I’ve experienced and written a lot about Sunday Lunch, because I think it’s such a warm and admirable French tradition. Families and friends get together to while away the day simply enjoying – a meal, a beautiful table, each other. It’s always a moment hors temps, outside of time, where the clock ticks more slowly, the wine tastes more rich, the food has an allure and depth of flavor that is simply extraordinary, and the company is so relaxed that conversation and humor flow freely.
Last Sunday, On Rue Tatin was the stage for such a Sunday Lunch. I was the cook and hostess so perhaps it’s not appropriate to call the event “extraordinary” but it was, thanks in huge part to the lively, fun, harmonious group that arrived to enjoy it.
They came because of serendipity in the form of a talk I gave at Adrian Leeds’ renowned Parler Paris Après Midi. Held on the second Tuesday of every month, in the cafe de la Mairie in the Marais, it is a chance for (mostly) expats hungry for information, entertainment, and fun to gather and listen to a speaker. There the idea was born to bring a group to On Rue Tatin for a Sunday lunch. Adrian was guide, co-host, and general arbiter of laughter and fun.
Everyone arrived happy, hungry, and eager to sip the sparkling Normandy cider, which I served with several amuses bouches, appetizers, including thinly sliced black radish on thickly buttered baguette, with fleur de sel, and seared foie gras on fingerling potatoes seasoned with tonka bean. From the moment everyone raised his or her glass for a rousing “Santé,” I knew the afternoon would be a success.
Later, glancing around the table as diners enjoyed Poulet Normande, chicken braised in Calvados and apple cider, I saw friendships being made, joy being had. “The world needs more of this,” I thought, watching people from many horizons cross the line from acquaintanceship to friendship. By afternoons’ end, with the last spoonful of Tarte Tatin and crème fraiche, caramelized apple tart, and thick cream, and the last sip of coffee, there was such unity in the room. Phone numbers were being exchanged, there were whispers of a group returning to take a cooking class, of meeting up for a reunion at On Rue Tatin the same time next year, of getting together in Paris.
As the last guest left the courtyard, and with a final wave, I turned back to the house. “What if we could do enough Sunday Lunches to bring the world together?” I mused. That’s way too tall an order, of course, but watching a group of strangers become friends over a meal, I’m even more convinced than before that eating together is the best revenge, the ideal way to get over barriers, cultural and otherwise.
And, it must be said, Sunday Lunch is just about the best way to have the most fun on a rainy, snowy, sunny afternoon in the country! Bon Appétit!
Here is the recipe for the wonderful Watercress and Roasted Beet Salad, for your cooking and dining pleasure!
WATERCRESS AND BEET SALAD WITH ALMONDS
SALADE DE CRESSON, BETTERAVES, ET AUX AMANDES
This salad bounces around the palate like spring sun bounces off the water. It is bright and vivid in both color and flavor. If you can’t find fresh, green almonds use whole, skinned almonds. And if you’re lucky enough to live in France and be in a rush, you can buy your beets already cooked!
1 medium sized beet or 2 small beets
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup (80ml) extra virgin olive oil
2 shallots, sliced paper-thin
6 cups watercress sprigs
Generous ½ cup (110g) fresh, green almonds, or raw (untoasted) almonds that have been lightly toasted and coarsely chopped
- If using raw, green almonds, crack the outer shell, and peel off the inner golden skin to reveal the tender young almond. Reserve.
- Bring 3 cups water to a boil in the bottom half of a steamer. Add the beets and steam until they are tender through, 30 to 40 minutes. When the beets are cool enough to handle, peel them, and cut them into small dice. Reserve.
- In a large bowl whisk together the vinegar with salt and pepper to taste, until the salt dissolves. Slowly whisk in the olive oil until the mixture is emulsified. Stir in the shallots and season to taste.
- Place 2 tablespoons of the dressing in a small bowl. Add the diced beet and toss, so all the pieces are thoroughly coated with dressing. Reserve.
- Add the watercress to the remaining dressing in the large bowl, toss gently but thoroughly so the watercress leaves are coated with the dressing, then add the almonds. Toss again, and divide among six plates, making sure the almonds are arranged so that they can be seen. Sprinkle equal amounts of the beets atop the salad and serve immediately.