As part of the blog tour for The Things We Did For Love, I am happy to have the author Natasha Farrant here to tell us about her fantasy dinner party.
FRANCE, THE HOME OF GOOD FOOD. That is where my fantasy dinner party is taking place. We’re wandering around a bit – this is a fantasy, after all – but essentially we’re on the South West coast, jumping between La Rochelle and the tiny island of Aix. And speaking of the home of good food – none of your fancy restaurants for me! For my fantasy dinner party, I want home cooking. More specifically, I want my grandmother. We’re eating outside. The long trestle table has been put out in the garden, covered with a white cloth. It’s still light, and the evening is warm. The girls and women are wearing summer dresses. The boys are in shorts. My cousin Marion, thick black curls hanging down to her waist, plays football with them barefoot on the lawn. Her little brother (now well over six foot, but in my fantasy the gloriously suntanned, curly headed, diabolical little cherub of ten years ago) keeps getting in everybody’s way. Both my grandfathers are here – André, the French one, who died twenty years ago, and Fred, the English one, who died when I was two. Over glasses of pineau (cognac blended with lightly fermented grape must), served with wafer thin slices of saucisson, little brown olives and Lays crisps (thinner and less salty than their English counterparts), I bombard them both with the questions I never got to ask when they were alive. Like so many people who have never known war, I am fascinated by it. Fred talks (as he never did in real life) about his experiences in the trenches of northern France in World War I. André counters with stories of life in France under German occupation in World War II. I listen, amazed at the experiences of these two men who once held me as a baby.ad. I love it.
It’s time for dinner now. My siblings, cousins, uncles, aunts, parents, grandparents, husband and children, nieces and nephews all take their seats around a magically expanded table. We eat tiny Charentais melons cut in half, scooping out their sweet orange flesh with a spoon. After the melon come tiny shrimp, known as grises locally, which we peel meticulously and eat on slices of baguette slathered with fresh unsalted butter. Antoine de St Exupéry has joined us, the dashing author of The Little Prince but also (amongst others) of Night Flight, Flight to Arras and Wind, Sand and Stars, and a fascinating collection of wartime letters. St Ex wasn’t only a writer – he was also an aviation pioneer, and he flew all over the world, including the Sahara, where he crashed and was rescued by Bedouins. His plane was shot down over the Mediterranean in 1944. He’s a great storyteller. We are all spellbound by his stories, especially the children (and the women – he is not handsome but he is very, very charming).
Later I will go down to the harbour and get in my sailing boat with my husband, the children and a few favourite cousins. We’ll sail out in the moonlight, all the way to Aix, where we will imagine our dinner guest walking along the fortified ramparts which overlook the harbour, waiting for the boat to take him to England and StHelena. We’ll walk along the deserted beach and maybe even swim, being careful to avoid the dangerous oyster beds. For now though, we forget about everything except for the food before us, and we eat.
To find out more about Natasha Farrant:
*********THE THINGS WE DID FOR LOVE writing competition launched on THE SPARK today too. The link to competition is http://www.facebook.com/thesparkpage?sk=app_128953167177144. Anyone entering has the chance of winning an ipad or the runner up prize of an e-reader! So go take a look!