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Chez Jim Haynes: In Paris, a great Sunday feast with instant friends
by Doug Oster
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Sunday, November 20, 2011

PARIS -- For more than 30 years, Jim Haynes has hosted a Sunday dinner at his home here for whomever wants to come. It's open to the first 50 or 60 people who sign up -- and more than twice that many in nice weather, when guests can spill out into the garden.
Most arrive as strangers; Mr. Haynes hopes they leave as friends.
My family of four enjoyed the warmth of Mr. Haynes' hospitality last Christmas when Paris was cold and the streets were wet. We walked the 45 minutes to his home at 83 rue de la Tombe Issoire, in the 14th arrondissement, or district.
Guests are asked to arrive at 8 p.m. sharp.
My son's smartphone led us close to the front door, but the streets of Paris can be a mystery, even when you're standing right where you're supposed to be.
"Are you looking for Jim's?" a woman yelled as she approached a large dark door. Kathryn Hill from Sydney, Australia, was all smiles as she guided us inside.
As we walked through the courtyard she explained, with a laugh, that an old flame "I now consider an ember" brought her to Paris.
It was a great start to an evening we would never forget and set the tone of congeniality and sharing that filled the night.
The place was packed with an eclectic group of artists, tourists, teachers, filmmakers and everyone in between. Wine flowed freely as did conversation.

  Photo ©Doug Oster/Post Gazette
A group of visitors to Jim Haynes' Sunday dinner enjoy. (Photo Doug Oster/Post Gazette)

With experience as a professor at the University of Paris for three decades, Mr. Haynes, 78, can remember everyone's name in the room. At the dinner he shouts out your name when he catches your eye. It's kind of a party game and he laughs loudly each time.
Born in Louisiana, he spent his teenage years in Venezuela. After college and military service, he settled in Europe; in the hip mid-'60s London, he was a friend to the Beatles and Rolling Stones. He's now a fixture in the City of Light. "I love Paris," he says with a smile. "Everyone loves Paris."
This tradition began sometime in the '70s when Cathy Sroufe (now Monnet), a ballet dancer from Los Angeles, needed a place to stay. Her hobby was cooking. This lithe dancer was the last person he thought could cook, but "cook away," he told her, and she made a meal for 20 of his friends. "It was the best meal any of us have ever eaten before or since," Mr. Haynes said. To pay the rent, she made meals every Wednesday and Saturday.
Eventually, the event was moved to Sundays. Mr. Haynes recommends a donation of 25 euros per person. If you can afford more, that's great; less is fine, too, if you're strapped.

Every week he recruits volunteers to cook. On this Sunday it's his old friend Mary Bartlett. She spends three months in Portland, Ore., and three months in Paris with her husband.
On the menu this night was an orange, avocado and red onion salad, Moroccan chicken tagine with couscous, green salad and corn bread and a pineapple sundae for dessert.
Mrs. Bartlett had worked in catering, but missed the thrill of cooking for a crowd. She cooks once a month when in town and then also comes to enjoy other cooks.
"It's amazing how many people will volunteer who have no idea what they are doing, but it always works out."
She is one of the authors (along with Ms. Monnet) of "Throw a Great Party: Inspired by Evenings in Paris with Jim Haynes."
The book is filled with recipes and ideas culled from years of Sunday dinners. "It's just fun," she says.
Lucy Voorhees of Washington, D.C., is at the party with college friend Molly Johnsen of South Kingstown, R.I. Ms. Voorhees used to live next to Mrs. Bartlett and that's how she discovered the dinner.
Among the guests is Shasta Ellen Bogen, 23, a classical musician from Ottawa, Canada. She was in Paris for a month to take viola lessons but was lonely. She spent the night laughing, eating, drinking and talking. For her, it was just what the doctor ordered.
"The food was great and I'm really impressed with the variety of the crowd. I was just looking for company," she said.
Mr. Haynes' dinner inspired Maureen and Jack Dumbaugh of Mt. Lebanon to host a monthly dinner at their home. Their daughter attended the Paris dinner and raved about it to her mother. As a Delta flight attendant, Mrs. Dumbaugh spends lots of time in Paris. She met Mr. Haynes and eventually experienced one of his dinners.
She loved it and began hosting here in 2009. "It's a place for people to come, not feel any pressure. I think I've made a comfortable place for people to gather and connect." One thing that's different about her dinner is that the Steelers game is always on during the season.
For more information about Jim Haynes' Sunday dinners in Paris, visit www.jim-haynes.com. Guests can reserve far in advance, but must reconfirm by 4 p.m. on the day of the scheduled dinner. If they don't, they're not expected.

Information for Maureen Dumbaugh's Sunday dinners in Pittsburgh can be found at sundaynightdinnerpgh.com.
"Throw a Great Party: Inspired by Evenings in Paris With Jim Haynes" ($16.95, 2007) is available through Amazon.com.



Doug Oster: doster@post-gazette.com or 412-779-5861
read the article online!
©Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 2011



2011, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette : Chez Jim Haynes: In Paris, a great Sunday feast with instant friends

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