What to serve our Guests? (and "Bob's Your Uncle" in French)

Le vin sobre la ciotat wine shop
The sign says “Open.” Coucou from La Ciotat. If you are visiting our city, why not stop into Jean-Marc's wineshop? Call ahead and he will be happy to see you at Le Vin Sobre  Bar à Vin.

TODAY'S PHRASE: "Le tour est joué"

    : that's all there is to it, and Bob's your uncle

FRENCH SOUND FILE: Click below to hear Jean-Marc pronounce the French terms in this post. Then scroll down to the vocabulary section to check your French comprehension.

Click here to listen

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

On Wednesday we entertained guests from Oregon and Wyoming. Audrey, from Portland, and her beau, Grant, joined us here at home for le déjeuner sur la terrasse. Planning for a meal still doesn't come naturally for me, so after a flurry of possible eats whirled through my mind like the autumn leaves outside our window, I put a stop to le délire and phoned my sister.

As soon as Heidi picked up, I rattled off my progress. "So I've made salmon, and then today I made pois chiches...and tomorrow I'll make la tarte aux tomates...

"Wait--did you say you made salmon yesterday?"
"But when are your guests coming?"

The long silence that followed made me defensive. "It's totally okay to make salmon a day-and-a-half before serving. It's just m-a-r-i-n-a-t-i-n-g!" I said, to sound fancy. While there is nothing sophistiqué about how I organize for guests nowadays, it's steps above what it was years ago, as a newlywed and clueless hostess. Back then, I would struggle through everything on the same day: drag our toddlers to the supermarket for dinner ingredients, hurry home to unpack groceries and clean the house. After chasing kids all day, I would prepare a multi-course meal for our invités, including the les amuse-bouches, l'entrée, le plat, la salade, le fromage, le dessert. It was exhausting. I was bad at it. My nerves were shot. No wonder I drank!

But back to the present: Wednesday's lunch went so smoothly it's a wonder I continue to shy away from inviting. When I stop to remember that serving others is an opportunity for growth, this new perspective is energizing. As my sister often reminds me: people are just happy to be there. Serve some good wine!

Jean-Marc popped the cork on a bottle of Pinot Noir from Domaine de La Mongestine, where our son is sales manager. "This is the best wine!" our guests said, raving about it. Oh really, but how was the salmon? you may be wondering....

Eh bien, we hadn't gotten to it yet. Our little festin began with some delicious pâté forrestière compliments of Audrey. Now, in all fairness (here begins a little side note to my sister...) how come Audrey can walk one hour to our house, under the midday sun--with pâte tucked inside her purse--but I can't serve Monday’s salmon on mercredi?). I'll leave you to chew on that.

Audrey's pâté from Carrefour was delicious. Next we had petits toasts de tapenade à la truffe, alongside some Italian green olives from La Maddalena. Miam, miam! And finally, slices of la tarte aux tomates, some chick peas, and du saumon au poireau now filled our plates. As we ate, we were eager to learn more about peaceful and beautiful Wyoming, from Grant, and Audrey gave us tips on how to get along in Portland in winter: "a jacuzzi and a fireplace are your best friends," I believe she said (or was Audrey talking about Wyoming and the minus 20 degree winters?). I was little distracted as a hostess, trying, as we ate, to control our erratic environment: les guêpes were busy hovering around la bouffe! As we swatted the winged interlopers I noticed the sun was now burning down on Audrey, but I didn't want to interrupt the conversation yet again. Thankfully Grant quickly solved the problem by offering his hat. 

Chapeau, Grant! I thought, to which Audrey added "Et Bob est ton oncle!"

Et Bob est ton oncle?...

Heu, that sounded familiar. Was that some sort of code? Such as, Beware of Kristi's salmon? With that, Audrey laughed (was she reading my thoughts?). "Bob's your uncle is even funnier in French," Audrey explained, "so I've been saying it that way lately." 

Ouf! So it wasn't the salmon. No, it could not have been. Because I ate that Monday Night Salmon all the way to Friday and, Bob's my uncle, it went down fine. And it looks like Grant and Audrey fared well, too, given they made it over to Jean-Marc's wineshop, the next day, to say goodbye before heading up the coast to Menton. 

And there you have it or, as Audrey says et Bob est ton oncle. Thank you for reading today’s gastronomic entry, and look for the link to the tomato tart (following the vocabulary section, below).


IN BOOK NEWS: Very happy to see Ann Mah's new novel about Jackie Kennedy is out. Click on the cover below to see the rave reviews, and to order a hard copy of Jaqueline in Paris...or read it immediately on Kindle.

A few words below are highlighted; click on them for an interesting read
coucou = hi there
le tour est joué = that’s all there is to it, and Bob’s your uncle
le déjeuner
= lunch
la terrasse = porch
le délire = frenzy madness
l’invité(e) = guest
le pois chiche = chick pea, garbanzo bean
la tarte aux tomates = tomato tart
les amuse-bouches = nibbles
l'entrée = first course
le plat principal = main course
la salade = green salad
le fromage = cheese
le dessert = dessert
le festin = feast
le pâté forrestière = mushroom pâté
Carrefour = a popular French supermarket
le mercredi = Wednesday
miam! = yum!
la guêpe = wasp
la bouffe = slang for “food, grub, nosh”
Chapeau! = well done! Bravo!
heu! = hmm!
Et Bob est ton oncle = that’s all there is to it
ouf = phew

Read the Story Archives for photos, soundfiles, and more:
1. Recipe for the easy, delicious, 4-ingredient French tomato tart
2. Sobriety does not equal Foolproof Entertaining

Jean-marc kristi audrey grantJean-Marc, Kristi, Audrey, and Grant

A Message from KristiFor twenty years now, support from readers like you has been an encouragement and a means to carve out a career in writing. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider a donation. Your gift keeps me going! Thank you very much.

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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety