When I read about how to entertain like the French, it often sounds like so much work. The courses, the table settings…
But in my experience, entre amis, French entertaining is like French fashion–carefully thought-out, but never overdone. Elaborate centerpieces delivered from the best florists and fancy catering may be de rigueur when having one’s boss or other important people to dinner, but among friends the priorities are different.
No. 1: conviviality. No. 2: the food. No. 3: everything else.
Those fancy dinners are designed to impress, whereas dinners with friends are to enjoy. Here are some scenes from a picnic last weekend.
The tablecloths are antique linen bedsheets, draping dramatically to the ground.
The starters are simple and cold. It was about 38 degrees Celsius (100 Fahrenheit), so we were happy to mill about in the shade and nibble.
The main event was sardines, fresh from the Mediterranean.
Salads followed: lentils; tabouli, grated carrots. Then a cheese board. Sorry I didn’t get photos!
And then dessert, all homemade: lemon charlotte, tiramisu, flan.
It was after 5 p.m. when we finished dessert (aperitifs were at noon). A leisurely pace for a hot day. And then, we hung out. And talked some more. We ended up with everyone sitting on the edge of the pool, feet in the water, except for the children, who stripped to their skivvies and played in the pool until well after 7.
I have many memories of such meals with friends here in France, as well as beyond. They share certain universal qualities: Delicious, unpretentious, and above all warm with friendship.