Max's Notes are my personal takeaways. No background at all, just the standout usable bits I want to remember from my reading. If I write about a book here, you can know that I found it sane and useful - and most likely it made me laugh.
Use at will! Take what you need, leave the rest.
Bonjour, Happiness! Secrets to Finding Your Joie de Vivre, by Jamie Cat Callan
You were warned! I have persisted. More with the Frenchwomen.
The Saturn Return: Another chance to grab the brass ring, attend to leftover dreams. Last up to around age 59.
Frenchwoman do not give house tours to their guests. They like to keep their secrets. They regard blabbing and dishing as very American.
The secret garden, mentioned in Ooh La La!, can be the bedroom. (But not if all your guests see it.) The secret garden is for sleeping late, journaling, reading, and enjoying scent, candles, flowers. It is good to protect and nourish one's secret garden.
Do not save the best for "best;" you will spend more trying to achieve pleasure that could be yours already.
Changer les idées: Take a real break. Don't bring everything with you.
The Frenchwoman is not ashamed of looking like she made an effort, because she DID.
Frenchwomen do not buy in bulk. (Partly because shopping is a chance to flirt, and be seen.)
Le regardez: Being seen, being appreciated. Frenchwomen like it. They like looking at themselves, too, and apparently do not feel ashamed for it.
And they will make an entrance. You hear them coming. Click click. (They're wearing heels, duh.) They frame themselves in the doorway, wait until they're seen, smile, make their grand entrance, click click click, bisous all around, unwrap their scarf, and everyone is hypnotised. Suggestion: Practice this move when nothing is at stake.
Dinner parties. They have them a lot. Here's how:
- Store-bought desserts. No shame. Because their bakeries kick ass, so why not? But a lot of places around the world have good bakeries.
- Keep it simple: kir royale, a little nibble, maybe a first course of a split fig with crumbled chèvre and mint, a simple cassoulet, store-bought bread (see above) with the cheese course, simple salad, dessert, then espresso. NOTHIN TO IT.
- Warm the cheese on the counter for a while - don't pull it right out of the fridge
- A trou normand - "Normandy hole" - is a palate cleanser, a little gap. Apple sorbet with a shot of Calvados.
- Take the pressure off by only serving your tried-and-true recipes. You don't need a big repertoire. Serve the stuff that has make-ahead components.
- Serve each course separately on little plates.
Some other things about eating:
- "Manger" is something les animaux do. "Dîner" is what the people do.
- Frenchwomen don't take seconds
- Snacks are RIGHT OUT
- and the kitchen is closed outside mealtimes
Those lists of closet basics? Oh, yes, this book has one too:
- Classic white button-down
- Pencil skirt
- Perfect-fitting jeans
- Neutral jacket
- Cashmere pully
(Note to self from my reading of this book in August 2016: I HAVE NOT ONE OF THESE. Shocking! Note from February 2017; Situation: Remedied. (Partly.))
Things to consider:
- Your handwriting should have panache
- You could have a potted herb garden
- See Babette's Feast (why have I not done this already?)
- Take care of your sick neighbors with a covered dish. It's not hard.
- Take dance lessons
- Keep up your languages
- Spa day. (This just keeps coming up.)
- Always: good shoes or boots.
- There is no word in French for "flirt." Because it's what they are soaking in?
"Money is not so important. Beauty: VERY IMPORTANT!" -I'm sorry this is just a note, not an exact quote. It's the right idea though.
Takeaway, or One Thing I Will Do Different Now
If this book can be distilled into a single important principle, it is this:
Happiness doesn't come from a giant leap, so take your pleasures frequently. For me, the cheese course.