As mentioned previously, Soren has many French relatives. Specifically, Parisian relatives. Take cousin Florence, for example. Soren's paternal great grandfather was the brother of Florence's great grandmother.
Before last week, we never knew of Florence's existence nor she ours. Soren's aunt Laurence, a resident of Berkeley, met Florence for the first time recently when both were visiting mutual Kaplan relatives in New York City. Laurence said she and Florence felt an instant connection, like they had known each other for years. Laurence was very excited for us to meet this "new" cousin.
Soren sent Florence an introductory e-mail and soon after, a dinner date at our house was arranged. This is how it went down: Soren to Florence, "Which of these days works for you to come to dinner..." Florence replied, "Tuesday, I'll be there at 8:00 p.m." Oops! For a moment, we forgot we were in France. Dinner is served late here and we didn't think in advance to suggest an earlier time for her arrival. And, we've learned enough to know that the French never arrive on-time for a dinner party. That is considered impolite. So, we were once again facing the dilemma of keeping Raelyn and Nola up way past their bedtime on a school night. We decided to rely on the "when in Rome" attitude and just go with the flow.
Although I was looking forward to meeting Florence, especially because Aunt Laurence raved about her to Soren, as the date approached, I was feeling quite nervous about hosting our first French guest for dinner. What does one serve for an apéritif? What is an apéritif anyway? What does one serve with an apéritif? And salad, that comes after the main course, but before the cheese plate right? Or, is it the other way around? What do I serve with the cheese plate? What if my homemade vinaigrette isn't good enough? What do I cook? What if she expects foie gras, escargot, and/or roasted duck? Do I dare bake homemade moelleux au chocolat or tarte tatin or purchase dessert from a local patisserie? What if the patisserie I choose is not good quality? Have we lived here long enough and patronized enough of our local shops to know, without a doubt, which boulangerie sells the tastiest baguette and which patisserie bakes the best desserts? I think not. We're still in taste-testing all over town mode. And what kind of baguette to serve anyway? Traditionnelle, moderne, or céréales? And don't get me started on the cheese selections. Chevre, Brie, and Comté? Or, Camembert, Roquefort, and Reblochon? Are three cheeses overkill? Maybe I should serve only two? And which Fromagerie should we go to for the cheese selection? What about wine and champagne? White, red, to kir or not to kir? And if we kir, do we make it a Royale? Oh, the pressure!
Thank goodness for all of the books on French life-style, food and wine, and of course, Google, to help me sort through this mess of self-imposed pressure. With Soren's help, we settled upon the following menu:
Apéritif: champagne or kir royale with rosemary breadsticks and peanuts
Entrée: roasted chicken with prunes, capers, olives in a white wine sauce
Salade: butter lettuce with tomato, avocado, and dijon vinaigrette
Fromages: chevre, camembert
Dessert: a selection of tartes from our local patisserie
Florence arrived at 8:20 p.m. She had taken a cab from her office across town at the Palais de Justice where she works as an attorney. We immediately sensed her personable warmth and fun-loving nature. She was easy to be around and the conversation was effortless. During the apéritif, I kirred, she did not.
The dinner meal was lovely, I didn't burn anything, and I managed to balance the ingredients in my vinaigrette just right. Soren was in charge of the cheese selection and had visited our local fromagerie. My favorite cheese: Chevre. Hers: Camembert. Split decision. Soren, with the deciding vote, made the Camembert the winner for the evening. The girls are attempting to develop a palate for French cheese. This may take awhile. In the meantime, more for us!
Dessert was underway and we were just starting to cast our votes for the best tarte when Nola and I spotted something scurrying around the corner and dashing underneath the armoire. Eek! A mouse! Or as Florence mimicked, "Eek, une souris!" Then, in English, she explained, "This, I have never seen before. Are you sure there is a mouse in your house? I think this is only an American thing." She did not see the mouse and she still, despite our screams and standing upon the furniture, did not believe we actually had a mouse in our house. She continued to state that never before has she seen a mouse in a house.
We lost track of the mouse momentarily until Soren spotted it darting across the room towards the cabinet under the t.v. By now, Soren was holding a shoe box, hoping to convince this mouse that it would be happier in this box instead of running around on our floor. In the commotion, Florence still did not see the mouse and while the girls and I were standing on the couch, Soren was opening the cabinet door under the t.v. There it was, une souris! It had crawled into the wire binding of a booklet and was staring at Soren. He picked up the booklet and was beginning to bring the booklet close to the box so he could place it into the box. Just then, Florence saw the mouse, and saw that Soren was holding the booklet with the mouse, and she shouted, "Be careful!" With that, Soren dropped the booklet, along with the mouse, and the mouse ran over to the area where we put our shoes upon entering the apartment. The girls were not happy that a mouse might be inside one of their shoes. Nor was I, for that matter. Soren banged the box on the floor beside every shoe hoping to scare the mouse out. No luck. Where did it go? We hoped it could find its way out of our apartment, and soon. I don't want to be cleaning up mouse droppings. Or mice droppings. Where there's one, there's usually more and I didn't care to think about that. Florence was still incredulous. We weren't quite convinced that a mouse in a house was such a novel experience in Paris.
Raelyn and Nola created a mousetrap complete with Camembert cheese and a ball pit for the mouse's pleasure. This is a French mouse we're talking about after all. Gourmet cheese for our little gourmet mouse. The ball pit? Well, that's American for sure. The girls were still keeping hope alive that they could have this mouse become their French pet.
Soren, who had been speaking in French to Florence throughout the evening said to her, in French, "How do you get rid of a mouse?" Except, what he actually said was, "Comment vous débarrasser d'un sourire?" Translation: "How do you get rid of a smile?" Mouse= souris, Smile = sourire. So close, yet so very far. You can imagine, I'm sure, the fits of laughter this verbal gaffe created. No getting rid of our smiles now. Nor the mouse for that matter.
Later, after Florence left at midnight, we put the girls to bed, then cleaned up in the kitchen. When Soren was loading the dishwasher he saw the mouse run down the hallway. Towards our bedroom.
That got rid of my smile.