San Francisco is beautiful, but a very long time ago I left my heart in Paris. I blame my father. He was a French professor, you see, and also a writer of French literary criticism. It didn’t seem so cool as a kid, especially at “Parents’ Day” in elementary school. But mon deiu, spending my formative years living and travelling throughout France forever changed me as a human being. And the older I get, the more I realize I’m pretty much an expat here in the States.
Petit Jake à Paris
As a result, I often get homesick. I love to reminisce about little Jake and all the fun he had at places like the Centre Pompidou, Le Bon Marché, the Musée Rodin Sculpture Garden, and the Jardin du Luxembourg. Some of my most cherished memories of all time involve the puppets, carousel, and little boats at the Luxembourg Gardens. It’s amazing how quickly I feel transported back when I get lost in my books and photos. I can really clear a room if I break out the slide projector. The WHAT?!
Now that I’m grown, I’ve mastered the art of a French-inspired evening at home. It’s especially fun during the summer when Bastille Day and the Tour de France roll through. Or when Les Blues are slaying in the Word Cup!! The more I get to know myself, the more I realize these moments of childhood joie de vivre are hardwired into my brain. I’m forever grateful for that. And forever chasing every chance I have to take a trip through these lanes. You may be surprised how easy it is to create an authentic French-themed soirée. For me it involves three main components: spirits, sounds, and snacks.
Get in L’Esprit de Paris
One of the things I absolutely love about France is the simplicity of their most treasured traditions. When it comes to untangled living, they’ve got it down. But that doesn’t mean you skimp on quality, au contraire. And in terms of food and drink, you don’t have to be Julia Child to know you can count on only the finest ingredients from French products. I can still feel the heat radiating from the baguettes at breakfast, alongside locally made jams and chocolat, too. My favorite drinks were Orangina and limonade. But anything in the sweet-sparkling-fruity family does the trick. I smile when I think of how a glass with a twist or wedge of lemon always made me feel like such a grown up at the table. Grown-up tip: add vodka.
Now that you’re in the spirit and rocking your coolest t-shirt, the next step is the sounds. If you follow this blog, you know that nothing takes me places quicker than music. So you won’t be surprised to know I’ve got a playlist for this very occasion. There’s a beat here for everyone. You may hear a popular old classic, contemporary hip hop, French Jazz artists, and all kinds of American influences. I like to crank it up while I put together the evening’s snacks.
La Vie Untangled
The French are most definitely not known for their vegetarianism. And though I do remember having to skip a course or two sometimes, there was always something delicious for me to eat. I steal from some of their staples to put together a simply awesome and authentic interpretation of my ideal spread. My favorite items always include a crusty baguette, cheese, fruit, and olives. That’s really all you need!
But if you’d like to show kindness to non-vegetarians in your life, add in some charcuterie. Most smoked, cured, or cooked meats will do the trick. Traditional platters include hams, sausage, and even pâtés. Pair some of that meat and cheese with a fig jam and voilà, you’re there.
The simple life is truly a beautiful one and the French have mastered the art. I loved my time there and will continue to spend much of my life recreating the special feeling that I miss so much. I hope I’ve inspired you to create your own French-inspired getaway at home every once in a while. Or wherever your happy place is…don’t forget to spend time there.