Monday, October 31, 2005

Une Soirée

It seems that Jube has quite an extensive social life in Montpellier. In Nice, I have Oneika and some other anglophones I met through her--and some French, as well--but Jube has no one. He lucked out and is working in a very nice lycée, Lycée Masséna, but all of the other teachers are much older than him. As soon as we arrived in Montpellier, he called up his mendois friends. Popo and her conjoint just bought an apartment, and Jube was invited to help them lug boxes from the old to the new one. Luckily for me (because I am the laziest person in the world, even trying to get out of my own deménagement), I had to go to my bank and close my old account. Le Pacha came with me, so afterwards we got to hang around in Montpellier while Jube worked hard at Popo's apartment.

When we got home to Gallargues le Montueux, we ate a wonderful tartiflette prepared by Belle-mère, and then Jube told me that we were invited to Popo's housewarming that evening--and he had volunteered to bring the dessert. "We'll just pick up a pie from the supermarket," he told me. But I knew (or at least thought I knew) that was a trick. Either we had to bring something from the boulangerie or I had to make dessert. I thought this because every time we had been invited to eat at a friend's house, the dinner was amazing. Recipes were demanded and given with an almost ceremonial precision--"but remember, this chicken comes from the butcher and I ordered it a week in advance so we could have one with less fat" (these people are not 50 years old, I swear!). Our conversation around the table centered on food; food made that night or food eaten earlier, food that was good or food that was inferior. For example, the last time that we ate at Ghee's house, we ate samoussas fait maison. They were baked, not fried, to be less fatty; they had replaced the spicy peppers with almonds; they had big problems with the dough because they had bought it round, not square. Ghee's girlfriend then launched into the meal she had eaten at her grandmother's house the week before, which had been so full of fat that she couldn't move afterwards. Then the conversation changed to cooking utensils; about what you can make with a wok and what you can't.

So of course we couldn't bring a cheap pie from the supermarket! Luckily, I had a plan: I would wow them all with my American ingenuity and make a pumpkin pie! I made it all, from scratch--from a real pumpkin! (Belle-mère made the dough--store-bought dough is allowed, but homemade is always better.) I slaved away and made it, and it was beautiful. Orange, creamy, the crust lightly browned, it smelled just like Thanksgiving.

When we arrived at Popo's, I was surprised not to see the apéritif ready. Everyone was tired and sweaty from having moved, and they were drinking some wine, but out of plastic cups with no munchies. I pulled out the pumpkin pie, and was gratified to hear their compliments (and their anticipation, since none of them had eaten pumpkin pie before). We waited for about half an hour, and the remaining guests, who were bringing the apéritif, showed up. What a surprise! They had a package of hot dogs, to be cut up to make cocktail weiners, some Mexican tortilla chips, and a store-bought Spanish tortilla. We had that finished off in a jiffy, and then two of the boys disappeared to get dinner. Boy did I ever feel dumb when they came back with five pizzas from the corner joint! We sure didn't talk about food at the table, since we were crouched around the coffee table without plates! I started to feel extremely embarrassed about having made a pie, worrying about my outfit, and somehow having believed all of the baloney I had read in such books as A Year in Provence, French or Foe?, or Le Divorce (especially Le Divorce). Did we talk about food? No, except indirectly to ask if the refrigerator was plugged in. Did anyone ask the recipe of the tortilla? Well, since it came out of a package, the answer sure was no!

When we finally ate the pumpkin pie, everyone oohed and ahhed about it, and (yes) asked for the recipe. But I'm never believing another thing I read about French dining habits!

1 comment:

Helene said...

I'm impressed. The made-from-scratch pumpkin pies I have made were stringy, so I always use canned pumpkin. Guess I know whose cooking dessert for Christmas dinner!!!