Monday, November 28, 2011

The Pleasures of the Table

The French writer Colette, a renowned epicure, once said that sitting down at table was like “un rendez-vous d’amour et d’amitié” – a rendez-vous with love and friendship.

I have always believed that when all is said and done, the most passionate and enduring relationship in the life of a French man or woman is his/her love affair with food.

For me, cooking for those I love is a natural expression of that love. “How do I love thee?” Let me cook for you and you will see, smell and taste how much I love thee.

There was a time when I hosted elaborate dinner parties on a regular basis. I regret to say that over the years my dinner parties have dwindled to a precious few in number as fewer and fewer of my friends can find the time or the inclination to sit down at table for “un rendez-vous d’amour et d’amitié.”

We get together at restaurants for dinner from time to time, but it’s just not the same.

It’s not just the lack of time which has cast a pall over the pleasures of the table.

While the best of French cuisine can be successfully recreated in world-class American restaurants across the country, what is harder to recreate is the love affair with food that gets lost in translation.

Sadly, the American relationship with food has become increasingly dysfunctional. It has, in fact, become a love-hate affair.

“If you eat this, you’ll live to be 100. Who cares what it tastes like??!!”

“If you eat that, your arteries will clog up and you’ll die.”

“If you eat this, you’ll never get cancer.”

“If you eat that, you’ll get fat.”

The mantra of the American diner has become, “If it tastes good it must be bad; if it tastes bad it must be good.”

Now, I ask you, is that a recipe for romance?

This past Thursday, as happens once a year every year, women across America spent hours in their kitchens preparing to show those they love just how much they love them.

At Thanksgiving Dinners all across the country, families and cherished friends sat down together and each in turn, from the youngest to the oldest, was asked the traditional question on this national day of gratitude, “What are you thankful for?”

On Thanksgiving day every year Americans come the closest to sharing the French love affair with food, and for that my French-American soul is truly thankful.

All table settings courtesy of Hermès. 

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