Saturday, 9 May 2015
France is so close geographically to the UK and Ireland that we often forget those little cultural differences which may cause our host embarrassment or show us up as a little uncout around the dining table. It can all start at the front door so here are a few tips to get you off to a good start as a dinner guest in France.
By all means bring your host a beautiful bouquet of flowers but never ever carnations as they are exclusively used for funerals in France! Never bring wine unless specifically requested as this is often taken as an insult. Most good hosts will have already chosen the wine when deciding the menu. Having said that chilled champagne is always appreciated and home made personal gifts are on the up.
It goes without saying if going for a fine dinner to always dress smart casual and I mean never in shorts sandals and T shirts!! Jackets are usually required for restaurants.
Be late but not too late. If invited for dinner at 7.30pm it will usually start 30 minutes later. However more than 30 minutes late and you are in serious trouble! Today if delayed you must call you host as quickly as possible if you find yourself arriving any later than the 30 minute rule!
Smoking is fine in most homes but not at the table. Most hosts are happy to let you hang out the window, step out to the garden or balcony. Cigars may still be smoked at the table however but check just in case with your host!
During the various courses you should wait for guidance from your host in regard to handling back your cutlery. The same may be used for a number of courses. Always break your bread by hand not your knife and if adding butter, take it using the butter dish knife, from the butter dish to your plate, and then from your plate to your bread using your own personal knife!
Never serve yourself twice from the cheese board as that is interpretated that the other courses were deficient! When cutting cheeses ensure you don't rob the best bits! Always cut from the top down vertically and never horizontally as that is often where the most tasty parts of the cheese can be found.
Never get drunk and don't go on about how good the food was! A discreet c'est délicieux aimed directly at the cook will suffice.
There are always some people who never want to leave a good host. If you are served orange juice after your third coffee this is a direct signal to leave at once. A bit like being served oranges in a Chinese restaurant. Depart immediately!
I first tasted aīoli In Kensington Gardens. I was on a posh picnic outing and the main dish was prawns. Simply served with bread and lots of aoìli! It was delicious and nothing like anything I had tasted before! The secret is make it at home a few hours before serving and keep it cool. It is so easy to make. Here is my recipe:
Ingredients (6 servings)
10 garlic cloves
2 egg yokes
Juice of 1 lemon
250 ml olive oil
1 Teaspoon of Dijon mustard.
Peel the garlic and blend in a blender or mortar. Slowly add all the other ingredients. Aìoli goes great with prawns and other seafood but you can include it with so many dishes and salads.