Sainte Céciliens and the art of conviviality.

convive (kon-veev) noun, masculine and feminine
  guest (at table), fellow diner

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Rarement nous pouvons découvrir un homme qui dise avoir vécu heureux, et qui, son temps fini, quitte la vie content comme un convive rassasié. We rarely find anyone who can say he has lived a happy life, and who, content with his life, can retire from the world like a satisfied guest. --Horace

Our first guests arrived bearing fruit. "I thought you might be able to use these," Aunt Marie-Françoise said, explaining that she had just emptied her frigo.* She and Uncle Jean-Claude would be leaving for New York to kick off a two week tour to represent their Châteauneuf-du-Pape wines and did not want the food to go to waste.

Peering into the bag of ripe pears, ready-to-eat bananas and peel-me-now navel oranges, I wondered where to put the fruit? We had yet to install countertops let alone shelves. Just then I remembered the crisper drawer but discovered the knee-high refrigerator was full. While the top of the mini-fridge made for a precious stretch of counter space, the two-burner stove had taken up residence there. Above it, a pan held water waiting to be boiled and poured over the instant grounds for an after lunch espresso. What space remained was quickly filled, this time by two dishtowels covering a bed of drying lettuce leaves.

Then, the thought came to me...we were missing a centerpiece! I set the colorful fruit in a basket (having given the fork, knife, and spoon freeloaders the boot) and watched as our new home took on a cozy, lived-in hue. The silverware found its place at the table where it surrounded the paper plates and plastic cups--the latter, a reminder that the house was far from settled.

If we were now sharing knives and eating salad with our very hands, it was because our first convives* had agreed to join us for an impromptu meal, never mind the limited place settings.
"C'est rigolo de manger comme ça!" It's fun to eat like this! Aunt Marie-Françoise assured me, while using her fingers to pluck up another lettuce leaf. The kids giggled while following her example, even asking for more salad for the first time in their lives!

Meanwhile, I handed my knife to Jean-Claude who sawed off another hunk of Corsican cheese before using Jean-Marc's spoon to scoop out another helping of fig jam to spread over the cheese. "Anyone need a fork?" I asked, offering one up. We put away three Cécilienne pizzas before changing paper plates for a serving of creamy Tarte Tropezienne and a side of semi-sweet strawberries.

And so it was, surrounded by suitcases and shelfless walls, that we enjoyed our first festin.* And while there were no glasses to clink, the clatter of our voices echoed through the farmhouse, filling in the empty spaces with a warm, chin-chinning conviviality.

References: le frigo (m) = fridge; le (la) convive = guest; le festin (m) = feast
:: Audio Clip :: Download convive.wav
Hear my daughter, Jackie, read today's quote:
Rarement nous pouvons découvrir un homme qui dise avoir vécu heureux, et qui, son temps fini, quitte la vie content comme un convive rassasié.

Terms & Expressions:
un bon convive = a good table companion

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