citron
Charlotte aux citron…homemade

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.

tableThe tablecloths are antique linen bedsheets, draping dramatically to the ground.

entrees
Zucchini tarte; caprese ladybugs; tomato-tuna tarte and crudités

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.

tree stump
Isn’t this tree stump table with ivy too cute?

The main event was sardines, fresh from the Mediterranean.

sardines beforefiresardines cooked

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.

 

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20 thoughts on “Saturday summer afternoon

  1. And I’d like to know more about the zucchini tarte since the glut from our 3 zucchini plants has started. I’m spiralizing some into noodles, using others for chocolate zucchini cake but even I might tire of that.
    And I like the picnic idea, just not starting at noon when it’s 100. Maybe 4?

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    1. I’ll ask for that recipe, too.
      Funny, I was just thinking about trying my veggie muffin recipe with zucchini. Grated zucchini freezes well, too.
      When it’s so hot and there’s no A/C, the best place to be is outside in the air, but in the shade. So might as well have a picnic.

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  2. I do similar….except it’s an appetizer pot luck…..ask a lot of good friends……sit around or wander around the garden…..sip wine….talk….laugh. A great way to spend an afternoon in the summer.
    Ali

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  3. That sounds so nice! The conversation flows when everybody is relaxed and happy. I like to eat–not saying that isn’t important–but what I most appreciate is the friendship.

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  4. With that heat, how did you all resist getting into the pool between courses? I would not have been able to resist that, even if I didn’t have a swimsuit (my clothes never mind getting wet). A little water play could have led to even more interesting conversation. The kids must have been incredibly impatient to wait until late afternoon to jump in! Is there an element of French reserve that I am missing (I need to know, before meeting my French inlaw-to-be!)?

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      1. I’m all for letting our bodies adjust to heat (we don’t have A/C either), but when we had 100-degree F temps here in June, we just had to head for the nearest water!

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