One of the ways in which the French tend to differ from the typical American is in the way food is approached. While “bigger, faster, easier” seems to be the slogan here in America, the French are more likely to savor moderate portions of well-prepared food in a leisurely manner. While some of us are indeed self-avowed foodies, France is an entire nation of such. Fresh ingredients, real butter, fabulous bread and cheeses, wine…all consumed mindfully and with great enjoyment. This is the difference between eating and dining.
“The French girl lives the sit-down, stay-seated, savor-every-bite life. Food anchors her in a collective ritual that is one of the backbones of civilization: the coming together over food, the baking and breaking of bread, the communion, the conversation. Dining together is almost a national religion, and at regular intervals you can almost hear the collective scrape of chairs as the French sit down to a meal at roughly the same time all over the country. Work life comes to a screeching halt. Heavy shutters clank shut like steel curtains as merchants retire for lunch breaks that, in some cases, can last up to three seriously gratifying hours. Sunday meals are often day-long affairs (and since everything is closed in France on Sunday, what else is there to do but eat?) and wine glasses are clinked together all over the country — Santé! — which is as close as the French get to saying a national grace.” (Entre Nous, pgs. 102-103)
I enjoy preparing (and eating!) delicious meals and other than dinner out on a Friday or Saturday night, and lunch at our favorite Mexican restaurant after church on Sundays, we are not generally inclined to eat out. When our children were young we sat down at the table together every night but as they became teenagers we all too often ate dinner in the family room with the television on. Not every night, and we did eat together, but it’s a habit I wish I had never allowed to get started. Our adult son, Chris, lives in our guest house and eats dinner with us most weeknights. We usually eat in the family room and watch The Daily Show together. I’m not entirely sure I want to change that because it does engender some good discussions. However, I’m going to try to “eat French” on the nights when it’s just David and myself.
In honor of “French Friday” I decided to make today a special one. I have some mini-croissants in the freezer so I heated two of them, topped with real butter (no margarine allowed in this house – ever) and some of my homemade blackberry preserves. I put my fruit juice in a crystal goblet. Café au lait rounded out my light, French-style breakfast and I even used my lovely fleur de lis dishes which we recently purchased in New Orleans.
What about you? Do you eat as a family at the table? Do you take your time or are you in a hurry to get to the next item on your agenda?