During this holiday season there are parties galore. It is a time when the FRench have time to entertain and be entertained as most have at least a week off from work and many have more. Often there is a visit to the country or mountain house at this time too.
Usually in the French homes of my single friends, it is a sit down meal with 5 or six people as tables are small to go with the average small apartments.
This holiday however, I went to a large buffet that was hosted by a French friend, as an American style cocktail party with 25 people draped on all the furniture in the salon of a one bedroom apartment . Each of us brought a dish, either starter or dessert and the host cooked the "pot au feu" including a nice chunk of beef, carrots, potatoes and a side salad relish for each person.
There was a gift exchange and several guitar player guests took turns strumming. It was a delightful evening with mostly artists , cooks, musicians, teachers, but people representing every other walk of life as well.
There were two young children and a teacup chi-hua-hua. The children never got bored, or tired or became a nuisance in any way. The children asked for a pen and notebook and wrote poetry all night. The 9 year old girl had done her school paper on Surrealism which really took her fancy. You get the picture.
This modest apartment was covered in contemporary art done by the owner and his friends. And after years, I knew almost all of the guests from his parties before. He is very faithful to a core of friends.
Another invitation came from a French friend who lives in a pristine town between Monaco and Nice. The view overlooking the sea always makes a small apartment seem twice as large and that was the case here. This small two bedroom, apartment was neatly and tastefully appointed with Grandmother's antiques and mementos and books from the three years our friend had spent studying yoga in India.
The company for lunch was lively although there were just five of us. The talk went from Indian Fakirs to how a child learns language to what is being done to crops in FRance ( not good, they have their own sinister seed company equally as powerful as ours in the states) Every topic was welcomed with good humor and examined from all sides. We were, of course, careful around politics and religion since most of us had never met.
The food this glorious sunny day was the equivalent of an Italian picnic fit for a prince. We had marinated artichokes and mushrooms, Italian meats and cheeses, homemade vegetable soup and tabouli. The chianti and champagne were the best. The dessert was a chocolate, raspberry mouse cake from a good Pâtissier in Nice. An elegant table was laid with carefully selected antiques dishes.
So it's not true that foreigners don't get invited into French homes. It does take some time to build friendships and most French people work very hard to earn modest sums and have time off to entertain outside of their own families. Family life is very important here; the parents will be honored first at holidays, especially if they are old or living alone.
We hear that the FRench will not invite you in, that they feel that one must do all of the cooking oneself. Just aint' true these days. The old ways are changing fast.
And while you are here, I want to take this moment to thank you for another year of support on my blog and to wish you the very best in health, wealth, laughter and fun for 2012. As I said, the old ways are changing fast and we need to stick together.