While in Cannes, I was at a dinner party with a group of French people. As is wont to happen, after chatting for a while, the fact that I have been living in France for over ten years came up.
“Wow!” one of them said. (Actually, they said putain. French people rarely say “wow” unironically.) “So what’s the biggest difference between the French and the Americans.”
I’ve had a lot of time to think about this, so luckily, the answer I gave was fully formed and ready.
“When a French person walks into a nondescript room, he’s always going to notice – and remark upon – something negative. Anything. When an American person walks into the same room, he’ll remark on something positive.”
Luckily, these French people were the sort to take no offense at that, and they nodded, agreeing with me.
“It’s true,” they said. “We do like to complain.”
Of course, seeing as I myself have been in France for quite some time, it comes as perhaps no surprise that I’ve gotten pretty good at complaining too.
I am adept at all forms of French complaining, from se plaindre (straight up complaining), to grogner (grumbling, slightly more virile whingeing), to chouiner (straight up whining). I can porter plainte (make an official complaint) and even râler (complain but take pleasure in doing so). In fact, it was this last, extremely French tradition that Scotty and I had so much fun participating in during our sojourn in Cannes.
You see, whilst on vacation, one’s ability to deal with the inconveniences of life vanishes. This is how, over the course of our trip, the following phrases all made appearances (and only slightly ironically).
“They were out of cheaper rosé so we were forced to drink Bandol.”
“My sand is too bumpy.”
“I have to decide which bikini to wear.”
“There’s sand in my pistachios.”
“My arms are getting sore from holding up my book.”
“Turning over is hard.”
“Someone is sitting in our picnic spot.”
“I’m full of mussels but I want to make space to dip fries in the mussel sauce.”
“My book is only fine.”
“The owners of the apartment overlooking the beach took down their clock.”
“There’s an ant in my Bandol.”
“There’s more Bandol than we originally expected.”
Ah well… c’est la vie.
Blackberry and Peach Salad
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons cider vinegar
3 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper
2 heads mini romaine or sucrine lettuce, chopped
1 ripe peach, sliced
1 pint blackberries
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1 avocado, diced
1/2 English cucumber, diced
Place the mustard and vinegar in the bottom of a serving bowl and whisk together. Whisk in the oil to emulsify, and season with salt and pepper.
Add the lettuce, peaches, blackberries, onion, avocado, and cucumber. Toss to combine. Dinner is served.