I stopped to pick up a bag of French Sumatra as a hostess gift and sat a few blocks from their house until the appointed hour, keeping the advice of Amy Sedaris in her book I Like You: Entertaining Under the Influence in mind.
It was supposed a simple affair: a glass of champagne followed by soup and a green salad tossed with vinaigrette. But as I stepped into the kitchen the aroma of a rich, complex sauce enfolded me. I headed toward the stove to find the source but barely got a peek. I had arrived two minutes before 6 p.m. and we were celebrating Paris style, which meant the midnight toast was upon us, given the time difference, of course.
We counted down the last 10 seconds, shouted "Happy New Year!" and clinked glasses in the firelight of their living room.
Soon after, I found an excuse to make my way back to the kitchen to investigate my friend's French onion soup and homemade French baguettes. She makes it all sound so easy, telling me she just sautés thinly sliced onions in butter and a beef broth from the local Save-A-Lot for three hours and shrugs off the homemade bread as a recipe from Anna Thomas' legendary bible, The Vegetarian Epicure.
Her husband motions for me to sit as she places grated Swiss and provolone cheeses in the bottom of our soup bowls, ladles the thick, aromatic broth over it and cuts thick slices of bread for us to submerge. How can something so simple be so satisfying? "It's slow food," her husband notes. I nod in hearty agreement.
I'm a longtime fan of the Slow Food Movement and applaud its principals of recognizing the interdependence between people and their environment and encouraging local, seasonal and organic food sources. But I don't think I really "got it" until that night.
Slow food is more than the source or how long it takes to cook. It's about living slow enough to enjoy our food, our friends and the world around us. In lives complicated by gadgets and deadlines, those two hours I spent at my friends' table did more for my soul than a year full of dining out.
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