french fridays and farewells

This is a post we have long dreaded to write.

That’s because we hate farewells. We hate the realization that someone who has made such a huge impact on our lives — our faith, our day-to-day habits, our community — has graduated to opportunities bigger and better than us.

This week, our beloved priest Fr. Luke left us for Cairo, where he is beginning an intensive, multi-year study program at the Dominican Institute for Oriental Studies.

It’s probably the last thing you expected… that our priest would be one of our best friends and the one whose departure we are mourning.

But Fr. Luke is no ordinary priest.

First of all, he’s our age. Second, he shares many of the same interests, affiliations, and loves as we do. And finally, his enthusiasm for life is contagious, powerful, and a direct influence on how we choose to live each day. He may have only been here for two years, but our lives will never be the same for it.

It’s his lunchtime invitations to take a mind-clearing walk around the neighborhood. It’s his voracious love for scripture and Biblical history, which he imparts with so much enthusiasm that it is impossible not to listen. It’s his constant requests for homemade bread and mayo and his claim that he can never go back to the store bought stuff after Jason. It’s his singing, whether used to sing along to a Disney duet or leading a Dominican chant in church. It’s his adoration for both the young and old in our community — to emboldening the newly arrived young adults while also respecting those who have influenced the neighborhood for decades. It’s his homilies, which we often joke are like getting sprayed with a firehose of grace. And it’s his unrelenting friendship and the fact that he can come over at a moment’s notice for a glass of wine and an evening non-work-related chat.

fr. luke

Fr. Luke [in the red vest] with some of the St. Dominic Young Adults at my 30th birthday party

fr. luke

Always down for a beer in his habit!

One thing we especially love about Fr. Luke is his love for all things French. He and Jason can carry on at length in the French language and constantly share French movies and music selections with one another. He was especially excited when he learned about our weekly French Fridays, whereby every Friday we attempt to speak predominantly in French. [To be clear, our French Fridays mostly involve Jason speaking AT me in French and me responding with “Quoi??”]

Ever since learning about our Friday tradition, Fr. Luke was adamant about holding a true French Friday dinner and participating fully in the festivities. So when he announced to us several months ago that he would be leaving us in August for Egypt, we knew we had to make a Fr. Luke-worthy French Friday happen in a big way. And that meant raclette.

We held it on an assuming Friday in July and pulled out all of the stops: homemade bread, fresh market salad, charcuterie and cheese, olives, and a perfectly spiced tenderloin. My dad brought the seemingly never-ending supply of wine, our friend Beth brought the French pastries, and Fr. Luke brought the French music playlist.

homemade bread market salad charcuterie

Then there was the raclette — an essential for any French-inspired dinner. We mentioned raclette just last week when we found a restaurant serving it in Aspen. We also payed homage to it during our travels through London, France, and Belgium last December, when we tried to find all of the traditional raclette at as many holiday markets as humanly possible.

raclette

Raclette at La Creperie du Village in Aspen

raclette

Raclette at Borough Market in London

So imagine our joy when we finally found this coveted cheese at our local cheese shop, St. Killian’s! Our French Friday dinner was officially complete!

Those unfamiliar with raclette: get ready to fall in love.

Sure, raclette originally hails from Switzerland, but it’s become a staple across France and Belgium as well, especially at parties or during the holidays. [So excuse us as we incorporate it into as many French Fridays as we desire.]

This semi-hard cow’s milk cheese, named from the French word racler, meaning “to scrape,” is not your typical slice-and-serve accoutrement. It traditionally comes in a giant 13-lb. wheel, which is subsequently “roasted” over open flame and scraped off atop potatoes or bread [depending on what region of the world you are from] and served alongside gherkins and dried meat. Nowadays, however, it’s more common to see raclette prepared with electric table-top grills and small coupelles pans, which allows the onions and meat to grill on the top while the raclette melts below it. This is especially popular at restaurants and private homes where the guests do not mind multi-hour, self-serve dinner parties.

While we don’t [yet!] own a proper raclette grill, we found that our oven broiler worked perfectly fine as a substitute [albeit a substandard one]. In the end, our French Friday farewell celebration was a completely indulgent evening and one that we will certainly remember for the company, conversation, and cuisine. We even got in a few France-inspired stories and some practice dialogue, though it’s safe to say they weren’t necessarily for this particular French Friday.

raclette raclette

What was important was sending off Fr. Luke as he deserved: with friends and food and all things French.

It’s been a teary and emotional goodbye to say the least, but we take comfort in knowing that while this might be farewell for now, it is hardly goodbye forever. Until then, every French Friday will carry with it a little piece of Luke. And we couldn’t be more thrilled.

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