Pasta with Wild Mushroom Sauce, and Life on the Not-So-Wild Side

One often hears people wax poetically about the ‘old world charm’ and ‘old world manners’ of Europe, all of which is true.

What those same people don’t discover, unless they move here, is that some of those old world manners aren’t so charming when faced on a daily basis.

Mon mari didn’t notice anything particularly different, but, then, he’s a man.  Things weren’t different for him.

He wasn’t banned from golf courses and club houses; I was (me being a woman, the weaker sex, and all).

Tradespeople and salespeople always address him; I sometimes get a nod (me being a women, less intelligent, and all).

Our first hint came when we had fuel delivered to our house in Ireland.  The nice man came in to have a chat and give us the bill when he was done pumping.  He only spoke to mon mari even though I was sitting there.  As he pulled out his invoice book I went and got the checkbook.  He wrote out the bill and handed it to mon mari who then gave it to me.  I wrote out the check and gave it to the fuel guy.  He inspected it, and thanked mon mari.  He wrote out the receipt and gave it to mon mari, who then gave it to me.  He shook hands with mon mari and left.  I had been totally ignored.  I was invisible.

I wasn’t used to being ignored.  I am now.

After our first grape harvest the neighbors came to see how our wine was working and if they could be of any more help.  I should have picked up on the fact that it was 3 men, no women, but I’ve been one of the guys as long as I can remember, so I don’t notice these things.  They almost ran me over going down to the cave, not because they didn’t see me, they just hadn’t expected me to try to go there as well and thought I would step aside.

I later learned the proper protocol for visits to the cave, ours and others:

Women are not to assume an invitation.  It is proper for the men to go to the cave to taste the wine, discuss it’s merits and solve world problems.  Women should go to the kitchen for coffee and to discuss cooking, children, and other topics their feeble brains are capable of.

On the rare occasion that women are actually invited to the cave (the wives) and offered a glass of wine they are, of course, to graciously accept.  They then: may have a thimble full of wine to taste; upon tasting offer suitable praise; decline any further wine and accept a glass of orange juice from the proper wife of the host.  After all, two thimbles of wine might cause said women to lose what few wits they have been gifted with (and it’s known what loose moral characters they have).  The men, will, naturally, finish off the barrel with no adverse effects.

Under no circumstances may a woman in her, ahem, time of the month, enter a cave or go anywhere near the wine.  Her mere presence would cause the wine to sour.  If she is issued an invitation (see above) she must smilingly decline, giving no reason, but a gentle shake of the head.  All the other women must then forgo their own invitation and join the outcast in the kitchen for coffee (see above).

Presto2bpast2bnights1The chances of me ever being considered a proper femme du foyer (housewife) are slim.

On the other hand, I may not be competent enough to forage for mushrooms but I know what to do with them when I get them:  make pasta.

I have finally stopped making salads!  This week my entry for Presto Pasta Nights, founded and hosted by the always proper Ruth of Once Upon A Feast has a decidedly autumnal air.

The recipe, Pasta with Wild Mushroom Sauce, has been updated, nutrition information added, and re-posted here: Pasta with Mushroom Sauce.

Check with Ruth of Once Upon A Feast on Friday for all of the wonderful pasta dishes.

Two more tidbits about manners in France:

It is considered extremely improper and rude to ask to use the bathroom at someone’s house – even if you are there for a 5 hour dinner party.  Again, advantage male – they can (and do) go outside for a smoke and a piss while the women sit in misery.

The signal (that you must wait for) that the evening is over is when the hostess brings out the glasses of orange juice.  That is the final bit that is served.  You may now leave…and find a bathroom…

Oh yes, when you see men pissing on the side of the road, street, or in the ladies room, wherever, it is considered improper to ‘notice’.  I take that to mean that laughter is frowned upon also….

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29 thoughts on “Pasta with Wild Mushroom Sauce, and Life on the Not-So-Wild Side”

  1. What a wonderful post about shameful European behavior, Katie! Since you will never be accepted you should take this as your invitation to do just as you please. Don’t just be a little unacceptable–be the eccentric American woman who thinks she’s a man. Votre mari sounds like someone who not only would support this approach, but would expect it of you.
    It also makes me think of small town life in America. Many people view cities as cold and think small town people are friendlier. They may be outwardly polite or cordial in small towns, but if you don’t live in the house where you were born, you will never be “from there” in their eyes. And their ideas of acceptable behavior are much narrower. My brother used to live in McComb, Mississippi. When he came to visit us in Chicago, he was envious of our frequent bike riding on trails in a nearby park. I told him he should get a bike. He just said, “Grown-ups don’t ride bikes in McComb.”

  2. Katie, that’s very interesting, since I just read the guidelines for healthy drinking, and of course, in the magazine published by the French health insurance company, they recommend that women drink less than men. They don’t give grams per weight, or any such nonsense, they split it down between sexes and say categorically that women, of all shapes and sizes, should all drink less than men, well because they’re fragile, and suffer from lack of strength in their consistency, and bear or have borne children, and have long wavy hair and dress in filmy robes, and sigh and such. It isn’t graceful for a woman to drink more than a thimbleful before switching to orange juice and excusing themselves to make a pie. Of course. But dear, you knew that!

  3. wow! I didn’t realize it was like that over there. It’s such nonsense.I don’t think I could go along with these rules..being the only daughter out of many sons and the rebel that I am 🙂
    I say piss on the side of the road and wave to them as they pass by!!!!hahaha

  4. Terry, we live in a tiny hamlet of 7 houses… so, very small. I think small towns are the same worldwide. Everyone is very friendly and helpful, just not used to assertive women. The younger people and those who live in cities are much more open.
    Lucy, yes, I know…I’ve got to get that pie thing down, though. I actually had people stop by (unexpectedly – to talk to mon mari about the pasture) and I had no freshly baked tart to offer…for shame…
    Maryann, I’m sure it’s different in the cities, but we are in a backwater… although, the incident in Ireland was in Cork city…but, that’s Ireland…
    On the roadside the men stand by the car and the women go into the bush aways… yup, the family that pees together…

  5. I did some penne dish too! Is that true about not being able to use the bathroom in someone’s house while in France? Goodness gracious…maybe it’s a way for the “host” not to serve beverages. LOL!

  6. Katie, I love this meatless meaty sauce for the pasta. I’ve seen quite a few types of mushrooms looked very wild to me, got to buy some and try out your recipe.
    The other day I was just telling my husband how I like the manner of some European guys (who are older than me)… obviously I haven’t been here long enough to discover.

  7. oh, men….can’t live with them or without them…….who invents all these crazy ideas planted in their brains about women~and their bad luck…….I would probably be burned at the stake for being as loud and assertive as I am….maybe I would not fit in ~in Europe…so happy I can cook some-hehe! Your pasta will keep you around for many years to come,looks so delicious!

  8. Very interesting post indeed! I have heard stories like yours from my dad, who used to live for a number of years in Europe. I never really trusted him, but now I have your opinion!
    Anyway, your pasta looks really delicious!

  9. I notice a difference even in the US from East Coast to Left Coast. Gender roles are more traditional back east. I’m so glad I live in California! 🙂

  10. I notice a difference even in the US from East Coast to Left Coast. Gender roles are more traditional back east. I’m so glad I live in California! 🙂

  11. Hi Katie you must have many more stories like this. It is such fun to read your blog
    I haven’t had a snub (because I am a woman) for so long one forgets that it still goes on. Have just read a book called Le Divorce…by Diane Johnson a great book and another interesting look at ex pats living on France. Have you read it.
    By the way did I tell you I loved Driving over Lemons…Thanks for that.

  12. Tigerfish, rumor has it that it’s a way for the ‘lady of the house’ to not have to clean the bathroom…. One also does not do/get house tours.
    Pam, life in the country… sometime I’ll have to write about all the strange things I notice in the U.S. — now that I’ve been gone awhile
    Gattina, what I remember most fondly about the Spanish men is that they look every woman, regardless of age, up and down as if they want to start an affair right then. Of course that doesn’t mean they think women have a brain…. I bet you are finding lovely mushrooms there.
    Jann, they have to invent the ideas…. makes them feel in control hahaha!
    Zoomie, I lived in the midwest which has very equal gender roles, also, so this was/is, ummm, interesting…
    Anh, there is a lot of history here and people aren’t prone to rapid change of the old ways… and, thanks!
    Gilli, thanks for the reccomendation. I need a good book and my Amazon order is waiting to be finished. Isn’t Driving Over Lemons a hoot? Glad you liked it.

  13. Katie, I don’t know whether to laugh or just tear my hair out. I must say that even here in the New World, that type of behavior happens from time to time. I pay the oil delivery guy, the tree remover, the plumber — but they all would much rather deal with my husband. Wait until they find out that when something goes wrong, it’s little ole’ me who won’t pay the bill! (PS — I loved Driving Over Lemons, too.)

  14. Fantastic post! I don’t know whether to laugh or be horrified but either way it was delightful to read and so beautifully written!
    The pasta looks fabulous too!

  15. Katie, what a fun post and the pasta looks awesome. I just paid a visit to your website and I must say, you are so organized! I too have MANY cookbooks and I also love all of the food magazines. Lately, I have been overwhelming myself with recipes that I want to make. You inspire me with your organization!

  16. Lydia, I’d be bald if I let it get to me… anymore… That book was a hoot!
    Truffle, thank you… I do both: horrified laughter!
    Deb, I spend way too much time thinking about food. We went for a bike ride today and I came up with 2 new recipes…. plus a bag of chestnuts… Why can’t I just mindlessly enjoy the day?

  17. Oh, how I know what you go through!
    The main guy at our local bank won’t give me the time of day when I’m there by myself. But, if I’m there with my hubby, he fawns all over us. It’s annoying!
    And if we’re with our neighbors at a long dinner or apéro evening, I have to wait to be served a refill of wine or whatever we’re drinking. God forbid I should serve myself!

  18. Interesting post Katie! I have experienced this in Europe and I’m not naming countries but suffice to say I was there for work and sometimes felt the difficulty of doing business in what I guess must have been percieved as a “man’s world”…courtly manners do have a flipside I suppose. Ah well…your mari sounds like a dear though 🙂
    And your pasta with wild mushrooms sounds divine!

  19. LOL!! I loved reading that post! You’re a saint, that’s what you are! And 5 hours without being able to ask where the bathroom is? I guess they must have bladders made of steel over there.
    Ahh, the penne looks marvelous. We were on the same wavelength again–I used the little pennette!

  20. LOL – fantastic post. I always love your writing, but this time was over the top great!
    And thanks for sharing the delicious dish of pasta with Presto Pasta Nights.

  21. This is the worst kind of provincial thinking, not exclusive to France, either. I suggest we women drink a toast to you, Katie. Fill our glasses high, will you?

  22. LOL! When we travel we spend so much time in big cities, you forget that every country has its rural villages where the 21st century is still a way off… And to get your revenge on the bathroom front, just make sure next time neighbours visit you ply the ladies with lots of liquids. See how THEY like it!
    I do agree with some of the previous commenters though – if you’re never going to fit in, then you may as well go the whole hog with eccentricity and do whatever the heck you please! 🙂

  23. mm…wild mushroom sauce…deliciously good. Have you tried it with cream fraiche instead of tomato paste?

  24. Umpf, that’s funny. That not usual for whole Europe. In Germany you may ask for the WC or for the toilet, not for the bathroom. You don’t powder your nose 🙂 About was I was puzzled in the States.
    In Germany there is a change in thinking about husbands and their wifes. Most people kindly ask if you have the same name as your spouse and they ask – even in restaurants – who will pay!
    I can’t say anything about the wine makers…

  25. Loulou, It really is amazing isn’t it? I touched a wine bottle once at a dinner….I’ll never live it down…
    Yeah, Joey, he’s a keeper – as is the pasta. Work for women is often a lot more challenging than it needs or should be.
    Sher, and they don’t waste what room there is on stuff like water … Great minds!
    Cooking Ninja, That sounds really good, I try to avoid the double cream but creme fraiche or Greek yogurt would be excellent!
    Susan, you’re right, it’s certainly not just a French trait… Thank you, I’ll try to keep the little thimbles full hahaha
    Thanks Ruth, You’re sweet!
    Jeanne, it’s definitely different in the country. Maybe I’ll start wearing nothing but red and purple….
    Ulrike, you would ask for the toilet here to, if you dared. I’ve had waiters, esp. in cities be perfectly polite, offering me the taste of wine if I made the choice, etc. but not out here in the country!

  26. Katie, this is so interesting. In that case I don’t think that I will ever be a “proper” wife. A thimble of wine would be difficult to accept. I rather have more than one and risk losing my wits 😉
    Thanks for the mushroom pasta recipe. I don’t have wild mushrooms but bought some from the shops that i was going to make a salad with but this is better.

  27. Yum! I always love wild mushrooms!
    Very interesting article. It is true that you really don’t know how things are in a country unless you have lived there…for a while. Very interesting perspective. I am not sure how I would handle such a thing!

  28. Nora, I’ve been called a lot of things…proper and, esp. proper wife are not amoung them!
    JennDZ, I’m learning that a smile and a blank look are effective hahaha

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