Thursday, February 07, 2013

Joie de Vivre

mercredi 6 fevrier 'Joie de Vivre'
I met author Harriet Welty Rochefort whilst in Paris for tea so I may be biased but I adore her newest book, Joie de Vivre:Secrets of Wining, Dining, and Romancing Like the French. Harriet has lived in Paris almost 40 years with her French husband, so what she doesn't know isn't worth knowing for us 'American frogs' as she calls herself. I'm focusing on her chapter 'Small is Good' and sharing with you many quotes from her book.
Les Petites Plaisirs Miniscules: un espresso, a petit piece of chocolate, A morsel of sharp cheese, A half-filled glass of wine : the French prefer tasting and sipping to gorging and guzzling. Small is good.
The classic black dress is always spoken of as the little black dress, not the black dress. Because it's referred to as la petite robe noire, it takes on a positive connotation. The little doesn't mean it's insignificant. On the contrary, it's a must. Only the clever French could transform a simple piece of somber clothing into a universal emblem.
When I came to France, I discovered small. It seemed that everything was diminutive, and the word petit was everywhere.
Dalloyau petits fours
I have this thing about petits fours. I love them. The literal meaning of petit four is small oven. Almost every French bakery has an assortment of petits fours that present three main delights: they're a delight for the eye, they're a delight for the taste buds, and they're a delight for the figure because you can have your taste of sugar without ingesting your calories for the day. How's that for Joie de Vivre?
Taken at Musee de Jouets

In America I hop into a huge car, drive for miles, do some mega errands, fill up the roomy trunk with groceries, and return to my sister's large house ...and put the food away in a giant kitchen with the monster refrigerator that makes ice.. In America, big, even supersized, is what we're all about and what we like. That's normal; you can tuck all of France into the state of Texas and there will be plenty of room(about 20%) left over.
Taken at Musee de Jouets

The French have big as well, such as grand and grandeur...
Grand is above us, awe inspiring... Whereas petit is sympathique and down to earth. Babies, for example, are très petits and when you particularly like someone, they are transformed into petit or petite.
Taken at Musee de Jouets
Petites boutiques
The only problem with petites boutiques is that they are sometimes so itsy bitsy and so teensy-weensy you have to be exceedingly careful, especially if you are a clumsy American like me...So dear reader, beware of pint-size places! I now clutch my handbag as close to me as possible and in a petite boutique pretend I'm walking through a minefield, not a store.
Details are very French.
It's that tiny touch that makes the difference. The simplest French table will have pretty placemats or a jacquard tablecloth and a bouquet of flowers. The tomato salad is rid of its seeds and doesn't go on the table without a sprig of parsley.
If someone calls you his little rabbit or little cabbage, feel flattered. These are terms of endearment. Only certain animals and vegetables qualify, though. For example I've never heard anyone say mon petit couchon, or even mon petit chien (my little dog) but you can call a little girl ma petite chatte or "little kitten". A cabbage is a common term of endearment, but I've never heard anyone called my petite tomate. C'est comme câ.
I'm sure you'll enjoy and adore 'Joie de Vivre' as much as I do. I'll be back with more but don't wait. Get cracking on it and get in on the savoir faire and JOIE DE VIVRE toute de suite!
*All picture captions are from the book .

27 comments:

  1. Anonymous8:05 AM

    Carol, just finished Paris, A Love Story at your suggestion and loved it, I'll have to pick this one up next. Take care. Cindy R.

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  2. Your suggestions are always GRAND:)
    I often call our little ones mes petits choux d'amour:)
    I like tiny things too and petits fours are particularly appealing to my eye..particularly with a little rosebud on top or looking like a gift.

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  3. Bonjour Carol. An excellent post, with very astute observations on French American cultural differences. I am afraid I am a lost cause: After 17 years in the US, I still believe small is beautiful (even though I enjoy the extra space in my roomy American closets.) How fun to meet that author. I remember reading her first book! It was hilarious. Oh, and since you have a sweet tooth, swing by chez moi when you get a chance. You should have a good time. Bonne fin de semaine à New York. Veronique (French Girl in Seattle)

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  4. Carol,you have such a gift for weaving a theme through each post. I appreciated your comparison to the large lifestyle in the States, something we certainly do well here in Texas. Paris is the complete opposite; that's part of the city's charm and why I love it so much! xx Katie

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    Replies
    1. All the italized text is FROM THE BOOK.
      Not from me...I wish I wrote as well as Harriet.
      I did say I was quoting her book above FYI

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  5. Carol, I so enjoyed this post's pictures and prose. To learn that Texas has more square footage than France is making my head spin a bit.

    It seems as if living in this tiny apartment is definitely preparing me to fit into Paris et environ.

    Merisi has a lovely tribute to you over in her Viennese neighborhood.

    xo

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    1. absolutely Frances
      Practice living in a closet/placard and you're set for Paris!

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  6. Harriet's books are obligatory reading for anyone who really wants to understand what makes the French tick. She is indeed gracious, allowing me to interview her for a blog post on "First Food Memories in France." I was pleased to see you caught up with her, too!

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    Replies
    1. Harriet is terrific!
      I'll check out your post ASAP

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    2. I loved being interviewed on "First Food Memories in France!" How nice you're a Paris Breakfast fan as well! Harriet Welty Rochefort

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  7. Delightful! But, do tell me more about the ladybug pins! They are très adorable!

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    1. The ladybugs pins are from Sonia Rikiel

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  8. Lovely post! I just added the book suggestion to my shopping cart. I MUST know where I can purchase one of those oh-so-sweet limoges boxes. Where, where?!?! I was at Laduree in Paris in October, but sadly didn't see these. Do tell!

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    1. The lovely Limoge shop is on the left of Angelina on rue de Rivoli.
      They always have wonderful things in the vitrine.

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  9. My term of endearment is - Sweetie Pie

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  10. Merci, ma petite tomate!

    Delightful book. I'll have to add this one to my list, too!

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  11. Hi Carol,

    just wanted to let you know of the book talk with Pamela Druckerman from "Bebe Day by Day" at the French Institute Alliance Francaise.

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  12. Sounds like a fun read, Carol. Love the sketch up top here!

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  13. Great sketch to open the post!
    The rest of the illustrations are great, too...I like the "little black dress" shot - the composition is great.
    I didn't realize that the pastries were so petite - after all these years :)

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  14. What a lovely time you and Harriet look like you had together! Adore this post Carol can see you hugging your handbag as I often do, hilarious but true comparisons xx Carla

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  15. Great post, it sounds such an interesting book. I love your petit details. And those petit fours do look sensational.

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  16. Loved the post~had to get my pencil to jot down some titles you have suggested for reading.

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  17. So sweet. I always thought that petits fours meant that those little delicacies were displayed in groups of four, didn't know they meant little ovens.
    There is a miniatures museum in Lyon...
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tMS3Ysb8LJc

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  18. It was so good to see my words come to life through your imaginative illustrations. You did such a lovely job! Thank you.

    Harriet Welty Rochefort


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  19. Mstar9:02 AM

    Thank you for your Paris Breakfast blog on Joie De Vivre! I bought Ms.Rochefort's book on my Kindle, and will be ordering the actual book to add to my collection.
    Ordered it yesterday, and am already close to the end....could not put it down!
    Great read, and wonderful insight!
    Merci Beaucoup !
    Mstar

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  20. Thank you, Mstar, for ordering my book on Kindle and then "for real". So glad you loved it. And thanks to the others who commented on all the "petites choses". Since I've lived in France for forty years with a marvelous husband, I have many many things like that to share and hope others will enjoy my book as well. Again, merci to Carol for joining my text to her illustrations. She's tops!

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  21. I'm reading this book write now, just finished this petite chapter yesterday. Love the book!

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