|One of those nice, casual dinners|
with my best friends…
Photo found on:
To have a nice meal, no doubt. Because, above all other reasons, meals occur more often. Unless you’re on a very strict diet. Or newly wed. Or a rather pathetic former Prime Minister with Bunga-Bunga-sessions on an hourly basis in order to prove yourself something (or the world, or those hot chicks you pay handsomely). Whatever that may be (nota bene: quantity has never made a man).
Anyway, meals are very important for our well-being. No French person would contradict that truth. You see, there’s a reason UNESCO has proclaimed the “repas gastronomique des Français” (the gastronomic meal of the French) one of the Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity in november 2010. The French love to sit down around a nicely prepared table and have a long dinner with friends.
The UNESCO-proclamation doesn’t mean French cooks are better than cooks from other countries. Politicians and lobbyists have been very quick to jump to that erroneous conclusion, confounding the country’s (traditional) gastronomic meal with the country’s gastronomy. Statistics speak a clear language on that account: more than half of the restaurants in France do not prepare fresh meals but use (industrial or home-made), deep-frozen vacuum-preparations. More than half of ‘em! Including those run by star-cooks charging not gastronomic, but astronomic prices!
But the gastronomic meal still plays a very important role in France. I know that the eating process holds a high status in other countries, too. The Greek, for instance, can spend hours and hours eating (been there, done the same, gained five kilos, sweetie). But the French meal is unique, has particular rules and can last a whole night (especially during the Christmas season).
So here’s the recipe for a typical gastronomic meal “à la Française”.
What you need:
- Nice people to invite (friends or family) with whom you’re willing to spend some time
- A huge table (preferably with chairs)
- Bits and pieces of decoration (I recommend a nice tablecloth, cloth napkins plus paper napkins, why not some candlesticks?, glasses, cutlery and nice kitchenware – paper or plastic plates, glasses and cutlery are a big No-No! by the way)
- A precise idea of what your guests like to eat and do not like to eat (do not, on no account, prepare roast pork for a tableful of vegetarians, okay, sweetie?)
- Enough time to prepare your meal
- Enough money to buy it all
- A good stomach and a healthy thirst
How to proceed:
- First of all, think organisation. For a real gastronomic meal “à la Française”, you need to envisage at least the following courses: aperitif with nibbles; first course; main course; salad; cheese; dessert.
- Prepare your meal in time. If you start preparing the first course or put the turkey in the oven when your guests arrive, that won’t do. They expect you to be present most of the time, to be charming and witty. And they expect their turkey to be ready before midnight and not to be raw.
- Set the table in time, too. I’ll tell you more about decoration and how to correctly place all those darn pieces of cutlery and all those glasses in another post, I promise.
- When your guests ring the door-bell, don’t leave them outside in the rain, for God’s sake! Let them in and lead them into the living room. Normally, aperitif and nibbles are taken in a relaxed, informal atmosphere. Careful: informal does not mean you can pat the bottom of your best friend’s wife or fondle her breasts (unless invited to do so by either of them, of course). Avoid talking about the following three No-nos: politics, money, religion.
- Propose an aperitif (that can range from Champagne to Gin-Tonic). Always think that, though it may seem uncouth, there are people who do not drink alcohol (former drunkards, pregnant women, teetotallers, health-fanatics). Always provide water and non-alcoholic beverages.
- Don’t forget your nibbles. What good does it do to spend hours preparing your special Greek Fried Spinach and Shallot Balls if you forget them in the fridge afterwards? For a starter, I propose peanuts and olives. But for more elaborate nibbles, you’ll have to come back here because I’ll post some nice recipes (including said Greek Fried Spinach and Shallot Balls).
- When everybody is passably tipsy from their aperitifs, seat them around the table and serve the first course, main course, salad (lettuce), cheese and dessert.
- Between the courses, let your guests breathe a bit; they may want to open their pants’ flies, fan themselves, go to the bathroom, whatever. Don’t haste ‘n’ hurry. Take your time. Don’t go back to the aperitif bottle, though, and don’t fall asleep.
- Very important: never ever serve your salad with an industrial dressing from the supermarket. It has to be a home-made Sauce Vinaigrette, of course (and you’ll find the recipe on this blog soon).
- Another important thing: eat your own meal. If your guests see you hesitate or frown with disgust or sniff with a pinched nose, they might just get that vague inkling that you wouldn’t even feed your meal to your own dog.
Now, enjoy yourselves, Bon appétit, and cheers, sweetie!