“Mesdesmoiselles, Mesdames à vos fourneaux! Messieurs à vos vignes!”
“Ladies to your ovens. Men to your vines!”
This and only this was listed under “practical details” for our building’s Fête des Voisins building party announcement.
Ladies to your ovens and men to your vines? I don’t know about you, but Sir Lancelot does not have a vine and while I do have an oven, I doubt anybody in our building would really want to try anything I cook. Not because I can’t cook but because I’m sure they would just find any dish with something green in it downright foreign.
Yes, dear Lancelot friends, we attended our neighbor party recently. It was a lovely, warm summer evening, which I'm discovering is rare in Paris, and the courtyard started to bustle around 7:30pm.
The guardiennes spent all day prepping for the big party and set-up tables and chairs in the courtyard ready for the bounty of the apartment dwellers. As it turns out I went to both our oven and our vine for the event. I bought a bottle of 7€ rosé and had luckily baked something for the second time in my life the day before. The fresh rhubarb from the market was gorgeous and I made my first crumble. Sticking with habit, I prefer to make dessert than to actually eat it so the entire crumble was left intact read for the party.
Sir Lancelot got home right at 7:30 in a good mood but was not that excited to head down for a fun night of socializing. After waiting around in our kitchen and secretly spying on the action down below for a half hour, we bit the bullet and took the elevator down.
Immediately, Mr. Mascot, with a glass of champagne and the customary double-kiss, greeted us. I was hoping that this was the first and last double-kiss of the night as I did not think that double-kissing each and every old, French lady was really a productive use of my time.
Aside from us, the only other people that had arrived were the old ladies of the building, sitting in a circle with each other smoking their long, skinny cigarettes with their gray hair tied up into chignons. One cool fact I did learn is that our building will be 100 years old in 2013 and the grand-daughter of the architect still lives in one of the apartments. She had no interest in chatting with the newbie American.
Sir Lancelot, sticking to his favorite activity at parties, bee-lined it for the food table. My crumble was the only dessert and in comparison to the rest of the orderly tarts and quiches and blocks of foie gras, looked downright messy. France +1, America 0.
Guardienne Amelia circulated plates for us to try the food. I wasn't really in the quiche kind of mood and decided to try the homemade "pizza." I told Amelia that I'd try it since it's très Americaine. For the rest of the evening, she walked around passing out foie gras to everyone. I think she asked me six times if I wanted any.
The first person to saunter over to us was Monsieur Frank, the man with six wives. This time he was with his sixth wife, who actually turned out to be quite sweet. Like me with French, she understands a lot of English but is nervous to speak it. You can imagine the amazing conversation we had. It also got really interesting when Sir L questioned him about being an inventor and they launched into a twenty minute conversation about some bar code he made that can never be replicated. Who knows.
At this point I one of the few other women who speaks English. And French. And German. And Spanish. And Italian. And Portuguese. In fact she's a professional translator so when I explained how I find learning French difficult, she just didn't really seem to understand. I guess not if you speak six languages - for a living. Her husband is Chilean which now explains the random telenovelas I hear blasting in from someone's window in the middle of the afternoon.
Then our neighbors arrived of which we still do not know their names. The husband, you know, Mr. Communication, was wearing a scarf so tightly wound around his neck, it looked like his head might pop off. Their two teenage sons came, ate a quiche and quietly left in proper teenage boy fashion. In all fairness, they're both really nice people but even Sir Lancelot finds trying to talk to Mr. Communication a bit strange. In fact he admitted to Sir L, "I only speak French. I've never wanted to learn English. As I'm sure you've noticed, I don't really say that much anyways." Yes. We noticed.
We spent the rest of the evening talking to his wife in French, then Franglish and then English. It ended with us being invited to another party at their apartment. They were going to have a musical guest.
After three glasses of rosé, Sir L and I said out goodbyes and I took back all but one piece of my crumble. Told you that nobody would want anything from our oven! And by leaving I made quite the scene and dramatically double-kissed both the guardians goodbye! I figured the American girl needed a great exit.
The next day, this sign was posted in our lobby as a thank you to everyone for attending. It's early in the morning and I don't feel like translating it. I'm saving up my energy as today is my first day back to French classes after TWO MONTHS off. Ugh. Wish me luck!