Easy and Elegant Life

The Search for Everyday Elegance and the Art of Living Well.

Chateau d’Elegance

A Simple Luncheon

If I could save time in a bottle, it would have to come with a twist-off cap, so that I could pop the top whenever I found myself with too much to do and not enough time to do it right.

“Ah, another case of Chateau d’Elegance… so soon, Monsieur?”

I’d better take two. Time, as I’ve recently been reminded, is the ultimate luxury and the lack of it is the true and sworn enemy of elegance.

Living better — that is moving easily and elegantly through life — requires a certain measured pace. Like the sang-froid of the gentleman, who reveals nothing when faced with crisis or faux-pas, the stately progression through one’s day must be zealously guarded against intrusion by outside forces…

Cue interior monologue:
My cell is ringing and I’ve got to take this call; I have a new email invitation, text message from whom? And the mail has just been delivered. Oh damnation, I’ve got to call him back, immediately and deadline is three hours away if I’m to make the last FedEx… voice mail will have to wait. I’ll just lunch at my desk, here and if I skip my workout… .

Well, the next thing you know, your shoes aren’t polished, the car isn’t clean, your room is a disaster, your suits lie in heaps and neckties are strung from the doorknobs. Your easy and elegant existence has, like time, flown.

Time to set things right. I began yesterday with a flurry of cleaning, that involved Lowe’s and rolls of plastic sheeting (don’t ask… roofing issues…) I counted the hour moving solid wood doors and an armoire as my workout (and should have remembered to stretch afterwards.) The house is more or less in order, and I have completed two writing assignments ahead of deadline. There remain a report due tomorrow, the growing mound of laundry, and some sort of physical activity to undertake. Oh, and a few things to mail and two calls to make.

Am I, as the French say, “stressé, pressé“? Mais oui.

The trick to easing a little elegance into daily life is to live a little as they did in the days before “connectivity.” Tonight, I plan to finish our typical movie-of-the-night early and read a bit before bed. The radio news is ignored during the day and the television is on only if I am ironing or folding. (The Complete Emma Peel Collection is a favourite.) An afternoon stroll with my dog lets the fresh air do its work on my brain. In short, I will try to slow things down.

Which brings us to today’s lunch. A light luncheon is a delightful way to wile away a half hour or more and portion control is the easiest way to manage your weight when your workout routine has be sabotaged.

In with a little classical music piped through the downstairs. Making the every-day elegant is one of my aims in life, and that applies to a routine meal thrown together from what is on hand. My pantry was sadly lacking in Dover Sole and sliced almonds. But I did have some of the makings of a typical French après-marché meal or Plowman’s Lunch, if you prefer. I should have had a little sliced ham, but didn’t. I substituted salami, which I did. Cornichons are very traditional. Two hard cheeses instead of a camembert or other soft cheese — in this case they were a Monchego (or Basque hard cheese) and a bit of extra sharp cheddar. I had a half of a Roma tomato to use up… so… The quignon (end piece of a baguette) was to sop up the dijon vinaigrette I poured over the green beans. (You may also boil some new potatoes and toss them with the vinaigrette and some parsley, too. A hard boiled egg would not be out of place, either. A sliver of paté is perfect. None of which was readily available today.)

The small glass of wine is a homemade walnut wine that was a hostess gift from a French exchange teacher one year and tastes a bit like a very light-bodied port. Its sweetness works against the tart pickle and salt of the cheeses very well. A sparkling lemonade or water would be fine, if you’re at work and brown-bagging it. An espresso and a square of 70% dark chocolate is all the dessert I require.

Little by little I will regain a toe-hold in my self-made universe.

4 thoughts on “Chateau d’Elegance

  1. This is the kind of lunch we grew up eating… No PB&J sandwiches for us, but good cheeses, fruits, cured meats, some veg… It’s still what I love to eat today. I’ll grab a nice little french roll, some cheese, and a piece of fruit. Can’t drink at lunch so I settle for Perrier or Evian. Perfection!

  2. We recently had the pleasure of skiing with a good friend and I had prepared a very similar lunch, pate, cornichon, french bread, bleu cheese, some nuts and some fruit and our clever friend, knowing us very well, replied, “What, no wine!”
    Well, I replied, no, we do have to ski responsibly! Ha!
    Love these sorts of luncheons to take the frenzy out of the day.

  3. Skiing! How I envy you Mrs. PVE. And you hit the nail on the head — it’s all about taking the frenzy out of the day.

    Fairfax, bubbly water is a favourite of mine. And the Fiji bottled stuff is actually different tasting water, very strange. I, too, grew up eating this way. Mostly when we were “on the road.” Mom carried a small picnic knife with her and Dad always had a corkscrew tucked away. Of course, I was given bubbly water or “Limonada” as a treat. Limonada was also on tap at our hotel/living quarters when we first arrived in Brunssum. The RAF guys would buy me a glass or two during billiards.

  4. Your lunch sounds heavenly! Today my husband made a delicious sweet and sour soup with bamboo shoots, sliced chicken (from the other night) mushrooms, tofu, and it was garnished with sliced green onions and cilantro. The whole family sat down together for a bit to enjoy. It was just the thing between vacuuming, organizing the build-up of mail and the tail end of vacation clutter yet to stow away. Now onto the build-up of monthly bills. Carry on.

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