Well, ok, so I probably can’t say there is one genre of food that is “Texan.” There’s barbecue, especially beef (that’s smoked meats with sauce, folks, NOT just grilled meat); there’s “country cookin’,” like chicken fried steak or fried catfish; and then there’s Tex-Mex, which is NOT Mexican food, like in Mexico, or in California or New Mexico, either. But being native Texans, we associate all these kinds of foods with comfort food. And to say that the ingredients for the foods we grew up with are not readily available here would be an understatement.
Yet, tonight we host our moved-from-Paris-this-year neighbors for dinner, and we are serving Tex-Mex. I hope they will find it fun and interesting! We are serving our best approximation of unfamiliar-to-them food, but hospitality is always about making one’s guests feel welcome and comfortable, so we are doing so in the French format, sort of. For instance, the French serve meals in courses: an aperitif, the entree (appetizer to us), the plat (main course) with wine, often a cheese plate sometimes with a wine, and dessert. Coffee is often served AS dessert or after dessert, rarely with dessert.
We are not big drinkers, Stoney and I (and to be fair, I have NEVER seen a drunk French person in the 9 months I’ve been here), but I have had the occasional glass of wine with a meal. But the French buy wine like Texans buy beer, so for this meal, I am offering drinks. Our aperitif of chips and salsa and guacamole will be served with sangria. The gentleman at the cave recommended a French wine for the purpose. We are having an entree of black bean soup, and at the recommendation of a friend, I am offering a California wine with our meal of fajitas (made authentically, not from the Old El Paso kits at the French groceries). The French cave store is also where I got this wine, so I left his store with two bottles. But I really had to wonder, and even laugh, at how this happened.
When I asked the gentleman in the wine store if he had any California wines, he lit up and said oh yes! And slipped into a back room not open to the general public. He came out with a Zinfandel, which I think will be lovely. THIS bottle he wrapped in plain paper, and put both the unwrapped bottle and the wrapped one in a store bag.
The anonymous bottle of wine.
Now, it could be that this bottle was wrapped to protect the two bottles in the shopping bag. I don’t know how helpful one layer of paper might be, but considering the fact that this California vintnery was not displayed on the shelf, I think it entirely possible that the non-French label was being concealed. He wouldn’t want to embarrass me perhaps? The more I thought about my plain-wrapped bottle, the more I actually laughed. This is delightful! Imported wines have a small place in the grocery stores, but I am sure this very classy one-room cave has a fine French reputation to uphold.
The very tall, thin bottle is a naturally sweet pinot I picked up in Barcelona, actually for the bottle. I thought the bottle was amazingly cool and I’m planning what to do with it when it’s empty. It is meant to be served only with something sweet, so I will offer it with my chilled Oreo bonbons, served with a petite scoop of vanilla ice cream, and the option of a small glass of this wine or coffee.
The American wine for the American meal…exposed!
At any rate, it will be a rather imported meal all-around. The chips and salsa and ingredients for the guac are all local. We have shopped a dozen stores and the offerings are limited, but we have the closest we could find to authentic. The French do not eat very spicy, so we aren’t adding any of our canned jalepenos from the States (I’ll probably have a small bowl on the side). We miss Pace with all our hearts, and there is nothing like real fresh jalepeno or cilantro here, although they have similar things labeled as such. Makes it impossible to make your own, but Theo and I are seriously considering growing our own from seeds in a mail-order catalog.
The black bean soup uses American black beans we brought with us. My Thursday French teacher could hardly believe I knew what I was saying when I told her I was making soupe des haricot noire. “Noire?!” I’m going to take some dried beans in for her to see next week! I think I’ve seen some in the big l’Eclerc in Blagnac, but maybe they are rare. The cumin for the seasoning is also from the States, but I think I can get it here, too.
Fajitas will be chicken and beef, with the traditional colored peppers and onions, and chunky chopped tomatoes. We will serve avocado slices rather than guacamole, and no pico de gallo. It would be too spicy for them anyway. The tortillas will come from the store; I’m not bothering to make them.
So there you go. It will be interesting to see how it goes over, because in my experience, the French happily eat just about anything! If you were introducing French friends to American food, what would you want to make?