A French State of Mind

This isn’t a post about spending the summer in France IRL. 

While I am not a Francophile, it is fun to bring a tres petit amount of French culture into my summer.

It started when my meilleurs amis and I decided to move to Provence for our mystery book club this summer.  We are reading A Provencal Mystery Series by M.L. Longworth.  The mysteries are set in Aix-en-Provence.  We are already hooked!

There are other wonderful mysteries set in France that I have dabbled in.  One is the Aimee Leduc mysteries by Cara Black and the other is the Bruno, Chief of Police series. I am not confining my French reading to the new mystery series.  I also have the Paris Library and Madame Fourcade’s Secret War in the queue.

My meilleur ami and I have been reading books about French culture for a long time.  It started out with Entre Nous by Debra Ollivier in 2003 (still one of our favorites) and we moved on to all of the Mireille Guilliano ‘French Women’ books from there.  More recently, we have discovered the books by Tish Jett, but I don’t like them quite as well.  All of these are on my summer re-read list. 

I am expanding my cultural quest beyond reading to include food, wine and tea.  I rediscovered my very old Sunset French Cookbook that I purchased for $2.95 back in the late 70’s.  I also ordered Melissa Clark’s Dinner in France.   I have found recipes that I intend to try out on my husband.  He is very happy to be the guinea pig for my French cooking experiments! 

I made the shift to Sauvignon Blanc wine this spring.  I am trying various labels and it is fun to do some tasting (even though all of them aren’t from France).  I try to buy organic wine whenever possible.  I am even switching gears on my tea drinking.  I am going to give Murchies a rest and I ordered my favorite Kusmi tea – Russian Morning.  I first discovered Kusmi in Paris at our daughter’s suggestion.

On the viewing front, my husband and I are anxious to check out Lupin on Netflix.  We watched Balthazar (set in Paris about a quirky forensic pathologist) on Acorn TV and loved it.  I also have some catching up to do on Call My Agent on Netflix. 

Purely by chance, I stumbled across this website, Leonce/Chenal, a French lifestyle site. It is a one stop shop for French fashion/beauty/home/culture/lifestyle/food.

Finally, I pulled out the Longchamp bag I bought in Paris to use as my summer tote.

Voilà, I have a plan to integrate tres petit French ‘civilization’ into my summer!

“Real civilisation means an education that extends to the whole of life, in contradistinction to that of school or college: it means an education that forms speech, forms manners, forms taste, forms ideals, and above all forms judgment.”

Edith Wharton, French Ways and Their Meaning



Little Kidneys

I was re-reading one of the French Women books the other day.  Author Mireille uses the term, petits riens, which means little nothings that bring pleasure to life. When I looked it up on Google translate, I inadvertently spelled riens, reins, which means ‘little kidneys’.  Who knew what a difference transcribing a letter could make in French!

I also came across this blog post where the author describes her 8 Simple Pleasures to Enjoy After (or before) Age 60.  I am totally with her about a trip to Trader Joes.

Both of these inspired me to create my own list of simple and essential pleasures.  In addition to TJ’s,, my list includes:

  1. A tea latte made with soy and a piece of toast with organic butter in the morning
  2. Wine (organic) @ 5 with my husband
  3. Grayling stud earrings in aurora borealis (no longer available) and my Allbirds shoes
  4. A mystery book and a mystery on TV (Acorn, PBS, Amazon Prime, or Netflix – I’m not picky)
  5. A knitting project
  6. A Zoom date with friends
  7. A walk outside (providing it isn’t too cold, windy, or rainy)
  8. A card or letter waiting for me in the mail
  9. A Pentel Energel pen and a Paper Mate Sharpwriter #2 pencil
  10. A trip in the offing to see family or friends, or a jaunt to Europe in the works
  11. Blogging

As I came up with this list, two things struck me.  The first is that, except for #10, all of these simple and essential pleasures are doable even in a pandemic.  The second is that any diet that doesn’t include a soy latte, toast with butter and wine @ 5 is a non-starter!

When it comes to our petits riens we don’t need to know exactly what they add to the fullness of our experience; we need only to be open to the possibility that seeming trivialities may play a significant role in how we feel overall.

Mirelle Guiliano, French Women for All Seasons

What are your petis riens?

I will be back on Wednesday.