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The White People “en Dîner”

MERCI BEAUCOUP!

Your emails regarding last week’s post about my presentation at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs were abundant and your positive feedback was overwhelming! My heart is warmed by your letters and I am confident by Laurent Queige’s note that my proposals will be integrated into their report. How the ideas will translate into real action is to be seen, but at least they wanted to hear them and having the ability to express them was a sincere honor and one that I may never again have the chance to do. It could have been a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

________

 Anniversaire Diner en Blanc Paris 2018 30 ans

Diner en Blanc Paris 2018 Post card

Anniversaire Diner en Blanc Paris 2018 by Adrian Leeds

Diner en Blanc Paris 2018 by Patty Sadauskas

Diner en Blanc 2018 - 4some by Adrian Leeds

Diner en Blanc Paris 2018 by Patty Sadauskas

Diner en Blanc 2018 Salad - by Patty

Diner en Blanc Paris 2018 by Laura

Diner en Blanc Paris 2018 by Patty Sadauskas

Diner en Blanc 2018 Sparklers before midnight

DINER ON BLANC

It was the 30th anniversary of Dîner en Blanc and considering I’ve been here almost 24 years, that doesn’t seem so long ago for an event of this magnitude to have grown so fast. It all started with Frenchman François Pasquier who wanted to picnic with a few of his friends in the Bois de Boulogne in 1988. To make it easy to find one another, he asked everyone to dress in white. The dinner was so much fun, that they planned another one the following year and so on and so forth until every year, the by-invitation-only pop-up dinner has grown to about 10,000 participants! This year, because of the anniversary celebration, the estimate was 20,000 diners here in Paris. But the report this morning was a “mere” 17,000 including 6,000 foreigners who claimed to have travelled to Paris especially for the purpose.

I was lucky enough to be invited a few years ago and try never to miss the event. Where it will be held isn’t known until the very last moment, which is one thing that makes it so exciting. At noon the day of the event, an email was sent to everyone in my group (it’s broken down into small, manageable groups) describing a place to meet at 7 p.m. That’s all you know, and all you’re going to know until you arrive there and your leader starts to walk you to where you will be setting up your table.

Your table cannot be just any picnic table. There are rules, in good French fashion, that enforce the dinner be formal…and everything, everything, everything in white, or clear glass: dinnerware, wine glasses and/or champagne flutes, silverware, napkins, table cloths, candles, etc., etc., etc. Your attire must be all white from head to toe, too. (Of course, unless you expose your undergarments, I suppose you could get away with non-white undies!) The zanier the dress, the better. Elaborate hats are a plus. Anything goes, as long as it’s white.

Our meeting point was a café on rue Cler in the 7th. Our taxi driver wasn’t thrilled that we had four people to fit into his car and that we had a lot of awkward baggage to fit into his trunk that was like fitting pieces of a puzzle together — a picnic table on a rolling dolly, a rolling cart filled with fragile things and several big bags of food. The destination gave us the hint that the dinner would take place either on the Champ de Mars or at the Esplanades des Invalides, but as we sat having drinks at the café waiting for what we jokingly called “The White People” to show up, we still didn’t know where the dinner would be held until the group leader held up his blow-up balloon to lead us down the road.

Everyone shows up in white, or off white, which some of us purists don’t appreciate! It became comical as more and more gathered along rue Cler and the street became a sea of white with bags, carts, tables and chairs littering the sidewalk and pedestrian street. One thing I noticed throughout the evening was the cultural difference between the French and foreign diners. Americans have fun with the event and dress in “costume” — anything goes and it’s all in fun, without having to look chic or glamorous. The French, however, are as chic as it gets. The women get sexy and the men get debonair. They take it very seriously, however they cheat and don’t always wear all white. They seem to like to add a bit of black trim or will cover up with a jacket or sweater that isn’t white at all. We Americans, on the other had, wouldn’t dream of it! How funny that they, who are so good at making rules, seem to be the ones to break them!

In years past, I’ve had the pleasure of dining at the Palais Royal, on a bridge next to the Tour Eiffel and on the Parvis of the Hôtel de Ville. Once your group lands in THE spot, the set-up is instantaneous and it’s all a bit chaotic until set and you’re seated and having dinner. Yep, we were led to the Esplanade des Invalides on the grass, with the dome looming on one side, the Grand and Petit Palais on the other, and the Eiffel Tower off to the side.

Table-settings can be very elaborate. Candelabras, flowers, centerpieces, strings of lights and you name it come out and get set up before your very eyes. Our flowers kept falling over, so we abandoned them for more practical issues. In proper dinner fashion, we served hors d’oeuvres as a first course, then a melon, jambon salad as an “entrée” (remember, an “entrée” in France is a starter as it should be, “n’est-ce pas?”) Then, we went on to a main course and finally cheese, dessert and chocolate. We popped open a bottle of champagne, followed by a Crémant, followed by a rosé wine.

As the sun sets, the scene becomes even more beautiful, particularly on such a spectacularly warm cloudless evening as it was last night. As always, there was live music and people were dancing. Table hopping is a must-do. Sharing food and drink is “de rigeur.” Smiling and laughing is a given. Your white napkins get waved in unison at one point or several times, and at 11 p.m. on the dot, after the sun has gone down, sparklers were passed out and lit for a truly star-studded evening.

At the stroke of midnight, the party’s over. Everyone’s table must be cleared, plates and glassware put away and all garbage picked up leaving no trace of our existence there. Only the overflowing trash bins along route are a clue of what took place there…but we didn’t find any and carried our trash a long way before finding a bin near the Latour-Maubourg Métro station. That’s where we met our taxi to escort us home and along the way followed a sea of White People walking away from the Esplanade carrying all their accouterments minus whatever they had consumed.

Paris was the first, but it isn’t the only one and won’t be the last. Dîner en Blanc now takes place in 30 countries and 80 cities…and growing. We can polish our nails on our sleeves, however…as Paris is where it all began and nothing can change that.

Note: Photos by Patty Sadauskas, Lisa Anselmo, Laura Figueroa and me.

A la prochaine…

Adrian Leeds - Paris, France (Diner en Blanc 2018 by Lisa Anselmo) http://www.lisaanselmo.com

Adrian Leeds
Adrian Leeds Group

(Diner en Blanc 2018 by Lisa Anselmo)

 


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SOS Help Bag of Books Sale July 2018

P.S. A note from our friends at SOS Help: Just to let you know our clearance sale of books is all set for Sunday 1st July from 10 am to 1pm. A bag of books for 5€ – can’t go wrong with that!

Outside at St Joseph’s Church,
50 avenue Hoche
75008 Paris

Holiday reading guaranteed! Details and more information on their website

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