petite anglaise

December 22, 2004

somewhat indisposed

Filed under: misc — bipolarinparis @ 11:29 am

Ug.

Proceedings commenced at 12 noon and a civilised lunch and lobe-tasting session was followed by champagne at the flat of a colleague who lived nearby. I got home at 1.00 am. The hangover hasn’t even begun yet (which probably means I’m still drunk and explains why I am having trouble walking in my high heeled boots today).

So, I think it’s in all our interests if I stop right here and point you in the direction of a few of my favourite archived posts.

Normal service will resume just as soon as I recover use of the few brain cells I have left.

December 21, 2004

tasty torture

Filed under: miam — bipolarinparis @ 9:00 am

If you are a vegetarian, or a person of a naturally squeamish disposition, please refrain from reading any further.

Click on one of the links in the ‘favourite sites’ menu to the right, for an alternative source of entertainment. Except JonnyB’s private secret diary, because yesterday’s post was a veritable bloodbath involving the dismemberment of hares, and you probably won’t like that either.

It is our office Christmas lunch today. Lunch, as opposed to dinner or party, so as to avoid the kind of lecherous, drunken, fesses-photocopying debauchery that typically goes on during office Christmas parties where Brits are involved. This is probably A Good Thing, as I think we are all out of A3 paper.

Instead we will be partaking of a gourmet, civilised meal in a very fine Parisian establishment located inside the Gare de Lyon railway station. It’s not your average station snackstop. If you have seen Luc Besson’s French film ‘Nikita’ (not the nasty Hollywood remake), you may remember ‘Le Train Bleu’ (pictured above) as the posh restaurant where Nikita executes a complete stranger before making her memorable exit via the kitchen garbage shoot.

As is customary over the Christmas season, the menu features foie gras as a starter. It will be my first foie gras of 2004, with more to follow on Christmas Eve when we have Christmas dinner with the EVILs (EVil-In-Laws).

Foie gras (literally: fat liver) is one of those foods which tastes very nice indeed (in moderation) but it does you no good whatsoever to reflect on how it is made. Being a glutton for punishment however I have done some background reading on the subject and am now beginning to wish I had opted for the moelleux aux champignons instead.

Ducks and geese are overfed with corn (using a kind of funnel or catheter inserted forcibly into their throats) over a period of several weeks prior to ‘harvesting’. A process charmingly referred to as ‘cramming’, which enlarges their livers to approximately ten times their natural, healthy size. Anti-foie gras campaigners refer to this delicacy as the ‘fur of the food trade’. To protestors this technique equals torture. To its defenders, it is simply farming.

Allegedly humans’ fondness for this luxury food came about when the livers of ducks and geese were consumed in Ancient Egypt during their ‘winter sun’ holidays. As the birds had gorged themselves in preparation for their migratory journey, their livers were naturally swollen with stored fat. Defenders of foie gras are anxious to point out that a fattened liver is not synonymous with a diseased liver, so it is inaccurate to say that this luxury food is nothing more than cirrhosis on your plate.

Strangely, it is not the decidedly unpleasant desciptions of ‘cramming’ that are causing my appetite to falter. It is the use of the word ‘lobes’ on one website which helpfully explains that foie gras entier is made from one or more ‘entire liver lobes’. Lobes? Not on my plate. Let it not be said that Petite Anglaise is a lobe eater.

Foes of foie gras will be pleased to note that Arnie has outlawed (I won’t say ‘terminated’) foie gras produced by inhumane methods in California, in a bill which will come into force in 2012. So that gives producers another seven years or so to devise a ‘humane’ method.

I wish them luck. It may turn out to be even trickier than trying to persuade the Tadpole to eat her greens.

December 20, 2004

calendar boys

Filed under: city of light — bipolarinparis @ 12:44 pm

This weekend I mostly ate homemade mince pies and looked smug, curled up like a cat on the sofa, enveloped in my poncho. Mr Frog on the other hand began his Christmas shopping and was forced to join the hordes of other disorganised Parisians in the shopping purgatory of the department stores. Of the four presents he needed to buy I believe he returned with two. Largely due to the fact that he left with no clear idea of what he intended to buy. Are men genetically programmed to have an aversion to forward planning?

Arriving home shellshocked and sheepish, he pulled a cheap looking calendar out of his rucksack. Thankfully this was not my Christmas present. Evidently the firemen had been doing a hard sell outside the Galéries Lafayette and Mr Frog was feeling charitable.

As Christmas approaches in France, etiquette dictates that you are supposed to tip all sorts of people, in addition to buying presents for your loved ones. These cash gifts are called les étrennes, and are often given in exchange for a calendar. For some reason. Although frankly there are only so many calendars a person needs.

I’ve never had a clue how much I’m supposed to give when I happen to answer the door to a calendar seller. According to one article in a money magazine your postie deserves € 8, the firemen €5 and the binmen up to €15 (they do their rounds every day in Paris). In apartment buildings which employ a concierge the occupants give the equivalent of 10% of their rent, which in this city is not a modest sum. However, as most concierges are paid a pittance (some formerly only got lodgings and no salary at all), it does seem fair enough as I imagine they rather depend on their end of year bonus.

To this list we also have to add the childminder. Now that’s a tricky one. How much is enough? Clearly this is not someone I can afford to offend. Which is why she will be getting € 100 in shopping vouchers on top of her € 700 salary this month. Anything for a quiet life.

It strikes me as slightly odd that salaried civil servants like postmen and dustmen should be able to come knocking on doors soliciting tips. Apparently La Poste condones but does not actively encourage the sale of calendars (featuring kitsch photos of fluffy kittens) by their staff in exchange for étrennes. In my building a sign went up on the lift door announcing the date on which our postman would be paying us his annual visit. It’s the only time of year he feels able to make the journey all the way up to the fifth floor. A fact which condemns me to many Saturday morning queuing sessions at the local post office to retrieve parcels too big for my letter box.

Of course when the doorbell did ring, at 8pm on a Friday evening, I was bathing the Tadpole and couldn’t answer the door. The rather determined postman rang the bell intermittently for a full five minutes, yelling ‘C’est le facteur!’ for good measure. I imagine I will now be blacklisted as a non-tipper and my more interesting looking parcels will get ‘lost in the post’.

Paris dustmen (politically correct version: techniciens de surface) are legally not even permitted to come knocking on doors. But of course they will.

Pompiers are allowed to sell their calendars as long as they are in uniform, which seems fair, given that many are volunteers. I was rather taken with the May/June page (above) of Mr Frog’s purchase, showing a stocky fireman holding a large hose. I remarked that sales would go through the roof if the pompiers were to take a leaf out of the Calendar Girls’ book and pose in a state of undress.

A spot of internet research revealed that a group of firefighters in Buis les Baronnies already pulled this stunt in 2001 in aid of a national charity. With the following results.

You may click on the image for more. If you are so inclined.

December 17, 2004

site admin

Filed under: misc — bipolarinparis @ 10:15 pm

I’ve just updated WordPress to the newest version.

*crosses fingers*

It all seems okay, but if you run across any error messages or bad links, please email me at petite.anglaise AT gmail.com and let me know so I can spend some quality time with my inner geek and endeavour to sort it out. Or get some helpful fellow from the forum to sort it out for me…

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