French adventure

Life itself is the proper binge” — Julia Child

One of the challenges — and pleasures — of maintaining old friendships is finding new ways to surprise each other.

Last weekend, it was my turn to host a few women in my neighborhood who’ve been close for more than two decades. For our semi-annual gatherings, we take turns hosting and try to come up with a special theme dinner or a local culinary adventure.

More often than not, we end up renting a movie to watch after dinner — a documentary, foreign film, or even a chick flick that our husbands wouldn’t care to watch. (At one get-together, for instance, we spent an afternoon watching both versions of Grey Gardens, starting with the original documentary.)

Always a Francophile, I opted for a French theme this time around. And since I already own Amelie — one of my favorite foreign films — everything fell into place.

For me, half the fun of hosting a dinner party is shopping and planning for it. Turning to The French Slow Cooker by Michele Scicolone, I chose an easy boeuf en daube that could be prepared ahead of time. The day of our dinner was unseasonably warm, so I opened the windows in the garden room and set our table for dinner there. When my friends arrived, I served brie and strawberries, then put together a simple salad of pears, blue cheese, almonds, and French vinaigrette.

Of course, no dinner party is complete without the right music. For this one I chose the musical score to Midnight in Paris and French Cafe (a collection of original French classics, including Bridgette Bardot’s Un Jour Comme un Autre). I also own the musical score to Amelie, so I played a sampling as a preview. After dinner, oui, we poured French roast coffee and headed down to the rec room to watch the film.

When it comes to entertaining our oldest friends, it’s all too easy to get stuck in familiar ruts and routines. And when life gets crazy-busy, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with throwing in the dishtowel and meeting for a burger and a beer at a local hangout. But it’s twice as much fun to shake things up and try something out of the ordinary. Each time we do, we create a wonderful new memory. — Cindy La Ferle

–Bottom photo: Image of Audrey Tautou as Amelie, from the film. For a larger view, please click on each image. —