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I Discovered the Reason Why Wine Was Invented

25 July 2011 1 comment

So yes, I am exhaling this summer.  As I am deeply breathing in this fresh Mediterranean air, my glass of red wine is also breathing.  So what does one do once the Préfecture is happy, taxes are declared, car is paid off and you have safely secured your job in France?  Well you try to discover the joie de vivre that the French openly brag that they have mastered.  It is what gives this country its charm and making France still the #1 travel destination in the world.

There is nothing more pleasing than discovering new friendships, regardless of your passport or of your place of residence.  I finally made the commitment to myself to host my first apéritif at my apartment.  This summer has been a personal commitment to meeting people and a true integration.  I no longer have excuses of dealing with clichéd paperwork nor the abnormal mental exhaustion of where am I syndrome.

Off I went to the grocery store last week to buy the true essentials to compliment my room with a view.  I got plenty of savory items likes olives, nuts, chips and cornichons (pickles).  An absolute must is an array of cheeses; I selected a goat cheese, a Camembarre made in the northern region of Normandie and a fromage aux noix (a sweet cheese with nuts and a hint of honey).  I always make it clear to my French colleagues that the States have cheese products, not real cheese; a pleasant way to break the ice with any Gaul.   The final food item is a delicate saucisson (pork sausage) that I was even introduced to by my French friends in Philadelphia.  It is the perfect balance to your tray of finger food for a social gathering and isn’t spicy.  And yes, don’t use the word hors d’oeuvres  here, that is an American bastardization of the French language just like how entrée refers to your main course (?) at an American restaurant . . . sigh.

Apéritif 2011

Moi! and Fa- (Lebanese)

Then of course I go to the wine aisle to make my selection for the evening.  My own predisposition is to go straight for the Côte de Rhones, a medium pleasant red wine that can go with just about anything you serve.   I do take a risk with this selfish decision as everyone here during the summer licks up bottles of rosé like water – whether they are French or not.  It is THE summer beverage.  I have eaten out several times with my colleagues at work and they quickly demand a pichet of rosé while I boldly raise my hand and say with force – une verre de vin rouge s’il vous plait (a glass of red wine please).  Why do I hold out?  Is not the taste of a rosé sensual to my American taste buds?  Well, it isn’t the taste that turns me off, it’s the bloody headache that follows!  Without failure!   I come wondering to my desk after lunch only to stammer for a paracétamol (the French version of Tylenol).  Let’s be clear, if the Préfecture demands me to drink some rosé with them in order to renew my carte de séjour, I’m screwed.  But not to worry, I simply put in my invitation to my amis (friends) that if they want a rosé or white, they need to bring it themselves.  Snobbery?  Not really, it is typical when you are invited to an apéritif that you bring something to drink like wine or beer.  So I was forgiven for my red boldness and have some left over for myself. 😛

Finally the big day (Wednesday) came.  Immediately after work I ran to the boulangerie for several fresh baguettes, as stale bread is ground for expulsion from this country and barred from possible re-entry.   I quickly sliced the bread to place it as the final piece to my gastronomic painting.  I relaxed with my first glass of red for the evening with 20 minutes to spare before the first guest.

Apéritif 2011

From left to right: Me- (French), Ru- (French), Ch- (Lebanese), Ma- (French), Cy- (French), Ol- (Philippine), Moi! , An- (Slovakian), Fr- (Dutch) and Cl- (French).

Everything was set-up for what I planned as a simple mixing of various people I have encountered in the last year.  I have read in some French culture literature to be cautious when mixing the French at a party; they can be reserved among people they don’t know.  They have to warm up to guests.  Personally I find this far from the case and believe it to be a harsh generalization.  My guest list did include both colleagues from Amadeus and individuals I met through the power of Internet socialization like MeetUp.com and CouchSurfing.org.  I feel fortunate to say that I actually had to limit my guest list only for logistical reasons; my apartment is much smaller and could not hold as many people as I would have liked.  In any case, the world was well represented in my living room from France to Lebanon, from Slovakia to the Philippines.  Pleasantly to my ears, the conversations predominately stayed French and not English giving me the practice I hunger for.  We even played a make shift game of charades to keep the laughter continuous.  Proudly I say that my last guests didn’t leave till midnight knowing most everyone had to go to work the next day, including myself.

So now as I am washing my wine glasses in my sink, I can affirm that the smile on my face is a real one.  Since it is my duty as a French resident to support the French wine industry, there will be plenty more apéritifs to come.

Note: Just for the sake of security on the Internet,
I did not put the full names of my guests on the pictures. 
I can share those details with you privately but I at least put
their nationalities to give you the full scope of the evening.
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Categories: Everyday Life