Dining in French

By Patricia Lynne Duffy

One of the unifying features of domestic France is a network of window boxes that burst with cascading geraniums of the brightest pink. I have observed this window box network from the soft stone houses of Bordeaux in the south to the brightly beamed buildings of Brittany in the north, and have speculated that it might extend even further in all directions, and in fact connect all of domestic France. And behind the window box network is a second network of kitchens, dining rooms and sometimes patios where meals are not just prepared and eaten, but performed.

These parallel networks, both window box and dining, are seemingly soft, but I suspect they are as sturdy as steel, with enough power to hold together individual lives, couples, entire families, and in fact, a whole culture.

Dining with a French family, I always have the sense of being in a theater piece, playing the double roles of stage hand and actor…

My French friend, Annie Muir, her father, and I pass a line of these window boxes as we drive back from the outdoor market of Coulommier, where we have bought a whole array of delectables for our Sunday meal: golden crisp baguettes, sparkling green poivrons, twinkling tartes aux fruits. Coulommier is the big town closest to the little village of Ville-Neuve-sous-Bois where I spend some days with the Muir family. Although Ville-Neuve-sous-Bois is only a little more than an hour from Paris, it feels hundreds of miles away as we drive by acres and acres of sunflower fields and wheat fields with huge bales of hay placed like enormous oval sculptures in the open-air. Annie and I are on vacation from our lives in New York where we are teachers of French and English, respectively. We are on vacation, too, from speedy stir fry dinners and salad bar concoctions prepared for a son and a husband with whom we dine amidst green flowerless plants, the only kind that thrive in the limited light of our mini-Manhattan apartments.

But here in Ville-Neuve-sous-Bois, we arrive at the family’s spacious old stone house in whose big, sun-filled backyard, amidst sights and scents of cascading geraniums, bluebells, hollyhocks and lilacs, we are soon to participate in that twice daily performed piece de theatre that is meal time in France. Dining with a French family, I always have the sense of being in a theater piece, playing the double roles of stage hand and actor: as the former, I help prepare and change the mise-en-scene that is the table setting and courses of served dishes; and as the latter, I play my role as fellow diner — in the drama that is called Le Dejeuner at 1:00 and Le Diner at 8:00.

There is such a sense of devotion to the performing of Le Dejeuner and Le Diner that it always seems to me that the diners should take their roles seriously and that their dialogue at mealtime should be appropriate to the particular course they are consuming. In the first act, (or during the appetizer course), the diners might begin by commenting on the sweetness of the melon, for example, and then recall an amusing incident in the marketplace where the melon was bought; ideally, the diners should use this incident to transition to something more philosophical such as the important role the marketplace has always played in human communities since the beginning of civilized society. If one keeps a proper compatibility between platter and chatter, one can be talking about the meaning of life by the time the main course arrives; and so I am very pleased to observe that the platter of roast chicken arrives just as the conversation is turning from the man we saw juggling lemons in the Couloummier market to Annie’s explanation of psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan’s theory of linguistic expression; Lacan, she tells us, helped his patients search for personal meaning not only through exploring the content of their speech but also its form.

More crisp white Bordeaux is poured and more tender slices of chicken and vegetables are served as the subject makes a segue into some spiritual dynamics between Annie, an atheist, and her father, a Protestant pastor. Annie says that of course life is easier for her father since he believes God is taking care of him, while Annie, a single mother, feels the hard task of taking care of herself and her son, and of understanding herself better through psychoanalysis. It strikes me that all human beings have the hard road of finding truth whether they call that truth getting closer to God or getting closer to the real desires of the unconscious. No matter what they call it, all human beings seem to spend their lives trying to find that One True Thing.

Mme. Muir, Annie’s mother, recalls a book on Buddhism she read, and speculates that perhaps there is no objective reality after all, but only individual perceptions. The discussion reaches its peak just as the selection of cheeses is passed around, with Pastor Muir looking rather sad, hearing all the women around him saying ungodly things. I don’t like seeing Annie’s father look sad and I miss his warm smile and warmer laugh; though from a purely ‘platter-chatter’ point-of-view, I have to admit that such pensive talk tinged with melancholy and personal regret, corresponds well to the consuming of Roquefort and fromage bleu. But when I think of what will be coming next  — the dessert ‘act’ with those twinkling little tartes aux pommes and tartes aux prunes that we bought in the patisserie that morning — I know we all have to take it upon ourselves to move to a lighter topic before the cheese board is taken away.

Annie takes up the cue, transitioning into some lighter content, “Shall we play scrabble again this evening?” she asks.

“In all the languages we’ve ever studied?” asks Monsieur Muir. “French, English, Spanish, German?”

“And what about Chinese?” I ask. “I hope there will not be the same discrimination against the Chinese words that we witnessed last night.”

We laugh and recall our game of the previous evening just as the plate of glittering tartes arrives at the table.

Once the dessert act begins, whether in Le Dejeuner or Le Diner, it is hard for the diners to return to a dialogue laden with too much seriousness. So we continue to talk about scrabble, recalling the move that M. Muir made, one that earned him twenty-seven points where he spelled out the word, fourmilier.

That was a French word I’d never encountered before and so M. Muir explained to me that it was an animal that inched along the ground and ate ants.

Then later as we neared the end of the evening’s scrabble game, I, with only six useless letters left, spelled the word lnzhni which I claimed was the Chinese name for the same animal Monsieur Muir described earlier. Neither M. Muir nor Annie accepted lnzhni as a proper word, and I complained of discrimination against the Chinese language.

I say silly things in French, compensating for my lack of fluency with a determined playfulness.

She’s been in this quarter through the German occupation of Paris, through the influx of immigrants from Cambodia, from Vietnam…

Of course, not all of the silly things I say in French are deliberate; there is the morning I tell Annie’s Aunt Genevieve that the beauty of the swan’s form is mainly due to its big ass (when I mean to say its long neck). I confuse the word cou (neck) with cul (ass). I make the mistake during a discussion we have over breakfast at Genevieve’s apartment in the Chinatown of Paris. As we drink our bols of cafe au lait and eat the selection of mini-baguettes and Chinese buns that I bought in the Chinese patisserie across the street, Genevieve shows me a catalogue from an exhibit of Brancusi’s sculpture at the Pompidou Center. As we look through the catalogue, we speculate on why Brancusi chose this or that animal as a subject for his sculpture. Perhaps he chose the fish because of its quick, glittering movement through the water. Perhaps he chose the standing birds because of their proud and elegant posture. And no doubt he chose the swan because of the beauty and grace of its form.

“And the beauty of the swan’s form, I feel, is mainly due to its big ass,” I say.

Genevieve corrects me; then, looking a bit worried, she asks, “You are not trying to learn French because you are planning to become a French teacher, are you?” She breathes a long sigh of relief when I tell her that I’m not.

Genevieve has nearly finished her bol of cafe au lait, but has touched none of the Chinese buns from the little Patisserie Chinoise across the street.

‘I prefer le pain francais,’ she says. There’s a sparkle of humor in her eye that says though Americans may flirt so easily with the food of exotic cultures, her own breakfast tastes will remain firmly French, even here in the middle of the Quartier Chinois. For the fifty years she has lived here, Genevieve has watched the Quartier Chinois become the Quartier Chinois: she’s been in this quarter through the German occupation of Paris, through the influx of immigrants from Cambodia, from Vietnam.

She and I drink a last swallow from our bols. Beams of morning sunlight stream in through the kitchen window, casting shadows of the fluttering geraniums on the sill. The long shadow of the window box connects the shadows of Genevieve and me as we talk.

But a day later, those living moments become picture memories: sunlight, coffee bowls, French bread, Brancusi animals. I leave Paris and take a train into the heart of France, into that provincial region that the French call going dans la Creuse, where my friend Flore meets me at the train station of one of the old villages that compose this region. Flore Duchemin and her family are the only city people with a country home in the little hamlet composed of just seven farm families who are sheep farmers and cider makers, descended from generations of other sheep farmers and cider makers. The Duchemin family has faithfully returned to La Roche every Christmas and every summer, through all the decades of husband Albert’s work as a diplomat; the diplomatic life has taken the family around the globe, from Europe to North America, from Asia to South America.

As Flore and I drive from the station to her house, we pass by stone cottages and window boxes with bright bursts of pinks and reds, and through green, green fields full of sheep and sunflowers. Even the old cemetery we stop to visit looks green and alive, with brightly painted porcelain name plaques of the dead on the old gravestones, some dating back to the sixteenth century.

Surrounded by this solid history, I feel these ‘salt-of-the-earth’ French must see me as a typically rootless American, my only sense of home a rented apartment in Manhattan. And what really astonishes some of the French people I meet here is that I have a kitchen you can barely stand in, let alone cook in, so how can I perform a proper Le Diner?

But that night in the big kitchen of the centuries-old farmhouse, Flore performs a French country-style Le Diner of lamb stew, finely seasoned vegetables, perfectly matched wine, country French bread, and a chocolate mousse for dessert. It is just the two of us for dinner, which is served on the heavy oak table near the fireplace in the main room. As we eat the hearty stew, Flore reflects that the diplomatic life has been a good one. The children have lived in so many countries, learned so many languages.

But as we eat more of our stew and become more aware of its complex mixture of subtle spices, Flore says, yes, it’s been good, though the international life-style has caused gatherings of the entire family to become shorter every year.

With the passing of the fromage de la region the Roquefort, and the fromage bleu, the little tinge of melancholy in her tone spreads like a stain, and soon envelops all her words, until finally, she says, ‘Oh, they’re everywhere, they’re scattered all over the globe,’ her husband in either Geneva or Washington, her son Philippe and his new wife in Buenos Aires, her daughter, Idelette in Paris, she in any one of those places, everywhere and nowhere.

“I wanted to understand him,” she said. “So I told Francine we should go to that gay club we had heard about in our old hometown just north of here.”

I listen and taste carefully the combination of the wine and the fromage bleu. For some moments, the farmhouse seems very big with just Flore and me, her one guest.

And then I remember another dinner in this same room on a previous visit several years before. It was on Christmas Eve when a magical  “Le Diner” was performed,  the table covered by an exquisite lace cloth and set with a plate of oysters on  pearly shells, a plate with rosy smoked salmon, and with crystal glasses sparkling with golden champagne.   The whole family had been together  for this Christmas Eve ‘Le Diner’, and Flore and I recall together how, after many toasts of  champagne, her husband Albert, in high spirits,  began a traditional dance of his native village in Spain, snapping his fingers over his head, his daughter, Idelette and later Flore, getting up to join him. Pierre, the son and Clara, his fiancee, sat holding hands and smiling at the dancing family, with I, the foreign audience of one, clapping my hands, enthralled with this holiday version of “Le Diner”.

And, I think now, these Christmas scenes, bittersweet as memories, are just right, in fact,  for the end of the cheese course.

But now it is time to serve the chocolate mousse whose rich darkness perfectly parallels the solid oak beams that reinforce the ceiling and the walls of the centuries-old farmhouse. The rich, earthy flavor of the mousse calls for a sturdy, ‘feet-on-the-ground’ optimism. It’s time to lighten up. I comment on the farmhouse’s newly added wing; during the dessert act, we will play our parts and feel the home’s spaciousness in a different way.

“Oh, yes,” says Flore, as she elegantly lifts a shining spoonful of the velvety mousse, her voice brightening like polished silver, “Yes, you must see the new rooms. A bedroom and a study room for Idelette. And a suite of rooms for Pierre and his wife, Clara, and the babies they will surely have soon.”

Now, while eating the chocolate mousse, the house with its added rooms no longer reminds us of the family’s absence, but of its continued unity.

The next day, Flore takes me to the ruins of a chateau on a hill so covered with purple flowers that it looks like a purple-colored hill from a distance.

These images of La Roche are quite present as, back in Paris and on the telephone, I try in my broken French to describe the hamlet and the farm families to Madame Ferronier, the French teacher with whom I did a language immersion course some years before. I will tell her more tomorrow night, I say, when Joshua is back and we come to her dinner party. No sooner do I hang up the phone with Mme. Ferronier than it rings again. It’s the hotel reception desk. ‘There’s a man here who says he’s your husband, Madame. Will you speak to him?” Joshua is here from his business trip in London! We haven’t seen each other for two weeks.

Joshua likes the hotel I’ve picked out for us in the Marais district, the oldest part of Paris where the streets are quiet and narrow, the buildings royal and beautiful. We walk on a street along the window box network where lines of red geraniums wave toward us in the evening breeze. They surround us in the Place des Vosges, the oldest square in Paris, where we sit at an outdoor cafe.

Joshua tells me I look different and I tell him he looks different: I have lost weight, the sun has lightened my hair — his beard has grown, the sun has tanned his face and arms. He tells me that after his telecommunications meetings in London, he went to the seaside town of Weston-Super-Mare to visit our old friend Miles and his family. I tell him about going to Ville-Neuve and seeing Annie, about Flore and the cider makers of La Roche, all the new words I have learned. I try out my funny French animal idioms on him: Do you know what time it is, I say. It’s the hour ‘between the dog and the wolf’ (entre chien et loup), that is, twilight. Joshua wrinkles his brow in thought, and I tell him he ‘looks like the hen who has found a knife’, (a l’air d’une poule qui a trouve un couteau) that is, he looks totally baffled. That makes him laugh and we’re happy.

But Joshua is not sure if he’s happy when I tell him we’re invited to dinner at Mme. Ferronier’s the next evening.

Several years before, for ten days, I lived in Paris’s swanky 16th arrondissement in Mme. Ferronier’s elegant apartment with her elegant family. During those ten days, I had moments of both agony and elation, struggling to communicate in French to an aristocratic family who would leave me speechless in English. Mme. Ferronier, quite proud of her elegant family, told us that her husband’s side could be traced back to Russian royalty. Of course she had too much good taste to make any such direct claims about her side of the family, though she made comments that let one infer that there was plenty of reason for pride there, too, as well as an appropriate modesty.

Joshua thinks Mme. Ferronier puts on airs and is not sure he wants to spend an entire evening with her. I tell Joshua that despite her airs, she has a warm heart and knowing her is a little like knowing a French storybook character come to life, so why doesn’t he go to the dinner with me?

So the next night we go to dinner chez Mme.Ferronier and it’s wonderful. Mme. Ferronier definitely knows how to perform a dinner, and how to cast her guests! Among them is a Swiss telecommunications specialist, Berthe, who once lived in New York. She and Joshua talk a lot about how the world will communicate in decades to come, as we pass around the main course, an elegant silver platter of perfectly arranged slices of veal and carrots. Joshua is so absorbed in conversation that he spills his glass of red wine onto Mme. Ferronier’s perfect white tablecloth, just missing the veal and carrot platter. “Ah, c’arrive tout le temps” (It happens all the time) says Mme. Ferronier, expertly and gracefully soaking up the spilled wine in a matter of microseconds.

By the time the cheese arrives, we’re on another topic as a shy German woman, Elke, tells us how hard it is to live as a foreigner in Paris and how she has made very few friends during the years she’s lived here with her French husband, Guy, an architect, who talks about the design of the stone farmhouses dans La Creuse. Then Elke and I commiserate some more about how hard it is to learn French really well. We get so involved in talking that I miss my cue and the silver platter of cheeses sits beside me for an unpardonably long time, waiting to be passed to the diner on my left. Mme. Ferronier prompts me by saying, “Patricia, I hope you will take more of the Cantal.” “Oh,” I say startled, “Oui, bien sur,” passing the Cantal to Elke’s French husband, Guy, who also tries to prompt me by asking whether any special cheese was served by my farm families en province.

The conversation flows in the rich mahogany dining room with Mme. Ferronier, proudly presiding over her dinner in her elegant blue dress framed by her medieval tapestry that hangs the entire length of her dining room wall. For a moment, the medieval tapestry seems to emanate like an aura from Mme. Ferronier, encompassing everything she is proud of — her home, her history, her culture. Well, who is to say where a person begins and ends? That combined emanation of culture, history, home, family seem to give strength to Madame, for whom life is not really so easy these days. Her husband, who works for a French company in Moscow, has barely been back to France in the last two years. And in October his contract with the company will expire and he’ll be out of a job. And her son, Emmanuel, hasn’t been able to find a job since graduating from the university nearly a year ago as the unemployment rate in France goes higher and higher.

But despite these harsh realities, there is Mme. Ferronier, proudly rising to serve her dazzling pink and chocolate striped cake for dessert, talking about beautiful places to go in Brittany. From a “platter-chatter” point of view, I think, this is perfect since the bold stripes on her cake echo her description of the colorfully columned buildings of Brittany, where Josh and I will depart to the next morning.

The next morning comes and we leave for Quimper, Brittany to visit Francine and Emile, the parents of Francois and Pierre Caillot, childhood friends of Joshua’s from the French high school in New York, Le Lycee. Joshua, Pierre and Francois were part of a group of the American-born kids who attended the Lycee. Growing up, Joshua spent a lot of time at the home of the Caillot family whose apartment was just a few blocks away from his family’s in Manhattan. Two years ago, Francine and Emile retired and went back to Brittany, and one year later their older son, Francois died of meningitis on a vacation in Turkey. He’d discovered he was HIV-positive several years before that. Though he had no symptoms of AIDS, the HIV had weakened his immune system to the point that he died the same day the symptoms of the meningitis appeared, right in the midst of his vacation.

Francine and Emile meet us at the train station in Quimper, where everything is bright with sunlight. Francine looks very fashionable in her big hat and her cotton blazer with its bold stripes that echo the brightly beamed buildings of Quimper. When she lived in New York, Francine was a clothing inspector for Oscar de la Renta, making sure all the pieces of the designer outfits were sewn together properly. Emile worked as a waiter in New York’s French restaurants, Le Perigord, Renee Pugol, Les Pyrennees.

Francine and Emile take us for a walk all around the main parts of town but beneath our chatting and sightseeing is the thought, “Francois is dead, and that’s why Joshua and his wife have come.” I make a great effort to speak a cheerful and comprehensible French to help give us a respite from the sadness. We drive by lines of window boxes with their cascading pale and dark pink flowers now bursting from the colorfully columned buildings of Quimper, and I take strength from the network’s solid consistency.

Emile will take us to the beach at Benodet, but Francine will not go because of the dizzy spells she’s suffered for the last couple of years. Even later during the preparation of dinner, Francine has frequent dizzy spells and must sit down and let Emile take over. But as soon as the preparations are completed and the appetizer is on the table, Francine recovers herself. It’s time for Le Diner and she will rise to the occasion. We are seated for Act 1, Proscuitto and melon, and we clink our wine glasses together, “A votre sante” we say and the performance begins.

“Do you know why people clink their wine glasses together?” Emile asks. “It’s because the experience of drinking wine should please all the senses. The color of the wine should please the eye. The scent of the wine, the nose. The taste of the wine, the palate. The feel of the wine glass should please the hand and the lips. And there must also be something to please the ear —  so we make a toast and clink our glasses so there is something for the ear.”

And there is a great deal for the ear that evening besides the clink of glasses.

There are lots of stories about Francois, Pierre and Joshua as Emile and Francine recall events from their childhood at Le Lycee. Francois was always so sensitive, so different from his brother, Pierre, Francine and Emile say. And Le Lycee in New York could be a hard place for sensitive souls. The teachers preferred the sons of diplomats, says Francine, and Francois was just the son of a couple of poor immigrants, and the only student at the Lycee who got financial aid from the French government. And all those rich, privileged kids held it against him; they made fun of him.”

Francine and Emile are so grateful to have someone to talk to about Francois, someone like Joshua, who had known him since childhood. “We cannot tell anybody in our town about what really happened,” Francine and Emile tell us. “We tell them only about the meningitis, not about the HIV. People gossip so much in small towns and they don’t understand.”

“I wanted to understand him,” Emile tells us. “I wanted to understand more about how Francois’ life was. So I told Francine we should go to that gay club we had heard about in our old hometown just north of here. So Francine and I went there.”

“Yes,” continues Francine. “And the first person we met was Emile’s old schoolmate selling admission tickets at the door.”

Gruyere, chevre and fromage bleu are passed around the table. Francine and Emile begin to tell lots of different incidents in very fast French —  incidents from Francois’ childhood, his adolescence. I get completely lost, but I pretend to understand, following as much as I can. “The world can change so quickly,” Francine says. She becomes silent and still for a time, then recovers herself. It is time for Le Dessert.

She rises to take away the cheese board and bring in the dessert, a majestic grand marnier ice cream, served in crystal glasses.

“And you, Patricia,” says Emile as we take bites of the rich and serious grand marnier. “Do you have any brothers and sisters?”

“My brother died a few years ago,” I say. “He had cancer.” Francine and Emile are taken aback and touched and I see surprise and compassion in their eyes. They didn’t expect that, that I would know something about the pain they feel.

I tell them that hearing them tell so many stories about their son has touched and inspired me, and made me think of telling more stories about my brother.

After dinner, I help Francine bring the dishes into the kitchen. “Let me give this to you,” she says, handing me a bottle of spices. “It’s perfect for cooking with wine, and you can’t get it in America. It’s a spice you can find only in France.”

The next day, Joshua and I feel very close to Francine and Emile as we say good-bye to them. Just before we leave, Francine shows us a photo of Francois on a street in Istanbul. “This was Francois the day he died,” Francine tells us, “You see, he looks perfectly fine, he was on vacation. That night he got his first symptoms of meningitis. He was taken to the hospital and died an hour later. The world can change so quickly.”

Emile takes us to the train station and we stay talking with him for as long as we can. “Take good care of Francine,” we say to him as the train pulls away and the window boxes of Quimper are pulled out of sight.

The next day we’re back in the  bustle of Paris, and Joshua has a business meeting. I wander around, still thinking about Francine, Emile, and their stories, and then decide to go to an exhibit at the Hotel de Ville called 50 Years of French Cinema that fits in with my reflections on people and things fleeting by.

At the entrance to the Hotel de Ville, there are guards carefully checking everyone’s bags and I have to open both my handbag and my back bag so two different guards can look through them. Everyone seems to be on alert. I soon learn that just minutes earlier another terrorist bomb went off in a garbage can outside a metro station. During our three weeks in Paris, we notice that all the garbage cans in and outside of all the metro stations of Paris have been hermetically sealed so that no bombs can be placed inside of them by terrorists — as happened on July 27 when seven people were killed in the train station at Saint-Michel. The terrorist who placed the bomb that went off today must have found the one garbage can in all of Paris that had escaped hermetic sealing.

It is now 5:15 and I decide to go back to the hotel. Joshua is supposed to be back from his meeting at around 5:30. Back in the hotel room, I turn on CNN and learn that the terrorist bomb was placed just outside the metro station near the Arc de Triomphe. Now I am very much on alert because that is the metro that Joshua is supposed to take and 5:00 is about the time he is supposed to be on it. I get a stomachache and I notice that I nearly stop breathing. “Breathe,” I tell myself. “Breathe. Take three deep breaths.” I breathe as the CNN reporter says that seventeen people, mostly foreign tourists have been badly injured by the bomb that had a wad of nails viciously placed inside it. I sit very still. It is 6:00 and Josh is not here. I breathe. I think of Francine saying, “The world can change so quickly.” The phone rings and I jump. It’s Joshua. He’s still at the meeting. But he says he will be back soon though the trip back may take a longer time since the metro line he needs stopped running because of the bomb. We hang up the phone. “There won’t be any more bombs tonight,” I think. “There couldn’t be two terrorist bombs in one night.” A half hour later I hear the key in the hotel room door and exhale a rush of air in relief. I hug Joshua and remember some words of Thich Nat Hanh, a Buddhist monk who lives in France, “The next time you hug someone, make it a form of meditation by doing it very consciously. As you hug the person, say to yourself, “He is alive in my arms.”

It is the next day, and I think, ‘We are still alive together, Joshua and I, here in Paris, because Joshua was at his meeting at 5:00 and not at the metro near the Arc de Triomphe.’ So, still alive and in Paris, we go to a wonderful restaurant Joshua has found where there are only French people and no tourists, and together we perform a full-length Le Dejeuner with tartes aux chevre, salmon in wine sauce, salad, a pitcher of Bordeaux. We take our roles as diners seriously, keeping a proper compatibility between platter and chatter. We speak of the happiness and the sadness of our friends, Annie, Flore, Mme. Ferronier, Francine and Emile. Then just as the cheese board is taken away and the creme caramel is served, I try out more silly French idioms I have collected: I tell Joshua if he eats any more, I’ll think he’s ‘un vrai goinfre’ (a real hog). Then I tell him he’d better stop laughing or he’ll ‘split his peach’ (se fendre la peche). We make jokes about who else we might say these expressions to and what reactions we might get. We laugh and speculate about this for such a long time that suddenly we notice we are the only people left at Le Dejeuner. So still alive and together in Paris, we leave the cozy dim of the restaurant for the sunlit streets, and follow the window box network to the Pompidou Center, where I show Joshua all the Brancusi animal sculptures and tell him what Genevieve and I said about each one, especially that swan with the grand cu.

And as we walk past the Paris buildings, for a happy moment, I feel that we, too, are players in the window-box network, its colorful geraniums catching the breeze and waving us on to the next scene.


Dedication: Dining in French is dedicated to the memory of my brother, John Duffy, who’d always wanted to go to France.

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About Patricia Lynne Duffy

Patricia Lynne Duffy is the author of Blue Cats and Chartreuse Kittens: How Synesthetes Color their Worlds (Henry Holt & Company), which has been reviewed in both the popular press as well as in academic journals, Cerebrum and the APA Review of Books. She has taught English at New York University, the City University of New York, and the UN Language Programme and has written articles for publications including New York Newsday, the San Francisco Chronicle ("All the Colors of the Rainbow"), the Boston Globe, and the Village Voice. Her article, "The Art of Miss'Tic: from the Paris Streets to Gallery Chic" is published in nyc Big City Lit. Her work is included in the anthologies They Only Laughed Later: Tales of Women on the Move (Europublic Press) and Soulful Living (HCI). She is also the author of a chapter, "Synesthesia and Literature" in the forthcoming Oxford Handbook on Synesthesia. She has traveled in Africa, China and Europe and especially France, and keeps a blog on her mishaps using the French language.

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