les jeux de société

by jemma margaret

A few weeks ago I went to a conference in Nantes. We all (8 of us total, not a big conference) arrived the night before and participated in a conference dinner at a restaurant in which we were the only patrons. As the only non-French person present, I spent the whole time listening. And if I am not mistaken, despite sitting around a dining table for three hours, no one spoke of food at all.

Est-ce possible?

Apparently, yes.

I am at my best in French eavesdropping at the outdoor markets where my fellows in line swap recipes or explain the function of such and such an herb. It is in these moments that I mistakenly believe that my language skills are progressing, but to be perfectly honest I might be able to parse out recipes in Spanish–a language I have never studied formally.

Back in February, I had a so-called “girl’s night” with two other PhD students in the history of mathematics. I am happy to report that the most “girlish” thing we discussed was, what groceries does your boyfriend buy? I didn’t even initiate this topic, so I knew we were all kindred spirits!

Food is a wonderful topic for any conversation occasion. Not dangerous like politics nor dull like your personal medical history. Everyone has eaten, most of us will eat again, and some of us are eating right now (I am just drinking apple cider–drinking too is a lovely thing to talk about!). If you follow the Malcolm Gladwell 10,000 hour rule, and estimate that you spend 1 hour eating each day, then all of us over the age of about 27 are expert eaters (so close!!).

Some people like to play games with competition and winners. To the sometimes annoyance of the aforementioned people, I prefer a different category of games. One of my favorites is called top 5 foods, where each person lists their top five foods and then we discuss. The foods should be ingredients like cheddar cheese and not like macaroni and cheese. Salt is free.

I am cracking myself up right now at how incredibly lame this makes me sound as a potential party guest! I also like to dance, okay?

So far I haven’t forced suggested this game to any Parisian acquaintances. However, I did play it in Vancouver several times with very interesting results. There was almost a row over papayas and many people ended up revising their lists when they remembered eggs. I had a very solid 5 top foods back then, but I need to reconsider to make room for my new best friend: butter.