Sunday, March 26, 2006

spring fever - catch it!

It starts with a tickle in the back of the throat. Then it becomes more of a scratch. Soon you notice that you're sniffling every once in a while. After a while, you're just about to stuff a tissue up a nostril when you realize that you've got a headache coming on.

"Well, damn," you think, "here it comes, and I'm powerless to stop it."

This is what I've been doing for the past four or five hours - feeling my first head cold of the year come on. The timing could have been better, since I've got a bunch of stuff to do this week, but better now than when I'm about to board a plane for an eight-hour flight in a little less than three weeks.

So we had the big lunch today. Not only that, but we got a call last night from Steph's sister who lives in Reims who wanted to stop by for coffee this morning on their way home from the in-law's. Yesterday was such a bad day (I will elaborate in another post) and the last thing I wanted was to have to get up early on the day of Daylight Saving and serve coffee with a smile, but we sucked it up and did it anyway. Once they were out the door, I could start working on lunch.

I don't know if I've mentioned this before, but it's been my experience that entertaining guests at mealtime is an affair consisting of several courses over several hours. Both lunches and dinners generally follow the same basic outline: an aperitif (cocktail, whisky, porto, etc.) with a snack (it seems that it's considered bad form to drink on an empty stomach) followed by the entrance, main course, cheese and finally coffee and dessert. You can see how having guests over for dinner can suddenly turn into quite a production, especially for me who can turn into Neurotic Host Who Wants Everyone to Have A Nice Time in no time flat.

I'm afraid I didn't take any photos of the dining extravaganza as I barely had time to sit down between the moment my sister-in-law and family left and the in-laws arrived, but it turned out to be a really nice afternoon, despite all my hand-wringing and worrying. They arrived, flowers in hand (photo to come) while I was still cooking up the main course but we all sat around the table drinking our aperitifs while I cooked. The entrance was a traditional, yet easy dish (and I wish I had photographed it as it would have had some really fun color combinations) consisting of grated carrots tossed with vinagrette and garlic and sliced tomatoes. The main course, which was a special request from Steph since it's really something the in-laws have never had, was a Southern delight of fresh fried chicken strips with mashed potatoes and green beans. Of course they know mashed potatoes as puree and green beans as haricots verts but the fried chicken was a new experience for them and I was so happy that they seemed to really enjoy it.

After all that Southern lovin' there wasn't any room for cheese (which is good since I hadn't bought any - oops) and after the dishes were cleaned up (during which I actually convinced MIL to stay in her seat like a good guest - ha HA!) we had coffee and a tarte pomme (apple pie) from the boulangerie around the corner. Just over three hours after they had arrived, lunch was finished and I was allowed to collapse on the couch.

And to think there are French women who cook like this for their families every day!! They must be out of their minds!

Anyway, yes, the cold is comin' on strong, and I hope it only lasts a couple of days so I can get on with what I need to get on with. Fingers crossed.

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