Last night I had an hour and a half to kill before meeting an old friend for dinner. Before leaving work, I scoured the NYC free event listings until I came upon a Ron Galella exhibition at Clic Bookstore & Gallery. Done and done. The photographs were absolutely beautiful, and it was so wonderfully satisfying to wander around the gallery alone as I gazed upon them, (you can take a look for yourself here, I'm sure you'll recognize a few). Then, just as I was about to leave, I said goodbye and thank you to the curator and heard something... an accent. One deep breath later and I had walked over to him to ask if he was French. "Non," he replied, "mais j'y ai véciu pendant huit ans."
He wasn't French but he had lived there for eight years, and although I didn't ask, it sounded like he was a native French-speaker from another Francophone country. We chatted for a while about my own studies and he complimented me on my French. Oh, my dears, you should have seen me, I was beaming! Finally, just as I began to bid him adieu, he asked if I was continuing to practice the language. I admitted a non but promised to join a French conversation group soon. And with that, plus an enchanté and a hand shake, I headed uptown to The Crooked Knife.The Crooked Knife is a French-style bistro serving American, Irish, and Italian food. I surprisingly managed to arrive early and chat with the waitress, who just happened to be French. I apparently could not escape it last night. Consequently, my friend that was on her way, studied French as well, in addition to being abroad in Strasbourg, and having a fascination with languages, and graduating from Newhouse with a degree in magazine journalism.
Her name is Agatha, and she is wonderful. We met, serendipitously enough, through a mutual work friend about three years ago and I have not seen her in two. As a result, we sat wining and dining for two and a half hours. We talked about all kinds of things but most relevant, at least to this blog, we spoke about France, food, and le joie de vivre. Translated the last phrase means, a joy of life, but it's so much more than that, and yet perhaps it's power can only be felt in it's French origin.
Four and a half years ago, Chris and I visited Marie in Paris for the first time. My grasp of the French language was at a beginner's level, at best, and still I found myself understanding it. Since then, four visits later, their general philosophy towards food, and living in general, has not once ceased to amaze me. Or Agatha, for that matter. Although I'll admit that these cultural themes are quite prevalent in most other foreign countries as well, or so I found in my own experience.To begin with, food is appreciated for the pleasure it brings. Taste and presentation is revered whether it be at the finest dining establishment or in the comfort of one's own home. As such, wine and bread can often be found on every table, alongside water, of course.
Second, quality is a prioritized. People eat food, real food, that is readily available in their region at the whichever season they may be in at that moment. This is not to say bananas aren't available year-round in large supermarkets, but that also doesn't necessarily mean that people are accustomed to buying them 12 months of the year, nor skimping out on the dandelion roots or leeks when truly fresh.Third, food is understood to be exactly what it is, nourishment. In today's day and age, it is difficult to not be informed about what is healthy and what is not, but people do not let them stop that from living. They eat well, for the most part, and don't let anxiety, fear, or despair distract them from other joys of life.
Now, as I sit on my desk, snacking on a multigrain Wasa cracker that is topped with Dark Chocolate Dreams and savoring a glass of Bordeaux, I think I get it. I have bookshelves full of nutrition books, I've experimented with multiple dietary styles, I seek out organic foods at the farmer's market, I focus on eating lots of green and I don't stress out when I don't. I finally care enough without caring too much. All there's left to do is sign up for a conversation group with Agatha at the French Institute Alliance Française...
P.S. I spent my evening watching my little brother graduate from high school.
I. feel. old. Mais c'est la vie, je suppose.