la pastèque (pah-stek)
A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE
by Kristin Espinasse
La Salade d'Amour
I was talking to my table-mate to the right when my left ear perked up and my husband's words came as a shock.
I can't believe he just said that! But that was private--just between us!
I sat back in my chair, the night sky and its carpet of stars twinkling above. Looking around, I saw 10 intrigued faces staring back. What was that Jean-Marc just said? our guests wondered.
In the awkward pause that followed I weighed the pros and cons of coming clean. But it was too late now. Those quizzical looks awaited an answer! Only, these were French people. What would they think if I confirmed the tidbit some of them had just heard? Would they write me off as some bare-footed baba cool? Or would I be classified as a woo-woo?
It didn't take a shooting star to see the light. But my gaze fell brightly from the sky back to our well-heeled invités. If I couldn't be real now then when? Almost as a hint as to what to say next, my husband's announcement echoed in my head. Elle a fait cette salade avec amour! he had said. It was an innocent enough statement, but would it peg me? (And as what? A sentimentalist? So what. Big deal!)
"Yes!" I confessed. "I made this salad with love... I once heard that food tastes better that way!"
Any silence that followed was broken by a guest's lip-slapping remark: This is delicious! And there aren't even any pits in the cherries!
Giggles erupted before another tablemate noted, "That must have been a lot of work!"
Listening to our friend's compliments, Jean-Marc smiled at me, and I might have relaxed then and there. Alas--he wasn't done divulging! I braced myself for the next revelation.
"Yes, she pitted every cherry...with love." Next he mimicked the scene he witnessed in the kitchen, where I stood at the sink preparing cerises with the help of my garlic press and its built in pit-popper. ''This one's for Cari and this one's for Pierre (pop... pop...). This one's for Isabelle and this one's for Eric'..."
As Jean-Marc recounted the story I studied our guests' faces. It all must have sounded saccharine sweet to them. But it was true. I did whisper offerings to each piece of fruit as I prepared my salad. In cooing to the cherries and the bananas and the melons, I had only been betting on a tip I'd heard about: for delicious food, put your heart into it!
Too late now, the awkward truth was out. There was nothing left to do but to own it....
"And this one's for Emily and this one's for Bernard," I said, illustrating the technique I had employed with the help of my pit-popper. "And this one's for Bénédicte and this one's for Fred...pop! pop!"
As I acknowledged our friends who were seated round the table, my mind returned to the kitchen, where I'd struggled with those same old doubts while putting together a meal. "And this one is for Jean-Marc," I had said, continuing with the chore that was no longer a chore.
And then suddenly I was filled with the thrill of remembering an ingredient I had almost forgotten. Pop! I watched the last cherry land in the salad bowl after one more "person" was added to the jovial bunch.
"... And this one is for Kristi!" I cheered. You know the saying, L'amour est contagieux.
* * *
KRISTI'S LOVE SALAD
1 cup cherries
1 cup love
1 cup honeydew melon
(squeezes of lemon)
1 cup tendresse
1 cup oranges, cubed
1 cup encouragement
1 cup apples, cubes
1 cup affection
1 cup bananas...
(more lemon squeezes...)
Continue adding any fruit in season. seasoning each time with tenderness.
Recipe Update: Lately I have really enjoyed adding roasted pumpkin seeds, a swirl of our very own olive oil (yes!), a litte salt, some dried cranberries or raisins... or anything I have on hand that would enhance the flavor or texture. Try something new!
un baba cool = hippie
un (une) invité(e) = a guest
elle a fait cette salade avec amour = she made this salad with love
la cerise = cherry
l'amour est contagieux = love is contagious
Random photo. How do you learn to drive? Same way as how you make food, with love! See the encouraging gaze on Jean-Marc's face as he teaches my Mom to drive again after she spent years away from the wheel. Photo taken a few years ago (That mom of mine never did forget how to drive. And Jean-Marc learned a new term: lead foot!)
Mr Sacks -- spotted in Chateauneuf du Pape. We met up with Rick, his family, and their delightful friends for a tour of Jean-Marc's uncle's vineyard--Domaine du Banneret--and a few other tasting rooms, including Domaine Julien Masquin. Someone in our group got a group picture. If I get a copy I'll post it!
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