Sunday, June 5, 2011

Traditional French Lunch

We had the opportunity to be invited over for lunch after church by some French friends who have children the same age as ours. It was a delightful day & we were so excited that they extended an invitation to us since they know we do not speak a ton of French yet.

The day was lovely! Traditionally if you are invited for lunch, you should plan on spending the whole afternoon. We read up on what it could be like before we arrived. We made sure to bring a gift since that was recommended. That was interesting to try to figure out. It's recommended that if you bring wine, you bring a good French wine. We're not wine experts so we avoided bringing wine. It's recommended that if you bring flowers you bring an odd number but not 7 or 13, and also certain flowers signify different things and so do their colors. We avoided bringing flowers too. It's safe to bring chocolates, and I was comfortable with the idea of bringing a dessert, though I did not want to show up my hostess if she had prepared one. So we brought fancy chocolate tea cookies (biscuits) and some Disney character chocolate or strawberry filled cakes (reminded me of twinkies) for the kids. Turns out we picked a good thing to bring. They were a hit with the kids and the adults. :-)

So the main idea of a meal is not just good food. In France the idea is to sit and talk and taste and talk some more. It was fabulous! We started at about noon and finished the day with our friends at 6pm. The first course was an apertif, or pre-dinner drink. It was some sort of hard liquor, maybe Vermooth (I don't even know how to spell that!). We sat sipping this strong drink while talking and munching on pistachios and chips (pronounced: sheeps). Then the kids were called in for the meal and we sang & clapped a prayer.
It went something like this (pardon my spelling and lack of accent marks):

Le pain de hier etait dur. (Yesterday's bread is hard.)
Le pain de demain n'est pas cuit. (Tomorrow's bread is not yet cut.)
Merci Pere, pour le pain d'ajourd'hui. (Thank you Father for the bread of today.)

Then they poured water into one cup and wine into another and we all toasted: A votre sante! (To your health.) All French people, including Christians, have wine with meals. It would almost be unheard of to not have wine with a meal. Wine is used for communion and at the potluck meals at church too. It takes some getting used to.

There was a delicious chicken and a special regional potato and cheese dish for the main course followed by bread and three types of cheeses and then a salad (which is traditionally just lettuce with a dijon mustard dressing).  We spent lots of time talking and laughing, and stumbling over our French. It was great and they were so patient. After dessert, strawberries with chantilly cream (whipped cream), we went to the lake. They drove us out to the lake near Chambery simply because they had asked if we had ever been and we had not -what hospitality! The lake was stunning with the Alps in the background. I wish we had brought our camera. It's the largest natural lake in Europe. The weather was perfect and the water was cool. Our kids loved it! When we came back we had icepops. I'm pretty sure the evening would have continued but Claire suddenly started feeling ill (the start to her flu), so we went home. We plan on having our French friends over for an American experience soon. :-)

We were so glad to be able to experience this so that we could prepare a traditional meal kind of like it for our friends who visited from the States.

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