Photo above: A spring table, set for a fête. Painting by Tom Vieth (more info below).
If you are invited to a French person’s home for a dinner party, you should know this: you are really someone special. The French tend to dine in restaurants with friends, and being invited to dinner chez eux is a big occasion. Especially if you’re a foreigner. And a French dinner party is not the come-on-over-Saturday-and-we’ll-throw-some-steaks-on-the-grill sort of affair. It’s a special event. All the more so, in a country where every meal is somewhat of a special event.
I came across an article called What to Expect When Invited for Dinner in a French Home, by Camille Chevalier-Karfis, the French language expert on about.com’s learning site. She gives a good overview, but I decided to add a few thoughts of my own, that she didn’t cover:
Bring a Gift. Wine is not the thing to bring, it suggests you’re trying to play sommelier for the evening. Bring a little hostess gift of some sort, or a plant or flowers (already arranged, please). We often bring wine AND a gift, but we will whisper in the host’s ear, “Here’s a little something to tuck away in your cave.” Photo: Dining with French friends this past summer.
Gear up for a long evening. From les apéros to les digestifs, at a French dinner party, the evening unfolds and blossoms in slow motion. Even a summer barbeque party is apt to have the same multi-course structure. We are seldom home before midnight, even with our aging crowd!
Don’t sashay into the kitchen to help with the serving or cleaning up. Unlike the States, this is not the land of the open kitchen; the kitchen is the domain of the chef, and your hosts want to regale you with warm and wonderful service. An offer to help is OK, but keep your seat if it’s declined.
Enjoy yourself! There will laughter and heated discussions and wine and much fun. Dining in France is one of the best parts of living here.
NEXT POST: How to throw a fun French-themed dinner party of your own, for your Francophile friends.
About the painting above: You may know Susan and Tom Vieth from their delightful blog, A Small Village in France. Tom painted this wonderful scene and it's now available as a silk scarf! Perfect for spring (should it ever arrive...). Get the info and see other scarves, here.
In the COMMENTS: Christine (of the Pen at the Ready blog), I have a collard greens-averse husband too. But then, he's not from the South. Libby of Libby Wilkie Designs is headed for Charleston--you'll no doubt hear even more about Sean Brock. Suzanne has a Louisville restaurant recommendation. And cornbread crumbs ,Suzanne, that is so inspired. Natalia, I'm jealous you're in the Southwest, where the Mexican food is divine!
Favorite Reads: Our reader Christine Webb-Curtis has a new book out called Adventures in the Southern Corners of France, about her travels there. Just bought it, as I'm headed that way twice this spring. Plus big news: The Daily Basics has a new monthly magazine, called The DB Mag. It's on-line, it's free, and it's wonderful! Plus, they now have a love and life advice column, so send in your questions.