Olivier Mangy is a French sommelier who I don't know from Adam. But that's just because I know hooey about wine, though I love all things French. His book Stuff Parisians Like arrived in my mailbox and I wasn't sure what to think of it, so I thumbed through looking for food content.
Le Caramel au Buerre Sale was the first I came to given the book's arbitrary arrangement which makes it easier for we Americans to understand, oui? This chapter explains the French relationship with sugar. Sugar is decadent and should be consumed in moderation. Yet, surely you've seen the reports that the French are suddenly porking up, non? Somehow, adding salt to caramel balances the sweetness and makes it okay to eat.
Mostly, it seems, the book is about vocabulary, and teaches Americans how to speak French properly, and acts as a primer for those embarking on a visit to France. Absorbing the knowledge shared within Stuff Parisians Like may save the ugly American tourist some small ounce of grief. Which brings us to the chapter "Considering Americans Stupid," in which the author says that we are fat, ugly, and stupid.
Is this tongue in cheek? He writes this despite admitting that Americans are highly successful and creative. Americans are fake, empty, and superficial. Americans lack culture, only watch television...wait, that sounds like a lot of people I do know.
But then the French like cherry tomatoes? Ugh. Because you don't have to slice them. Those lazy French. Cherry tomatoes, nexy entry after "Considering Americans Stupid," oh that makes sense, because I loathe tasteless cherry tomatoes. They makes salads boring. They lack originality. Take that, Frenchie!
Big is vulgar, and if anything, Americans are big and bold in everything that we do, and that, in a nutshell, is what Parisians hate most of all about Americans (learned from the chapter "The Word Petit"). Yet, when asked where else in the world they wish to live, they all answer "New York." Le sigh. And once they became New Yorkers, or NY wannabees, somehow the burger was king and finding one for less and 13 euros, or about $16 is difficult. Magny writes that the gastro restaurants offer one with foie gras topping it.
Poor Paula Deen. I wonder if she gets any play in Paris, because apparently butter is passe and olive oil is au courant. Magny declares butter gross and fattening because the switch to live oil is more aligned to the Parisian vision of the world. But we all know that butter makes everything better. Perhaps I do not like the Parisians so much, but only like the French a little bit.
Somehow they barbecue. Somehow I sense my concept of barbecue differs from the Parisian concept. Ah, theirs means "sunshine, outdoors, and a cute garden." Mine means "pork, beans, and coleslaw." They drink rose. I usually drink unsweet tea. They grill steaks and eat fresh vegetables. Depending on what's on, we unpack the take out from its bag, or remove the whole pig off its spit and start carving.
Another Parisian obsession, Magny reports is the moelleux au chocolat. It's a chocolate based dessert that also contains... guess what? Butter. Funny how we return to butter. He describes it as
It is an orgasm crowning Parisian dinners.
They add vanilla ice cream to the top, but usually ask for two spoons to assuage the guilt that wracks their tiny, dieting frames. Male and female Parisians always diet.
A little tip about macarons, don't buy them anywhere other than Laduree, otherwise you'll break all the Parisian social codes and you'll make the wrong social statement. But hey, if you're an American, no matter, you're not fooling anyone anyway!
At the very end Magny plugs his bar O Chateau in the chapter "Not Drinking Wine" because the tourists are the only ones drinking wine. Domestic wine consumption plummeted. He blames it on Parisian women who are watching their weight. Water, beer, and cocktails, often accompany meals. Actually, most Parisians prefer beer. And partiers prefer vodka, gin, and whiskey to fermented grapes.
In the end, it's educational, to say the least. If you want a copy, leave a comment and I'll select a winner by 24 August. Parisians will think you're one of their own one your next visit to The City of Light.