Last night we had the honor of being guests for dinner in my husband’s friends’ home in the South of France. Simply delightful. I was politely introduced to three generations of family and was warmly welcomed with many bises-kisses.
We moved into the parlor where there was a large round table adorned with a Provence styled tablecloth in blues and whites and gold rimmed place settings. A richly colored tapestry hung above a beautiful buffet and the armoire and hutch situated near the dining table was complete with more china and stemware. The two over sized windows with antique looking shiny gold handles were slightly opened to offer a touch of fresh air. Aperitifs were offered to all. Cloudy yellow anise flavored Ricards and bubbly champagne flowed freely. Small squares (amuse-bouche) of pissaladiere – a French pizza made with caramelized onions, black olives and anchovies- were passed around the table, as were bowls of tiny black olives.
The family was so welcoming and so eager to speak English, while I, on the other hand, was eager to use my pathetic conversational French. French won out through the night and I remained rather silent, but comprehended much more than I had a few years ago. Smiling and nodding goes a long way when you’re not fully understanding, yet want to be a part of a conversation!
Each member of the family took part in preparing different aspects of our five hour epic feast. The evening had a beautiful rhythm to it. The table was cleared by various family members in a rotating fashion which made way for each delicious course.
The next arrival was a plate with a large rectangle piece of foie gras.. Little jars of fig confiture and baskets of sliced baguette were passed around. The duck liver with the fig melted in my mouth. My wine glass was suddenly filled with a sweet white wine. Mmmmm.
Sitting among this happy family gathering, I listened to my husband speak in his beautiful native tongue and smiled. He was happy. He looked so handsome laughing and cutting his garlic and parsley sautéed mushrooms that were the size of my palm. Yes, that was the next course. These incredible mushrooms, prepared by Monsieur D, our host, were accompanied by a watercress salad in a light vinaigrette. And crusty bread. My wine glass was suddenly filled with a full bodied burgundy wine.
Several glasses of wine led to a lively discussion of politics. I was mesmerized by this passionate conversation, not understanding anything at this point, when two large platefuls of meat stuffed ravioli in a red sauce were placed on the table. Our entrée had arrived. I didn’t think I could eat another bite, but somehow managed to finish my tasty portion. And more bread. And more wine. I thought I was going to explode. But when in Rome (or Cannes)…
Le dessert was next with a plate of REAL vanilla ice cream, fresh strawberries and some little crunchy chocolate wafers. Now one might think that this would be the end of this evening. Mais, non- but, no. This evening continued with hot tea served in delicate china teacups. The stimulating conversation continued and the hand motions along with the annunciations of each French word made me feel like I was at a symphony-very soothing and romantic sounds.
As we walked back to our apartment, I reflected on my own family and yearned for them. We, too, eat delicious and thoughtfully prepared meals, help in the preparation and clean-up together. We have political discussions that are very dividing and we certainly have our fair share of wine. I am so blessed to have my family and now to have shared in this same tradition with another family across the globe.