My husband calls his parents each week. His mother is not so chatty, so he mostly talks with his Dad. Theirs is a beautiful relationship. Bereft of judgement; caring, respectful and kind. They live many miles apart, but these conversations keep them up to date with each others health, mood, and daily routine.
I’m often close by when the calls take place and cannot help but hear snippets of the conversations, that always make me smile. Of course there is talk of a mundane practical nature, “did the plumber come by?”, or “is your internet working now?”. Then , in good French fashion there is often mention of politics, a subject on which they don’t always see eye to eye, but are happy to discuss.
They talk about the books they are reading then news is given of the family, the dogs, what the children and I are up to, or of what’s happening in the garden…. normal family stuff.
All of this is unsurprising I’m sure. You probably have the same conversations going on in your home too. But then comes the bit that I love the most. They always, without fail , talk about food!
“Qu’est ce que tu manges aujourd’hui?” …. “What will you eat today?”
There is so much hidden away inside this apparently simple question. Besides giving a detailed description of the menu for the next meal, it is also an opportunity to talk about what is in season, which market vendor is the best to buy from (because of course when we visit they shop at the farmers market together). Once the menu is established, there is a discussion about how best to prepare the food and then of course a need to talk about which wine would best accompany that fresh sole, or those pan fried wild mushrooms.
Other important questions ensue such as; would it be better to finish the meal with a piece of cheese, or should my father in law indulge his sweet tooth, and maybe buy a pastry, or prepare a compote of fresh fruits.
There is nothing fancy about the meals that are prepared, it is simply good seasonal food, made with fresh ingredients, and plenty of variety. There is no pretension around the dishes, modest in size and prepared and eaten in the kitchen.
What I love is that these conversations encapsulate all the love between a father and son. Sharing their pleasure in life, expressing their affection simply by showing interest in an essential: what they are each eating. Once the call is over, I’m sure they both think back to all that was said, and inevitably wonder if the stew was good, or if that roast meat wouldn’t have been better with a Burgundy …
I cannot think of a more natural way to express this family love, than talking about the food they eat each day.