I thought it would be interesting to describe a meal we had at a 'commune dinner' in south-west France. Almost all communes in rural France have these meals once or twice a year, although they are less common now that regulations prevent volunteers from preparing the food themselves - an external caterer must be used, which increases the cost.

The meal described is not even slightly 'posh', but is very representative of what the French eat. Note that unlimited bread, water and wine are available throughout the meal.

Vermicelli soup

Vermicelli soup. This is very simple to make. Fry some finely chopped / sliced onion in some olive oil until soft, then add salt and pepper and stock. After simmering gently for 15 minutes, add the vermicelli and simmer for a further 10 minutes.

The tradition is that when the bowl of soup is finished, a small (1/3 of a glass) of red wine is poured into the bowl and swirled around, then drunk from the bowl directly. Well I did say it wasn't posh.

Melon with port and parma ham

Cut a honeydew melon in half, across the middle rather than end to end,  and scoop out the seeds. Pour 1/2 glass of port into the hole created. This was poured in at the table, after the melon was served. Eat with a slice of parma ham or similar. (White wine was an acceptable alternative to the port, and some people preferred to have half and half, port and white wine).

Venison with haricot verts (french beans, green beans)

We are lucky to have fine venison available in the region at low cost. The venison was cooked like a normal steak, and the beans cooked, well, like normal beans. No other vegetable was eaten, and the French like their vegetables overcooked - visitors to our house have accused us of eating vegetables raw because we cook them very little. For authenticity, boil the beans to death for 10 minutes. For flavour and nutritional value, 2-3 minutes should be enough.

Camembert with salad

Piece of camembert, lettuce.

Tarte aux pommes

A staple item that I have described at french apple tart


When the coffee arrived, various noxious liquers appeared from peoples pockets, and were added enthusiastically to the coffee. These mostly seemed to comprise eau de vie with whole prunes floating about.