petite anglaise

February 27, 2008

une pièce montée

Filed under: misc — petiteanglaiseparis @ 1:06 pm

As a rule, I don’t much enjoy memes and usually pretend I haven’t noticed when someone tags me. But Meg and I live on the same street and run into each other practically every day, so I didn’t fancy my chances of successfully dodging this one.

I’ve dutifully picked up the nearest book, Une Pièce Montée by Blandine Le Callet, turned to page 123, skipped to the fifth sentence and below are the next three. Note how differently the French punctuate speech.

Jean-Philippe, on ne peut pas continuer à se couper de tout le monde comme ça…
Tu sais bien qu’on ne va pas se sentir à l’aise.
Parle pour toi!

I haven’t started yet, I must confess, but page 123 catapults the reader straight into the midst of a domestic dispute about wedding arrangements, albeit a somewhat restrained and polite one.

Le Callet’s novel, the cover blurb of which describes her pen as “acerbic”, apparently sets about mocking the rituals of bourgeois weddings. I stumbled across it while seeking an anti-Valentine’s present for The Boy, then ended up popping it in my virtual shopping basket for myself.

Because one thing I love about the French is their ability to couch the most bitter of arguments in the most irreproachably polite language.

The Boy’s Valentine gift, in case you are wondering, was an otter adoption package, complete with soft toy otter and a packet of ‘otter droppings’, aka chocolate raisins.

We might be eschewing most of the more traditional wedding day customs when we tie the knot, in late spring, but I do plan on having a pièce montée. Whether it will be made of macarons or a choux pyramid coated in caramel, remains to be hotly disputed.

And now I get to tag: so, ams tram gram or however that French eeny meeny miny mo(e) chant goes… Tim and Lucy. You’re tagged.


  1. I’m so glad you didn’t tag me. I’m at work and the nearest book is the 2007 ABC of CDOs. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great book, but it doesn’t have a page 123 and if it did, it wouldn’t exactly be scintilating for your average blog reader.

    Comment by Damian — February 27, 2008 @ 1:34 pm

  2. Now I feel like reading that book!

    Comment by LN — February 27, 2008 @ 2:02 pm

  3. I would definitely vote for macarons esp. by Ladurée as long as you stick to the ‘classic’ flavours ! much cooler than choux in caramel

    Comment by est — February 27, 2008 @ 2:17 pm

  4. FYI: the correct term for otter ‘droppings’ is ‘spraints’. Nerdy thing to know, but true. (My best friend did a PhD on the subject).

    Comment by Stratford Girl — February 27, 2008 @ 4:10 pm

  5. Aha!

    I’d been trying to figure out why the package said “Otter whoopsies – a wee spraint for you”

    I had assumed it was Scottish, not otter terminology.

    Thank you for clearing that up.

    Comment by petite — February 27, 2008 @ 4:29 pm

  6. Oh dear! We’ve had otters living (and mating noisily, unbelievably noisily) underneath our house (they were sent packing by my husband but it was a saga of man vs. beast that went on for some weeks)and I have to caution you — cute as they may be, even the toy stuffed ones should be approached with caution and respected as the wolverine-related creatures that they are. And chocolate raisin droppings, hah! We’re on waterfront property and my biggest trial when the dog escapes from the yard is that she immediately finds herself some otter poop to roll luxuriously in — I do dearly wish it smelled like chocolate raisins. (should admit that I’m speaking here of river rather than sea otters — not sure which you’ve been gifted)

    Comment by materfamilias — February 27, 2008 @ 4:46 pm

  7. So strange…I always thought that it was the British that had the ability for have restrained and polite arguments. All the French I know are highly emotional and tempermental….and sometimes sulky.

    Comment by blueseaurchin — February 27, 2008 @ 5:11 pm

  8. Hmmm…

    You could have a huge pile of chocolate otter droppings instead of a wedding cake, in honour of the groom’s otter baby?

    Comment by Jacqueline — February 27, 2008 @ 5:15 pm

  9. I am probably going to get slammed for this question, and I truely mean no disrespect…I believe people can celebrate their nuptuals, birthdays, etc. in whatever way is special or significant to them.

    BUT, my question is, if you are both athiests and don’t like the “traditional” wedding stuff…why are you getting married?

    Maybe the laws are different in France than they are here where i live in Canada…but you don’t need to be married to be recognized as a legal partner.

    I am not slamming you…i really am just curious what the significance of a wedding is for you and the Boy.

    Hmm…for my husband and I it was very important to get married in a church because we made our vows not just to each other, but to God. If I didn’t believe in God, I don’t know why I would bother with a wedding.

    Chose to answer or not…but I am curious.

    Comment by canuck — February 27, 2008 @ 5:26 pm

  10. @canuck – I think this merits a post in its own right. But essentially I think marriage means to us what we want it to mean. A civil ceremony (and yes, it will be interesting to explain why we’ve chosen marriage over a PACS), a celebration party to express how we feel and our intentions for the future.

    It’s not necessary at all. Which is precisely why choosing to do it is meaningful.

    Comment by petite — February 27, 2008 @ 6:22 pm

  11. Oh and The Boy is also looking forward to his ring, posh shoes, killer suit, dream holiday and to bear the official title of Mr Petite Anglaise.

    Comment by petite — February 27, 2008 @ 6:24 pm

  12. Oh thanks very much. You’ll never guess what I’m reading at the moment.

    I’ll choose something from my other bedtime book instead.
    And thanks for tagging me. I don’t remember ever being tagged before.
    It’s almost like engaging with an imaginary virtual community, isn’t it? It’ll never catch on.

    Comment by Tim — February 27, 2008 @ 6:43 pm

  13. I’m not a traditionalist (I don’t even believe in marriage) but I’d definitely go for the choux.

    What better reason is there to get married than a huge choux pièce montée? ;-)

    (Oh, and it’s am stram gram pic et pic et col et gram. No, it doesn’t make any sense.)

    Comment by Citronella — February 27, 2008 @ 6:44 pm

  14. “If I didn’t believe in God, I don’t know why I would bother with a wedding.”

    Marriage and weddings aren’t just for those who believe in God.

    For those of us who aren’t religious, a wedding is a symbol of the lifelong commitment you are making to each other, and as Petite touched on, a reason to splurge on yourselves and celebrate the love you have found!

    Of course, insurance benefits, having a say in the medical care for your spouse and tax breaks are an added bonus, here in America.

    Comment by Kelli — February 27, 2008 @ 8:01 pm

  15. Just wanted to let you know that your press link “Review in The Gloss, March Issue, Ireland” links to an upside-down PDF.

    I’m looking forward to the American release!

    Comment by Allie — February 27, 2008 @ 8:18 pm

  16. Religion does not have a monopoly on social rituals. Rituals are ways of reconnecting and bonding with our loved ones and our community.

    In addition to that, a wedding is a couple’s public statement to the world that they have decided to formalise their union. Above all, it is a celebration of that union.

    Comment by Zerlina — February 27, 2008 @ 9:40 pm

  17. C’est un excellent livre.
    J’ai adoré.
    Une critique sarcastique d’un certain conformisme bourgeois, mais aussi la peinture d’une famille, une vraie avec ses secrets, les liens entre ses membres, les rivalités et puis un portrait très drôle d’un curé en plein déraillement mystique, beaucoup de tendresse aussi et le triomphe de l’amour en tout état de cause.
    Très adapté pour un cadeau de la saint-Valentin.

    Comment by marie-hélène — February 28, 2008 @ 12:06 am

  18. Petite

    Just got your google alert – off topic to this entry but…

    I am always curious to know if by buying a discounted book am I taking royalties away from the author or is it the book store who is losing money?

    Comment by jessica proudfoot — February 28, 2008 @ 1:09 am

  19. #9: I don’t know how the legal partnership stuff works in France, but it varies widely from state to state here in the United States. Here there are tax benefits to marriage, medical insurance benefits, more chance to speak for your spouse’s wishes should he or she be incapacitated or comatose. In many states that doesn’t count for opposite-sex partnerships without the legal stamp of approval or for same-sex partnerships. You’re much more advanced in Canada.

    Another thing is that marriage is is a legal bond and it says that you have committed to something and someone in the knowledge that it isn’t going to be as easy to walk away from if things get rough, as they surely will at times, than cohabitation. It says you’re serious about the relationship, that you see it as long term. (And yes, I know there are many very stable, committed, long-term partnerships that feel that way without a marriage certificate).

    And the other thing is that it’s a formal affirmation and celebration of the love and commitment of two people for each other. It’s a chance to the two people to validate that commitment in front of witnesses. It is as important for atheists (OK, for some atheists — not everyone wants the formal marriage) as for people whose affirmation is in front of human and, if they believe in them, supernatural witnesses. Such a public commitment doesn’t have to be religious.

    As long as the people involved are not hurting anyone else, let them do things the way they want. “Judge not that ye be not judged.”

    Comment by Passante — February 28, 2008 @ 2:12 am

  20. I read somewhere on your blog that you celebrated CHRISTmas. If you are an athiest what on earth were you celebrating? Just curious.

    Comment by jen — February 28, 2008 @ 2:16 am

  21. I used to think that when I got married, we would simply elope and that life afterwards would continue much the same. I was surprised to discover that the wedding day itself, sharing it with friends and family, was enormously meaningful to me. I’m glad we got married. I’m glad we did it the way we did, in a place and with words that were important to us, but especially with those friends and family around. I’m glad I kept my maiden name as part of my name, but I’m glad that we are identified by our last name as a family. The only thing I regret is that my dad wanted to walk me into the room, and at the last minute I changed my mind. It hurt him enormously, and it really wouldn’t have made a big difference to me to walk in with him.

    I’m sure you will have a wonderful day Petite, whenever it is.

    Comment by Almost American — February 28, 2008 @ 2:21 am

  22. the only difference between theists and atheists is that atheists don’t have imaginary friends :-)

    (petite, you don’t have to post this – I just wanted to say it :-)

    And congratulations!

    Comment by Anne — February 28, 2008 @ 3:49 am

  23. Well, I guess I should accept this post as the explanation why you ignored my page 123 meme ;-)

    Comment by Lost in France — February 28, 2008 @ 9:37 am

  24. @18 – it depends on the contract. Mine stipulates that in a high discount situation, my royalty can not fall below than a certain limit.

    But I’ve heard horror stories about authors’ whose books have been bundles into supermarket box set and received 1p per copy!

    Comment by petite — February 28, 2008 @ 10:04 am

  25. Please do what you want to do and enjoy the day. You don’t have to explain anything. I vote for the choux pyramid coated in caramel. Some friends had one at their wedding last summer here in the States, and it was wonderful. More fun than a dry cake.

    Comment by Right Brained Gal — February 28, 2008 @ 10:11 am

  26. I love des pièce montée! We’ve had them on all the weddings in my French family.
    But a pièce montée made of macarons?!! If one macaron is heaven, how on earth can you describe an enormous pile of them?!

    My god, that in itself is a reason to get married!! No other explanations are necessary!

    Comment by Lise — February 28, 2008 @ 10:14 am

  27. i think the problem with royalties starts if the retail price falls below 52% of the rrp (at least, that’s how it is in my contract, and i think it’s fairly general). that kind of discounting is not uncommon in supermarkets, particularly with littleknow/first-time authors – but that’s certainly not going to happen with you!

    Comment by rivergirlie — February 28, 2008 @ 11:08 am

  28. Completely off topic but just thought I’d let you know that as of today there is at least one copy of ‘Petite Anglaise’ in Australia… plan to start reading it on the plane tomorrow!

    Comment by Kristin in Oz — February 28, 2008 @ 11:23 am

  29. I was utterly confused by this posting (memes, tagging? What are we cool cats of the 60s meant to make of this virtual vocabulary?)

    But I do know how to find Wikipedia for an explanation. To quote: A meme is any unit of cultural information, such as a practice or idea, that is transmitted verbally or by repeated action from one mind to another.

    Yes, well…………

    Comment by Tim — February 28, 2008 @ 1:34 pm

  30. Firstly congrats on the wedding to come. Secondly however cool it would be to have macaroons, I LOVED to pièce montée with the choux and the caramel that I had at my (very non traditional) wedding a few weeks ago. My husband and I decided on civil marriage over PACS because PACS feels so temporary. Marriage is telling the world you are in love and intend to stay so til the end. I used to flatshare with an air hostess and we considered PACSing so I could get the very very reduces Air France tickets – but then she found a boyfriend and Pacsed him instead. Marriage isn’t just about God – every culture going back thousands of years has asimilar ceremony, whether or not the culture believes in a god…

    Looking forward to reading the book when it comes out here in the sticks (I miss Paris bookshops)

    Comment by Cheria — February 28, 2008 @ 4:21 pm

  31. Petite, can you share anything with us (or maybe you have) about what The Boy does for a living?

    Comment by Meme — February 28, 2008 @ 4:57 pm

  32. Just wanted to say, I saw it in W H Smith in St Annes today!!!

    (I have stolen it off Tim and am on page 318)

    Comment by beth — February 28, 2008 @ 5:16 pm

  33. Jen (#20): As I recall it, in pre-Christian times, the winter solstice celebration used to be called Yule and marked the longest day and the giving birth of the Goddess/Great Mother to the new Sun King. (Yuletide; yule log; the symbolic holly, ivy, mistletoe; wassail; singing/carolling; feasting … ring a bell? All pagan customs.) Then the Christians took it over, called it Christmas, and used it to celebrate the birth of the son of their God.

    You perhaps remember that the pagan roots of Christmas have led to the discouraging and even banning of the celebrations at certain times in history. That lasts through to today for the Jehovah’s Witnesses, who also don’t celebrate Easter and other holidays because of their pagan roots.

    Comment by Passante — February 28, 2008 @ 6:08 pm

  34. heavy sigh…i was not judging, JUST CURIOUS. And I was not implying that anyone needs my approval to cohabitate in any capacity that works for them. I just wanted to know Petite’s reasons. I guess i should have just asked the question instead of giving my reasons for getting married.

    Petite…Thanks for your reply…i knew i could count on a concise, articulate answer…

    And Congratulations! I truly wish all the best for the three of you. I also have a 4 year old “princess” and from our experiences taking her to weddings, I can imagine how much she will enjoy yours.

    To the Americans who replied:
    We do have a good system in Canada as far as health care and common law relationships are concerned, but it always helps to have a will and a “living will” which gives you the authority to make legal decisions for another person if they are mentally or medically incapable of making decisions for themselves. If everyone had one, it would save alot of court time and bickering within families. There must be something comparable in US?

    Comment by canuck — February 28, 2008 @ 6:31 pm

  35. “I also have a 4 year old “princess” and from our experiences taking her to weddings, I can imagine how much she will enjoy yours.”


    I can imagine how much your princess will enjoy your wedding.
    I suppose that is reason enough in itself to have a celebration. :)

    Comment by canuck — February 28, 2008 @ 6:41 pm

  36. No. 33 my question was what was Petite celebrating? Are you saying she and Tadpole were celebratig the winter solstice celebration and its pagan roots?


    Comment by Jen — February 28, 2008 @ 8:16 pm

  37. Choux is traditional but make sure you book a dentist appointment for the day after as the hard caramel will definitely wreak havoc with your fillings… unless of course the recipe has changed since I was little!

    Comment by Ariel — February 28, 2008 @ 10:35 pm

  38. As a 50+something in today’s society, and as a terribly sentimental traditionalist, it pains me to see how much of today’s younger generation is throwing off so much of what I find important and enjoy. I do try to look at life from their point of view, but I’m afraid I’m just too far from their world (horrors!) to approve of their modern philosophies. I’m definitely learning what the generation gap that was such a major term when I was young myself is really all about!

    My opinion, which really isn’t being asked for in the slightest, is that I’m quite pleased that marriage of itself is not yet dead and that PA has actually opted for it with someone she’s found worthy to commit to so seriously. I’m sorry she doesn’t want anything traditional, but then, I’d love to know what the new non-traditional is that actually will become the next-traditional.

    I’ve never experienced the macaron piece montée, which might taste wonderful, but from the picture given, I’d definitely go with the chou. I think they are beautiful, especially as they are so different from our typical American wedding cakes (of which I’ve supplied many myself). See, I can also accept non-traditional sometimes, I’m not always old-fashioned pig-headed.

    Congratulations, Petite, and I hope you share enough of your celebration to let the rest of us feel like we are participating in the culmination of this romance as much as we’ve been a part of the build-up.

    Comment by azurienne — February 29, 2008 @ 1:04 am

  39. Is there any way to get a chance to pick out a picture of The Boy if we don’t want to subscribe to Facebook? I’m not too keen on all the recent privacy issues that have come out with them, so I’m not going to subscribe just to check out 200 pictures or so.

    But I feel left out.

    Comment by azurienne — February 29, 2008 @ 1:12 am

  40. Make that two copies in Australia – i just got mine. Can’t wait to read it on the weekend -am meant to be doing a postgrad assignment….oh well!!!

    Comment by jessica — February 29, 2008 @ 2:14 am

  41. Petite
    Thanks for my introduction to memes and tags. I had no idea what you were talking about – then I followed the links and spent a very funny hour or so laughing out loud as I jumped from blog to blog … reading snippets of what’s on everyone’s coffee table/bedside table. Hilarious.

    Comment by Jan Jacklin — February 29, 2008 @ 2:44 am

  42. #36, Jen: I am not in a position to say what Petite Anglaise and her daughter celebrate on and around Dec. 25. I don’t know them. Your comment, I read somewhere on your blog that you celebrated CHRISTmas. If you are an athiest [sic] what on earth were you celebrating? Just curious, with its insistent capitalisation, came across — to me anyway — as suggesting that the Christians invented the particular celebration and therefore had exclusive rights to it, when, in fact, they simply imposed their religion on a perfectly respectable pagan festival.

    Comment by Passante — February 29, 2008 @ 2:47 am

  43. As lots of people probably know, the French also call a “piece montée” a “croque en bouche”. However, when my sister got married, her English mother-in-law referred to it constantly as a “coque en bouche”. The image this created in my head meant that I eventually had to leave the reception for fear of embarrassing myself with my inappropriate laughter.

    PS I just discovered your blog at the weekend thanks to the Sunday Times (bought by my own Meetic boy to stop me whinging all day about how much childbirth is going to hurt – I’m currently bored at home all day awaiting an overdue baby). Anyway, many congrats on your success – I wish I was innovative enough to find a way to make a living that doesn’t involve sitting in an office all day (I was on the Assedic for a couple of years once, but instead of doing something useful like writing a book I just turned into Frank Gallagher off of Shameless).

    Incidentally, I thought I’d use my newfound spare time to sort out getting pacsed (apparently your taxes for that year are halved if you do it on or about the middle of the year – I’m just an old romantic me), so I waddled off down to the Marie yesterday to make enquiries. Crikey – talk about complicated – many documents required from many different sources, all translated by a certified translator and all with a seemingly short validity period. Thus good luck with the whole marriage thing – I imagine you will have a similar rigmarole ahead but probably worse.

    And finally, enjoy your trip to York – I worked in the King’s Arms many years ago when the landlord was a bloke called Ian – great pub as I recall and very nice city altogether!

    Comment by Jane — February 29, 2008 @ 12:16 pm

  44. Feeling pretty clueless right now. When did you say that you and The Boy were atheists? I rarely miss a post, and when I have, I go back and read the archives. But this escapes me.

    I wonder what else might I have missed?

    Still loving the book. Am at the place where you have just met Jim in Rennes at the concert. Luscious reading, thanks.

    Comment by PJ Carz — March 25, 2008 @ 1:17 am

  45. A French friend was trying desperately to explain “ams tram gram” so it’s nice to finally get what she was after!
    Gerard Mulot does a lovely macaron piece montee with multi-colored pastel macs – they’re slightly smaller than you’re average “petite” mac I was interested to learn.
    Why not celebrate such an important day with cakes and partying?
    I hope the Tadpole gets to wear a flowered wreath…

    Comment by paris breakfasts — April 3, 2008 @ 7:57 pm

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