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.”