petite anglaise

December 20, 2005

definitely not ‘French bashing’

Filed under: miam, misc — petiteanglaiseparis @ 3:30 pm

Last night, preparing my third batch of mince pies this month for yet another gathering involving mulled wine (mulled by someone else this time, thankfully, as I found my own attempt at the weekend was a little too dominated by the pungent taste of cloves), I had an out of body experience.

From my vantage point on the kitchen ceiling, I looked down in some consternation at the spectacle of a blonde thirtysomething year old (whose dark roots could bear a little retouche, incidentally, as seen from this particular angle) gently tapping icing sugar through a sieve with a teaspoon, onto a mince pie which was partially covered with a cardboard cut out of a star, with a smaller star inside it. The results (see photo) were undeniably very fetching, but I had to wonder whether this lady shouldn’t be devoting her energies to some other, more rewarding activity than drawing stars on pieces of card and cutting around them with nail scissors.

The domestic goddess thing (if one can qualify for goddesshood when the pastry is bought ready rolled, the mincemeat out of a jar, and one is not wearing an apron) may have gone just a little too far.

As I snapped back into my body again, with an elastic band like twang, I hastily grabbed a beer from the fridge and wiped my shaking, floury hands on my jeans, in an attempt to sully the tableau of myself as Pastry Goddess.

I did however keep the cardboard cut out. It might be needed again on Christmas day. You never know.


Later still, I reluctantly prepared to do some ironing. At the best of times, this is a task which tends to be deferred until not one pair of work trousers remains and it absolutely cannot be avoided. On this occasion, to add insult to injury, the (mostly black) garments which awaited their turn had accidentally been washed with a pink jumper of Tadpole’s (with a delightful cat motif, courtesy of belle maman), and were all, without exception, covered in a fine dusting of pink fluffy lint.

This was a job for the “sticky toilet roll on a stick” device, if ever there was one. I have no idea what this contraption is known as, either in French or in English, and, in case you were planning to take it upon yourself to enlighten me, I would prefer not to know, as there are some things in life that should remain a mystery.

But the sad fact of the matter is that it was only yesterday that it came to me in a sudden and unexpected flash of enlightenment that there are actually SEVERAL LAYERS of sticky stuff on the (loo)roll.

Who knew?

There was me thinking that the “sticky toilet roll on a stick” was the most wasteful invention in the Western world, because after cleaning the lint off a single T-shirt it had to be consigned to the bin and a new one (or a toilet roll refill) purchased. How misguided was I? How could I have been blind to the existence of the several layers of untouched, virginal, supremely adhesive roll which lie beneath?

So, in case any other poor souls are labouring under the illusion that sticky toilet rolls on a stick are single use products, I decided to share my (latest) epiphany with the internet.

Please tell me I was not alone in thinking this?


  1. Reading this at work, I laughed out loud. I too, have one of the sticky roll thingies, and find it essential. Each and every time I wear black trousers, as I run around the kitchen getting the girls’ breakfasts and lunches prepared in a desperate attempt to leave the house for work, the platinum blonde cat insists on rubbing against my pants meowing for treats. I would have emptied my bank account purchasing these if I had thrown it out each time!

    My girls are older (10/12) and help me to bake now. This is great in theory, but I am the only one who ever thinks doing the dishes is part of baking. Does Tadpole ‘help’ to bake yet?

    Hope you have a great holiday.

    Comment by Sonya — December 20, 2005 @ 4:03 pm

  2. What perfect timing – I was just going to (Monoprix, incidentally) tonight to buy a ‘sticky roll thing’ as the lovely, soft, grey, lambswool hoody I bought the other day has already got bobbles on it (this never seems to happen to anyone else, I look for it when I am in public places…how does one avoid jumper bobbling?) Anyway, will the ‘sticky roll thing’ work on my jumper bobbles? And secondly, thanks for sharing that because now I’ll know about the layers underneath – I too would have just gone out and bought another!

    Comment by Katherine — December 20, 2005 @ 4:12 pm

  3. Ooh no, not alone – thanks for the money-saving tip! Shall remove 6-inch thick layer as soon as get home…

    Comment by Lucy-Jane in Rennes — December 20, 2005 @ 4:29 pm

  4. I am afraid that I use the homemade method, whereby you wrap several methods of celloptape round your fingers and heypresto..

    By the way I must say that I did know about the several layers on the round sticky thingy….

    Comment by P in France — December 20, 2005 @ 4:30 pm

  5. Just saw on the side there that you are reading The Lovely Bones. Beautiful book.

    Comment by Katherine — December 20, 2005 @ 4:32 pm

  6. You’re lucky you can get mince meat in France. Here in Italy it’s not to be found so a couple of years ago I started making my own mince meat (which is actually surprisingly easy to do). Obviously an important part of this is suet and off I went to the butcher to get the proper stuff – suet is a large slab of odourless very white fat which comes from round a cow’s kidney and here it is generally thrown away by the butcher as no one uses it for anything. The butcher wrapped the suet up and asked what I was going to use it for. The look on his face when I said it was for traditional English Christmas sweet (not savoury) pies was priceless. I just knew that he was thinking that here was yet more proof that the English cuisine is disgusting – a common thought among Italians!! He still looks aghast when I go back every November for my slab of suet!

    By the way, your pies look amazingly perfect!! How do you get them so even?

    Comment by Hazy — December 20, 2005 @ 4:38 pm

  7. I agree with Hazy – the mince pies look fantastic, you domestic goddess, you! :-)

    *fighting off sudden pangs of hunger*

    Comment by Iain — December 20, 2005 @ 4:41 pm

  8. Katherine, to avoid jumper bobbling you have to wash them inside out. The little shavers you can buy which are supposed to remove bobbles do not work in my experience. Actually, if you wash everything inside out it reduces the necessity of sticky toilet roll lint remover.
    Don’t ask me how I know. I just do.
    The mince pies look lovely.
    Merry Christmas, petite.

    Comment by suziboo — December 20, 2005 @ 4:46 pm

  9. Yup, completely agree with Suziboo – shaver thingies are hopeless; however, a determined yet careful approach with a disposable razor can render surprisingly good results on the bobble community.

    Splendid-looking pies!

    Comment by KW — December 20, 2005 @ 5:00 pm

  10. Oh, I’ve had one of those sticky loo roll thingies for a while as I have a white cat.

    It’s a lifesaver, particularly when the moggie decides to nestle in grandmas black fur lined coat.

    Nice pies too.
    *Looks for euphemism, doesn’t see one*

    Comment by Greavsie — December 20, 2005 @ 5:16 pm

  11. Nope, I didn’t know either….but now I’ll shout it from the rooftops.
    Nice pies.


    Comment by Kismet — December 20, 2005 @ 5:36 pm

  12. I’m a DIY man like ‘P in France’ – it’s just a shame when you wrap the sellotape a bit tight and lose circulation to your fingers.

    Cracking pies!

    Comment by US — December 20, 2005 @ 5:53 pm

  13. Since Greavsie’s comment I can’t read “cracking pies” without thinking it sounds like it may have another meaning. But although I’m familiar with “baps”, I don’t think I’ve ever heard “pies” used in that context?

    Comment by petite — December 20, 2005 @ 5:59 pm

  14. Nope. Not alone in the “Ye gods, how often do I have to buy refills for the de-fluffer?” universe. I only cottoned on to the fact you can actually unravel them (or, as I found this morning, try and unstick the cat from the reams and reams of sticky paper he’s managed to unreel) more recently than I care to let on.

    Comment by morgalou — December 20, 2005 @ 5:59 pm

  15. Hazy buonasera!! Did you ever try to ask for carne macinata or carne tritata. If you go to the butcher and ask he will make it for you. So in Italy we do have mince meat…I assure you! Buone Feste!

    Comment by Eau — December 20, 2005 @ 6:35 pm

  16. Hazy : I could interpret your comment on Italy as “Italian-bashing”!!! hahaha! Just kidding! And it’s also true that English’s cuisine is…I’d better stop before you accuse me of “English-bashing”!!!!

    Comment by Eau — December 20, 2005 @ 6:57 pm

  17. Hi

    Forgive my ignorance – but on Christmas Day what is the traditional dinner in France?

    Its wierd in Holland that there just isnt any traditional food around Christmas. Sinterklaas is still the big thing around here. Funny how important food is as a part of celebrating things.

    Comment by Scoobycat — December 20, 2005 @ 7:09 pm

  18. I think Eau may have confused (fruit) mincemeat with minced beef! Kids, don’t try this at home!

    Well done Petite – your little cut-stars have inspired me to get a bit more creative than usual.

    Comment by Antipo Déesse — December 20, 2005 @ 7:35 pm

  19. I don’t think there is a traditional main course for a French Christmas dinner (held on Christmas Eve evening), but in my experience the entrées usually involve oysters and/or foie gras. After which my In laws usually called it a day and got the cheese out, as they are not big eaters. I was left hankering for roasted meat, and most unsatisfied.

    But I’d be interested to hear what other French people eat?

    Comment by petite — December 20, 2005 @ 7:41 pm

  20. Ooh boy….what do you put into these mince pies?
    Now I need to have the recipe!! Thanks!

    Comment by Eau — December 20, 2005 @ 7:52 pm

  21. I know the word for that thing in English, but I don’t know it in French (nor, apparently does anyone who works at the Carrefour in Annecy). I’m happy you’ve finally figured it out because I seem to remember them being more expensive when I finally did find one than it should have been.

    Comment by Cloclette — December 20, 2005 @ 8:01 pm

  22. That sticky roller thing? In the States we call it a “lint roller” or “lint remover”. And as those labels might imply, the pink fuzzy stuff then qualifies as “lint”, as does the stuff you take out of the clothes dryer trap (“lint trap”). We seem to have a lot of lint in America and therefore a lot of devices for catching and disposing of it.

    By the way if you can’t find a sticky roller thing, get some scotch tape and wind a bunch of it around your hand – that used to be my trick at the office (where I had access to lots of free scotch tape), before the sticky rollers were on the market.

    Comment by The Bold Soul — December 20, 2005 @ 8:28 pm

  23. Petite, are you familiar with blog carnivals? A blog carnival of the mundane is being organized for January — you might be interested. I do enjoy reading your tales of the mundane, my favourite being your story about eating on the subway, a couple of months ago.

    Comment by Postmodern Sass — December 20, 2005 @ 9:12 pm

  24. My in-laws aren’t big eaters either, but their Christmas meal just goes on and on and on. It starts with the oysters, then there’s some fishy dish (St Jacques in creamy sauce wrapped in ‘feuilles de brique’ one year), then we move on to the turkey, chesnuts and green beans (all of which is cold by the time the meat has been sliced and displayed artistically on a cold dish surrounded by the veg), then there is cheese and lastly some dessert, usually rather horrid as puddings are not a family forte. The whole palava takes hours and hours, so by the time it’s over it is pitch dark and I have a sore bottom from sitting for too long on a hard dining chair. And a couple of hours later it all starts again with some far too elaborate supper that no one wants.

    Am jolly glad to be back in England this year for a short but delicious lunch and a comfortable post-prandial sofa.

    Comment by Susan — December 20, 2005 @ 9:21 pm

  25. Any chance of one of thise virtual mince pies, Petite?…. they look a treat!

    Comment by fella — December 20, 2005 @ 9:57 pm

  26. I keep hearing of British mincemeat pies – in the US mincemeat is a fruit thing, mainly apple based with raisins. How do you make the suet into a sweet?

    Comment by joeinvegas — December 20, 2005 @ 10:07 pm

  27. My ESL students all seem to eat similar things for Christmas…foie gras, then something fishy, then something meaty (turkey or venison being the top choice) then cheese, then the inevitable buche de noel.

    Comment by Wendy — December 20, 2005 @ 10:09 pm

  28. Ah yes, it’s all coming back to me, the “bûche de Noël” and the papillotes – is that what they’re called? Those chocolates with “cracker-innards” (the snappy thing) in the wrapper?

    When I had Christmas in France, there was foie gras, lots of seafood and turkey I think.

    I liked the “Galette des Rois” that you have on 6th Jan, with the charm in it.

    Sorry to say, petite, *I* knew you could peel the sticky thing off. How many did you throw away before you discovered the truth? ;)

    Comment by anxious — December 20, 2005 @ 10:27 pm

  29. In the States, we call it a “lent roller.”

    Comment by Maria Noland — December 20, 2005 @ 10:40 pm

  30. In the States, we call it a “lent roller.”

    Comment by Maria Noland — December 20, 2005 @ 10:40 pm

  31. I like your “domestic goddess mode” concept so much that I couldn’t help using it in my brand-new creative blog… Hope you don’t mind…

    Comment by Fille Aux Craies — December 20, 2005 @ 10:56 pm

  32. I too am of the “sellotape round fingers” school of lint removal.

    PS. I advise you to re-gift your bottle of Advocaat at your next gathering.

    Comment by Mancunian Lass — December 20, 2005 @ 11:38 pm

  33. Joeinvegas – Google brings up several mincemeat recipes such as this. I was surprised to find that there are old recipes that really do have meat in there (this oe this, for example). Usually, though, it’s fruit and suet, with some kind of booze.

    Comment by Rob — December 20, 2005 @ 11:47 pm

  34. Eau – Antipo Déesse is right, I think you’ve got the wrong idea about mince meat!! Mince meat = spicy mixture of dried fruit, almonds, apple, suet etc; Mince = minutely chopped meat!! If I serve my family “carne macinata” (minced meat) pies on Christmas Day I think there’ll be a revolution.

    Also you’re right – I was Italy bashing!! :o) I’m allowed to, I live here by choice, and love it (despite the lack of mince meat).

    Comment by Hazy — December 20, 2005 @ 11:57 pm

  35. Not to sound too know-it-all, but I believe the ‘bobbling’ that was mentioned is known as “pilling.” Not piling, but pilling. (Like little pills? I don’t know.)

    And yes, washing inside out works great for that. Especially on polar fleece items–they will look new for years, and stay super soft.

    But unfortunately, dog hair invades everywhere, whether inside out or not. Thus, lint rollers are necessary.

    Of course, in the US (due to all the lint???) we have really big ones, so it would be hard to miss the layers. Because there are about 500. I think O’Cedar ones were the best, maybe 3M. I forget. I actually prefer the lint brushes (sort of like a velvety thing) because you clean and keep going–no waste.

    Wow. Just realized I wrote 4 paragraphs about lint. I am such a geek.

    Comment by Ronica — December 21, 2005 @ 12:18 am

  36. I knew… ^_^
    But I love the way you tell this story!


    Comment by Adrienhb — December 21, 2005 @ 12:36 am

  37. Hey Petite, I’m going to buck the trend and just wish you and yours a Merry Christmas!

    (no mention of the “l” word of the “m” word here…)

    Comment by Nicky — December 21, 2005 @ 12:43 am

  38. Petite anglaise,

    I discovered your blog yesterday, I think it was through I spent the evening reading all of it.

    I lived in France for several years as Mrs Frog, but now I’m back in Sweden since several years (without Frog). Some of the things you write about are just so… just like my old life! I’m happy to see that I’m not the only one to find the French a bit odd sometimes.

    And the Métro reply to the older woman… I’ll remember it and I will most certainly use it some day.

    Comment by ninni — December 21, 2005 @ 12:45 am

  39. Hi Joeinvegas

    Your question prompted me to want to know too and go and get out my jar of shop-bought mincemeat (I buy it too, Petite, although I do make the pastry myself – Delia Smith’s recipe, kind of annoyingly, really IS foolproof). So, Joe, Co-op’s mincemeat contains sugar, apple, currants, sultanas, orange peel, glucose syrup, hydrogenated palm oil (urrgh, this must have replaced the suet which I don’t think you get in any commercial mincemeats now, but they’re still pretending by forming the hydrogenated gunk into little white worm-like bits), lemon peel, rice flour, acetic acid, ground mixed spices (coriander, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, caraway, cloves), salt and preservative (sulphur dioxide). Hmm – really must try making my own one day from pure and wholesome ingredients only. Like a mother doesn’t already bloody well have enough to do in December…

    Comment by Helen in beautiful Bath — December 21, 2005 @ 1:12 am

  40. Those pies look absolutely delish!! YUMMY. *stomach growling*. I love those stars, I definitely think it was worth the effort on your part!

    Also, when I read about the lint roll, I almost passed out with laughter. I have cats and have to used oodles and oodles of layers to keep my clothes looking like clothes and not a fur coat. Oh and they sell ones that are made from some sticky gel substance that you can wash with mild detergent and re-use if you want to be “earth friendly” (I live in California…aren’t I supposed to be a tree-hugger or something?).

    Comment by H. (aka NC_State_gal) — December 21, 2005 @ 2:17 am

  41. Helen – that list of ingredients sounds quite vile, especially the palm oil!! I use this recipe:

    About 12oz/340g each of sultanas, raisins and currants
    6oz/170g blanched almonds, finely chopped
    3 Cox’s apples cut into small dice
    14oz/400g dark muscovado sugar (I can’t get this so I use demarera)
    7oz/200g mixed peel, finely chopped
    Grated zest and juice of 1.5 lemons and the zest of an orange
    1 tsp nutmeg, finely grated
    .5 tsp each ground cloves and cinnamon
    Pinch each ground mace and dried root ginger
    6oz/170g beef or vegetarian suet
    4 tbsp dark rum
    4 fl oz/125ml brandy or Cognac

    You just mix it all together, put it in sterilised jars and keep it in a cool place until you use it (I make it about 3 weeks before). You need to turn the jars upside down a couple of times.

    Comment by Hazy — December 21, 2005 @ 9:29 am

  42. Hi again Petite Anglaise,

    I followed the comments on your previous entry on “Monoprix” and those that mentioned that you were “french bashing.” I’ve recently gotten some comments about “swedish male bashing” in my own blog, and I think that sometimes people have a hard time 1) distinguishing between comments in the blog and the original entry itself; 2) people need to get a sense of humor.

    Keep up the french non-bashing!


    Comment by Curiosa — December 21, 2005 @ 12:07 pm

  43. What’s wrong with French bashing? All the French I know are quite happy being bashed, retaliate with with very clever Brit bashing, until we all bash the Germans and roll about in fits of laughter.

    By the way I’m German. And I bash Germans all the time. And happy to be bashed, after all I don’t have a sense of humour which makes it even more fun for everyone else and makes the world a smilier place :))))))

    Comment by cartside — December 21, 2005 @ 12:28 pm

  44. How jealous I am of your perfect mince pies! I made some the other day, feeling really pleased with myself as they were done in record time, then all the mincemeat ouzed out and they stuck to the baking tray. Needless to say half of them ended up in the bin and the really gruesome ones in my belly! Please let me in on your secret.

    Comment by BrainofBritain — December 21, 2005 @ 12:32 pm

  45. Quite right, PA, definitely not FB. Enjoyed your post greately. good show, back to mid-season form, it seems.
    Do have good year-end holidays (hope no work!?) with Miss Tadpole and L., and have a super-wonderful year 2006 (keeping us posted, of course)!

    Comment by Angie — December 21, 2005 @ 3:17 pm

  46. I was wondering why some of you had their name in bold font..then accidentally I clicked on one, then another one…and found out that they link to your blogs! Most of you have a blog! WOW!! Maybe Petite didn’t know about the sticky layers on the brush…but I didn’t know about these links!! Oohhh well…

    Comment by Eau — December 21, 2005 @ 3:37 pm

  47. The traditional main dish for Christmas is dinde aux marrons (stuffed turkey with chestnuts). It is now pretty old-fashioned, more of a cliché than a really popular thing, I think. Unlike in the UK, you won’t see row upon row of giant turkeys in French supermarkets.

    Comment by ontario frog — December 21, 2005 @ 6:51 pm

  48. God, yes! Of course you were! To think of the waste of “sticky toilet roll on a stick” thingies, to use your own words… ;))

    Comment by Joana — December 21, 2005 @ 7:14 pm

  49. Happy Christmas to you and Tadpole, Petite! Hope Pere Noel is generous.

    Comment by Leslie — December 21, 2005 @ 8:20 pm

  50. reminds me of Terrible Incident with a Christmas mince pie in England. I thought mince meant “meat” but it turns out, it does not. Quel horror!

    Comment by crumpet2001 — December 21, 2005 @ 8:26 pm

  51. OHMIGOD! I didn’t know that the (loo)roll had layers! I had given up on it years ago, in favour of a rubber brush, because it doesn’t quite have enough de-fuzzing strength in the face of a long-haired Birman cat (white) on my black clothes. Now I’ll have to go take a look at these loo-rolls and search of layers. Thanks.

    Comment by Clara — December 21, 2005 @ 9:09 pm

  52. Hazy – that sounds like a great recipe….. but how do you manage to have the self-control to ‘not’ drink the cognac so that you have some available to make the mince pies?

    Comment by fella — December 21, 2005 @ 9:43 pm

  53. Hazy, I am awe-struck. Thank you for the lovely recipe, one day I hope I will be organised enough in late November to remember to use it.

    Brain of Britain – a great cheat for stopping that horrible mincemeat oozing out of the lid thing, is to not make a conventional lid, but to just put a little pastry star on the top instead (Domestic Goddess Nigella Lawson’s idea), so you can see the mincemeat around the edge. This gives the mincemeat space to gently expand during cooking but it won’t spill over the sides. They look cute too, sprinkled with icing sugar. So you just need to buy a little star cutter, about 5cm across, which I guess you can get in most countries.

    Writing comments in blogs about mince pies – much more fun than actually getting on with all the pre-Xmas chores…

    Comment by Helen in beautiful Bath — December 21, 2005 @ 10:17 pm

  54. Merry Christmas to all, the mince pies look awesome, I’m making some tonight and they will be very much of the Nigella Lawson type :) though I must admit I kidna like the carmelised chewy overflowing bits too ….

    Have a very blessed Christmas all, and best wishes for a fantastic 2006! For those of you in the Northern Hemisphere have a fun white (or at least cool) Christmas … we’re looking at 30degrees C on the day, so it will be a very typical Aussie Christmas in Sydney!

    Comment by Miss Lisa — December 22, 2005 @ 1:39 am

  55. I agree with Curiosa. There’s nothing wrong with a bit of French bashing. They do it to us. I lived in London with my French ex for two years and all his friends bashed the Brits very hard. But it is all fun and goo dhumour. Otherwise we wouldn’t be living here in sunny Paris.

    Comment by cheria — December 22, 2005 @ 11:39 am

  56. In my familly, the main course during Christmas eve diner has always been a “chapon”, which is a kind of chicken to whom you cut the genitals and it’s supposed to be fatter and therefore tastier… alternative to the turkey or truly traditional main course, i have no idea though…
    (and i didn’tknow about the sticky loo roll’s layers, so thank you !!)

    Comment by kiara — December 23, 2005 @ 9:29 pm

  57. That cracked me up…I couldn’t live without my sticky-roller-thingy. Good to hear you will now experience the full life-span of yours.

    I have been reading your blog for a while now and enjoying it very much. I am a single mom as well, and my daughter’s father lives in the same building as we do, so we have that in common. It works out really well for us too. I also lived in Paris for a year in the early 90’s as an au pair, so your blog really hits home with me!

    Hope you guys had a great Christmas.

    Comment by Melanie — December 28, 2005 @ 3:37 pm

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