How to Entertain like the French
Originally published on Tumblr
Even though it’s been years since I’ve lived abroad in Saint Malo, France, I carry the spirit of the culture with me to this day. When I first arrived in France, my goal was to study the language and travel to its neighboring countries. I was a young student traveling abroad, a bit timid to meet my host family. What happened next? I became immersed in the culture, the music, the art. My time in France was critical step in my growth as a young person. I was influenced by its traditions and style. I developed a close bond with my family and learned to speak a language that I’m still certified to teach today. While it’s been a decade+ since I’ve called France home, I still think of my time there often.
To me, the country remains more than a place, it’s a style of living, a spirit that I’ve bottled and can release at my leisure, back in the states.
I love sharing my experience with my friends and family. Spring is here and with the arrival of its warmer weather comes the opportunities for parties. One of my most favorite memories of living abroad were attending the relaxed, yet elegant dinners and gatherings hosted by my french family. Looking back, those parties were not spectacular displays of confetti or focused on a thematic idea. Instead, the gatherings revolved around the same simple, beautiful traditions. Read on for a list of the French traditions I’ve kept alive, all of these years later.
Bread, Wine, Cheese.
This is a big one. Keep your menu simple but never, ever, scrimp on quality. Quality does not mean the most expensive brand in the market. Find or make items that you love and can’t wait to share with your friends. Try each variety of brie that your grocer offers to find the most satisfying option. Choose a wine that guests will remember. The one item I’ll splurge on? Bread. I’ll often drive miles out of my way to purchase my favorite baguette. Whether I’m toasting it in the oven for my family to enjoy during a weeknight dinner or serving it sliced with cheese to guests, bread is the heart of any meal.
Minimalism is one of the most beautiful French traditions that I strive to achieve. Instead of cluttering your home with decor, keep your space open and airy and rely on plants to beautify your space. This is true for entertaining. When hosting a party, flowers should be bought in spades. When choosing flowers, opt for a cohesive color scheme. I love the idea of purchasing an assortment of all white florals: tulips, peonies, baby’s breath. Ask for the flowers loose for home assembly. Not only will you save money by arranging flowers by hand, but you’ll partake in the wonderfully fragrant, tactile experience. Hours before a party, I’ll gather containers of all size–traditional vases, mason jars, small glass bowls. Scissors in hand, I’ll create bouquets with stems of various heights. Plant your floral arrangements across your house: kitchen, coffee table, patio. To score extra points with your guests, place a small bowl filled with just the tops of the flower in an unexpected place, like the bathroom counter. Flowers enliven the party and make for a memorable experience.
This last one is a critical element to master the French tradition of entertaining. Bad lighting can kill the mood and cause guests to feel uncomfortable. If you can, invest in light switches with a dimmer option. This is a wonderful alternative to candles when hosting a party with children. If safety is not an issue at your soiree, light up as many candles as you can manage. I prefer using white tea lights in a small votive. Like the mix-matched floral arrangements, I scatter these around the house, as well. The true mark of a good hostess? Make a candle check mid-party. Replace candles that have melted.
Entertaining does not have to be complicated or stressful. Focus on providing a beautiful experience filled with simple and high-quality items. While I may no longer live in France, I’m able to capture its elegance and magic each time I throw open my doors and welcome friends and family into my home.