Live like the French--Wherever You Live

My kitchen in Collioure, France. Oh, how I'm missing it!

I often spend large chunks of the summer in France, but I always vowed that if the exchange rate went below five francs to the dollar, I’d have to stay home.

Of course, France is on the Euro now, but because I still think in Francs, I did some math (yes—that high-school algebra does come in handy!), and figured that with the dollar now at around 1.45 Euros, that would be equivalent to about 4.45 francs.

Ouch.

Somehow, those quaint two-star mom-and-pop Logis de France inns that I used to adore at $55 a night feel different when they’re pushing $90 a night. At $55 a night, the hotelier comes off as delightfully eccentric, and the room feels snug, simple, and charming. At $90, the room feels cramped, threadbare, and overpriced, and the hotelier is downright batty.

And those 55-franc lunches, which used to be around $13 to $15, are now pushing $20 and upwards. They’re still worth it, but you don’t quite get the lift that a good meal gives you when you’ve had it for song.

So, I stayed state-side this year. I’ll just pretend I’m living in France. And I’ve decided that many of this summer’s postings will be all about living (and eating) like the French….no matter where you live.

To start, here are the top five ways to incorporate France into your summer:

1. Start every evening with an aperitif. Not a big, buzz-inducing drink, but a light, mood-elevating sip to ready your spirit for the joys to come.

Oeufs Durs Mayonnaise--a simple and classic French first course

2. Eat in courses. This doesn’t mean eating more food, but enjoying it spread out over a longer period of time. You taste every morsel, and you spend more time around the table with those you enjoy.

3. Drink wine with your dinner. And not just any wine. European wine. It’s better (read a compelling discussion about that point at Wine Spectator.)

4. Put a tablecloth in the trunk of your car. Seriously—the French are ready for a picnic at the drop of a chapeau. American towns have wonderful parks all over the place. Why not take advantage?

5. Invite friends over without making a fuss about it. It’s easy to assume that the French entertain quite lavishly, but in my experience, the opposite is true. Most French women entertain as insouciantly (yet dashingly) as they toss a scarf around their necks.

Each of these is, of course, a blog posting in itself. Stay tuned. I’ll be covering these topics, and more, in upcoming postings. And meanwhile, if you have any ways that you live like the French—at home—tell me about it!

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7 comments to Live like the French—Wherever You Live

  • Linda

    Mmmm…okay, haven’t read the Wine Spectator article, but I just chose a local Washington rose over a cheaper French article because 1) I support my local vingeculteur, 2) I love the fact I live in a state that produces such great wines, 3) last I heard, the French have eschewed the American tradition of producing wine that you can drink upon purchase and not have to know about terroir and casking and aging before opening and debouching. There’s something to be said about American simplicity, aussi, mon amie. Love the idea of the aperatif. What a great bridge between work and home. Please make suggestions of apperitifs the subject of your next blog!

  • Linda

    I knew I spelled vigneculteur wrong.

  • Wini

    Linda–thanks for these thoughts. I’m going to save my response for the posting on French wines….we’ll pick it up there. But I will say that if I lived in Washington, I’d probably be in your bâteau! Love the Rieslings, especially. And probably because they taste FRENCH to me. 🙂

  • Wini, how about some olives with the aperitif? Or, peanuts. Olives and peanuts in those great little bowls. Yum.

  • Dan

    oooh i want to hear more about spontaneous french hospitality. i would so love to have people over for a speck and a spot but our american culture doesn’t lend itself easily to anything but a full night’s entertainment!!

  • Wini

    Right, Dan! The French often say, “come for an aperitif,” and it’s just a drink, perhaps a nibble or two (super-simple, like salamis and nuts). If everyone’s having a good time, they may head out for a meal together. Or, as often happens, the cook in the house will invite everyone to stay for dinner–but it will be quite simple, such as a pasta toss, or a few more nibbles–whatever the family was planning to have for dinner anyway.

    Or, everyone simply goes their own separate ways.

    It’s a great way to just get together with people, without committing to an entire evening. I love the tradition. Once you get used to it, that is. You have to kind of know that this is the drill, and be flexible.

  • Linda

    Just found this four years later almost to the day. Wonder what the exchange rate equivalency is now? lol!!! Anyway, really enjoyed your thoughts and looking to more french into my daily life.

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