My Favorite French Things

I have suffered from a wicked case of Francophilia ever since I sat in my first French class at 14 years of age and had to repeat over and over again: "Je joue au tennis aujourd'hui." But my affliction has raged out of control lately and I can't quite figure out why. Here are my guesses:

  • With the new job and the winter weather, I feel an overwhelming need to be self-possessed and in control - all the things I imagine a beautiful Frenchwoman to be.

  • I've whipped out all my big sweaters and boots, which make me feel all sophisticated and French-y.

  • There's nothing je ne sais quoi about me...and I sort of wish there was.

  • I've been stuck in a day-to-day rut and feeling the need to re-introduce beautiful things into my life.

I've also encountered lots of fabulous French-related things lately that have added fuel to the fire:

  • I read this blurb in PW that brought The Pillow Book of Lotus Lowenstein by Libby Schmais to my attention. My lovely friends at Random House sent me a copy and I can't wait to start it.

  • There's this odd little French place in the building where I work: Sud de France. It's on the ground level and huge windows allow you to see everything going on. I haven't been able to discern quite what it is they do, but I know they have dinner parties, display art, and seem to have lots of wine. And naturally everyone that works there is all young and fabulous. Doesn't it seem like a great place to work? Even though it's unclear what they do...

  • One of my favorite French-related books: Immoveable Feast: A Paris Christmas by John Baxter. Perfect reading for this time of year. (Note: I loved it before I ever started working at Harper and discovered it was a Harper book) I also found this wonderful interview with John Baxter, all about his life in Paris. Baxter, I think, gives a more accessible glimpse of the expat life than, say, Adam Gopnik (whose work I also love).

  • This post at My French Kitchen is additional evidence I'm living in the wrong country. Hell, Ronell's entire blog is evidence of that.

  • Bike-riding (referred to here)
  • Yves-Saint Laurent's Experience Parisienne blog is blissful and inspiring. Full of beautiful, beautiful things.

  • I recently re-read Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging: Confessions of Georgia Nicolson by Louise Rennison. I forgot about all the French language bits in the book. In particular, I dog-eared page 14 in my paperback copy where Georgia and the ace gang walk around town asking people for directions in French. Hilarity ensues. Or you can just swear like Georgia: "Sacre bleu. Merde. Poo."

  • For more French reading, I can't recommend Madame Pamplemousse and Her Incredible Edibles enough. Written by Rupert Kingfisher, it is refined, quaint, and delightful. I reviewed it here. And in the process of writing this blurb, I found out that there was a sequel, Madame Pamplemousse and the Time-Travelling Cafe! I have written to the powers-that-be, begging for a review copy (though I think it might have only released in the UK).

  • French mints. Several weeks ago we had some friends over for dinner (Molly, Jen, and Heather) and Heather brought these Li-Lac Chocolate Mints with her. Not only were they beautifully packaged, but they were delectable: delicate, balanced, and decadent.

  • Here are some picture book suggestions for Francophile parents and their children: The Enemy by Davide Cali and Serge Bloch (Schwartz & Wade, 2009), For Just One Day by Laura Leuck, illustrated by Marc Boutavant - any of Marc's books, really (Chronicle, 2009), Big Rabbit's Bad Mood by Ramona Badescu, illustrated by Delphine Durand (Chronicle, 2009), My Goldfish by Barroux (Eerdmans, 2009), Adele & Simon by Barbara McClintock (FSG, 2006), and of course Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans (Viking, 1939). And then when you've finished your literary tour, watch Ratatouille.

Eat, drink, and use that damn passport.


Jen Hubert Swan said...

Can I add a book that added muchly to my trip to Paris last year?

French Milk by Lucy Knisley


And you are SO je ne sais quoi--beautiful, mysterious--there's depths behind those laughing eyes:)

Unknown said...

Maybe je ne sais quoi...but so much more neuroses!

Jen, I don't know if you saw this but I blogged a review of French Milk back in February 2008: http://pinotandprose.blogspot.com/2008/02/review-french-milk-by-lucy-knisley.html. I loved the book, though I haven't seen it since S&S repackaged it. I'm soooo glad to hear that it added to your trip - that's a wonderful compliment to Lucy's book! I'll be sure to re-read French Milk when I go back to France...someday...someday!

Mônica said...

And can I also add another series of picture books? Rita and Whatsit (Rita et Machin) by Jean-Philippe Arrou-Vignod and Olivier Tallec, about a strong and opinionated little French girl and her philosophical pooch. These two crack me up... I fell in love with these characters and now own the whole series in French. Their latest book, "Rita et Machin à Paris", describes their adventures in the most famous spots of Paris. Absolutely delightful!

Unknown said...

Oh, Monica! As I didn't already adore you enough, but now I discover that you get my "French thing"! I am aware of the Rita and Whatsit books but have yet to read them - and in French! They have a set of three available through le Amazon francais - I've got my eye on it...

LaurieA-B said...

My favorite book set in France-- my favorite book about Christmas in Paris-- and actually, perhaps my very favorite BOOK--is Family Sabbatical by Carol Ryrie Brink. Out of print, so look for it.

We love some Adele and Simon at our house too.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the nod Laura!
SO nice to meet another cook(I'm no baker either) and yes, use tht passport!