As many of you know, my paternal Grandmere was French.
Bastille Day will be celebrated on July 14th. During my Papa’s lifetime, this
was always a joyous holiday. We had wonderful dinners, he sang Gallic songs, and
would always tell us to remember the French contribution to freedom in Les
My father died twenty years ago on Bastille Day. This year, as always, I will
raise a glass to him and the spirit of Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite.
Please join our party.
Giving a theme to a dinner is a way to take a simple meal and make it a special
event. The fantasy of dining in another country may be achieved with a bit of
creativity, and very little effort. The spirit of fun involved with having it
can make even a very simple meal memorable.
This dinner could be used for easy entertaining, since most of it can be
prepared in advance. If you would enjoy a special time with your children, you
will find that a traditional food from another country can make an opportunity
to share fun and teach them a bit of social studies at the same time.
Of course, there is always the possibility of creating a romantic fantasy
evening a deux. This is the time to wear that beret, or frilled apron.
All things French are friendly to lovers.
To create your theme, begin by decorating the table. Cover it with a white
cloth. In the center, place a breadboard (Yes, the cutting board from your
kitchen is just fine) on which you have draped 2 bunches of grapes, red and
white, then place a baguette (loaf of French bread), a small whole wheel
of Brie, and a knife. If you like, you can also use the empty wine bottles left
from the recipe as candleholders.
Music is always a pleasant addition to a dinner party, and it need not cost you
a cent. Your local public library will have recordings of French music, which
you may borrow for free. You could also get a video with a French theme to view
after the meal. The number of films available at the library will amaze you.
Onion Soup is a favorite in my family. Not one of us, however, is willing to eat
the poor substitute served in restaurants. This recipe takes a long time to
cook, but requires almost no culinary skill. There are only a few ingredients,
the most important of which is patience. It can be prepared the day before, and
reheated to serve. The leftovers, if there are any will freeze beautifully. The
aroma of the soup as it cooks is sure to make everyone eager for this pleasant
Serve the soup with salad, the bread, cheese, and Fruit from your centerpiece, a
pastry from your local bakery, and a good white wine. A bit of chocolate with
the coffee is also a very authentic touch. You are certain to enjoy your own
French creation more than anything at your local bistro.
5 pounds yellow onions, peeled and sliced
1/4 cup olive oil
2 bottles dry white wine
2 tablespoons mock beef bouillon powder
4 bay leaves
2 tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce
Put a 4-quart pan on the stove. If at all possible, make it a nonstick one. Pour
in the olive oil, and add the onions into the pan. The right amount of onions
will reach all the way to the top. Set the pan on a medium heat, and cook the
onions, stirring occasionally, until translucent and a dark golden brown. This
will take about an hour, at the end of which time the onions will only fill 1/3
of the pot.
Heat the oven to 325 degrees. Into the pot with the onions, pour the white wine.
Do remember that bad wine makes bad food, and use something you would enjoy
drinking. Do NOT try to make good onion soup by using water instead of the wine;
it won’t work. Add the mock beef bouillon granules, Bay Leaves, and
Worcestershire Sauce. Cover the pan tightly, and place it in the oven for 2 ˝
hours. Alternately, you may put it in a crock-pot for the next day. That is all
you must do.
This recipe will serve 6-8 people. If you like to eat this topped with browned
cheese, divide it into ovenproof bowls, sprinkle in the grated cheese (usually
Swiss and Parmesan combined), then brown it with a torch. You can buy a small
butane torch for browning foods at any hardware store.
Do NOT try to do this with the bowls in a pan under the broiler. The soup will
spill, the bowls will usually break, and you will be very unhappy indeed. If you
won’t try the torch, just sprinkle in the cheese and let it melt with the heat
of the soup. Your evening in Paris will be lovely.