Saturday, February 18, 2006

Incipient Thoughts in Gaul

Pastry of the day:
Le macaron n. a small round cake, hard on the exterior and soft inside, made with crushed almonds, sugar and egg whites. It was Pierre Desfontaines, grandson of Louis Ernest Ladurée, who, in the beginning of the 20th century, had the idea to adjoin the cookies two by two and to fill them with cream. La Durée is said (by myself and most Parisians and gourmets) to have the best macarons in Paris. Popular flavors include: vanilla, coffee, chocolate, pistachio, raspberry, caramel and Amaretto. All flavors promise an orgasm in your mouth; I will personally give you your euros back if you don’t like it.

Thoughts on… 28/10/04
Today was my first day of work in MEC:Sponsorship at Mediaedge CIA. I learned the following:
How to fit in with the French at work:
1. arrive at approximately 9:30 am and spend the first hour at work walking back and forth from the coffee machine talking to co-workers
2. at exactly 1 pm, take a 1-2 hour lunch break, sit in a café, have a salad, some steak frites and a dessert and then sip your tiny cup of syrup-like coffee slowly as you go through your second pack of cigarettes of the day
3. take cigarette breaks every 5-10 minutes
4. spend the last hour of work listening to French music and chatting away on the telephone or with co-workers
5. leave the office before 7 pm unless there is an emergency situation
And I can’t forget to include the following national holidays considered to be “jours fériers” and, thus, all French offices are CLOSED (based on 2004 dates, but apply every year as appropriate :)
1 January - New Year's Day
12 April - Easter Monday
1 May - Labor Day
8 May - Fête de la Victoire 1945 (VE Day - WWII Victory Day)
20 May - Ascension Day
31 May - Whit Monday
14 July - Bastille Day
15 August - Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
1 November - All Saints' Day
11 November - Armistice Day
25 December - Christmas Day
26 December – Second day of Christmas (only in Alsace and Lorraine, but it is, of course, socially acceptable and often encouraged to take off from work the weeks before and after “Noël”)
And we Americans think we’re lucky that we can skip work on the last Thursday of November to eat Turkey…

Pastry of the day:
*Le palmier: (palm yay): A small pastry or petit four sec made of rolled, sugared puff pastry and millions of pounds of butter, cut into heart-shaped slices and baked. Known to many ignorant Americans as an “elephant ear cookie,” a true French palmier is more gooey than flaky and, when consumed correctly, permits one to sample pre-mortem heaven.

You may have heard of the British television cult hit, “What Not to Wear” (a terrible Americanized version has also made it across the Atlantic to TLC). Here’s my adapted version:

“What Not to Eat (in Paris)”

Lesson #1: Foie Gras

Why not?: When said five times fast, “foie gras” sounds like a romantic ode sung by French lovers, but, in actuality, it is the oversized liver of a force-fed goose or duck. Farmers begin force-feeding the birds when they are between 8 and 10 weeks old. Two pounds of grain and fat is shoved down their throats every day by a feeding tube, a process known as gavage. The birds' livers become engorged and can grow to more than 10 times their normal size and 12 times the weight. They often have difficulty standing, and they tear out their own feathers and attempt to cannibalize one another as a result of stress. One classic presentation for hot foie gras involves first studding the liver with brandy-soaked truffles, putting a bay leaf on top, wrapping the whole in bacon and then in a pig's caul -- the fatty membrane that lines the abdominal cavity. This can be baked in a terrine or sealed in a pastry shell, the purpose of which is to absorb the grease released during cooking. Bon appétit!

Today’s edition of Le Figaro featured the following statistic: 71% of French people support Kerry. 11% support Bush. They didn’t say anything about the other 18%, but I can see where shopping and eating might take precedence over following current events in this country. This front-page article also noted that, for 82% of French people, Bush has made the world “plus dangereux” (“more dangerous”). The subsequent conversation has, give or take a few words, occurred (almost: see second taxicab confession) every time I have taken a taxi since crossing the Atlantic:
Me: 84 Avenue Foch, s’il vous plait.
Taxi driver (in French): Where are you from?
Me: America.
Taxi driver: Oh really. Who are you voting for? [before I can respond:] We like Kerry here. We don’t agree with the war in Iraq. Bush is dangerous for the whole world. You should vote for Kerry… eiryeiuruieiorueirei fdkfjdk oe fjdkfjdkfdifudifu! [translation: 15-20 minutes of lecturing about the war in Iraq, Bush’s war record, comparisons with the French government and why Britney Spears is a bad influence for young children]

HOWEVER, the following exchange occurred last weekend when I, thanks to a small miracle, actually found an empty taxi in the city of Paris at 4 am on a Saturday, a rarity that can be compared to Paris Hilton sporting classy attire:
Me: 84 Avenue Foch, s’il vous plait.
Taxi driver (in French): Where are you from?
Me: America.
Taxi driver (as his eyes light up like the Eiffel Tower during the first seven minutes of every hour from 6 p.m. on:) (and, may I add, in English) BUSH GOOD! BUSH GOOD! LIKE BUSH!

November 2nd can’t come soon enough.
How to see a movie in Paris:
1. Arrive at least 30 minutes prior to start time.
2. Wait in line for the “caisse” to buy your tickets.
3. Pay for your tickets.
4. Go outside and join another line specific to the film you want to see.
5. Wait in this line until exactly two minutes before the movie starts when the tight-lipped usher finally permits you to enter the theater.
6. Buy a Magnum ice cream bar.
7. Find a seat.
8. Leave your jacket on your seat then receive deathly glares from the people sitting next to you as you make your way to the aisle.
9. Go to the “Toilettes” which will be located inside the theater itself.
10. Pretend not to notice the deathly glares from the people next to you as you force them to stand up to let you back into your seat.
11. Eat your rapidly melting magnum bar as you watch 15 minutes of amusingly ridiculous advertisements and previews of American movies you’ve already seen months ago.
12. Sit back, relax and enjoy the show!

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