The devil is in the details, but these are the things that help make Paris so interesting. All you need to do is look up! Now, if I can only find a way to get this dolphin downspout off the Hotel Lausun, a 1657 hotel particulier on the Isle St. Louis, and into my carryon...
One of the things we love most about renting an apartment in Paris is being able to enjoy a "home" experience away from home. Though we only have a two-burner cooktop, it's perfect for steaming an artichoke. A good quality wine can be had for about the price of soda and you can find them at wine shops and super marches alike. All-in-all, the perfect paring!
That, followed by a fresh salad with a quick and easy vinaigrette, thank you Ina, (yes, with a raw yolk! And if you've never tried it, you owe it to yourself to do so! Just make sure your eggs are as fresh as you can get them!) and a gooey piece of chevre and a baguette makes for a wonderful supper for 2 for about 10 euros!
It's all true- a shopper's paradise! The Paris Flea Market is really an amalgam of many different markets and groups of dealers. Of all the markets, though, Marche Paul Bert is tops and with that does come top prices, too. Bargains are few and far between, but a treasure hunt is half the fun! I've found a source for beautiful sets of Christofle 19th and early 20th century flatware in their fitted cases- what a find!
Paris is a dog's city! They are welcomed everywhere. I loved watching this companion eagerly following it's owner in and out of the stalls!
The dealers are a tribe unto themselves, and come lunchtime, they sit together for a hot meal. Several of the cafes nearby prepare dishes, like the cassoulet in the clay dish, for the dealers so they don't have to leave their stalls. The ritual of the meal is truly an integral part of the culture! While circling around after lunch, these same dealers were engrossed in a very heated game of bridge at the same table. Working hard and playing hard!
After shopping the President Wilson market, we quickly ripped apart a baguette, tore a poor defenseless, very ripe camembert into pieces and added some ridiculously delicious smoked ham- an impromptu tabletop experience on the steps of the Palais de Chaillot.
Everyone knows that when you sit down at the table, the napkin goes on the lap, but then what? And what about if you are at someone's house, do you wait to place your napkin, or do it right away? No one wants to feel like a rube at the table, so here is the "Napkin 411" (wake the children!!) :
In a restaurant:
As soon as you are seated, remove the napkin from your place setting, unfold it, and put it in your lap. Do not shake it open. At some very formal restaurants, the waiter may do this for the diners, but it is not inappropriate to place your own napkin in your lap, even when this is the case. The napkin rests on the lap till the end of the meal. Don't clean the cutlery or wipe your facewith the napkin. NEVER use it to wipe your nose!
If you excuse yourself from the table, loosely fold the napkin and place it to the left of your plate (placing it on the right side wouldn't be wrong, but for the sake of consistency, use teh left!). Do not refold your napkin or wad it up on the table either. Never place your napkin on your chair.
At the end of the meal, leave the napkin semi-folded at the left side of the place setting. It should not be crumpled or twisted; nor should it be folded. The napkin must also not be left on the chair (what is it about the chair?!).
At a private dinner party:
The meal begins when the host or hostess unfolds his or her napkin. This is your signal to do the same. Place your napkin on your lap, completely unfolded if it is a small luncheon napkin or in half, lengthwise, if it is a large dinner napkin. Do not shake it open. The napkin rests on the lap till the end of the meal.
The host will signal the end of the meal by placing his or her napkin on the table. Once the meal is over, you too should place your napkin neatly on the table to the left of your dinner plate. (Do not refold your napkin, but don't wad it up, either.)
So, while this may not be the lap dance you had in mind, now you know everything there is to know about the use of napkins at the table- happy eating!
Kudos to the mayor of Newark, New Jersey, and J. Wesley Tann for doing the right thing! The mayor and Mr. Tan have teamed together to sponsor and teach the basics of dining and social etiquette to the citizens of this "hard-scrapple" city. The story has been repeated on many online sites, and I couldn't think of a better, more uplifting message.
For Mr. Tann, "Good living is easy. All it just takes is practice." And he should know. Mr. Tann, 83, was one of the first black fashion designers to open a shop on New York City's Fashion Avenue, and he designed clothing for Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Leontyne Price, the famed black opera singer.
Tann's students include mothers, fathers and children all taking part in a city-sponsored program thatMayor Cory A. Booker hopes will take politeness and manners from "abstract concepts" to daily essentials. The city hopes that by improving the niceties shared among Newark's residents the quality of their lives and their futures will be markedly improved -- one fine meal and one properly executed place setting at a time.
The class will heighten awareness and appreciation of basic manners and dining skills in daily life by teaching handshakes, public behavior, and basic telephone skills. Students will be served a three-course meal prepared by award-winning Chef LeRoy Baldwin and served by wait staff to simulate dining in an up-scale restaurant complete with a formal table setting: tablecloths, china, flatware, and glassware. The students will learn table-setting, use of utensils, use of a napkin, European and American dining styles, dining posture, and appearance.
Catherine J. Lenix-Hooker, manager of the city's department of recreation and cultural affairs, said that this program is important "so that they (the participants) are able to have the kinds of social skills that make them very productive and at ease in different kinds of social situations."
Youth from Newark often bear the heavy burden of being poor or working class, she said, or the bad reputation that can hang over even this city's most promising young people. Thus the importance of "learning the language of the silver."
"Our youth need to know how to conduct themselves in a public setting -- some of the dos and don'ts," Lenix-Hooker said. "If everything else is equal, it will help them break through these barriers."
All it takes is a resource and you, too, can teach yourself and/or your children the basics. A great website for just that is whatscookingamerica.net's Menu and Dining Etiquette Guide. It's a quick reference to double-check some of the finer points of eating at the table. But there are tons of these, just do a little searching. All it takes is a willingness to step in and expect more from yourself and your children around the table.
One piece of advice: Don't correct out at a restaurant or any other public place. Save this for the safe environment of the home. You can always talk about whatever happened later, and it preserves the sometimes fragile dignity of young people.
Manners, politeness, and niceties should never be a weapon used to make people feel superior to others. They are merely a way to honor those around you. Pay it forward. It will come back to ten-fold.
The dining table: the last vestige of civility. It's about community, conversation, and connecting with one another. This is where life events are toasted, where holidays, birthdays, and anniversaries are celebrated, and where family and friends can gather and share in the most primal and nurturing of rituals: the meal. So, pull your chair up around the table!