By Wini Moranville
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Extra info for The Bonne Femme Cookbook: Simple, Splendid Food That French Women Cook Every Day
Dessert was often something she had picked up from the bakery—a cake layered with mousse, or a glistening fruit tart. All throughout dinner, Madame and Monsieur would fill their daughters' glasses—and mine—with wine, cut with a little water in consideration of our youth. My first night at the Lavignes' table, I remember thinking that surely this was a celebratory feast for me. I felt touched that although their guest of honor was just a 16-year-old from the American Midwest, they had obviously put out their best for our first evening together.
My first night at the Lavignes' table, I remember thinking that surely this was a celebratory feast for me. I felt touched that although their guest of honor was just a 16-year-old from the American Midwest, they had obviously put out their best for our first evening together. But the next amazing meal came, and then the next, and I realized that the Lavignes ate this way pretty much every night. And each dinner was a celebration, a simple yet splendid daily gathering put on so that we could enjoy each other's company.
I know this because I have had the good luck to spend long stretches of time in France, where I have dined at the tables of quite a few French women. And for years, I have cooked over French stoves as a bonne femme myself. I first got a taste of bonne femme cooking at the home of the Lavigne family, who hosted me on a high school exchange stay in Burgundy. Monsieur and Madame Lavigne and their teenage daughters, Annie and Françoise, lived in a snug, charming two-bedroom apartment in the industrial town of Montceau-les-Mines, where Monsieur Lavigne worked in a crane factory.