This is one of those experiences that make me feel I really live in France. I can’t begin to explain the significance of it, so profound is it for me. So I’ll do my best to just report it.
At noon today, I accompanied Bernard to the home of Denis and Jeanne Chassagne. They are the Bertail’s next door neighbors and I’ve long heard about them. They are everything you’d hope to find in an elderly couple – kind, welcoming, and enjoying your company. It was an absolute privilege to spend 90 minutes with them in their home.
We sat on their terrace overlooking their backyard. M. Chassagne had prepared the table in advance of our arrival. On it, we’re a couple of bowls of crackers, but more importantly bottles of Ricard and Aveze.
As you likely know, I’m a huge fan of Ricard, the French pastis that is typically served before dinner with ice and water. It’s licorice flavored and I love it, despite my inability to pronounce it correctly in French. I’ve only seen it prepared with ice and water, never mixed with something else.
M. Chassagne served Ricard with Aveze, which is another French liqueur. It’s got a medicinal quality about it and is either loved or hated. Melinda, for one, loves it. I found it in the US and use it sparingly in a variety of cocktails back home that Melinda refers to as “her medicine.” It’s also expensive in the US, although not so here.
So M. Chassagne put in my glass what I will refer to as one part Ricard and three or four parts Aveze. He then added three ice cubes. That’s the drink. Very strong. Bernard suggested we add some water, which we did, M. Chassagne explaining in French that he was doing so because it was warm out and he was “thirsty.”
I loved this drink.
As the conversation continued, M. Chassagne explained that a classic drink is a touch of Creme de Cassis and Aveze. Of course he proceded to get his bottle of Creme de Cassis and made us that drink, pouring by eye. It, too, was wonderful. Finishing it, he proceeded to pour me a simple Ricard, after getting up, looking for, and discovering that he had no more Aveze.
I think he began with almost half a bottle.
Christine warned me that he was quick to refill empty glasses.
Oh, did I say that this interaction began at noon?
I loved it all and am pleased to have meet M. et Mdm. Chassagne. They are well into their 80’s and enjoy having the Bertails next door, given they have no grandchildren. M. Chassagne recollected how he came to help Theo at our house during the sabbatical when he was having trouble with the lawn mower (Theo mowed our lawn for 10 Euros). I remembered that!
The Cassagnes have traveled the world since retiring and enjoy cruise ships. They even spent a night in Seattle in 1996. I tried my best to track the conversation in French, Bernard translating much of it. I think Aveze helps with my comprehension.