I Thought a Frenchwoman Was Coming to Lunch

On Saturday morning, I opened my e-mail to learn that a former boss and his French-born wife would be driving through our neck of the woods on their way to the Finger Lakes in Central New York. Could he, his wife, and their two daughters stop by for lunch on Sunday? Bien sur.

I e-mailed back with my cell-phone number (I turned off the home phone about a year ago in a cost-saving measure), directions to the house, and a suggested time for lunch: noon.

Lest I sound too calm, please know that in my heart of darkness, I was quoting Kurtz: “The horror! The horror” of entertaining a Frenchwoman. All prepared foods, synthetic fabrics, and extraneous paper products (read napkins, paper towels, not toilet paper) would have to be hidden from view lest I be viewed as the sorry, overprocessed spawn of an American-based multinational.

I’ve read Colette, I’ve read Frenchwomen Don’t Get Fat. No, I haven’t spent a year in Provence, but our town has a farmers’ market and I have a garden. I have known pastoral splendor on these Yankee shores. I would prepare a Hudson Valley lunch that would not embarrass my fellow Americans. More than personal pride was at stake here.

I moved into high gear with the vacuum cleaner, sucking up cat hair that had accumulated in the nooks and crannies of the house in the past month or so. I drove to the supermarket and bought a leg of lamb, which I cooked for my husband on Saturday night with a rosemary-lemon-garlic rub that I made in the food processor, not in the mortar and pestle so prominently displayed on the counter.

Lunch on Sunday would be cold lamb and chilled cucumber soup. My side dishes would be fresh succotash with lima beans, tomatoes, and corn from the local farmers’ market and a wild rice salad with pecans and cranberries. I would serve a homemade blueberry cobbler for dessert. To top it off, a crusty peasant loaf from Mario’s Bakery down the road in Hopewell Junction — Frenchwomen eat carbs and still don’t get fat!

All the while that I’m running around, I’m mentally noting that I haven’t gotten an e-mail back from ex-boss, who as a young man was known to be quite mercurial. (I haven’t seen him in 14 years, but that’s just the blink of an eye for an Army brat accustomed to hearing from people out of the blue.)

Still, I know that if I make no preparations whatsoever, the family will be ringing my bell at noon on the dot. Isn’t that the second law of thermodynamics, that the opposite of what you plan for will happen? 🙂 Maybe it’s just Murphy’s law, but it’s definitely a law in my book.

Of course, if I did nothing, when my guests arrived I could have always taken them to Homespun Foods on our lovely Main Street in Beacon, where Jessica’s salads, sandwiches, and soups would certainly pass muster with a Frenchwoman. But I did not want to serve the fruits of someone else’s labor to our honored guests.

Fast-forward to noon on Sunday. My husband has ironed the brightly colored Jacquard Provencal tablecloth (no Indian knockoffs here!), which has come out of the cabinet in honor of the Frenchwoman. The coordinating, but not matching (too cookie-cutter), cloth napkins are arranged on the table, as is the Noritake Sterling China china, a gift from my grandmother upon the occasion of my first wedding. Six sets of matching silverware! Now, that involved a lot of digging through the drawers. (Who takes these forks, anyway? I’ll blame it on the subletters in the interest of marital harmony!)

Plenty of ice in the freezer, homemade iced tea in the fridge, fresh cut flowers from the garden on the table. Outside, I have pulled weeds and picked up trash on my street, as far down as three houses on each side.

Nothing to do but wait and check e-mail. At 1 p.m. I call the house in California and leave a message on the home voicemail. I don’t have his or her cell-phone number.

You know the end of the story. My husband and had a lovely lunch à deux, and the house has never been cleaner. It’s Monday at 10:55 a.m. and I still haven’t gotten a cell-phone call or e-mail from my former boss. I left the other place settings on the dining room table because they look so beautiful.

For the astrologers who are reading this, perhaps a void-of-course moon is to blame.

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13 comments on “I Thought a Frenchwoman Was Coming to Lunch

  1. Hi Monica,
    Sounds typical of a Void-Of-Course Moon indeed…
    Yes, French people can be very difficult and fussy with food…. Je le confirme! (I come from Burgundy, – the county of gastronomy and good wines par excellence…). It has always been hard for me to adjust to English food when I first came to England… which is why I am still cooking French food only… Anyway, I am sure your ‘déjeuner à deux’ était délicieux!…

  2. Claire — Thanks for writing and for indulging my rant about the guests who didn’t come to lunch. I myself think the French have their priorities right. My husband said, “We should treat ourselves this well all the time.”
    On another note, have you done anything more on the Beijing Olympics? I was reading this morning that an Islamic terrorist group has claimed responsibility for some bombings in July and May in Western China and is promising to disrupt the Games. — Monica

  3. Yes, I am not surprised at all about this. The atmosphere on the new Beijings Olympics chart looks… ‘explosive’ indeed. With the Leo Sun opposite Neptune and a Pisces rising sign, there is an atmosphere of confusion and lack of enthusiasm and zeal (Venus/Saturn opposition to the Pisces ascendant). Confusion, confusion, confusion…

    I will have more time to look into it on Thursday and Friday (only time off from my 3 years old daughter…) and will publish a post about it – Claire

  4. It is near midnight and soon i will go to bed and fall asleep with a smile on my face, thanks to that story. thank you. instant classic.

  5. This meal sounds amazing. That’s what Sunday lunches in France were meant to be. A civilized way to slowdown and treat yourself, with or without guests.

  6. haha. i loved you writing style. but seriously, as you said, at least the house was cleaned up! 😀 Talk about clouds with silver linings…haha

  7. Thanks everyone for your supportive comments. I can’t tell you how much it means to me to be able to make “lemonade” out of the lemon of the missing guests and get positive feedback from friends and cybercomrades.

  8. I’d love to be able to dig up the exact reference, but the house is currently in tatters (another renovation project), so you’ll have to settle for my memory. The very enjoyable book “Sixty Million Frenchmen Can’t Be Wrong” points out French food snobbery as one of their maddening contradictions — they say one thing and very much do another, in this case eating as much prepared/packaged/premade food as anyone else. So it may be you needn’t have worried. (I will say, though, that ordinary grocery store croissants in Montreal are galaxies beyond ANYTHING I can get anywhere in New York, and we once had one of the finest lunches ever at a museum cafeteria there. It seems like they actually CARE about their food. (I’m not saying DuPont doesn’t care, too.)

  9. Monica-
    I love this story about how a void-of-course can have a happy ending… just not the one you expect. How lucky a guest is to come to a Capricorn’s for lunch! Especially when that Capricorn has an eye for beauty and a stomach for comfort!

    I do have some very distant French in my genes from when the Normans invaded Ireland…. just in case I ever come for lunch.

    oo-la-la! (; Pamela

  10. I just wanted to let everyone know that I’ve heard from my ex-boss and he’s sorry he and his family missed lunch. The most important thing is that they’re O.K. In my zeal to defend Yankee cuisine, I don’t think I acknowledged how worried I was that something terrible might have happened. Seems like the idea of stopping by for lunch was a bit of a whim that didn’t get followed up on, but them’s the breaks! I got a great post out of it. — Monica

  11. Pingback: My Ever-Expanding Blogroll: Links-a-Go-Go! « Astrology Mundo

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