Some things are simply universal. Chocolate is one of them. I prefer mine dark, and I like to dip it in my coffee. That said, I love milk and white chocolate too. And in case of an emotional emergency (you know what I am talking about, right?), I swear by a spoonful of Nutella. It usually does the trick. And I don’t think I am the only one. Friends of mine even have had the whole pot, but that’s a tad too much for me. But hey, who am I to judge? We all have different ways of coping.
This morning I went for a run in Battersea Park. To cut a long story short, I have stepped up my running (I will write about it in the near future. Watch this space). London was sunny and in full bloom, and I had a great time. Me being me, I posted a picture on Twitter and Instagram. A couple of minutes later, I had a comment from a follower saying ‘Great day for running in heels…’. Of course it was a joke, and it was light-hearted, but there it was: the good old-fashioned myth that we French women are always perfectly groomed and run in heels. In fact, I rarely wear heels. I only wear them when I have a formal outing, which doesn’t happen very often as I am becoming more and more asocial. So tell me, what happens when beliefs are based on misinformation? How can we change them?
Don’t get me wrong, this was anodyne compared to all the comments I had to endure over the last ten years (In no particular order: we French women don’t care when our husbands are unfaithful, we don’t get fat and remain glamorous in all circumstances, we are sex goddesses with a busy love life -as if…-).
Being French, I must admit that I had rarely seen men wearing cufflinks in my home country. Don’t get me wrong, it must have happened a few times, but it was for special occasions only. And it was the epitome of chic -some French friends were even saying that it was a tad too much. I remember thinking that it was a bit like jewellery for men. In fact, I was very impressed. And I quickly forgot about it.
Little did I know that, over here, cufflinks are just replacements for shirt buttons; you can get shirts without buttons, purposely made for cufflinks, everywhere -in fact, come to think of it, most formal shirts are supposed to be worn with cufflinks. It is a nice touch, it looks elegant and smarter. All you need to do is to put the cufflinks through and turn the thing at the end so it forms a T-shape. Voila!
Everybody wears cufflinks over here. No need for a special occasion. No need to be a banker. It’s everywhere. Some even wear them with jeans and nobody bats an eyelid. It came to a surprise to me.
I grew up on fruits compotes. In our farm in Provence, when our trees had produced too many apples or too many peaches, we used to make compotes with my grandmother. It was delicious, and we would feast on compotes during a few days, and preserve the rest throughout the year. I remember the smell and the autumn light. Ah, memories!
When we moved to London, I soon realised that compotes were just for babies and toddlers this side of the Channel. People simply didn’t know what it was. Is compote a juice? Or maybe a smoothie? No, absolutely not.
So what is compote?
Well, a compote is a recipe consisting of some sort of fruit, fresh or dried, that has been stewed in a syrup and sometimes other flavouring. The fruit in a compote can be whole or puréed. When a compote is made with dried fruit, the fruit is typically soaked in water first. Compote recipes are sometimes made with brandy, rum or liqueur. Compote can be enjoyed warm or cold.
Compotes are generally composed by boiling whole or dices of fruit in a simple syrup. The syrup is usually spiced or blended with other ingredients to enhance the fruit’s flavour, and balance the sweetness. This type of compote is generally served on its own as a dessert rather than being spread on bread or pancakes like jam. It’s usually quite runny, and would just make the bread too soggy anyway. Once again, compote is, in France, a dessert in its own right.
But isn’t it a bit like jam?
Not at all. You see, jam is made from whole or diced fruit heated with a small amount of either the fruit’s juice or water and sugar until the mixture begins to gel. When jarred, the pulp of the fruit remains in the mixture and is not strained. It is also only semi-firm. It is also more sugary than compote.
Compote is, well, just compote.
It was all over the press, and I read about it this morning. Apparently, women were barred from the Cannes festival for not wearing high heels. The irony was that, while reading all the articles -and despite being French- I was wearing my black leggings that I bought on sale, my old trainers that I can’t manage to throw away, and my torn T-shirt. Nowadays I seem to be living in my running gear. Except if I have to go out, that is. Obviously if I have to go somewhere posh I will adapt myself. If not, well, I live in London now, and my neighbour bought his morning newspapers in his bathrobe yesterday anyway. So what’s wrong with my running gear again? Nothing, right? And fear not, it’s not flashy. It’s just, well, black. See, I am still (a bit) French.
I am thrilled to report that my second column is now available…Enjoy without moderation!
As I am French, my friends keep coming to me for advice on their relationships. I will never understand why. That’s just the way it is, I suppose, and I had to learn to accept it. Today was no exception. A friend asked me what the best food for a date was. Me being me, I blurted out that for a date all I would care about would be the after-dessert course. What can I say? I am incorrigible. And French. As I think I shocked him, I decided to give the matter some more thoughts, and eventually came up with a more detailed answer. So here it is: this is what I should have told him.
Read the rest here…
I don’t know whether it has something to do with age, or whether I am grumpy just because it’s Monday, but here it is: I can’t take unsolicited advice any longer. I have reached breaking point. I just can’t stand the insufferable know-it-alls who dispense unwanted advice as if their lives depended on it. They can’t help it, they have to share their wisdom at every possible opportunity. And to make matters even worse, they usually have to generalise their own experiences. And embellish them of course. Because it’s for my own benefit, right?
Well, here is a newsflash for you: I. Can’t. Take. It. Shut. The. F*$@k. Up.
Do. It. Now.
Obviously, when you are a woman, you receive double the amount of unwanted advice than a guy would get. That’s just the way it is. For instance, when you have to tell friends and colleagues that you are pregnant (which, for the record, I am not. The factory is closed), the one thing you may not have anticipated is the advice overload that will come your way. Now that your belly is showing, everyone wants to manage your pregnancy. Lovely.
It often looks like we French have invented love. Maybe, just like we talk about French kisses, we should also talk about ‘French love’ instead of simply talking about love. OK, I will speak my mind, and I am in a romantic mood tonight anyway. So here it is: I believe that we French have invented the best love stories of all times. There it is: I said it. I might be wrong, but it’s just how I feel. And if you don’t believe me, here are three love stories that will shake you to the core. Read them or watch them if you don’t believe me. I dare you.
Everybody knows that we French take a whole month off in August. But what you probably don’t know is that it is simply impossible to do any sort of business in France in May. Take my word for it: don’t even try. Why? Because we have at least four Bank holidays and, in my home country, Bank holidays don’t necessarily fall on a Monday. It can be any day.
If you don’t believe it, here is a quick recap of all the days off in France this month:
– 1st of May (A Friday this year)
– 8th of May (A Friday this year)
– 14th of May (A Thursday. This means that most French will ‘make the bridge’ and take Friday off as well. Don’t even try to call anyone in France today)
– 25th of May (A Monday this time)
This basically means that 5 days are off, and I have to do the same amount of work when all of France seems to be enjoying the sun somewhere nice (while it is grey or pouring in London, if you must know). My French friends and family don’t understand what the fuss is all about. They feel that they are entitled to the additional time. This Gallic sense of entitlement is driving me mad.
In London, things can easily get too intense. We just never stop. I am sometimes so busy that I forget to have lunch. Believe me, this would never happen in France (As a matter of fact, it has never happened to me in France). I wonder where this social pressure is coming from. I suppose it what makes London, well, what it is. That said, I must admit that I needed a break. It must have been karma, because shortly afterwards I received an invitation to try out Spa London‘s Signature treatment: Cleopatra Milk & Honey Ritual. I had to accept. You see, it was research. It was work. At least that was my excuse.
I love going to spas, but somehow I never find the time. Don’t get me wrong, I have tried many, many times. But, you see, I am a simple girl. I hate places that are too clinical, where they talk slowly, and take themselves far too seriously. I also hate products that smell like artificial sweets, and have complicated names. I once laughed at the face of the therapist who wanted to put a stinking cream with some caviar in it on my face (please!). The thought of having fish eggs on my face was just too much.
As a result, I usually go the the cheapest option around, and only for the most basic treatments (waxing anyone?). This means that I often end up in the basement of a hairdresser or a nail salon for a few minutes of torture (yes, even threading bloody hurts).