoir (slaughter house) and then bring them back to the farm where they are transformed into roasts and ribs and some of the most delicious traditional charcuterie in all of southwestern France.  And, along with Kate, they are so good at what they do that aspiring butchers from all over the world have come to learn from them.

Dom and Chris are warm, welcoming and wonderful friends.  From my first visit to their home, for a glorious home cooked meal that included the most heavenly artichoke hearts in a béchamel sauce that I still crave to this day,  they have treated me like family, greeting me with kisses to each cheek at their market stall, encouraged my French skills.

This past weekend I was thrilled to be included in a celebration of Dominique’s birthday.  A (small) gathering of 60+ family members and friends, happy to be together to share the day.  When the rain started, they simply brought out the pop-up awnings and continued the party.

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Dominique and Christiane introducing everyone in the order that they came into their lives- starting with Dominique’s parents, then their children and other family, and then friends, old and new.

People arrived with flowers and food contributions, eager to share the afternoon.  Many of these people are our local food producers- Marie and Matthieu make the goat cheese I buy at the market.  Jeanne, the woman in charge of the tagine for lunch, was the goose and foie gras producer until she recently retired.

The spread started with a variety of contributions for apèros.

Our friend Gaël, with empty glass in hand, said “it’s a typical french party. Nothing to drink but wine…”

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We drink our wine by the box here in Gascony- Red, white, rosé…

Christiane and her friends had been cooking for days, serving lunch to more than 60 and following it up with dinner for many later that night.

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A lesson in how to serve 60+- a huge pot of chicken, lamb, chickpeas and vegetables served over couscous.

While the adults ate and talked  (A lot of french spoken here, btw.  Trial by fire for me…) and talked and ate, the kids played hard.

The kids played hard all afternoon- i’m guessing they slept well Sunday night
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This little guy stole my heart!


Bill and Taffy and I were excited to discover this loaf,  called Pain des Amis (friend’s bread), at our favourite bolangerie several weeks ago.  It seemed like the perfect bread to add to this fete, so we ordered one for Dom’s party.  10 kilos seemed like plenty to feed 60!

Matthieu, the local goat farmer, took first turn at slicing it…
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And, then, the man of the hour, Master Butcher Dominique, used his knife skills to finish it off!

Christiane and Dominique’s daughter, Camille, is a patissiere, and she baked a series of cakes to celebrate her father’s birthday.

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When your daughter is a patissier you have a selection of cakes, and, in this case, a lot of help with the candles, too!

However, what’s a party without an entire dessert table?   There were brownies and lemon tart and cheese cake and more!

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There ever practical French parked ready to exit.  No need to have to make a 3 point turn on a country lane after an afternoon of partying.

FullSizeRender 21My North American counterparts and I left in the early evening, exhausted from the food and the excitement of the afternoon, ready for an early evening.  The French?  They were still at it when we left!  When I first moved here, Dominique said they didn’t understand why we (ex-pats) would want to move to their little part of the world.  This day was one good example of my reasons.

7 thoughts on “Worth Celebrating!

  1. What a fantastic day for Dom and all his family and friends! Thank you for such a lovely writeup that captures that spirit. I was wondering about the cutting of the pain d’amis!

    1. We were, too, but we figured they are French, they should be able to figure out how to cut bread!

  2. Thank you for taking me on vacation, if only for fifteen minutes… in my bed… in Sherman Oaks.

  3. What an awesome day! So glad you’ve found such a wonderful French Family. They were all equally welcoming to Julianne and I last year. They are truly as amazing as you 🙂

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