: to have the munchies (a sudden desire to snack)
A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE... by Kristin Espinasse
The following story was written in 2014...
On Friday night 45 of our closest friends came over for a sit-down dinner to celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary. Jean-Marc and I weeded our front yard, dusted our window shutters (Spiderwebs? Really?), and rented tables and chairs from the Mairie.
Lesson no. 1: Etaler. (Spread out.)
As the guests arrived, I quickly saw what a bad idea it was for the boys to have set the hors-d'oeuvres table on an incline. Not wanting to question our son's 19-year old friends (who we hired to help)--and seeing their pride in their new jobs--I turned a blind eye and hoped for the best. And the guests did their best to cling together at the edge of the drinks table, with only one or two tumbling off the little hill every now and then.
Lesson no. 2: Impose-Toi! (Butt in!)
Because I'm jittery, Jean-Marc insisted he would take care of the party details. So when the hors d'oeuvres arrived--unassembled, in three giant ice buckets (were those tortillas for the spreads? If so which?)--my husband told me to leave it for the boys to work out. "If they have a question, they'll call Vava and Laurent (our friends/caterers)!"
Only, when Vava arrived for the party, she quietly pointed out the ratatouille (in dainty plates across the hors d'oeuvres table) was not for cocktail hour--it was for the main course.
Lesson no. 3: Fourchettes, pas cuillières! (Forks not spoons!)
Finally seated, Jean-Marc announced to our 45 guests it was time to pick up our plates and head to the banquet--where the lamb and accompaniments awaited us. Sort of....
We watched as the men at the fire pit handed over plates of roasted meat, but where was the ratatouille? Quick, grab it from the tables in the backyard and dart back to the buffet--scrape, scrape, scrape. Now where were the serving spoons?
Whoops, spoke to soon--I meant forks! Run back to the kitchen and get fourchettes so the guests will quit trying to fling the meat from platter to plate with the help of two slippery spoons!
Lesson 4: On Mange à Table! (We eat at the table!)
All calmed down now, with full tummies, I noticed how some of the guests were getting tipsy.... All those special cuvées Jean-Marc brought out--including a 1994 Chateauneuf-du-Pape (grapes we picked before our marriage) had not gone to waste!
Jean-Marc now stood swaying, eating his ice cream behind me as I sat sober as a splash of water, talking to old friends. But every now and then my arm flew up to swat at my husband--who was dripping bright red cassis sorbet as he leaned over me and my new dress!
Lesson 5: Commander un bon DJ. (Hire a good DJ.)
When an uncomfortably-long lull had us lingering at the dinner tables, I wondered Where has Jean-Marc disappeared to?
"He's fiddling with the sound system," someone explained. Finally, guests began trickling down to the boules court, where a dusty dance floor awaited.
And awaited... and awaited. The music just wasn't doing it, and it was either the fault of Jean-Marc's smartphone (some music system!) or the fact that all those "request songs" we'd asked our guests for made for lousy dance material.
My poor husband now stood swaying on the dance floor until two lit girls and a faithful old friend joined in. I could no longer stand staring from the sidelines with the audience; it was time to buck up, disengage from the gawkers, and join the offbeat dancers.
Jean-Marc reached out for me, grabbing my hand and twirling me around a few times, when I stopped to whisper in his ear: "No one wants to dance!" I murmured, so as not to utter my true thoughts: they think our party sucks!
"Well," he said--the sparkle in his eyes melting me inside--"then they'll all go home earlier." With that he laughed, a little tipsy, and twirled me around and around. I was charmed by Jean-Marc's words. He was clearly remembering my aversion to all-night parties. And he was telling me, in his own way, that he didn't have to party all night either... but could be happy twirling his sweetheart around and around... till the party poopers went home.
Though my husband's words encouraged me (the only real party pooper in the group), it was still painfully embarrassing to be dancing with the awkward quartet, before a group of gawkers (who were only feeling awkward themselves, given the beat just wasn't calling them forth)... So when the current song ended I wiggled my way, as discreetly as possible, off the dance floor and into the kitchen to check on things.
The counter tops were inch-deep with liquid from all the dirty wineglasses. I now had a perfect excuse to be absent from the doomed dance floor. If anyone questioned my disappearance, I could cite "the flood on the kitchen counter." But once the water was sopped up, back out to the dance floor I went.
You wouldn't believe the change of scene: disco fever had struck! The men and woman gyrated, twirled, and bucked back and forth across the dusty boules court. Dancing queens every one of them! Our friend Cyril (a former DJ) had thoughtfully taken over. Yahoo!
Lesson no. 5: La Nuit Blanche ne Tue Pas! (A sleepless night won't kill you!)
By 3:30 in the morning the dance floor was still going strong, but I was not. Worried about my neighbors, worried about my dogs (stranded on the balcony above us) and itching to call it a night, I watched nervously as the party carried on and on... right on into our kitchen.
Apparently our guests had an attack of the munchies! Plates of leftovers were pulled from the fridge. And the freezer was raided for leftover ice cream.
But like a biblical Martha, I busied myself in the kitchen, trying to scrape melted cheese from the wicker platter (19-year-old boys didn't put a plastic sheet down first). Frustrated and wondering when the party would end--by 5 am or 6 or 7 -- noon?) I scraped at the braided bunch of cheesy wicker, finally shoving it aside.
Returning to the small crowd, I studied all the bright faces (5 or 6 friends remained). I noticed people enjoying life. Life was not some number. It wasn't "3 am" or two hours later, or the next day. Life was now, here for the taking. Why not grab it?
* * *
The next day my mother-in-law lost consciousness. I am quickly finishing this story so I can drive to Marseilles to sit by her bedside. What's important in life? I don't know, but I am learning.
* * *
I am beginning to think my husband is a much nicer person than I. For when--at that melt-down moment at 4:30 am--I said to him "They're still here!" He looked at me and, with a smile, he said, "they are having a good time at the party."
* * *
I am learning, from friends and my husband, that what's important in life is that we help others to have a good time at the party.
Thanks for your thoughts for my dear belle-mère. (Three years after writing this post, and my mother-in-law is doing very well.)
Jean-Marc, thank you for twenty years together. I have learned so much by your side.
EMBRYOLISSE cream - used by French grandmothers and makeup artists
FRENCH GOURMET ITEMS - including herbs, mustard, coffee, tisane, chocolate, cakes
FRENCH SHOPPING BAG - made and knit in France!
PARIS METRO CUFF - Unique bracelet with a map of the Paris metro!
WORDS IN A FRENCH LIFE: Lessons in Love and Language from the South of France
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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety