Dinner Time Chez Isabelle

March 25, 2019

by Ryan Griffin

Let’s just start out with that I love food.  So much.

She is the shoulder I cry on, the friend to laugh at my jokes, the comforting hug in the middle of the night. Because of my commitment to my relationship to food I have since our first week evolved to a dairy machine, able to process all types of cheeses and milks (even the scary goat ones, sorry Chevre!) my host mom throws at me.

I thought it’d be interesting to share a regular night between my host mom and I, since unlike the other students in the program who have older or younger siblings that live with them its just Isabelle and I. Isabelle is a teacher so is often out the house early in the morning and returning pretty late before dinner time, as am I with late classes. So between our two crazy schedules use a calendar to sign up for which dinners we will have together since I love eating so much. It’s a running joke between some of the other students and I that I do get a little wild when I go too long with out it so having the calendar definitely helps keep the hanger at bay.

So for Monday night’s dinner I got in late from my class at Saint Denis which is around 45 minutes away from our appartment in the 13th arrd. I normally get in, take my shoes off and head to my room before exploding my bag of the day all over the place. Often times I call friends or family from home during my 10 min walk from the train and normally finish up that in my room until Isabelle calls me in for dinner.

At the kitchen table Isabelle and I will normally start recounting our day’s adventures, discuss any new or exciting things as we serve our plates with our starter or entrée which is usually a balsamic vinaigrette salad. I originally referred to this particular one as the “Onion Salad” when comparing dinners with my friends since the leaves are extremely bitter, chopped in blunt fat chunks and are in fact white like an onion. I remember first time trying it back in January I immediately looked off in the distance as if to stare into the camera of my reality tv show accepting the fact my host mom must hate me and as a result is forcing me to eat raw onions. But in fact quite the opposite and just trying to give me an authentic homestay experience, my bad Iz. So after months of starting dinner with the “Onion Salad” I have actually grown to crave its bitterness and as I sat at the the table was relived to see it as my stomach knew its tart taste will soon welcome even more yummy foods soon.

After our salads we normally push the bowl aside into the corner of the kitchen table and begin helping ourselves to the main course which is already on the table on big serving plates. This time we had une galette aux pâtes which my French language tutor, Hélène, tells me is a very homey french dish, but to be honest actually seems like an American tailgate creation. Don’t get me wrong it is delicious, but the cheesy carb concoction just screams ‘Americans were here’. The gallette is actually a huge omelette with cooked cheesy macaroni noodles and chopped ham into the middle. MMMMM!! I hadn’t mac and cheese in months so took this opportunity to more than help myself. Isabelle having a very petite, small frame often encourages me, a 5’9 creature prone to hanger fits, to finish the leftovers as to not waste anything, so I did just that. However; by the second helping she had already lapped me and completely finished while I am still mumbling to myself a story in French about something I saw on the metro or a new trip I am planning with my friends. So in attempt to catch up I normally have to ask Isabelle to share with me things from her students at school so I can buy time and hurry up and clean my own plate. I know I don’t have to do eat my weight in omelette but it is a kind of an unspoken custom to not leave food or even scraps on your plate so often find myself gulping water wash down the remains of what I both did or didn’t like as I couldn’t dare put anything back. So after that speed eating race for one, I actually sat back and debated whether there was room for our third course, dessert.

Which of course there is since any real dessert lover knows, there is always room. As I stood to help clear the table to take our dinner plates to the sink and rearrange my pants to give me more room for later, Isabelle grabs the yogurt cups, chocolate pudding cups, and the infamous dessert plates. I still can’t rationalize the use for those plates to this day. Even when my family has a fancy dinner the concept of a dessert plate or a plate for your tea cup is still so strange to me. When I’m alone at home I am hesitant to even use a plate for a sandwich I’ve made as I can just eat it off right off the counter like a barbarian.

So while I’m sure Isabelle, unlike my real mom, still believes there is hope for my animalistic ways which is why she continues to remind and insist on me having a plate for everything even under our yogurt cups, I am slowly seeing its benefit. It’s a nuisance to wash but I must admit it does look 10x more put together to have a layers of tiny plates all over the table. I mean the French would know, their eye for detail is something my lazy American ones are still trying to catch up to.

Keep my waistline in your prayers as Spring Break is on its way.

Till next time,


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