Photo of the Week


The Square Louvois, with the Biblio-
thèque Nationale in the background.
© Paris Update


Paris Update This Week’s Events

For full details about an event, click on the title to visit the official Web site (in English when available).

All-night art
> Nuit Blanche is an all-night festival of outdoor art events, plus special happenings in museums, which will stay open late for free. Various locations, Paris, Oct. 1.

Strange Happenings in St. Germain
> The exhibition Bizarro, with works by a number of artists, fills seven Left Bank galleries with “Bêtes de Scènes et Sacrés Monstres.” Don’t miss the Meta-perceptual Helmets by the Irish duo Cleary/Connolly
at the Librairie Alain Brieux, which allow the viewer to see forward and backward, for example, or the way a cyclops or horse would see. Various locations, Paris, through Oct. 30.

Two meals for the price of one
> Restaurants participating in Tous au Restaurant offer a second fixed-price menu for free. Various locations, Paris, through Oct. 2.

Feel-good films
> Classic movies starring the Marx Brothers, Peter Sellers, Cary Grant and more are sure to raise a smile at the festivalQu’est-ce qu’on Attend pour Être Heureux!, Forum des Images, Paris, through Oct. 2.

Indian films
> Indian film festival. Musée Guimet, Paris, through Sept. 30.

Chanson française
> L’Estival features singers performing in French. Various locations, Saint Germain-en-Laye, through Oct. 8.

Antique fair in a bucolic setting
> A visit to the Foire de Chatou antique market and regional products fair makes a great weekend outing. Chatou, through Oct. 2.

Contemporary arts festival
> TheFestival d’Automne presents leading talents in art, dance, film, theater and more from around the world. Various venues, Paris, through Dec. 31.

Classical, world, jazz & electronic
> The Festival d’Ile de France holds concerts in various locations in Paris and elsewhere, through Oct. 9.

Music & more in park bandstands
> Kiosques en Fête brings life to the bandstands in Paris’s parks with concerts, writing workshops, club meetings and even a square dance. Various locations, Paris, through Dec. 31.

Music on the beach
> Sandy beach and nightly concerts or DJs at La Plage de Glaz’Art. Paris, through Oct. 1.

Amazing gardens
> The popular Festival International des Jardins de Chaumont-sur-Loireis held annually in the park of the Château de Chaumont in Chaumont-sur-Loire, through Nov. 2.


Hot Topics - C'est ironique !


Food for Thought

paris butcher shop

Next time you're at the meat counter, see if your butcher knows how to count.

Consider this conversation I had with the clerk at a lunch counter on Boulevard Malesherbes last week: “I’ll have the sandwich-soft drink-dessert ...

paris butcher shop

Next time you're at the meat counter, see if your butcher knows how to count.

Consider this conversation I had with the clerk at a lunch counter on Boulevard Malesherbes last week:

“I’ll have the sandwich-soft drink-dessert menu, please.”

“What kind of sandwich would you like?”

“Spicy chicken, please.”

(About 12 seconds elapse while he wraps up the sandwich.)

“Do you want something to drink with that?”

“Yes, I’ll have a Perrier and an apple crumble.”

(About 6 seconds elapse while he gets a Perrier out of the refrigerator.)

“And did you want a dessert?”

Am I the only one to notice this? Maybe it’s universal, but I have been experiencing this phenomenon in Paris for years: a person selling food behind a counter (as opposed to waiting tables) cannot be expected to handle more than one bit of information at once.

So here’s a little game you can play to have fun with Parisian food merchants. It’s called “Une Chose à la Fois” – “One Thing at a Time.” There’s only one rule: whenever you want more than one item, order in groups of two. For example, if you go to the butcher’s shop for a chicken, a half-kilo of ground beef and six lamb chops, place your order like this: “I’d like a chicken and a half-kilo of ground beef, please.” The butcher will prepare the chicken and ask, “Anything else?” Then you say, “Yes, I’d like a half-kilo of ground beef and six lamb chops, please.” The butcher will prepare the ground beef and say, “Anything else?”

I swear it works for me every time. This must be why you can get a bacon sandwich in Paris but not a BLT. It’s probably also one of the underlying reasons for France’s low birthrate: all of those countermen and butchers and greengrocers go home at night and their spouses say, “Honey, let’s go to bed and have sex.”

Sometimes I wonder if the food sellers themselves realize that they’re doing this. But I don’t dare ask them to stop and think, because then I’d never get any food at all.

David Jaggard

Reader Laurel Zuckerman writes: "Thank you for the amusing (and accurate) observations about French butcher protocol; however I must point out one tiny error: France’s birthrate is not low. At 2.1, it tops Europe! It would seem that multitasking’s not the only way to get things done…"

Reader Jacques Bosser writes: "Rather funny column but wrong on one point: the reproduction rate in France is the second highest in Europe, just after so-Catholic Ireland. When a Frenchwoman wants some entertainment, she is shrewd. Instead of saying bluntly, “Let’s go to bed and have sex”, she uses a delayed strategy to avoid any rebuke. First, “Let’s go to bed,” then she knows she is in a better position, so to speak, to say, “Let’s have sex.” In fact, she doesn’t ask verbally; many other options – more subtle or more direct are possible. Ironic, isn’it?"

Reader Gary Lee Kraut writes: "David’s comments on single-minded merchants are amusing and true, but I think he chose the wrong end joke in saying that’s 'one of the underlying reasons for France’s low birthrate.' In fact, France has one of the highest birthrates in Europe."

Writer David Jaggard responds: "To take a quote from the Rosetta Stone, 'Stop trying to confuse me with facts!' My well-informed readers are right: after falling for years, France's birth rate starting recovering in the nineties and is now the second highest in the EU. I knew this when I set out to set up the joke, but decided to go with the 'low birthrate' gambit since France comes in 151st (out of 195 countries) in the UN's rankings, with a live-births-per-thousand-population rate of 12.2, well below the international average of 20.3. My source here is Wikipedia, in case anyone wants to lunge for the saltshaker. I figured there was no use trying to work all that into the article, and then the INSEE, France's national statistics institute, released the news this very week that the country's fertility rate had hit a 35-year high. The f***ers!"

Reader Michael Barker writes: "David Jaggard did not specify in advance which drink and which dessert he wanted to choose so it is hardly surprising that he was asked for his second and third choices. And why should a busy butcher handling several dozen clients in the day be expected to retain a triple order in his memory. Most waiters write down an order, butchers don’t and why should they they are preparing the goods, not passing them on to the kitchen.

"It was announced yesterday that the fecundity of the French is the highest in Europe. Hardly a ‘tiny error.’ You can get a BLT sandwich in Paris – at Monoprix for example – though I find them wanting somewhat.

"What a silly piece, there are more interesting/amusing observations to be made about living in Paris."

Click here for more C'est Ironique! columns.

Reader Reaction: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to respond to this article (your response may be published on this page and is subject to editing).

Support Paris Update by ordering books from Paris Update's Amazon store at no extra cost. Click on your preferred Amazon location: U.K., France, U.S.

© 2011 Paris Update