Dans la joie et la bonne humeur

Foie gras - don't tell my daughter!

Foie gras – don’t tell my daughter!

Something strange happened when I hit the supermarché last week. The store was busy with shoppers but they seemed oddly unhurried. By the entrance the homeless fellow selling his ‘Sans Abri’ newspaper seemed rather upbeat. I may have glimpsed smiles on people’s lips as they flitted about the aisles, loading bottles and nibbles into their baskets. Une animatrice talked a joyful patter while selling off seafood at half-price as shoppers milled about. I believe I even heard Bing Crosby crooning out a seasonal melody over the sound system.

Qu’est-ce qui se passe? I wondered, filling up my cart as usual (after all these years I’ve never lost my North American habit of stocking up). Christmas is past and the sales haven’t started so what is everyone so happy about?

Then the cashier wished me a ‘bon réveillon’, leaving me scrambling to reply in kind. That was it! New Year’s Eve, the one day of the year you can be sure the French will be smiling.

As I posted way back when I first started this blog, I’ve never quite understood why the French are quite so enamoured with New Year’s. Beyond the big blowout on the 31st, there is real sentiment in France around the fresh start in January, and a feeling that our good wishes must be shared with all those we love.

Having neither party nor family to attend to that evening, we booked a table at a restaurant in town – our go-to solution for le réveillon. The few restaurants that are open on New Year’s Eve near us all offer un menu spécial – a fixed price, multiple-course affair with a glass of bubbly to start. After all the cooking and fussing over Christmas, I was happy to ring out the old year with someone else doing the service.

Death becomes her

Ghost of New Year’s past

New year's dinner 2016

Who can resist such artful presentation?

Out of respect for our feathered friends, and our daughter, who is studying to become a vet and has become rather militant about cruelty to animals, we had decided to henceforth abstain from eating foie gras. But when the restaurant had already gone to so much trouble to prepare such a lovely plate (shown in feature photo above), graced with truffle and onion compote, it seemed too cruel not to do it justice.

There followed a dish of white fish floating in a lovely sauce, then medallions of beef filet with a few veg for good measure and two desserts. By the time we got to the end I was feeling silly and playing with the table decorations.

Baubles from the table

How’s that for a bit of bling?

It was a fitting conclusion to a month of over-indulgence. The smiles are still on the faces of the people I pass on the street, probably at least until the end of this week. After a few more wishes of good health, and a slice of galette des rois, quite possibly accompanied by a few more glasses of champagne, it will be time enough to get back to normal.

‘Dans la joie et la bonne humeur’ is an expression that means, quite literally, ‘with joy and good humour’. I’ve often heard it used with a degree of sarcasm, however, referring to the need to pick up the plough and carry on with a smile. New year’s oblige.

Bonne année à tous!


  1. phildange · January 5, 2017

    I have an interpretation of 31st smiling atmosphere, from what I observed around in many years . In France at least, Christmas is for family, possibly parasitized by these little screaming things you know ? and one or two stepmothers or annoying cousin . In short you have to behave, not take drugs and remain more or less dressed . On the 31st on the other hand, people plan a feast with their mates and then it’s time to party for real . Yeah !!!
    Well that’s about it I think . There is a common variant for your title, it is “dans la joie et l’allégresse” (glee, elation) . Originally from religious canticles this expression became popular when people are either enthusiastic or ironical and allows puns such as “dans la joie et la négresse !”, which is always a “plus” for a common expression .
    Well, I wish you a happy decade, for it is a bit niggard to limit one’s whishes to a miserable short year, don’t you think ?

    • MELewis · January 5, 2017

      An interesting addendum, many thanks, Phil! And I humbly wish you all the ‘allégresse’ that life has to offer over this and coming years.

  2. Lisa @ cheergerm · January 5, 2017

    That food looks delicous and how lovely to feel that palatable joie de Vivre! Happy New Year!

    • MELewis · January 5, 2017

      Indeed it was wonderful, Lisa, and the holiday joy is always welcome, especially during these cold and dark days in our hemisphere.Hope you are enjoying a sunny start to the year in Oz and that 2017 brings you much happiness and many more foodie inspirations!

  3. Mél@nie · January 5, 2017

    speakin’ of foie gras, well, our daughter is vegetarian, so we did have her part… 🙂
    * * *
    je te souhaite une excellente année et surtout LA santé, Mel… le reste suivra, ou pas! 😉 MILLE MERCI for dropping by my aire de jeux & friendly bises, Mélanie Bedos-Nicolas

    • MELewis · January 5, 2017

      Thanks for your holiday wishes, Melanie! As you so rightly say, health is the most precious thing we can hope for. Always a pleasure to drop by your playground, and looking forward to many more visits in the year ahead!

  4. Charlotte Graham · January 5, 2017

    Lovely photos! I really loved reading your story of your New Year’s Eve. You have such a knack with words. 🙂

    I’ve never tried fois gras, but the truffles sound amazing!

    • MELewis · January 5, 2017

      Foie gras is an acquired taste but I must say it is one I’ve quite come to enjoy. Truffles are wonderful in small doses, which is all I can afford anyway! Thanks for commenting and glad you enjoyed the post. Looking forward to checking out your revamped blog! xx

      • Charlotte Graham · January 6, 2017

        Same here with the truffles! I certainly couldn’t afford much of them. But they are certainly a nice indulgence every once in a while!

  5. Suzanne et Pierre · January 5, 2017

    Best wishes for the new year and hope to read many more of your weekly commentaries. I think we all hope that 2017 will be much calmer than 2016 but though I try to be optimistic I am not certain it will happen…but one can only hope. (Suzanne)

    • MELewis · January 5, 2017

      I can only echo your optimism, Suzanne, and hope it is well founded, despite the dark cloud forming to the south. We can only guess at what 2017 will hold but one thing is certain – it will be full of news! Our elections are coming up in France and I am steeling myself for the next several months of non-stop politics. 😦 Thanks for your well wishes!

      • Suzanne et Pierre · January 5, 2017

        I still read Le Monde and watch the French news on TV5 from time to time so I am kept up to date on the French Presidential Election. I am with you in hoping that it doesn’t turn as ugly as the US campaign! Crossing fingers for you!!!

      • Well, Marine Le Pen is so utterly classy we probably have nothing to worry about!

  6. Osyth · January 6, 2017

    WE spent New Year’s Eve driving endlessly through the fog from Bognor Regis to Calais and thence home to Cantal. Miraculously around midnight as we left Bourges behind us the stars all came out to play … it was the best of homecomings and the following day as everyone in the village wished us the best for the New Year we really felt that this year might just be a good year. I hope yours is full of joy and laughter, peace and content and of course the love of all those you care for. I also hope that maybe, as we set off to install ourselves in Grenoble this Sunday, you and I might finally meet and set this sorry old world to rights! Chin chin xx

  7. MELewis · January 7, 2017
    • MELewis · January 7, 2017

      I am so happy to hear of your homecoming! Can just imagine how it felt to be back in your village and being greeted with well wishes by all and sundry on the Jour de l’An. Must have been an awfully long drive, though, which by the way, I am not much of one for as I turn into a nervous Nelly on the motorway. But looking at the map it not so far and maybe the halfway point between Geneva and Grenoble could be Annecy? Also, one of my resolutions is to go back to visit Lyon more often this year, so we’ll surely been able to figure something out in that little triangle of our homeland. Wishing you all the very best of what the new year has to offer to you and yours, dear Osyth, and looking forward to sharing some of it in person! xx

  8. acflory · January 7, 2017

    Courtesy is everything. Can’t offend the chef! Happy New Year to you too.:)

    • MELewis · January 8, 2017

      A motto to live by, merci Meeks! 🙂

      • acflory · January 8, 2017

        De rien. 😀

  9. roughwighting · January 11, 2017

    I think it’s a great idea to start the new year with “joy and good humor.” Maybe starting off on the right foot/food will help the rest of the year! 😏

    • MELewis · January 11, 2017

      Well, one thing is sure: if we don’t start off right, it usually doesn’t bode well. Wishing you lots of joy and good humor in 2017!

  10. zipfslaw1 · January 17, 2017

    I love the bling! Meilleurs voeux.

    • MELewis · January 17, 2017

      Merci! 🙂 And happy new year to you! (Don’t you love that we have until the end of the month?)

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