Diner, by August Neven du Mont.
Dear Dr. Boli: I’m taking French in high school, and I’m supposed to be learning French culture and stuff. But I’m having trouble figuring out the French names for meals, and the textbook is, like, written by monkeys. Can you sort out the meals for me? —Sincerely, A Student in Miss Marcellini’s Third-Period French Class, Blandville Area High School.
Dear Sir or Madam: Dr. Boli is always glad to assist young persons in their quest for knowledge. Let us follow a typical French citizen through the meals of a typical French day.
It begins with the petit déjeuner, or breakfast, which usually consists of bits of hard dry bread left over from last night’s souper. The French are not a notoriously thrifty people, but they do not spend too much on their petit déjeuner.
This is followed not long after by the déjeuner, a more substantial meal usually taken at a sidewalk café, which is why French people have to do their actual walking in the street. This is the meal at which wine is introduced for the first time in the day, usually a Sancerre.
The déjeuner is followed by a trip to the pâtisserie for the meal known as le madeleinier, which consists of madeleines, a kind of pastry known for its psychedelic effect on the hippocampus.
After the madeleinier, it is time for the grand déjeuner, which consists of two of everything from the déjeuner. The wine at this meal is usually a young red burgundy, though the lower classes will drink whatever comes out of the cardboard box at the local convenience store.
When the grand déjeuner is over, it is time for le thé, literally “tea,” although the beverage served is usually Pouilly-Fuissé.
Once le thé is over, our French citizen begins to think of le diner, the main meal of the day. Le diner usually consists of six or seven courses accompanied by a substantial claret, and is traditionally eaten at the home of a friend or acquaintance—another unexpected hint of thrift in French habits.
Once le diner is finished, it is already quite late, and our French citizen hurries home for le souper, a light meal of bread and soup accompanied by champagne. At this point our citizen is quite tired (“ivre mort”), and falls asleep with his head on the table. When he awakes in the morning, the bread has dried out and become tough and crusty, and thus he begins his petit déjeuner.
Dr. Boli hopes he has been of some assistance. He would add that there is no substitute for a personal visit to France, and he notes that there is a service on the Web offering “Wine Immersion Study Tours” in France, although now that he thinks of it he realizes that could be taken more than one way.