When I spend the warm season in France, I spend more time outside than inside. I work on the land during the day, swim in the town’s outdoor, open-air pools, and eat every meal outside as long as it’s not raining. While I don’t give sit-down dinners for 20 or anything near that, I do entertain outside.
France in the summer is casual. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not casual in the way this country is, where it’s okay to wear sweats out to dinner. But in summer, summer clothing – like cotton or linen tops and capris – is acceptable morning, noon, and night.
This may not be true in Paris, but I live far from the City of Lights. My little house is in a small, Basque town in the foothills of the Pyrenees where life is relaxed and living styles in summer are casual.
Dining out in the Basque Country in the summer means dining outside. All of the local restaurants have outdoor tables and umbrellas, and these are the preferred sitting areas. Only those who arrive late are assigned to indoor tables, and for these diners, the doors are left wide open.
This is particularly true in my part of Basque Country since it is so close to Spain. I am in Spain when I hike up my mountain for 10 minutes. We all buy gas in Spain, where its cheaper, and the “ventas” in Spain are extremely popular for shopping with their low prices for cigarettes, alcohol, and meat as well as the long tables outdoors where you can have a drink or tapas (called pintxos).
Entertaining in Basque Country
So I never get too fancy about entertaining outside. I have a large, wooden table with long benches on either side on my patio, as well as an outdoor firepit. I always light up the fire, even when I’m not cooking outside. Its flickering is all the décor necessary as the day turns to twilight.
I have solar lighting that comes on at dusk that supplements the candles on the table, stuck in empty wine bottles, that remind us of other meals of note. There is always French or Spanish wine, served in stemless glasses (in fact, water glasses), finger foods to start, and a help-yourself salad in a large bowl in the center of the table. Oh yes, and Basque music on the radio.