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2019-01-09 / Columnists

Just Bill

Look Up Boney M on YouTube If You Can
Musings from the Mind of Bill Diem

We were four couples on New Year’s Eve in a small living room with a bigscreen television, chatting about everything but religion and politics until about 10:00 p.m.

The coffee table was loaded with fois gras and tapenade on toast, cheese cubes and Marie-Sophie’s little cups of various goodies consumed with little spoons. Everyone had a champagne glass to be filled twice or thrice with champagne or sparking apple juice.

Then we were called to the table for the first course, called the “entrée” in France. It was a platter of 50 or 60 oysters on the half shell. Some people ate a dozen oysters, I had eight or nine and my neighbor to the right had none, preferring the salmon and shrimp offered on the side. Daniel had brought the oysters and shucked them all. Those who wished had a glass of white wine with the seafood.

Then our host André announced that the ducks were a long way from done, so we went back to the living room. Hostess Claire started her playlist, sending rock and disco music through the television’s speakers, and we danced for almost an hour. I can move with the beat and rock a little with Sylvie, but André and Claire are champion rockers who would have had the cameras following them on “American Bandstand.”

We were finally called back to the table for the “plat principal.” Everyone had a beautifully roasted duck leg and thigh, the skin crisp, the meat falling apart. We passed around potatoes a little like home fries, with salt from Africa’s Senegal and mushrooms picked in 2017 by André. The drought last summer and fall made mushrooms rare, but in 2017 André had gathered a bushel and froze those he didn’t eat right away. Red wine replaced the white, and three jugs of water were refilled at least three times.

Sometime during the main course it became 2019, so we all stood up and moved around to kiss the cheeks of everyone else, wishing them a happy new year.

Dessert was a spice cake I made, rich with honey, nutmeg, anise, cloves and cinnamon. Sylvie made a crème anglaise to pour over each slice. Then we danced again. This time, Claire hooked up the television to YouTube and I met a European band of the ’70s, Boney M, doing its first big hit, “Daddy Cool.” I would have loved to see Boney M perform. YouTube algorithms sent several other Boney M clips to the screen. Then Claire found “The Madison,” and those that could, did.

By two couples had gone home, but we stayed for another hour to chat, and when we got home about five we watched a romantic comedy on DVD, “The Last Holiday.” Then Sylvie made onion soup, the traditional French snack for after an all-nighter.

Basically, you cook up a lot of onions in butter, flour them, add white wine and bouillon and cook until the alcohol boils off; then, on each bowl, float some toasts covered with shredded cheese that have had a few minutes under the oven grill. We went to bed at eight, feeling much younger.

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