Update from France: We just finished our second and final birthday party for our son. For our French party, I wanted a relaxed Sunday lunch in typical French style. Everything is closed in France on Sunday, and people generally have a big lunch and then spend the afternoon strolling or playing. We rented an old restaurant out in the countryside and decided to do the food ourselves.
The location was just what I had in mind. A typical old French bar/restaurant that my husband’s aunt used to stop at when they went hunting many years ago. The old lady who manages the place and lives adjacent to the restaurant also seemed like just the sort of person you would imagine. A worn-looking country woman with a thick regional accent who probably looks older that she is. When we arrived, it seemed we were interrupting her own Sunday lunch, the smells of which were drifting into our room. When you walked out of the restaurant, you were immediately surrounded by green hills, fields, and country roads. About 100 ft from the door were a few horses wandering around behind a fence.
One of the things that I love about traditional villages and country towns is the completely different sounds that make up the environment. When you live in the city, the majority of sounds you hear are not human but machine. When you do hear human sounds, it is often because they are so loud that they break through the city noises. In certain places, however (and this is an experience I have rarely had in the US), quiet human and animal sounds are the ones you hear most. They are peaceful noises of people going about the simple gestures of daily life: conversations in the kitchen, dishes being put away, cow bells clanging, children playing. This is the kind of place it was. Unfortunately, I barely enjoyed it because we were so busy getting the party organized and dealing with my son, who is in a phase where he cries whenever my husband or I leave his sight.
The meal was simple. We had salads, sandwich fillings, a salmon platter, a cheese platter, and a variety of baked goods. We also ordered rolls from a boulangerie that arrived, golden and fragrant, in an old wooden crate. I baked sugar cookies and chocolate chip cookies which were a hit with the children (and everyone I think).
After the meal, some of the guests played baci ball (boules) in a field near the restaurant and others continued to enjoy drinks inside. The children took naps in portable cribs that were set up in the back. When the French convene for a party, they do not come and go within an hour or two. Sleeping quarters are set up for the children and, for weddings, rooms are rented for the early morning hours when guests finally stumble out. They do not jump for the food. They start with an aperitif, including drinks such as muscat, port, pastis and champagne. A bit later they start with the first course and then the second follows. An hour or so later, talk of dessert begins. In our case, everyone drove up around 12 and went home, relaxed and ready for bed around 8 PM.