|Jim Haynes with Author Talia Carner|
In our American standards—and perhaps in European standards, too—the living room is tiny for such an ambitious hosting. An upholstered bench runs along one wall, supplemented by a couple of chairs. Above them, a long shelf exhibits books by authors close to Jim’s heart.
The real action of the evening, one soon discovers, is in the people who gather in that room, and by necessity, spill onto the terrace and the garden. A couple of ex-pats who’ve long settled
I was first handed a bowl with three servings of three totally unidentified food. Each piece or mush challenged me with its different shape and texture, but I failed to guess what it was. Nevertheless, I trusted myself (and Jim) enough, and found the food to be quite tasty—yet still unidentified. Someone said this dish had Asian influence, and I was unable to argue one way or another. The main course was more familiar, though less edible, for the slab of meat that had never suffered the heat of fire or oven was to be consumed with only a fork. I recalled my visit to a French family back in the 1970s, where I was served my first raw meat, but it was eaten at the table, with the benefit of a knife.
Even though we were all Jim’s guests, in his e-mail he suggested a 30 Euro donation (about $40) per person. He asked that the money be discretely placed in a recycled envelope, while Jim, sitting high on a stool at the back of the room, welcomed every person and ticked them off his list, noting the envelopes. One guest speculated that the octogenarian Jim landed a weekly income, cashing in on his long reputation and the media exposure his evenings had received. Totally legitimate in my mind—and well worth it. I found myself engaged in interesting conversations: An Australian duo of a mother-daughter visiting Paris; a Minnesota couple on a tour of Parisian most notable gardens (Jim’s is not on the list;) a mixed Caucasian and Black American couple that had inherited an apartment in Paris; a French web designer practicing his English; a retired architect with set views about the many countries in which he had worked.
There is no secret to a successful Parisian evening: Put dozens of strangers who enjoy travel and meeting other people in a room with a garden, feed them, pour them wine, and let them start talking.