I know how the prodigal son felt. Rather flatteringly, our arrival in Castillonnès prompted a meal that would befit someone who has been away from home for a long time. In our case, we have been away from home – as we call it – for a full 50 weeks.
It feels good to be back.
We had asked our friend Jenny if we could pop round to hers on our first night in the village. After driving over 450 miles down through France, we knew we wouldn’t have much to eat or drink in the house. A glass of wine and maybe a hunk of bread in Jenny’s garden would be perfect to see us through, we thought.
What we didn’t expect was a dinner party in our honour. Her house guest, Christine, had prepared supper in the garden. Two good friends, Fatna and her husband Jean-Louis, joined us too.
In fact, they brought the first course. I know the prodigal son was offered a fatted calf, but we had a fatted goose instead – the Périgordine speciality, foie gras. It came with some Monbazillac, a sweet wine made just down the road.
To follow, we enjoyed a lime and vodka sorbet, which cleansed our palates, before we moved on to the main course, confit de canard. With its crispy skin and rich, dark meat, this is another local delicacy.
We talked and laughed until long after the sun had set.
It was a lovely surprise to have a meal made to mark our arrival. An even bigger revelation was how much my partner Damon’s French has come along since our last visit to France.
We all commented on the difference.
For the past couple of months, he has been practising using the DuoLingo app on his iPad. Fifteen minutes a day seems to have given him the vocabulary – and the confidence – to chat away in French all evening.
It proved an evening of lovely surprises all round.