What’s for dinner?

Olive trees below the castle
Olive trees below the castle

We were invited for dinner to the home of someone that we had only recently met. Over the years we’ve had many meals at the homes of French friends where we were staying but this was the first time that we were “on our own” so to speak. The questions came pouring into our minds about what to wear, what to take, what time to show up, what utensils would we use first, and the all-important: what are they going to serve? I thought you might enjoy reading about this authentic and really fun evening in a French home.

A website about French culture that we follow suggested that if you get invited to someone’s house for dinner that you should intentionally show up 15 minutes late and then apologize for keeping the host waiting. We followed the first part of that advice figuring it would give them that little bit of extra time to prepare and hoping the box of chocolates that we brought as a gift would excuse us for any imagined or genuine lateness. We were greeted warmly at the door with handshakes from the husband and bisous (air kisses to both cheeks) from the wife and 13-year-old son before being escorted to the dining room table.

Already awaiting us there were bowls of ripe olives, fresh radishes and tiny hot peppers from their garden, sliced dry sausage, and barbecued potato chips that the teenager devoured and I found quite tasty too. To go with that as the aperitif we could choose whisky, port, or vermouth plus sparkling and still water. That was followed by a quiche lorraine, right out of the oven, and the first of several bottles of wine. Our host opened a red Graves from Bordeaux, about 3 hours east of Carcassonne, to go with the starter.

The main course was stewed chicken with olives accompanied by roasted potatoes, a crusty baguette, and a bottle of red Languedoc wine, from our region right here. Next was a selection of half a dozen cheeses, another baguette, and a different bottle of local wine. Then out of the oven came a just-baked apple tart for dessert. With the dishes cleared from the table, coffee followed with just enough wine left in that last bottle for one glass each.

The conversation topics varied as did the English and French languages, but there was seldom a break in the talking. Differences in cultures between the US and France, especially politics, was a big topic as was our adjusting to life in a new country. Their initial invitation included the offer to help us if we got into a situation that we didn’t understand, and they reiterated that during the meal. Interestingly we’ve had the exact same offer from many French people that we’ve encountered so I would just add that to the long list of their charms.

The evening ended exactly as it had begun with handshakes and kisses at the door. With all of the attention that we’ve received since arriving in Carcassonne, it would seem that the “warm and sunny” reputation of the south of France is truly deserved.

5 thoughts on “What’s for dinner?

  1. I’ve read that stuff about being 15 minutes late, but our friends show up like clockwork on time. Exactly. And everybody kisses everybody, but that may have to do with the fact that we are old friends now–they have known each other for decades, and we joined 12 years ago.
    Everything is way more relaxed and informal than the magazines and blogs would lead one to believe. No elaborate table settings or centerpieces. The food is the centerpiece. Again, that might be because of familiarity.
    We were invited last night, too. Next door, with a dozen people, for homemade bouillabaise, my first time to eat it. The verdict: awesome. We had aperos by the pool, then moved to the table under a huge magnolia for dinner. It was a little cool, but it’s so nice to be outside.

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  2. Bob, they would have had to roll me out the front door with all that food. I don’t know what I would have done with all that wine. If I have 1/2 glass I am usually on my way to being asleep. I do remember my Mom telling my Dad to never refuse wine from her French father. Sounds like you had a great evening. Great story.

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