20 January 2007

Lunch at Madame's

I have just come from another lovely and lingering lunch at Madame’s.

A former Parisian, Madame is a woman of great elegance and wit. A war bride, she married into an offshoot of my husband’s family more than 60 years ago.

She is petite, but imposing, with white hair styled into a classic chignon. She has remained a Frenchwoman to the core, never becoming a U.S. citizen. She makes annual trips to France, which I understand she financed for a time by buying and selling antiques.

To step inside her house is to land instantly in France. Everywhere are ancestral photos, stern women in leg-of-mutton sleeves and handsome men in the elegant haberdashery of another time.

Here and there in silver and gold frames are sketches of Mont St. Michel or Montmartre, Quimper plates or crystal vases. There are mementoes from this trip or that, gifts from friends and family heirlooms.

If you are lucky enough to be invited to Madame’s, you will find that the food is always good and the table, in a sunny corner of her living room, is beautifully set with dishes and silverware from France. There is always a bouquet of fresh flowers.

Today, the menu was foie gras tartlets for amuse bouche, followed by a savory onion soup and a plum pudding. Last year, there was galette des rois.

Often the food is influenced by the cuisine of Brittany where Madame spent her summers as a girl of some wealth and privilege.

That the food is good is a given. It is the conversation that stimulates.

Madame is well-read and well versed in international affairs. Her living room is a salon for progressive thought and conversation. More often than not the conversation here is books, politics and travel.

The food, of course, fuels the conversation. There is always a choice of coffee or tea, which of courses leads to more talk, lively talk and polite disagreements.

That is how it should be at the table.

Madame’s is a true French kitchen. And a French table.

And I always leave her house humming the Marseillaise.

16 comments:

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

What a delight! That is certainly the table I aim for. The food and wine to fuel the conversation - glorious!!!

Mimi said...

You would love it, Tanna. Such elegance and liveliness!

Lydia said...

How lucky you are to have Madame in your family! Your visits sound very Parisian indeed.

Mimi said...

Yes, we are lucky — she's a gem.

I am lucky to have other older female friends, too, — last week I had a finger food lunch at the home of the other grand dame — a former elected official who also gives lovely little salon-style gatherings.

It's fun — that generation knows how to entertain.

Lu said...

Mimi, so important that in any way we can, we, the next generations, share our "entertaining" skills so it can carry on. Your day today sounds just so nice. Ahhh. Merci.

Mimi said...

I look forward to lunch at Madame's — almost always a different group of guests. Today, though, I was hoping for a galette de rois. . .

Terry B said...

Mimi, I can tell you are totally gearing up for your trip to Paris! A great post, as usual. I knew a wonderful old French woman in St. Louis who had run a Parisian hand laundry below her beautiful apartment for years. One of these days I'll have to write about learning to make a garlicky vinaigrette salad dressing by watching her in her kitchen.

Mimi said...

French women are always so resourceful, aren't they? In business, I think, as well as in the kitchen. . .

Oh, am I gearing up, Terry B!

Fiona said...

Thank you for taking us on your lunch trip today Mimi. I enjoyed it very much.

Paris is on the horizon.

Mimi said...

What fun it would be to gather my blogger friends for lunch, Fi.

Would you bring cheese scones?

Anonymous said...

if only the rest of us could get on that invite waiting list! i think i have the very same Eiffel Tower at home - it was the only souvenir I purchased for myself from Paris, an Eiffel Tower from the Eiffel Tower.

Mimi said...

You probably do have the same one, F2B. And it was the only souvenir I have, too. I bought it at CDG in a vain attempt to spend all my euros. I still have some left; never cashed them in.

Women were going hogwild at the perfume place.

Jann said...

What a wonderful dining experience-the food sounded so devine, my favorite!

Anonymous said...

My mother a war bride from Liege, Belgium and lived pretty much the same way as Madame. I would like to invite Madame, all war brides and anyone interested in learning more about war brides to my site.

http://www.geocities.com/us_warbrides/index.html

Michele

Mimi said...

Michele, what a lovely idea — a way for these ladies to connect.

Please keep in touch — and thank you for visiting.

cityfarmer said...

Sweet as can be!