Benoit's Mother followed her "Bonne Nuit" bisous to me with a last apology for the sluggish Chocolate Fountain. I could only laugh kindly because the subject of her concern was, first, a manufacturer's error, and second and more poignantly, her desire to offer food in the fashion she was taught as a French woman: naturally, properly and with just a touch of whimsy.
At the first mid-day meal or midi, casual place mats and small, clear green, leaf- engraved wine glasses in the German style favored by my grandparents matched the fixed orange and green tablecloth underneath. Karbonara, a dish of pasta and ham and parmesan cheese, was served with an in-the-shell raw egg, for moisture and, as I discovered, better taste. Our first dinner was an even more beautiful production, and one I happily appreciated before I was beckoned a table. Announcing it was the smell of boiling Beaufort, Comte and Appenzeller. Then came a touch of white wine and Muscat and Kir, and Voila, a Fondue Savayard was born. Second, was the assembling of the accompaniements: the cutting of the baguette, the gathering and distribution of the dipping tools, and, of course, the lighting of the warming table fire. All these were done by Jean-Paul, the man of the house, whose responsibilties, I discovered, also include keeping wine glasses full of perfectly paired wine.
The Chocolate Fountain came at the end of the 2nd evening's meal. Apparently, Ben had recounted the story of its appearance at my niece's bat mitzvah, and his mother had taken to the idea of it as a way to present chocolate fondue. But, I must rewind. The preparation of the evening meal, in honor of a house full of grown children and their partners, began right after breakfast. Due to jet-lag, Ben and I hadn't risen until nearly noon. So, besides to the smell of made-to-order espresso, we awoke to wafts of cinnamon, nutmeg and coriander, being added to red cabbage, and what I would taste later, three different kinds of mashed potatoes...
With that, I must get ready for Ben's grandmother's birthday party...Until then, happy food dreaming!!!