Thursday, June 24, 2010

paris in mind

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.


  1. ahhh le joie de vivre...makes me miss living/studying in europe oh so much! I do love the french language but only took it a few months, however, I did speak french when young thanks to my mother's best friend who is french. In school I studied spanish but every teacher has told me my french pronunciation is right on...and I think it has to do with my foodie mother who made me croissant, etc in the true french way. An the carefree way of life the french have is so beautiful...especially with food!

    It sounds like you had a wonderful dinner with your friend..and congrats to your brother. What a beautiful family!

  2. Thank you for touching on this european attitude- I noticed the same habits when traveling - an appreciation for rich foods, but never an overabundance of it. America's obsession with "lite" foods has clearly steered is in the wrong direction. Sigh.

    I agree with Claire - you and your bro and sis are all bee-ooo-ti-ful!

  3. Congrats on finally "getting it"--that is something to be envied for sure in our culture.
    Congratulations to your brother!

  4. couldn't have said it better myself. you know i adore the european attitude, and i think you nailed it exactly here. no matter how long it took us, i am so glad that we both "get it" now.

    ps: congrats to your brother!

  5. claire: Beautiful and delicious. Thank you, sweetheart!

    crunchygranolagal: So very true. Thanks, love!

    BroccoliHut: Thank you so much darling, it's been quite the ride :).

    leslie: Go us ;) thanks, I'll send it along!

  6. "I finally care enough without caring too much"-- I love it! you've got such a great balance girl, and really set a great example for so many girls alike :)

    Everything looks delicious... how posh is that wasa+ dcd snack?!
    Hope you are having another fab day filled with good company and good food!! xoxox

  7. Jesslikesithot: Aw, thank you sweetheart. I hope the same for you!


Penny for your thoughts...