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...
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....
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...