La pendaison de crémaillère: the hanging of the iron rack thingie that suspends the cooking pot over the fire. It’s the French version of the word, “housewarming.” In centuries past, the crémaillère was the last thing to be installed in the fireplace of a new house, and to the French way of thinking, it’s only when you can prepare food that a house becomes a home.
My own Paris home was finally finished and although we didn’t hang a crémaillère, it was time to celebrate. Since I could only come in for the weekend, I enlisted the help of a friend in Paris to plan a catered affair—canapés, tapas, petits fours apéritifs, gougères from Festins—and ever-flowing champagne. In spite of my tiny apartment with only about 14 square meters (150 sq. ft.) of entertaining space, the guest list was set at around 25, including the three people responsible for making my dream a reality: my contractor, my architect, and the owner of my new management agency. I figured a 40% response rate, so I wasn’t too worried. All that was left to do was design my invitations and send them out.
Twenty-two people replied in the affirmative. Twenty-two. That works out to about six inches of space per person. I had a flash of the party scene in Breakfast at Tiffany’s—wall-to-wall people sashaying in unison to the cha-cha, lining the balconies, smooching in the shower stall. And me, wading through the sea of guests, cigarette held aloft by a foot-long holder.
As it turned out, I wouldn’t have my Holly Golightly moment. What I didn’t know was that in Paris it’s not uncommon for people to commit to your party then not show up. That explains some dates I’ve had—or I should say not had. I’m not sure what this means culturally, but out of the 22 who said yes, half turned up at my door. Of course, I now had enough food for 30 people, but luckily, the guests who did attend were enthusiastic and hungry enough to make up for the absence of the others. Not a canapé was left. I guess it’s true: a house isn’t a home until you can feed your friends in it. And surrounded by those friends in my little living room, sipping champagne, I felt my new house officially become home.