Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Paris Episodes : Turning water into wine

You thought I'd never get back to my Paris Episodes didn't you? Ha! Here is the latest installment as I just couldn't let my first Christmas go by without a fond mention. One simple (but never ordinary) day out of 365 taught me a lifetime of lessons!

Etiquette lesson N° l: Always wait until EVERY ONE has been served their wine before you make an innocent comment ...Remember,  mincing your words makes it easier to eat them later!

There I was, rescued by the Ex and his Guardian Angel family for Christmas dinner. Phew! This was no 'mince affair' as Christmas is very strictly reserved for family in France so I was most grateful and priveleged to have been included, especially as the guest of honour. As Mr C, a graceful and stately gentleman, served me a very noble wine (wasted on me at the time I'm afraid), I noticed he'd made a mistake and poured it into the water glass, and not the wine glass. Quickly glancing around, I observed also that, not only had no one else made a remark - but they appeared not to have noticed. So I very brilliantly kept my mouth shut for once and watched as he continued the round... My pride has thanked me for this profusely at every major event that I have since attented in France. (We won't do the 'trials and tribulations of affecting the right attitude for the wife of a military aircraft salesman' till next year... I'm still getting over it!)

When we finally all raised our wine glasses to the 'santé' of those present and absent (that was you Mum and Dad) I had the epiphany that one pours the wine into the SMALL wine glass in France - and leaves the BIG wine glass for water. This was a major revelation for me at age 25! And one I'm still fighting with I assure you, hahaha!

While I was reeling from that narrow escape (5 year's experience in various restaurants between Mooloolaba, Brisbane and Auckland had never taught me THAT), Madame C served the asparagus entrée. Let me warn you now that I did, and still do, have a hearty appetite. And not wanting to be impolite, I of course accepted an extra serving every time the asparagus plate passed by... But there was still room for more (this Aussie girl did NOT survive on cigarettes, lite yoghurt and coffee as most Parisiennes did at the time).  Did I THINK to ask myself at the time why no one else, even the men, accepted a second helping of this? NOPE!

The foie gras was then passed intently in front of my nose.

Photo from here

ALERT ALERT! Animal cruelty!!! Let me tell you: Mr C was a VERY big wig in Nuclear Energy. I was a nobody pacifist who strongly protested against it (Born and mostly raised in NZ - what can I say?). However, I was also smart enough to know that I wouldn't win any friends or influence people with my 'extreme' views on the risks of nuclear waste at the dinner table. Foie gras wasn't high on my list of 'politically correct' foods either but hey, my 'breeding' got the better of me. After all - it is bad manners to bite the hand that feeds you, n'est-ce pas?

Between keeping my mouth shut on the wine glass fiasco, the dangers of nuclear energy and the injustice of force feeding geese in order to eat their livers, the green salad arrived. You may, and justly so, wonder how I managed to eat so much with my mouth clamped firmly SHUT! But EAT I DID! Just when I was starting to feel a bit full - and looking forward to dessert, Madame C brought out the first meat dish. I distinctly heard the word 'first.' You mean there is MORE THAN ONE meat dish??? My wee stomach started crying out to bring in the reinforcements...

Etiquette lesson number two: ALWAYS only take a small amount and politely refuse seconds of ANY dish, even under threat of tears from your hostess! THIS IS A TEST OF CHARACTER! REPEAT! THIS IS A TEST! ;-)

At Christmas especially, you can be deliciously subjected to as many as 6 different dishes before dessert, of which some regions boast thirteen of those as well!! And, as the guest, you will ALWAYS be targeted. This is dangerous even in the face of a voracious appetite, like mine. If you must, mumble some excuse about feeble health or an impending stomach operation so as not to offend your hostess. As an adventure racer and triathlete, this has rarely worked for me but age is now starting to have some pull as a valid excuse. Remember, every Parisienne worth her salt still wears a size 8, even after 15.3 children!!

I have learned many other 'Etiquette lessons' since that very first Christmas (Podge would say it was high time!) - but I'm afraid they'll have to wait for another episode as it's time to go and prepare my own 13 desserts!

Christmas is being held La Rivière this year and it's time to take my revenge ;-). Rejecting the traditional almonds, nougat and marzipan-stuffed dates, I have opted for Pavlova...
...some of those great Panettone adaptations for my FiL who is Italian from Millie's Blog and this Ice cream cake from a very JOYFUL blog I had the good fortune of stumbling across yesterday...

Needless to say - the wine here shall be served in BIG glasses ! I figure that I'm allowed to be a rebel now that I'm nearly 40 and I understand what I'm rebelling against ;-)

Extra big glasses for an EXTRA big "Santé" and this extra special toast to you all and your loved ones (and mine)... wherever you are in the world. Below is my Wishcasting Wednesday wish for YOU this festive season and for the coming year ...

Wish star christmas tree by Cécile Lebert

Le seul fait de rêver est déjà très important
  Je vous souhaite des rêves à n'en plus finir..
     Et l'envie furieuse d'en réaliser quelques uns
       Je vous souhaite d'aimer ce qu'il faut aimer
       Et d'oublier ce qu'il faut oublier
    Je vous souhaite des passions
     Je vous souhaite des silences
                 Je vous souhaite des chants d'oiseaux au réveil
 Et des rires d'enfants
             Je vous souhaite de résister à l'enlisement
           A l'indifférence, aux vertus négatives de notre époque
         Je vous souhaite surtout d'être vous....

Jacques Brel
Merely to dream is already important in itself
I wish you endless dreams
And the furious desire to go and make some of them come true
I wish for you to love what needs to be loved
And to forget what needs to be forgotten
I wish you passions
I wish you silences
I wish you birdsong when you wake
And children's laughter
I wish for you to resist indifference, resignation and the negative traits of our times
Most of all ... I wish for you to BE YOU...
Much love


Posted by Picasa


  1. I love this post on so many levels!!! I can't wait to hear about your Christmas dinner, and to chat with you sometime in the next couple of days~
    Would you mind terribly if I borrowed your poem at the bottom? It is lovely, and I nearly understood most of it - which is a miracle within itself!
    Joyeux Noel mon amie,

  2. Mais c'est avec PLAISIR ma chère amie... Le souhait est pour toi surtout aussi - donc partage le...

  3. As Ange wishes for herself, so I wish for her also. A lovely post!

  4. Dear Ange,
    I loved reading this beautiful written post. Your personal experience woven with wit and humour has brought smiles with the occasional laughter. I thank you for enriching my day here in northern California where we have a clear sky and a cool sun burning up the frost on the ground.

    All the best to yo and family this holiday season,

    PS: images are not showing up, other then the last one.

  5. As Ange wishes for herself, so I wish for her also.
    Beautiful post hon! Happy Holidays to you!
    Namaste, Sarah

  6. Fabulous post Ange. May all your wishes come true in 2010. Joyeux noel budgie......
    Mille baisers,

  7. ~as Ange wishes such a beautiful wish so I wish for her too...brightest blessings~

  8. Such a delightful post! I felt quite full myself by the time I had finished reading and my heart went out to you (or was it your stomach?). I had a similar experience with an Italian Aunt once. Spent the entire afternoon wondering if my stomach would be about to explode, then just as I was starting to feel a little better she brought out sandwiches and cake. It was a long time before I could look at a Tiramisu again...
    May your Christmas wishes all come true Ange.

  9. I will take a leaf out of your book and use BIG glasses tonight for Christmas Eve dinner. Joyeux Noel Ange!

  10. How lovely!

    As Ange wishes, so I wish as well. Wishing you nothing but goodness this holiday season.

  11. Lovely post...thanks for being so authentic...I will toast you tonight with a large glass and wish peace and joy for you this Christmas!

  12. Finding your blog this Christmas Eve has been a lovely early Christmas present. What a brilliant post....loved it all! Thank you for the beautiful, moving poem, which will be hastily written out and stuck in my journal asap. Merry Christmas, Ange. Meredith xo.
    p.s. hope the ice cream cake works well for you...I just made another one and fell in love with it all over again.

  13. Merry Christmas Ange!
    Love the new banner.

  14. Its Christmas Eve, we've just knocked off a bottle of bubbly, and a stunning Te Mata Cabernet Sav with our dinner, and I thought I'd have a quick sneaky look at your post after reading your lovely comments on mine. You dear girl, this is so funny, (you write so well) and I reckon a big glass is the way to go. Happy happy Xmas to you and yours. xx

  15. *Love what needs to be loved
    And forget what needs to be forgotten*

    Yep, that says it all! Merry Christmas!

  16. I just ducked up to the Computer to put my foot up for a minute in between all the present wrapping & trillion other things & your post has been the treat of the night. Goodness woman, get yourself an Agent & start writing for money! You tell a story like a pro. Thanks Ange for your lovely comment over @ The Hedge, I'm so glad you've joined the band of happy (I hope!) Hedgies. Must run, as MOTH's downed tools ready for the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show in 10 mins. Think I'll need to vacuum all round him for at least the first half. Have a lovely day tomorrow with all your precious people.
    Millie x

  17. I think that by commenting again here on this post - it's like having us all sit around and raise a glass together!! Very happy Christmas to you all and looking forward to getting to know you all more next year! Keep your eyes on the christmas 'mince' pies.

  18. You are so intersting to read; loved your story.I still can<t figure out about not using wine glasses in Europe.
    Happy Holdays.
    Celui qui n'a pas Noël dans le coeur ne le trouvera jamais au pied d'un arbre.
    Roy Lemon Smith

  19. Enjoying your amusing and informative posts and look forward to next year's. All the best in 2010!

  20. Dearest Ange
    Thanks for taking us along on your adventures...your wonderful story brings back memories of a Christmas dinner or two spent at the home of various boyfriends past.. Don't worry... even in your own country there is always mistakes to be made under the glaring disapproval of the 'Mother' hahaha

    Thank you once again for my lovely present.. it has truly made my Christmas memorable... I hope yours is filled with laughter and happiness and that you and little messmonsters have a glorious glorious day!! xxx Julie

  21. Dear Ange,

    Merry Christmas and happy happy new year..

    With all my love from Australia ..

  22. LOve,LOVe, LOVE your blogs Ange..
    Thanks for the inspirationg and beauty.

    I'll be visiting often

    Best for a wonderful 2010!


  23. Ange, just today I had a phone visit with a good friend who lives in France. We were laughing and discussing the six hour Christmas dinner tradition there in France. So reading your post made me smile even more. I always enjoy your honesty and the humor with which you share your experiences. Merry, Merry! ~ Sarah


Can't think of a famous quote that says 'communication makes the world go round' so you 'll just have to get my clumsy way of putting it instead ;-) Your comments are precious. Thanks for dropping by!