Thursday, June 2, 2011

A bon vivant lifestyle

bon vi·vant   noun

\ˌbän-vē-ˈvänt, ˌbōⁿ-vē-ˈväⁿ\

plural bons vivants \ˌbän-vē-ˈvän(t)s, ˌbōⁿ-vē-ˈväⁿ(z)\ or bon vivants \same\


Definition of BON VIVANT 

a person having cultivated, refined, and sociable tastes especially with respect to food and drink


Examples of BON VIVANT

  1. a bon vivant who loves to hold dinner parties and serve exquisite, elaborate meals 

Origin of BON VIVANT:

French, literally, good liver
First Known Use: circa 1695    (Mirriam-Webster)

In a recent conversation with a food and wine-loving friend, we discussed our mutual penchant for living slightly beyond our means, surrounding ourselves with fine food and wine and loving to share that with others, even if it meant some form of personal austerity after our indulgences.  My friend said, "I believe that's called bon vivant."  Well, believe you me, I held my head a little higher after hearing that because I've always just referred to my lifestyle as excessive and wonton hedonism.  But any time I can redefine myself--and in French, mind you--I'll take the opportunity for a make-over.

So here are some things I've done (and some characteristics I still currently hold) that qualify me, if not as the poster child for the Bon Vivant Lifestyle, then at least as an honorary runner up in the Bon Vivant Lifestyle Hall of Fame:

In my 20's when I lived in upstate New York, I would think nothing of driving to New York City (a 3-hour trip) for a cup of coffee and a bagel or a Greek omelette with nothing but a $10 bill in my wallet.   

I have paid and will continue to pay a lot of money for beautiful, exquisite, rare and unusual food.  Rainier cherries at $12 a pound?  Sprite melons at $5 each (if you do the math, that works out to be about $20 a pound)?  Castelmagno cheese at $37 per pound?  Chiagga beets at $7 a bunch?  Beluga caviar (price upon request)?  Sure.  It's a treat.  I don't eat this way every day.  But I draw the line at Kopi Luwak.  Because I am no longer a coffee drinker and my husband will only drink water-processed coffee.  Really.

On the spur of the moment, I always enjoy having dinner out with a friend at an establishment that can pamper us and bring us lovely foodDinner will likely consist of wine, lots of appetizers, more wine and more appetizers.  This experience involves, at minimum, 3 hours of eating and pairing wines and sipping and nibbling and chatting up the wait staff and sommelier.  The bill is usually enormous because we've eaten our way through the appetizer menu and have begun to make a dent in the wine list.  Did I mention we would have lots of wine?  Did I mention that drinking lots of wine during these experiences is necessary to dull the shock of paying the tab when it is, sadly, time to leave?

Those who have witnessed my interior decorating "skills" will recall that I jokingly refer to my home as done in the Bordello Nouveau style.  Actually, after recently listening to Terry Gross interview filmmaker John Waters (think Mondo Trasho, Pink Flamingos, Female Trouble, Polyester and Hairspray) about his book Role Models on her NPR broadcast Fresh Air, I've revised my position.  Here all the time I thought I was channeling my inner Madame.  But I've actually been channeling my inner John Waters.  Glad you liked visiting my home!  Hope you had fun looking at all that stuff I've collected!  Can you say, "I love to shop at Goodwill?"  Sure, it cost a lot to put all those beads up there--they're from Czechoslovakia--but aren't they beautiful!?  Isn't it rather like a movie set in here?  Ever been to Bal'more, hon?  Did Divine throw up in here??

At any given time, I'm likely to throw a large dinner party.  No two dinners are ever alike with regard to theme, props and table settings, music or guests.  I can usually pull this off just from what I have on hand in my pantry, refrigerators and freezers.  I think of it as a strategic and competitive game I like to play with myself.  But I also have this problem.  I've mentioned it before: The Disease of More.  I'm convinced that not only is The Disease of More fully diagnosable, but that there is a genetic marker for this condition as well.  My parents were post-Depression Era children.  You know, the children of hoarders and people who never threw anything out.  Because you might need it one day.  And I have found that hoarding and keeping things pays off.  Because I'll make a party around it.

I'm not a particularly late-night person, but on those occasions when intimate conversations continue late into the night and I'm in my own kitchen, I can feed you.  And I can feed you well.  We might be having crepes with creamed sherried mushrooms and crabmeat at 2 a.m., or we might enjoy a bowl of spaghetti carbonara.  We could also be devouring an omelette with smoked salmon and a triple creme cheese.  Or a pizza with creamed leeks, goat cheese and toasted walnuts.  Or French toast with Grand Marnier and lingonberry coulis.  You just never know.  Stick around, stay late, let me cook for you with whatever ingredients we can forage in the fridge.  Then you can crash on my couch and wake up to homemade muffins, fruit and coffee in the morning.  And champagne.

How many champagne glasses does one woman need?  Apparently, if you're Vindaloo Tiramisu, you need plenty.  Plenty is one of those vague, indeterminate numbers that range between 2 and 2000.  So whether it's vintage coupes from the 30's, Art Deco etched saucers from the 20's, modest glasses you won't cry over breaking that can be stacked for a champagne tower (and purchased ridiculously cheaply at thrift stores), or exquisite hollow stems from the pre-Prohibition era that you've paid waaaaay toooooo much money for, one can never have too many receptacles for champagne.  Because champagne isn't just for breakfast anymore.

So now my readership knows where my disposable income goes.  I don't smoke, I don't chew, and I don't run with girls who do.  But I do live like there's no tomorrow.  And I do use my good china--often.   And all because I've never seen a U-Haul attached to a hearse.  It all distills down to this: no one lays on their deathbed wishing they'd spent more time depriving themselves of pleasure.  I intend to spend as much time experiencing pleasure in the company of others as possible.

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