FREE LUNCH FOR FRENCH OLD FOLKS

TANSTAAFL

There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch

I first learned that acronym through my reading of the sci-fi novel The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert Heinlein. But the phrase probably originated in the 1800s in American bars that offered 'free' lunches. The lunch was, of course, not really free. You had to buy a drink, and the drink cost more than necessary in order to underwrite the lunch. The lunch itself, often composed of salty foods, enticed further drinking.

TANSTAAFL

What has this to do with old folks in France? Well, I've just attended my second free lunch for folks born before a certain year who reside in our village. This year, that year was 1951. So everyone in the room was 69 or older. And there were about 170 of us in the room. No kids. Just lots and lots of grey hair, white hair, bald pates, and red hair. (I don't know why bright red hair is a thing with older French women. But it is.) The occasion? An annual day to show appreciation for the contributions of time, talent, and treasure by the village elders.

The mayor gives a speech. Short and respectful. Then comes the food. And the wine. And more food. And more wine. Simply stated, I have never had a better catered meal and have had very few better restaurant meals, free or otherwise.

This year, we started with a glass of sweet muscat as an aperitif. Then came the salad. On a bed of lettuce with a spritz of balsamic were arranged a finger of brioche covered with cheese and smoked salmon, a couple of slices of smoked duck breast and a slice of a creamy mousse de canard.


While that was being served, bottles of water, red wine, white wine, and rosé were distributed and replenished as necessary.

After the salad came the langoustine, the European equivalent of lobster, crawfish on steroids, complete with Russian salad, a hard-boiled egg, and aioli (garlic mayonnaise).



After a bit of sherbet to clear the fish course, pintade or guinea fowl in a mushroom sauce with potatoes au gratin arrived. None of us could wait. Here's a picture anyway.


Finally, sparkling wine, dessert (red fruit and custard pastry with a scoop of ice cream), and coffee.


Then came the entertainment. I won't go into detail but it included a man and a woman singing traditional French songs in between dance numbers by a quartet of young women in costumes that were mostly composed of feathers and string bikinis.

We pay our taxes, so the lunch was not free. But it lasted more than four hours and it certainly was interesting.

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