~In October, we enjoyed aperitifs with two Canadian families in honor of Canadian Thanksgiving. It turns out the traditional Canadian meal isn't so different from the U.S. version, even though our friends' version is vegetarian and the dates for the thanksgiving meals are about a month apart. What was perhaps unusual was that, by French standards, the gathering took place early, at la bonne heure, and by North American expectations , we should not have been able to have our drinks outside (but it was a fall Provençal afternoon which means it was sunny and mild).
~A week or so later, we joined Lyonnaise friends in a French country house kitchen to enjoy a meal typical of Martinique, a French island in the Caribbean. That meal was prepared by the visiting father of friends, who had brought several 3 liter boxes of dangerously tasty Island rhum agricole (two drinks of rum mixed with syrup or jam plus lime was clearly enough for me, judging from my headache the next morning). The meal itself was coq (rooster), with all of its 'special' parts (yep, the 'coq' part too), slow-cooked in a jerk-type sauce, accompanied by a dish of beans, all served over rice. Tasty!
~This week we tasted Algerian specialties, including samosa-type appetizers filled with seasoned ground beef, a chopped red pepper sauce on mini-toasts, followed by the tomato-based and wheat grain-thickened chorba, the soup that traditionally marks the end of Ramadan fasts. Our French-Algerian friends then served us couscous with stewed vegetables and beef and chicken, all cooked in a cocotte minute (a pressure cooker, a very popular item in French kitchens). Because of Islamic and family traditions, we did not drink wine, but our pineapple upside down cake dessert and the wonderful hospitality were accompanied by the deliciously sweet mint tea.
~And finally, while it wasn't a meal, last weekend, one son and I picked olives, an autumn food-based tradition here in the South of France which was every bit as communal and international as our meals this past month, given the friendly conversations in multiple languages taking place among pickers. We didn't taste the fresh olives (they aren't considered edible until cured or pressed), but the result of our tree climbing and shaking efforts will result in bottles of olive oil, a staple ingredient in many French dishes.