So what have French people been eating over Christmas?

In our household we’ve stuck firmly to an English Christmas. During our fourteen years in Ireland we never crumbled either. We never made the adaptation to having ham as well as turkey at Christmas, or salted cod or spiced beef in its place, and we held onto our rich fruit cake rather than go with a madeira cake, which I seem to think was two-coloured. Or maybe I’m imagining that last bit.

Mind you, there’s a slight crack appearing in our façade as we’ve embraced the French ice-cream bûche noël as part of Christmas Day tea, but not the cake version. Bûche noël means Christmas log, and the cake in both versions, either frozen or sponge, is log shaped, and traditionally decorated with a meringue (or plastic) lucky mushroom at the very least. The majority of the sales for edible bûches take place in the last three weeks of December, during which time three litres of the ice-cream type are consumed every second, giving a total consumption of 10 million litres each year.

Photo: ice cream buche

Around 22 million turkeys graced French tables over Christmas, a sixfold increase from thirty years ago. France is the second biggest turkey producer in the world. Also popular at Noël is the chapon, or capon (castrated cockerel). This is produced mainly in Gers and Jura, and is a specialty of Bresse, where it has an appellation to distinguish it from other capons. Only a Bresse patte bleue (blue foot) can qualify for the AOC version. The birds are fed a diet of 75% cereals that means the meat is tender and tasty. The poularde is the female version of the Bresse birds. We had one of these for our Christmas dinner this year, and very tasty it was too.

Photo: turkey

You won’t find any on our table but snails are a popular seasonal nibble. French people eat 16 million kilogrammes of these gastropods each year, with most of that quantity being consumed during the festive season. And of course there’s paté. France produces and consumes three quarters of the 27 million kgs eaten each year in the world. French people guzzle their way through around thirty-three tonnes of chocolate, and we have definitely contributed that figure. We rather like chocolate in our household. This year for Christmas we have Dutch chocolate, supplied by Caiti, some English chocolate supplied by family and friends and French choccie we stocked up with ourselves.

Photo: 3 chocs

There are plenty of tasty leftovers in our fridge, not forgetting two more Christmas puds in the cupboard, so we’ve got a lot more festive eating to do before the New Year. We show restraint then but the French go completely mad with food as part of their celebrations. But more about that nearer the time.