Gather ’round the Table: Senior finds French clear schedules for dinner

By: Daphne Becker

Over this summer I was given the opportunity to spend five weeks in France living fully immersed with a family. In that time I double kissed everybody’s cheeks every morning and every night, ate a lot of cheese and ate every single meal with the whole family at the table, and though I remember eating as a family a lot more as a child back in America, as the years have gone on and my family has gotten busier with different activities, we just aren’t able to match that tradition I enjoyed on my five weeks in France.

To me that actually makes it feel special when we are able to sit down together as a family maybe once every one or two weeks.

There are a lot of stereotypes about French people. A few I can contest to like: they like their wine, they eat bread all the time and meals are a grand ordeal.

When we do eat dinner, my family usually takes maybe 30-45 minutes tops. When I lived with my French family, dinner could take anywhere from one to four hours. The maximum was usually more when there were other guests there, but I am not kidding you when I say that I was at the table from eight at night until 12.

When it was one hour, that was like the quick meals — the ones that didn’t take very long, at least to them.

At first, dinner was something that I dreaded. I would have to try to understand what they were saying, think of a response I could bring to their conversation and worry if I was saying it correctly. By the time I did that all in my head the conversation had changed.

But the longer I was in France, the more I understood, and once I was able to get past being afraid of talking, I could actually enjoy the time I got to spend with them.

Now their dinner is nothing close to our dinner. Here we cook everything all at once, and then we sit down, shove it down our throats as fast as possible and go back to whatever we were doing before. They put out pre-appetizers, appetizers, the main meal, the cheese course and at the very end, dessert.

Coming back home and spending time with my family has made me realize that neither of these are better than the other. They are just different.

I am already so close with my family that I don’t think that we would need two hours of straight quality time to keep close, but for getting to know my French family, it was maybe the best possible thing for me. I got to get to know them, learn their culture and be a part of their lives during this time.

Both of my families are different, but, at the end of the day, they are my families, and mealtimes are a special component to our relationships.

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