August 29, 2007



"Patrick Roger" is a wonderful chocolate shop out in Paris. Their 100% cacao bars are incredible. They're so good that I am not sure I believe there is nothing but pure cacao in them.

In April, in Paris, I asked a lady in the shop if it was possible to purchase Patrick Roger chocolate in the US. Like you, I said I'd happily pay any international shipping costs--whatever it takes.

No no, she said. No can do. She didn't go so far as to say it was *impossible*. She just said they can't/wouldn't do it.

She did inform me, however, that they were trying their darndest to get something happening for September or October.

My French was/is not good enough to ask why it would take so long to set up some way, any way, to ship chocolate bars overseas.


They have quite a beautiful website, and it DOES promise the "boutique en ligne" is coming. I've registered my info ... we shall see.


Instead of harassing the French, why not lobby your local gourmet market to stock it? If they say no, you can call *them* parasseux, too. Though you won't be able to malign them for not being American or capitalist enough.


I expected a missing-the-point response like yours, "Whoever" (and why is it that the critics always post anonymously - brave, brave one you are). Harrassing? Maligning? Quelle dommage, what a faintheart you are! I just want some fucking bread. They may be parasseux but you are a bit of a con, no?

Brady Westwater

Your encounter reminds me of Adam Gopnik's experiences in 'Paris to the Moon'. It's my favorite book on both Paris - and the French - even if some of my friends in Paris nit pick some of the details. I give a copy to anyone I know who will be spending time in Paris.

amy, la petite americaine

I live in Paris and could probably procure this bread for you, assuming customs allows it... Maybe we could come to some mutually satisfying agreement. Email me if you're intrested.


i see that you're willing to go 40 bucks for a loaf. If you can go 400 to ten loaves I'll fly over site 59 and get it for you.


Mark this is maybe the funniest post you have ever done. I can't believe you go from LA to Paris on a regular basis! What a hike. It is Paris though...


It's a faux ami--I lived in Paris and "C'est impossible" is to them a polite demurral, akin to "I respectfully won't." They move on to "I just can't" and "It's impossible" when push comes to shove and they can't get Americans or each other to understand they don't want to, period. What some don't understand is that they're spoiling for a fight, which has more dignity and honor in it than the mere act of making money, which is vulgar, petit-bourgeois and not very aristocratic or gallant.

When a French person hears "C'est impossible," he may stop there or he may feel provoked, which they love, because that means they get to talk more and act sour, just for laughs or because it's their duty or their right of man.

Come to think of it, it's a form of flirtation, too. It's an art! It's a dessert topping, it's a floorwax! Excusez-moi, c'est ma passion!

Never understood the appeal of brioche, I mean to the degree that it would become world-famous and so culturally important. To me it's the Beckett of pastry--you put what you want on it and it can be anything you like. Let it dry out and you can mop up spills with it, too. Other helpful household hints: if you've lost your bathtub drain cover, wad some brioche hard and tight and pack that crap in . . .


Ah, if I could count the number of times these irriating, yet strangely charming words have been uttered when trying to get packages from France to anywhere else in the world.

Love them for it though. I know I shouldn't, but I do. Everytime I encounter this firm response, I marvel at it and wish I had the gumption to simply say "no" when I'd rather not do something but could if I really felt like it. It perfectly communicates their point: I could if I cared, but I don't. Alas, c'est impossible.


Miguel, I should have been clear - the email was actually in English. I simply imagined the French translation going on in the customer rep's mind as she typed. Although I love your clear-eyed take on L'affaire Brioche. (I should point out I actually don't much care for "proper" brioche - it's the sliced processed stuff I oddly love.)



I'm all connase, all the way.

If the point is that the French should be more American, I'm afraid we don't see eye to eye.

And you're a mite touchy, aren't you? At the heart of my (albeit bitchy) comment was a sincere suggestion, made with the intention of being genuinely helpful--yeah, you just might have better luck going the gourmet market route--even as I tried to rub your nose in your own conneries.

Oh, and if you don't want people to post anonymously, why give us the option? I don't see you calling "miguel" or "dan" or "paul" above "fainthearted" for not leaving their social security numbers behind as identifiers, or however else you think people should identify themselves definitively in a medium whose defining characteristics include a degree of anonymity and fluid identities for most of its users. Isn't that why you sign *your* posts 'TEV' rather than with your birthname?


My dear Whoever,

I won't argue this with you all day long but since you asked -

Dan, Miguel, et alia, posted with proper names AND actual email addresses. Regular readers of this site know that anonymous bitchiness is strongly discouraged - not forbidden, just discouraged. Regular readers also know that my identity is no secret - click the About sidebar and you'll have my full name, email and photo to boot. The point being I have always signed my name to my bitchiness.

As for your bitchiness, suffice to say it undermines the value of your suggestion. And the point isn't that the French should be more American - I thought my comment about not being a flag-waver would have made that clear. (As would the fact of my regular and frequent trips.) Rather, it was more that, just this once, they might merely be a bit less French.

But perhaps I'm just bitchy because I miss my bread.



Because I've been somewhat bellicose in my comments since yesterday, I want to make it clear that I enjoy this blog a lot and read it semi-regularly. Certainly, I hope there are "no hard feelings." ;-)


None whatsoever. Or should I say, none whoever. Vive la difference!


I love you all! je vous aime beaucoup!

Seriously, I love this forum. To get to the bottom of Frenchness would be like getting to the bottom of Americanness, I decided. Anymore there is too much sociological and cultural variety in either case.

The French and the Americans are actually mirror images of each other--backwards images to each other: "We're the true version of democracy," we each say.

That's because both cultures made such grand contributions to the idea, the thought and practice of democracy. I was being a smart aleck because there's no way to evaluate the issue, since our assumptions are culturally determined in the first place. It's easier to pick on the English or Germans, but go anywhere and really look around: it's not what it was or what you thought. I was in the South of France this year for the umpteenth time and decided never again to desire too much, but just go with the flow--which is what I tell the French when they come here and sit at my table.

Like TEV's packaged brioche, my guilty pleasure: stopping on the autoroutes in France; no place is better for getting a view of the French that's different from the one they want (or used to want) to project about themselves. A quick bite, a crappy europop CD, bbq or cool ranch chips, and they take Amex! Yes, they actually eat candy and junk food, and yes I'll have some, too.


I'm most shocked that the email contained the words "I'm sorry."

Jack Pendarvis

Might I recommend the "Cherry Fire" pickles from Jimmy Lowe's fruit stand in Theodore, Alabama? Oo la la! C'est magnifique! Maurice Chevalier!

Jack Pendarvis

In the cold light of day, my prior comment strikes me as boorish in many ways. I apologize for it. What was I implying, that it's not cool for everyone to get so worked up about brioche? That we should all eat pickles instead? What a bonehead I am. I came home feeling pretty fine because of some absinthe I had consumed at a friend's house (yes, note the inherent hypocrisy) and under that circumstance it seemed to me that the remark was just the cutest thing ever typed. In truth, it was not. Again, I'm sorry. I can only hope that the French aspect of my dubious inspiration will count for something. I do stand by my pickle recommendation, however misplaced.


Just so no one claims I am anonymous: here I am, complete with url. Hoohaa.

Speaking of Harry's Bread... one of the things that struck me most, in Paris, was how ubiquitous Harry's "American" Bread is. It seemed at times easier to find than the freshly baked stuff. And people must be buying it, for stores to stock so much of the stuff.

I wondered if some Parisians love mass-produced pre-sliced American sandwich bread more than their artisanal loaves? The thought put a smile on my face. What next--Larry's American cheese? Sally's American coldcuts?

Resistance is futile.


Oh, you should see the letter my friend got (in London) from the French national rail: she'd paid for an $8 ticket that didn't print. A refund on the spot was "impossible." She bought a new ticket and requested, in writing, upon her return to London, a refund.

She has an elaborate and abject apology, stating the distress that her unfortunate experience has caused to the writer and all of her co-workers. (The letter is in error-riddled and histrionic English.)

In repayment for her distress, he wonders if she would like to receive a coupon good for another version of the same journey on her next visit to France or, perhaps she could propose some other form of repayment...

This is a great, comic flipside of "c'est impossible": we're going to bend over backwards with faux politesse but not send any cash until we discern if you're fool enough to join us in our bureaucratic onanism.

The Individual Voice

Very funny. You should write "personal" posts more often.

The Individual Voice

Very funny. You should write "personal" posts more often.

The comments to this entry are closed.


  • The Elegant Variation is "Fowler’s (1926, 1965) term for the inept writer’s overstrained efforts at freshness or vividness of expression. Prose guilty of elegant variation calls attention to itself and doesn’t permit its ideas to seem naturally clear. It typically seeks fancy new words for familiar things, and it scrambles for synonyms in order to avoid at all costs repeating a word, even though repetition might be the natural, normal thing to do: The audience had a certain bovine placidity, instead of The audience was as placid as cows. Elegant variation is often the rock, and a stereotype, a cliché, or a tired metaphor the hard place between which inexperienced or foolish writers come to grief. The familiar middle ground in treating these homely topics is almost always the safest. In untrained or unrestrained hands, a thesaurus can be dangerous."


  • The Bookshop by Penelope Fitzgerald


    Penelope Fitzgerald's second novel is the tale of Florence Green, a widow who seeks, in the late 1950s, to bring a bookstore to an isolated British town, encountering all manner of obstacles, including incompetent builders, vindictive gentry, small minded bankers, an irritable poltergeist, but, above all, a town that might not, in fact, want a bookshop. Fitzgerald's prose is spare but evocative – there's no wasted effort and her work reminds one of Hemingway's dictum that every word should fight for its right to be on the page. Florence is an engaging creation, stubbornly committed to her plan even as uncertainty regarding the wisdom of the enterprise gnaws at her. But The Bookshop concerns itself, finally, with the astonishing vindictiveness of which provincials are capable, and, as so much English fiction must, it grapples with the inevitabilities of class. It's a dense marvel at 123 pages, a book you won't want to – or be able to – rush through.
  • The Rider by Tim Krabbe


    Tim Krabbé's superb 1978 memoir-cum-novel is the single best book we've read about cycling, a book that will come closer to bringing you inside a grueling road race than anything else out there. A kilometer-by-kilometer look at just what is required to endure some of the most grueling terrain in the world, Krabbé explains the tactics, the choices and – above all – the grinding, endless, excruciating pain that every cyclist faces and makes it heart-pounding rather than expository or tedious. No writer has better captured both the agony and the determination to ride through the agony. He's an elegant stylist (ably served by Sam Garrett's fine translation) and The Rider manages to be that rarest hybrid – an authentic, accurate book about cycling that's a pleasure to read. "Non-racers," he writes. "The emptiness of those lives shocks me."