Hosting my First French Dinner
It’s hard to believe that I’ve been in France for two months already!  It feels like the time has flown by, but in other ways, it feels like I’ve been gone a REALLY long time.  In part, that’s because I’ve established more of a life here this time than I did before – last time, I lived like a long-term tourist!  Along those lines, last weekend I stayed in the local area again and had a lot of fun doing so!  The plans started with inviting L’Américaine to join me at a food festival in Angoulême on Saturday.  Of course, I also invited Alexis and he wanted to go as well.  For the Anglos out there, Alexis is not pronounced like in English (uh-lex-sus) but rather uh-lex-ee (hard e, “s” is silent).

Additionally, there was the issue of me reading my new French book, so Alexis suggested he would come over on Thursday to help.  I thought it was a good opportunity to return the favor and make him dinner, although I warned him that my work schedule was crazy enough that he might get an American classic – takeout pizza.  He actually said he thought pizza sounded good, so it became a hybrid meal of takeout pizza with a French appetizer and dessert!  Pizza here is not like at home though, as I’ve posted about in my early blogs.  More high-quality toppings and a LOT less cheese.

Not the same pizza that I ordered, but from the same place!  I was too busy trying to coordinate my first French-style dinner to take photos!

Alexis ended up needing to reschedule for Friday and a group of co-workers were going to the beer bar on Friday for an early birthday drink for L’Américaine, so I joined them and Alexis met up with us there.  It was fun to have a drink with everyone and see people outside of work a little.  A lot of the conversation was in French though, which is one of the things that makes it challenging for me to meet new friends here; however, it was still a fun way to spend an hour before Alexis and I headed out.

I’ve never been a super domestic person, so I was half convinced my appetizer would be a disaster, but Alexis thought it was good and I enjoyed it.  I’d stuck with simple tartines (baguette slices) with chèvre that I blended with fresh ground pepper and thyme.  Once they were toasted and the cheese melted a bit, I topped them with a mixed berry jam and a drizzle of honey.  The pineau that my French co-worker, CB (resident wine expert), suggested was a hit as well!  We’d tried to keep the pizza warm while we had the appetizer, but the temperature was a little too high, so it cooked the pizza a bit – not great, but we just laughed it off.  I had delicious little desserts from my favorite bakery to end the meal with.  It might not have been perfect, but overall, my first French dinner went pretty well.

Learning to Read in French

It was during my reading lesson that Alexis learned that I have a blog and that he’s in it, which he found amusing, except he didn’t like his fake name!  As it turns out, he’s less concerned about his privacy than he is about being stuck with a name he doesn’t like.  This is probably for the best because I found myself accidentally referring to him as Pierre in real life. 😂

My reading lesson was, well, less humiliating than it could have been.  I made it through a whole 14 pages before I couldn’t take anymore.  It reminds me of being in first grade again, when you’re still coming across a lot of new words to sound out or guess at.  To his credit, Alexis is a good teacher – he might have laughed a couple of times, but he’s really patient and helpful with the pronunciation and ensuring that I understand what I’ve read.  The book is about a green 2CV, an old European car, and a father-son road trip . . . I’m not entirely sure if he picked this book because he thought I’d like it or because he thought HE would like it.😏  Here is a picture of a 2CV that I borrowed from the internet:

I have no idea how long it took me to read 14 pages, but it felt like two years!  Poor Alexis was yawning, even though he tried to tell me he wasn’t tired – maybe just bored given I was reading at a pace of about one page per 10 minutes!  I’m not sure that he really understood what he was getting himself into when he volunteered to read the book with me – at this rate, he’ll still be helping me read it when my residence card expires four years from now!

Les Gastronomades

The next day, one of our other French co-workers, YV, joined us on our trip to the food festival.  The festival was a lot bigger than I’d been expecting and had a really good attendance, meaning it was a bit crowded.  There was a good selection of foods and wines to sample though and I left with a really lovely pineau rosé, which I’ve never seen before – I’m all set for future French dinner parties now!  I’m not a fan of tomatoes, but I purchased a tomato tapenade that was delicious and perfect for using up my remaining chèvre and bread slices.  Everyone purchased a few food or drink items, but most of the day was spent wandering around sampling everything!  We did stop off for a small lunch in an area that smelled like barbecue.  It wasn’t, of course, but it was still delicious and quite different from anything I’ve eaten so far in France.

One of the other highlights of the day was trying the “Beaujolais nouveau.”  I had seen the signs for it, but had no idea what the big deal was.  L’Américaine said it’s an acquired taste and she didn’t like it, but I did.  I’ve since learned that it is a very young wine, bottled right after harvest.  This leads to more fruity flavor and less tannin, which could be why I like it since I’ve already noticed that red wines mentioning “tannin” as a dominate flavor are ones that I usually don’t like.  The young man is laughing in the photo below because the crazy American ladies told him that we wanted to take his photo to document our first tasting of this wine and that I planned to include it in my blog.  I really do prefer candid photos of people over staged smiles!

Apparently, taking photos of random smiling strangers is not common here because Alexis was teasing me about having found myself a new boyfriend!  Of course, my new “boyfriend” also looks like he’s in his early 20s, which is a little on the young side for me!  I am beginning to think that French men grow up a little more quickly than American men though because it’s rare that Alexis does or says something that reminds me that he’s in his early 20s.  In contrast, some of the American men I know in their late 20s still do and say many things that remind me that they are younger and not really my “peer” in terms of life experience.

Sadly, we did learn that Alexis is not willing to carry all of our purchases for us 😢, but he does still live up to the reputation of French men being thoughtful.  He pointed out that we should take a short walk around the market area so that we had a view of the city.  Since it was my first time in the city, I enjoyed getting to see it.  I was pretty tired by the end of the day, so he also offered to drive, but I’d quit sampling any wine or alcohol several hours before we were going to leave, so it was logical that I’d remain the driver (I thought so anyway).😊

Since it was L’Américaine’s birthday this week, and Alexis and I spend the most time with her, we decided that we should have a dinner for her on her actual birthday.  Monday’s blog will be all about co-hosting my first French birthday dinner!