Â I live in France and am surrounded by wonderful things. Like being in love with a person living in a new place can be similar, when everything is brand new,Â you have a sense of wonderment,Â all is charming, your heart beats excitedly and then it happens, slowly. You are still in love but some things are less exciting. A trip to the grocery store used to be an adventure with all of those strange new packages and foods new to me. NowÂ I go and stand in a long line waiting to check out with only one or two people working, if you don’t count the person blocking the aisles while he or she stacks the shelves and the checker irritatesÂ me handing out plastic bags like they are gold. Plus, they get to sit down. I never got to sit down when I was a checker in years past.
Â Anyway, my French hell became going to those excrutiatingly long French meals with either some of Maurice’s French friends or relatives. At first I was in a totaly fog sitting there waiting for time to pass, the meal to end, so we could eventually leave. Then I got so I could understand some of what was being said although my brain had, and still has, a way of checking out and I find myself day dreaming until Maurice brings me back saying, “Right, Linda?” I can stay alert longer now although by the time I have put together a response in French the whole table has moved on to a new subject or they don’t even hear me when I say something. My French is not heard like one of those whistles for dogs that only they can hear.
Â So, I have gotten to the point where I don’t dread being with French relatives for a long time although I know they all think I am just a very quiet person. I was getting a little comfortable when I was accused of poisoning some of Maurice’s relatives, a story I told a month or so ago. Now all of my insecurities are back, ones I didn’t even know I had until I cooked a bad lasagne for some people and I really felt judged in those thousand year old scales of French Food Tradition and, believe me, there are alot of ways in which to be judged.
Â Last weekend we had Maurice’s two sisters and their husbands over for lunch the day after we returned from traveling. I was tired, unprepared and grumpy and on top of it, I was now worried that I was going to make someone sick along with serving a bad meal that would send Maurice’s relatives home shaking their heads in disbelief. When they arrived we served kir royale, another French tradition that is rarely broken and Maurice told them I was nervous but not why. He just said it was the French/American thing but I spoke up and said I was worried about making another relative sick. I asked the two women if 3 out of 8 people got sick at a meal I prepared, am I to blame? Was I responsible for food poisoning? Both of the sisters said, “Of course not. Eight, yes, three, no.” They assured me that I didn’t have to worry about the same thing happening.Â Then one of the sisters made me laugh. “Is there a hospital near by?” “Yes,” I said. “Then, no problem.”
Â We had a good meal-I thought-and everyone left happy and there were no reports of anyone getting sick afterwards. Then I found out that they have decided it is time for a family reunion. It is going to be held this summer at our place in Provence and there will be about 30 people-all French. I will be the main cook of course, manning the bar-b-que, making salads, worrying about everything while everyone babbles around me in French. Could be fun, really, but I’m feeling a little tense already.