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How to Simply, Cheaply Entertain as the French Do: Dispatches From Deauville

If you feel intimidated by the thought of hosting a dinner party, do as the French do and focus on the people, not the food.

Living your best life in France means adapting to new circumstances and embracing new situations. Whether the new circumstances are retirement, moving to a new place, or losing a partner to death or divorce, French seniors are making it work. They are out there, participating in the life of the city — our recent elections were heavily staffed with senior volunteers, and cultural events are a big draw whether it’s the local American Film Festival or a concert series. A new friend of mine is over 80 and, although recently widowed, because she loves chamber music she buys tickets and goes on her own — perhaps the concerts are a way to meet new people.

Another important difference in the social cultures of America and France was brought home when we lived in Miami. Having lived in Europe for decades I regularly gave dinner parties. I had a table for twelve and regularly filled it up! We met many international people in Miami; South African, English and French expats all of whom received one another frequently. Yet, on one occasion I invited some American neighbors and they announced that ours was virtually their first “dinner party.” Most of my expat friends found that American women were intimidated by the notion of hosting… perhaps fearing that preparing and serving dinner would be burdensome and tedious? The trick to hosting is to remember that people come for the people, not the food.

The trick to hosting is to remember that people come for the people, not the food

So, for example, my 58-year-old neighbor held a dinner for 6, serving salad, marinated fish, and cheese with fruit for dessert. Nothing hot, nothing slaved over, and nobody cared; we were just happy to be there. Unintimidated by tradition, she threw a dinner party in the way that worked for her. You can absolutely buy delicious takeout and present it on your plates and call that your personal hospitality style!

I recently met a recently-retired woman who invited me to her home, explaining that it would be snacks and nibbles as her apartment was too small for a dining table. She wasn’t concerned she couldn’t give a formal dinner; she was much more interested in socializing than standing on protocol.

The point is getting out there and connecting to your environment — and to other people — is vital to living your best life, and you can do it on your terms.

8 COMMENTS

  1. Thank you for this. A warm welcome, a decent glass of wine and some of Trader Joe’s inexpensive but yummy apps is a party! Americans are afraid of failure. We are overwhelmed with images in advertising, television and now social media of other people’s lavish lives and we feel we can’t compete. With all the yammering about ‘my freedom’ we are slaves to a consumer culture that makes us feel less than and prevents us from truly embracing life that way most Europeans do.

  2. This really resonates with me! I typically fret for days making lists of possible menu items. This is an eye opener!

  3. This is definitely also the Australian way: a one pot meal in winter and a BBQ with some simple sides in summer. Having had lockdown most of 2020 and now for 2 months in mid winter in 2021, we are keen to get back to this way of entertaining.

  4. Not sure this applies to Italy where people DO come for the food. Good food is as important as socializing. They go hand in hand, is my impression. living in Italy for over 10 years as an American (though I haven’t lived in the US for over 20 years) and married to a German, if we invited friends for only snacks or for aperitivo, I’m guessing we’d have to tell them that and set it at a time before dinner time. But I’m still learning!

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Meredith Keeve
Meredith Keeve
After 25 years in Europe, Meredith Keeve now lives in Deauville, France. Having worked in magazines in Paris, London and Warsaw, she has recently written for the French Lingerie Federation and the web site FabAfterFifty.

 

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