Monday, February 23, 2009

Salad Dreams

Restaurants in the US will sometimes attempt to gussy up their menus by tossing in some French vocabulary, an A la mode here and en croute there. They may take it so far as to change the name of the place from Bob's Grill to Chez Robert for example. By adding a French word or two you instantly add a certain je ne sais quoi to an otherwise passé eatery. Parisian Restaurateurs play these same games with English! Although the use of English here doesn't conjure up images of haut cuisine or gourmet dining, rather they imply that the food will be fast, cheap and efficient. Here are a few funny examples I have seen around town.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Working Girl

Oh France. Just when I think I have you pegged, you turn around and prove me wrong. I was preparing myself for a massive uphill battle. I translated and tweaked my resume, purchased stamps and nice paper, highlighted want ads and ironed my shirt. I needed a well paid short term job that started ASAP to help keep us in the black while I waited for my dream job (everyone still has their fingers crossed, right?!) to start this summer and I was ready to fight for it. 

The first shot was fired in January. On a Monday and Tuesday in mid January I sent out a stack of letters and a bunch of emails. On Wednesday morning I dropped off a resume in person at an advertising agency in our neighborhood that needed a part time receptionist.  On Wednesday afternoon I met with the my new unemployment counselor who went over my resume with me and set me up with another counselor to meet with later that month. However, just as I was signing all the paperwork saying that I am unemployed and will need all the classes and help I can get because I am sure this is going to be really hard...the advertising agency called and asked if I could come in for an interview. 

By Thursday I had the job and on Friday I came in for a day of training! My new title is chargée d'acceuil or person in charge of welcoming people. The office is full of hip kids with tattoos, three day beards and flea-market chic sweaters. The massive steel and raw wood desks are stacked with Macs and the smell of felt-pens and spray-mount is in the air. Ahhh! It was a delight! My mother, two brothers, sister in law and both cousins are all in advertising so I know I thing or two about these kind of people. This job was exactly what I was looking for and it only took three days to get it! I will take some pictures and post them soon. 

Friday, February 13, 2009

French Fashion

This particular posting has been in the works for several weeks, months even. I was waiting to collect the perfect photographic examples which I believe I have now finally acquired. 

As I packed my bags for Paris last year I was worried about my wardrobe. Did I have enough chic clothing? Should I buy a few outfits here before leaving? Should I wait until I get to Paris? I decided it was best to wait until I got to Paris to be sure to buy the latest local retrospect I should have bought more clothes in Seattle while I still had a paycheck and a husband with a job...but never mind that. 

When I arrived, I kept my eyes peeled for fashion trends. My mother soon came in to town and we put our heads together to figure out what women in Paris were wearing these days. I was feeling a little lost but mom, as usual, nailed the trend "It seems to me that in Paris you can wear whatever you want, you just have to own it!" Not own it as in it is in your closet but own it, as in hold your head up high and rock it. 

I wasn't so sure, can you really wear whatever you want? Boots, braids, pink jeans, ray-bans, floppy hats and suede boots... potentially all in one outfit? That answer apparently is yes. Yes you can. All you need to do is tilt your head up, walk with purpose and paint an half smile on your face that communicates, "That's right, I know you are jealous but stop staring" or "Oh, you haven't heard that blue fur and army boots are the new must have, well you will and then you'll feel silly".

Exhibit A: Platinum blonde buzz cut, black leather pants with a raised design on the back pockets, a deconstructed metallic down jacket and boots with four in heels before noon. I crossed this same extraordinary woman the following day at the supermarket, she was wearing exactly the same outfit except she choose her orange purse that day. 

Exhibit B: Fur lined shiny black down jacket, perfectly bleached jeans, playboy bunny sculpted in hair and sunglasses despite the fact that he is indoors and it was December. 

 Exhibit C: Fur, fur and a little mohair. 

Exhibit D: Blond lighter-than-air bouffant, wool coat with blue fox fur cuffs, pointy high heel boots with a blue military motif at well over 65 years of age. 

In Paris you can wear whatever suits your fancy. Seriously. I have already tested the theory. My first test was to wear a dress, heels and lipstick to a morning coffee date. No one batted an eyelash. No one asked me why I was so dressed up, unlike in Seattle. I then pushed things a little further. I have a black knit hat with a pompom the size of a grapefruit, would that be too much for these Parisians if I paired it with a giant 8 foot long wooly black scarf? No. It was a hit. Then this week I wore a controversial pink sweater that has a high ruffled collar similar to the styles of the kings and queens of was a huge success. I had a few stares, a few smiles, and a few compliments. My friend Emilie told me she really liked it, I thanked her and said that I know it's a little different but that I enjoy wearing it. She said, "As you should Mary. It's Paris, anything goes!".

Case closed. 

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Vocabulary Lesson - Part I

This month I learned a few new vocabulary words that no French teacher ever thought to teach me. I thought I would share them with you.

Frottis = Pap Smear

Agraffeuse = Stapler

Femme au Foyer = Housewife

Un Pâté de Maisons = A city block

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Tea Leaves

After months of non stop travel the tour season ended in October. I found myself with an abundance of time on my hands. Hauled up in my apartment, wrapped up in my new Italian robe and slippers I sipped tea and contemplated my next move. By November the tea leaves in the bottom of my cup clearly spelled disaster.

The dark winter weather forecasts matched the tour sales forecast for 2009. Being one of the newest guides in the France program I knew I was the last in line for work and by the time they got to me there might be nothing left. I needed a new plan.

Touring kept me away from my handsome husband, far from my new french friendships and biensûr away from the blog. I wanted to find a job in Paris. My favorite parts of being a tour guide were always the parts that had to do with food. From organizing an oyster tasting in Cancale to teaching my young tour members how the French eat their soup, every time food was involved I was particularly involved. So I decided that I would like to transition from food lover to full time food professional.

So I began to beat the drums of social networking. Soon wonderful suggestions, connections and phone numbers started to pour in. My girls from Mrs Cooks ( hooked me up with Monsieur Jacques Henry (fifth generation owner of Emile Henry ceramics). The ever inspirational AmyP put me in touch with Theirry Rautureau ( My old bosses Tom Douglas and Jackie Cross ( introduced me to the talented duo who run Hidden Kitchen ( who in turn encouraged me to contact Daniel Rose of Spring Restaurant ( My long time fellow food loving friend Kristin from Hawaii also sent me an article about this same young chef from Chicago, so I decided to introduce myself.

I marched down to Spring, which is conveniently located a few blocks from my apartment, shook Daniel's hand and told him why I think he should hire me.

Here's a snippet from the letter I wrote to him...

Mr Rose, 

Please allow me to introduce myself. My name is Mary. I read cookbooks like romance novels, I visit foreign grocery stores like art galleries and I make my own jam. In short, I am a gastronome who is trying hard to transition from food lover to food professional.

After three years in the tourism industry working as a tour guide and travel writer, I realized that my favorite part of the job was always the part that had to do with eating. So I have decided to cut the fat and find a job that focus exclusively on food.

I have been scouring the city looking for a dynamic young chef who may need some assistance in the form of a personal assistant. I can help with marketing, communications, event planning and other back of the house logistics....

He was sold. Next month the restaurant is moving from its current location in favor of a slightly larger, more centralized, spot near the Louvre. If all goes according to plan (fingers crossed) I'll be Spring's new event/marketing/communications/office person later this summer. This solves the long term question of where I would like my career to go but it presents a short term issue of finding a little job to keep us afloat this spring. Armed with my Carte de Séjour I am ready to attack the French Unemployment system. Stay tuned.