Très Elégant

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Today I’m having a crisis of Americanness.  What if every single thing I do in France is judged to be crude, colonial, brash, and New World in the worst way?  Even more distressing to contemplate, what if no one there loves my cooking?  Take this little chocolate pudding, complete with its adorable truffle and light-catching shard of cocoa nib brittle; now that’s something I’d serve to any French guest without a worry.  It’s structured and chic and soothingly traditional.  But although I made and served that pudding with pleasure, the truth is that I’m much more likely to serve my guests something like this

which is admittedly still gorgeous, still delicious, but…rustic.  Primitive.  Not refined.  Sauvage.  American.

Of course this crisis isn’t entirely about food, as few things are.  I look in the mirror and my clothes are hopeless, my jewelry juvenile, even my hair looks too American.  I have really no idea how a woman of my age, une femme d’un certain âge, is expected to comport herself in France.  My personal style is to say what I think, dress any old way, and do what I like.  So New World.

It’s ironic, because in wine my tastes are decidedly Old World.  Give me a classic, understated, subtle, complex, and yes, elegant wine any day.  Give me one every day, in fact.  But my preference for elegance really goes no further than my glass, and I think that will come through loud and clear in France.  Actually, that’s a great description of my approach to life: loud and clear.

I’m trying to remember myself as I am today, knowing I’ll be changing soon.  I’m utterly certain that no one will ever say “Voilà une Americaine très élégante” about me.  But perhaps, like wine aged in France, I could become more understated, subtle, and complex.  No, scratch the “more complex” part, my husband would have to kill me if I were any harder to live with!

I wonder if the French have an expression analogous to our “it is what it is.”  I think that needs to be my new mantra, at least for the next 11 days.  After that, it’ll become “c’est la vie.”

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7 Comments on “Très Elégant”

  1. Annie Says:

    Hopefully the only thing that will change about you is that you’ll speak better French.
    12 months from now we expect the same old Abra back!

  2. Chrissy Says:

    Are you an amazing photographer as well, or is that Shel? Wow!


  3. Oh Abra, I know how you feel.

    I’m moving to the UK in 2 weeks, and I keep worrying that I dress too young, too old, too un-student-like (that’s a word, yes it is!), too something dreadfully wrong!

  4. abrabennett Says:

    Well then, milady, we’ll we practically neighbors. But I’m sure that as my French and my photography skills improve, my worries will diminish, and I hope yours will too.

  5. eileen Says:

    Unless you are going to be living in Paris, I think you will find you fit right in. Women in the rural areas of France appreciate the rustic everyday-ness of what’s fresh from the fields, and are concerned more with the pleasures of life than the pleasures of shopping in the couturiers. I am so jealous! My husband and I are going to Provence for 10 days, and I wish it could be forever.

    You will be loved and respected. Have no doubts!


  6. ‘What if every single thing I do in France is judged to be crude, colonial, brash, and New World in the worst way? Even more distressing to contemplate, what if no one there loves my cooking?”

    Abra,
    Find that impossible to imagine! So happy for you to experience this adventure and looking forward to following your year through your blog! Your way with words lets us almost imagine we’re in France too!

    Serving your Green Chili Cheesecake with Tropical Salsa, star fruit included at a huge event this weekend!

  7. Malarkey Says:

    Abra,
    I don’t really think you have to worry about being perceived as ‘sauvage’ in the french countryside. I think simple and rustic fare is wholly appreciated. Always be yourself, your sincerity and passion for food & cooking will come through, and you will bond with the people there who feel the same. Course, that being said, and I can totally identify with what you are feeling. I’d be worrying about the same thing. I’m so looking forward to reading your blog throughout the year!!


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