Life really does revolve around food in Gascony. Every day from noon to two, the small town of Nerac shuts down and like every other French village, goes really hard at lunchtime – five courses hard. The courses consist of:
- aperitifs and hors d’oeuvres,
- an entrée,
- a salad,
- and a dessert, plus wine and coffee.
Dominique and his wife Christiane are no different. We'd usually wrap up our morning work and start cleaning the processing facility around 11:45. Once it was all scrubbed, I’d pile into Dominique’s car and we would take a short drive down the road to his house where Christiane awaited us.
Let me point something out here – Christiane worked with us in the morning, cutting carcasses, cooking pates, and making sausages. She would sneak out maybe 15 minutes ahead of us and by the time we reached the kitchen table, she always had an incredible French lunch prepared. As Dominique helped her with the final touches, I always set the table - in the French manner, of course.
And then we would feast!
I’ve never eaten like I have in France. Every meal, I absolutely gorged myself into a food-induced coma. Christiane was like a French mother – she kept scooping food onto my plate. I finally had to learn how to say,
'I am not hungry anymore' in French – Je n’ai plus faim.
Luckily, there was always a pot of coffee at the end of every meal to get me back on my feet and back to the facility.
My favorite part of the Chapolard lunches was the company. All throughout the meal and an hour afterward, Dominique, Christiane, and I would talk. We had some amazing exchanges. Their English was much better than my French, so throughout our conversations, I constantly used Google Translate and while Dominique kept his French to English dictionary close at hand. They taught me about French culture and life as well as valuable lessons and tips for my future butcher shop.
In return, I tried my best to describe the Texan way of life, my family, and our ranch. The concept of a "ranch" was very difficult for Dominique to comprehend. We settled on the concept of a "large farm" just for cattle. He will get to see it first hand this January when he comes to visit. I hope he brings Christiane in his suitcase!
I know Dominique and Christiane enjoyed these lunch conversations too. One of the most memorable quotes for me came from Dominique after a long discussion. He had some difficulty translating it at first, so he relayed it to Christiane and she began,
“Fifty percent of what Dominique sells is meat…”
“No, No.” Dominique interrupted.
“Twenty percent of what I sell is meat. Eighty percent is relationships.”
I'm not sure how he settled on that ratio, but he is absolutely right. Relationships are important. I will forever remember these meaningful conversations and these incredible people.
Thank you, Dom & Christiane.