Despite being seriously outnumbered, Ian Moore does his best to keep one British tradition alive in the midst of full-on French festivities
Tradition is important. Take Shakespeare for instance; Shakespeare plays should involve actors in tights, ruffs around their necks and be performed in the language the play was written in. I want none of this ‘based on…’ stuff; no leather jackets, piercings or modern slang. I want to see tradition. I’m the same with Christmas, Christmas is all about tradition and what’s become a festive tradition since we moved to France is that Christmas is always chez Moore.
On the face of it that may appear quite daunting. My wife’s French family is bigger than if all the Walton children had gone on to have really, really big families – there’s literally hundreds of them – and Christmas Eve and Christmas Day can see anything between 20 and 30 descend on us for a couple of days. That’s 20 or 30 people, who aren’t shy about their opinions on food; nervewracking days indeed, which means that whenever I put a plate out in front of the throng, I feel like a contestant on Masterchef, nervously awaiting the verdict.
Christmas Eve in France takes some getting used to. It almost takes priority over Christmas Day in terms of importance, and my theory for this is that, as usual, it’s all about food. The Christmas Day menu is pretty much determined by tradition – and all the better for that obviously – whereas Christmas Eve, the réveillon, can be anything and, therefore, seems to generate more excitement. Now that’s all very well, but the problem with the réveillon is that it never ends! Guests will gather from all over the country and so dinner very rarely starts before 11pm and – this being a French meal – goes on for hours, seriously eating into ‘Father Christmas’ time. By four in the morning, ‘Father Christmas’ – chores finally done and young children at last asleep – is a broken man and desperately in need of a lie-in, which he isn’t going to get obviously.
Christmas Day is slightly different. Perhaps it’s guilt at having kept the host and hostess up so late, or maybe they just don’t trust my cooking, whatever it is they all pitch in. Someone will bring oysters complete with a team delegated to open them; the salmon will be brought by someone else and prepared; my wife will have made the foie