Wednesday, December 27, 2006

‘Twas the Night before Christmas

by Jack Frost de Leffler

'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through Paris, France
Not a store was open, not even to buy pants;
My menorah was mounted by the chimney with care,
In hopes that Hanukah Harry soon would be there;
I was planning Chinese and a movie, like any good Jew,
Perhaps an afternoon showing of “It’s a Wonderful Life” with some pork à la moo-shoo? ;
A bottle of Sancerre and a large Evian were on tap,
As I settled onto my couch for a long winter’s nap,
When my phone started to vibrate, it caused such a clatter,
It was Aurelie, I said “what’s the matter?”.
Our friend Corinne had been rushed to the hospital in a flash,
About to give birth to her baby, getting ready for diaper rash.
So we hopped on our horses and trudged through the snow,
No just kidding, this is 2006 of course we traveled by metro,
We brought a gourmet Christmas dinner, have no fear,
Guided by a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer,
“I’m celebrating Christmas,” I thought, ‘Am I going to hell?’
What’s the harm in a little tree and visit from Père Noel?
It was my Christmas mitzvah, Moses would be proud,
The reindeer were even Jewish, so we yelled their names out loud,
‘Now Dasherstein! now, Klezmer Dancer! now, Prancercohen and Rabbi Vixen!
On, Cometchaim! On, Challah Cupid! on Prima Donner and Cantor Blitzen!
To the top of the Eiffel Tower! to the edge of the Seine!
Trying to avoid deportation from Jean-Marie Le Pen!
We prepared a gourmet feast of scallops, salmon tiramisu, fancy French cheeses, foie gras, and chocolate cake,
A bit different than the traditional brisket and latkes my Mommaleh used to make,
So up to the hospital we flew to see Mary,
She was in the maternity ward, which wasn’t so scary.
We were like the Magi bringing gifts and cheer,
Even though Baby Jesus wasn’t quite ready to come out, but the doctors said the coast was clear.
And then, in a twinkling, we dined under the roof
Using plastic knives to cut our filets de boeuf.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the hallway the nurses came with a bound,
We offered them something to eat, an alternative from their gross hospital turkey and gravy,
It’s the least we could do until the arrival of the baby.
A bundle of Toys we had flung on our backs,
We fit so many Christmas decorations into Aurélie’s backpack.
Corinne was thrilled - her eyes-how they twinkled! her dimples how merry!
Her cheeks were like roses, her nose like a cherry!
She had a pretty face but a little round belly,
And we made sure to add to our foie gras a bowlful of fig jelly.
We piled the presents by the tree on the shelf,,
and I was so happy to do this mitzvah, I felt good about myself;
With a wink of her eye and a twist of her head,
We decided to leave and head off to bed.
There was not a taxi in the whole city,
So we waited in the cold, the site was not pretty,
But finally – a Christmas miracle! – a taxi appeared,
Much sooner than we all had feared;
We hailed the bright yellow sleigh, to the cabbie gave a whistle,
and away we all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard someone exclaim, ‘ere we drove out of sight,
‘Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good-night.’

Monday, December 11, 2006


Those crazy frogs are at it again. Here's what they're saying ... and why (according to advanced etymological theories courtesy of yours truly).

Crazy French Expression: Purée!
Meaning: damn!/heck!/a nicer way of saying Putain! (F—k!)
Literal Meaning: mashed potatoes
Leffler's Etymological Theory: "I'm so upset I feel like someone mashed me up … like a potato!"

Crazy French Expression: Oh, la vache!
Meaning: wow! Gosh!
Literal Meaning: Oh, the cow!
Leffler's Etymological Theory: In France, cows are exciting animals. Thus, seeing a cow begets feelings of exclamation and bewilderment.

Crazy French Expression: Il pleut comme vaches qui pissent.
Meaning: It's raining cats and dogs/ It's pouring.
Literal Meaning: It's raining like peeing cows.
Leffler's Etymological Theory: French cows urinate with intensity.

Crazy French Expression: Parler français comme une vache espagnole.
Meaning: To murder the French language.
Literal Meaning: To speak French like a Spanish cow.
Leffler's Etymological Theory: Spanish cows don't speak very good French. (I'll be sure never to take a cow named Fernando to dinner in these parts.)

And enough with the cows…What is with these people and their cows? They do make good cheese though, I guess I can't complain. Anyway ...

Crazy French Expression: Avoir la gueule de bois.
Meaning: To have a hangover.
Literal Meaning: To have a face of wood.
Leffler's Etymological Theory: If you've ever had too much French wine, you know what they're talking about.

Crazy French Expression: Avoir un chat dans la gorge
Meaning: To have a frog in one's throat.
Literal Meaning: To have a cat in one's throat.
Leffler's Etymological Theory: In France, frogs legs are a delicacy so lots of people literally do have frogs in their throat all the time. Cats, however, are more rare. Or, perhaps, French people have larger throats so a tiny little frog won't make one hoarse – it takes a large feline.

Crazy French Expression: Faire une galette.
Meaning: To vomit.
Literal Meaning: To make a pancake.
Leffler's Etymological Theory: French people vomit on their pancakes.

That's all for today, stay tuned for CRAZY FRENCH EXPRESSIONS: Part Deux. With Parts Trois, Quatre and maybe even Cinq to follow. Hey, Stallone just came out with another Rocky movie, eet eez posseebull.


Oh the weather outside is frightful…And, no there's nothing delightful about it off the top of my head (perhaps it's the large wool hat covering it). I love Paris in the Springtime … I love Paris in the Fall … But what the f- ...oie gras am I supposed to do in Paris in the winter? Goodbye days of strolling along the Seine, sitting on the "terrasse" of a café for hours on end, running through the Luxembourg Gardens, walking all around the city ice cream cone in hand, people-watching at Café Flore. And Bonjour to thick scarves, travel by metro, and cramming indoors. Okay okay, so there are far worse places to be in the winter (Hanover, NH immediately comes to mind). While I will have to take a hiatus from Amorino's head-sized cones of gelato, endless walks along the Seine contemplating my existence and making out passionately on the Pont des Arts for hours with tall, gorgeous French men (ok let's be honest, that's not even a frequent activity in any season), there are ways to pass the (daylight savings) time during l'hiver à Paris. Here are my top 10 ways to stay warm in Paris in the winter.

10) Drink Warm Beverages

The Classic: Hot Chocolate at Flore
The French Traditional: Thé sur le Nil from Mariages Frères
The "Yes, I'm American, so What?": Chai Tea Latte from Starbucks
The "Wow That's a Lot of Foamy Milk": Cappuccino at Les Philosophes
The Disgusting: Vin Chaud from Just About Anywhere

9) Take Line 4

Traditionally known as the Porte de Clignacourt-Porte d'Orléans line, La Ligne 4 is more famous for being perhaps a warmer location than a metal-filled beach on the Equator. Not only is the temperature always fluctuating between a crisp 150-298 degrees (and I'm talking Celsius here), but be sure to take advantage of the body heat factor as you'll definitely be pressed up against your neighbor as you cram into the cars like sardines and enjoy the "Eau de Body Odor" as you inhale the humid air.

8) Eat Comfort Food

The Classic: Croque Madame from Les Editeurs. A large slice of Poilane bread, gobs of creamy Bechamel sauce, slices of ham topped with a thick layer of gooey melted Gruyère and a fried egg. They try to give you a small side salad to maintain some degree of health and equilibrium, but don't be fooled, ask for French fries on the side instead, they will concede.
The Healthy: Fresh Soups from Cojean. Pumpkin with Vanilla, Eggplant and Coriander, Tomato/Coconut/Lemon … the varieties are endless, sinless and delicious.
The Italiano: Penne ai Bisi at L'Altro. Pennette with a thick, cream of pea sauce with crispy slices of ham served piping hot with unlimited fresh bread and parmesan cheese. Or any of their pasta dishes really, you can't go wrong – linguini with pumpkin sauce and pecorino cheese, penne with radicchio and gorgonzola, not to mention the best chocolates ever in life served with their coffee.
The Sucré: Tarte Tatin from Les Philosophes. I owe much of my happiness to the Tatin Sisters, God Bless them wherever they are, for their mere quarrel years ago that turned an ordinary apple tart upside down, carmelized it and served it hot complemented with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, has changed my life forever. Les Philosophes does a mean version, both in the traditional apple dessert and also a tomato appetizer variety.

7) Steal a Warm Coat

I am not a thief. Au contraire, I am a victim of thiefdom (thiefness? Thiefety? Oh right, theft – apologies, but my eengleesh is leaving something to be desired these days). The scene: Cuisine de Bar, rue Cherche-Midi in the 6th. Circa 2 PM on a Wednesday. The Lefflers – yes, all four were in town – sit down for a casual meal of tartines. We hang our jackets on the coat racks adjacent to our table. There are tartines, there is salade, there are cafés, and then, hélas!, it is time to go. We all retrieve our jackets from the coat racks. All of us, that is, except for me. Yes, alas, my brand new Tara Jarmon coat has been removed from its hook, and not by its rightful owner (read: moi). I will spare you the details of what followed, but the point is this. If you are cold – and lacking morals – then why not steal a warm coat? Invade the coat check at a fancy restaurant when the girl handling them is in the bathroom. Or, better yet, put on a black dress or tuxedo and stand in front of said fancy restaurant and ask "Can I take your coat, Monsieur/Madame?" then run off into the night with a warm Chanel parka (and maybe even a Hermès scarf if you're lucky). Or, perhaps easier, just have lunch at the Cuisine de Bar, you can have your pick of the season's hottest trends in fashionable insulation. Trust me.

6) Live on the 6th Floor in a Building Without an Elevator

By the time you arrive at your door, you will be ready to open all the windows, take off all of your clothes and pour ice down your back. Trust me.

5) Join a Gym

I am by no means endorsing exercise (hello, I'm French now, my only form of exercise consists of raising pastries to my lips, running to catch the bus I'm about to miss almost every morning, or punching slow-walking tourists as I attempt to navigate through the crowded streets of St Germain des Pres with 15 bags of groceries.), however, I recommend just joining Club Med gym, and standing in the main workout room. It smells like the armpit of a Frenchman who has bathed in cheese and hasn't taken a shower in 15 years, but you will sweat those winter worries away, I promise. They also have a sauna.

4) Take the Bus

This is a double whammy. Not only do the buses here all have heat (God Bless the RATP!!), but they never tend to arrive when I do and the next one can take up to 20 minutes, so it is necessary to run after said bus as fast as my heel-ridden legs can carry me when I see it in the distance. I'm proud to say I've clocked my fasted time from Odéon-the rue de Rennes Monoprix as a victorious 40.3 seconds. I will take on all challengers (or at least those wearing heels). I take the 39 bus to work every morning and, by the end of the winter, I will have calves of steel, you just wait.

3) Get a Slingbox

(see previous entry for details) This incredible demonstration of the miracle of technology is called the Slingbox, but a more appropriate name might be "Reason to Not Leave Couch Ever Again." I mean what could be better than a hot date with Dr McDreamy, with the heat turned up to maximum temp, in comfortable pajamas and a cup of hot cocoa in hand, to combat the cold? (Don't answer that, I know what you're thinking, but, admit it, it is a wonderful alternative.)

2) Shake What Your Maman Gave Ya

If staying in isn't your thing (you obviously don't own a slingbox), then I recommend a hot night at Le Baron to get the blood rushing through your veins for the following reasons. A) You can dance until the French cows come home or the fat (or more like skinny model doing coke in this place) lady sings or until you're sweating to the tune of Justin Timberlake or old school hip hop beats. B) The tiny space and large crowd ensure a minimum inside temperature of 171 degrees (298 on the dance floor). C) You'll almost definitely run into your favorite hot celebrity. I saw Romain Duris there the other night and don't think I'll be cold again until March at the latest. And D) They sell alcohol. Point finale!

1) Body Heat

Find French lover. Bring he/she home. Your electric bill will thank you.