Places were quickly filled for this popular event, with a good turnout on the day, despite the freezing temperatures.
Members were greeted by the enticing smell of curry as we approached Les Unelles and we were further welcomed with a glass of Kir Normande on entering the vaulted basement. There was plenty of time to chat and catch up with each other before taking our seats for the much-anticipated curry lunch.
The lunch was served by a pop-up restaurant company. This is a concept, which was new to many of us, whereby a host (in this case the Association) provides a venue and the pop-up chef then takes the strain out of entertaining by cooking the food on site, providing the ingredients, table settings and even doing the washing up afterwards! It seems to be a perfect solution for group meals such as this. There was an impressive three course menu – Bhajis to start, fol-lowed by meat and vegetable curries with accompaniments, finishing with a choice of sorbets for dessert, followed by tea or coffee. It’s difficult to cater for all tastes when serving food such as curry. The chef cleverly got around the po-tential issues by providing an explanatory label for each dish and making the dishes mild to medium hot, providing addi-tional condiments and spices for those who prefer a hotter curry. There was ample food – no one left the table hungry!
As always at an Anglophone event, the conversation flowed and an enjoyable time was had by all. Special thanks must go to those members who helped out, serving so many of us smoothly and with great charm.
It may, initially, seem a little incongruous for a group of English speaking people to assemble on Robbie Burns’ birthday to celebrate him and his poetry but, as you can imagine, the opportunity to use the occasion to share a haggis and a wee dram was too inviting for most of us to miss.
Needless to say it was a sharp frost that January morning but the welcome at Les Unelles was warm and the committee members had been hard at work preparing the tables which were beautifully prepared in blue and tartan, decorated with votives and sprays of heather.
Tartan drapes also festooned the rails. A portrait of a young, confident and debonair Robert Burns was displayed at the entrance, leaving no ambiguity as to why we were there. It was a pleasant opportunity to mingle and chat with a welcome drink in our hand and, with interesting aromas escaping from the distant kitchen where the haggis luncheon was being prepared, a treat was anticipated.
The presentation of the haggis was wonderfully orchestrated and, with distant bagpipes echoing around, the ceremony began. Kerry, dressed in a wonderful kilt, brought some haggis up from the kitchen on a ceremonial platter to be admired by all and then Jock gave us a real treat by addressing the haggis, reciting Burns’ Ode to a Haggis, all from memory, and in the original version too.
The haggis were then taken back to the kitchen for serving and were shortly returned to the table accompanied by tatties and neeps as well as that wee dram. The flavours were superb. A vegetarian option had been prepared which most people needed to sample out of curiosity. It was all a very successful arrangement of flavours, beautifully cooked by Polly. I am reliably informed that no haggis suffered unnecessarily in the making of this meal, other than the indignity of being cooked and eaten by Sassenachs. Second helpings were available, in fact I think I had a third. A beautifully creamy, oats and raspberry Cranachan desert followed.
After the meal we had the pleasure of hearing John McA (note the Mc) talk about the life, issue and poetry of Robert Burns. John had done some considerable research into the subject and had produced a leaflet for us all. It was most informative. I got a little confused by the complexity of the numerous issue of Robbie Burns, and so too did Mr Burns, it would appear. John also recited a Burns poem — To a Mouse – on Turning up in Her Nest with the Plough, November 1785:
Wee, sleekit, cowrin, tim’rous beastie, O what a pannic’s in thy breastie!
John, of course, got a very appreciative round of applause for his research and entertaining presentation. Now a few more English speaking men and women know more than they ever did about Robert Burns. The event was very nicely themed and brought to something of an exhaustive conclusion with first a demonstration of some Scottish Country dancing by the Dance Group, and then some energetic wheeling and slipping by several other members who were invited to join in.
Great fun was had by all. A final “Thank You” was given to all responsible for this very enjoyable entertainment and feast — the members of our committee, Kerry, Jock, John and the chef. Several people remarked how nice it had been and were particularly appreciative of the themed nature of the afternoon – “ It would be nice to do another themed event in the future.” Suggestions, on a postcard please, to the committee, complete with offers of contributions.
Odds on that when Catherine and Jacques originally planned and proposed a date for their‘Belgian Lunch’, they never dreamt that it would coincide with the first day of mass ‘Gilets Jaunes’protests throughout France where main roads were blocked. Nevertheless with members of theAnglophone Association having booked their places, with our ‘Gilets Jaunes’ on the dashboard, all made it to the event!
The other thing that this date coincided with was that it was the first day of extremely cold weather to hit Normandy, but a warm welcome met us as we arrived at Catherine and Jacques’ home, LeBretonnière. They not only have a lovely house but also have a huge barn that has been converted into a ‘Salle de Fetes’! Wine, canapés and nibbles were offered on arrival and this got everyone in party mood!
The meal was excellent starting with Chicory wrapped in Ham, followed by a Beef and Kidney or just Beef Stew with Mash Potatoes AND Braised Apples all washed down with wine, water or what ever anyone fancied. The dessert ‘Dame Blanche’ was well prepared and went down a treat with everyone,the chocolate sauce was excellent and we have to presume that it was Belgian Chocolate that Catherine had prepared to pour over the ice cream that was then topped with Chantilly.
During the meal the sun came out and many guests took a stroll in the land that surrounds LeBretonnière – the sun always adds the ‘well being’ factor and coupled with a most convivial afternoon,this date gets added to the list of memorable functions planned and held by the AnglophoneAssociation and its members. A BIG thank you to Catherine and Jacques for taking the time and putting in all the effort to prepare the lovely lunch AND for inviting members of the Association to their home.