Welcome to the one month anniversary of Transatlantic Parallel with my divine partner, Jeanne-Aelia Desparmet-Hart creator of the stunning blog Through the French Eye of Design.
If you’re not familiar with our on-going virtual conversation about our experiences living on opposite sides of the Atlantic — she married to an American and moi to a Frenchman — let me explain: Each week we discuss and dissect the local mores, dwelling on those with which we have come to terms in our own (ladylike) ways: resignation, reconciliation or rebellion.
As you may know, we agree upon the subjects for debate through a series of undercover e-mails and then go to work on the cultural curiosities we like, dislike, or seriously dislike. (Sometimes you’ll note we flip allegiances and prefer the traditions of our new lands as opposed to what we left behind.)
We see each other’s posts the same moment you do.
This week’s topics:
1.) Air Kissing (Just you wait. . .)
2.) Paper plates, napkins and all the rest. (You can probably imagine.)
3.) Restaurants versus dining chez les amis.
KISS, KISS, KISS
Call it “air kissing,” call it anything you like — deep breath, I’m about to take a stand — I love it. Yes I do. Remember I’m talking about performing the ritual in France. In France it is not an affectation, it is a greeting.
I’m not wildly crazy over all the bear-hugging, back-patting and sometimes lip-smacking, smack on the lips that goes on in the States. I sort of like the bear-hugging, back-patting among men and on the contrary, I’m not wild about air-kissing man-to-man in France.
Since I can only speak from my experience, Jeanne-Aelia can correct me on the etiquette involved, most Frenchmen I know give a lovely, quick, discreet little kiss on each cheek. Some women do, most do not, but often cheeks touch, bodies never do.
That’s all I know. Nobody kisses anyone on the mouth unless there’s something more going on than, “hello, how are you?” That would translate as, “hello, see you later.”
If you wish to incorporate the tradition into your life, go for the right cheek first, then the left. I wouldn’t want you to hurt yourself in a mid-air collision.
Above you see Carla Bruni-Sakozy and Letizia of Spain setting up for their air-kiss. The other kiss is a bise en plein-air. Significant difference as you can see.
The Paper Trial
Paper plates and other paper and plastic items used for dining purposes: I see no point in being coy. I hate them. I do not care how sturdy they are, how well designed they are, how “pretty” they may be; I still hate them.
They’re fine for children’s birthday parties. I am unaware of adults who break plates and the vast, vast majority of households have dishwashers. Why would anyone go to all the trouble of preparing a delicious meal — or barbecue — and reduce the pleasure with paper plates.
Even at our fete de village where a couple of hundred people gather to dine under huge tents, we eat off of real, plain white plates. We also have honest-to-goodness forks, knives and spoons. The only deviance is the wine in plastic goblets. Shocking to be sure, but so is the wine. No one cares and glasses break easily.
(I’m rationalizing because there are fireworks at the fete and I’m willing to drink swill if it’s accompanied by un feu d’artifice.) As you can imagine, ordinarily I am 100 percent against plastic glasses and cardboard cups. Oh yes, the coffee at the fete? It’s served in china cups.
As long as I’m on the subject, I might as well keep moving along. I don’t like paper napkins either. Yes, luxe ones for a messy outside barbecue dinner. Why not? But everyday, at home? Never.
And my final waffle: even though I have lots of linen cocktail napkins, I really, really do like smart and sometimes whimsical paper ones, depending upon the occasion.
Et voila. Let the wrath roll in . . .
Dining In or Dining Out
Here J-A and I have had divergent experiences. As far as I can remember, I have never been invited to dine in a restaurant at the invitation of friends in the context where that invitation would be extended instead of a dinner in their home. Perhaps for a special occasion, something spontaneous, but not a telephone call saying: “Would you join us for dinner at Le Perigord on March 3rd.” Do you see what I mean?
Whereas on several occasions we have had that experience in Paris. Old friends have invited us to dine with them and two other couples at a restaurant, on a “mark your calendar” basis. One evening we had cocktails at their apartment; at 8:30 our host and hostess stood-up, announced it was time to move on to the restaurant and we all walked around the corner in the rain to what was a delicious dinner and a pleasant evening. (One of the guests, which I found outrageous, ordered a pricey wine, not waiting for our host to ask the waiter for a new bottle of his choosing.)
Until la semaine prochaine. . .
Over to you ma chere partenaire, Jeanne-Aelia.