October 16, 2017

Les Voiles de Saint Tropez

Saint Tropez is where I finally fell in love with France. I was never a natural francophile, but two summers spent there changed the way I felt about the French. Where I first learned to 'profiter', we went back for Les Voiles: Xavier and his dad, who loves sailing and these older sailboats (les voiles de tradition). Saint Tropez was throwing around its finest light - spoiling all the visiting boats.

I had been with Xavier for years and spent 3 of them in Paris, but it was when I ate a Tarte Tropèzienne with some colleagues (I worked in St Tropez for the summers of 2010 and 2011) that I had a cultural breakthrough in my relationship with the French.

A good Tarte Tropèzienne is delight - two layers of cake (de brioche) divorced by a layer of cream (crème pâtissière). And it is rather large (meaning tall) for a tart. So, my strategy was pragmatic, just eat the two halves separately - each with a bit of the cream. My colleague interrupted me, gasping: "No, Emilie, you mustn't eat the tarte that way!"

Here we go again, I thought. (The French had schooled me heavily on the way to do things. From peeling a potato, to wearing a scarf, getting on my bike or eating a square of chocolate, I had been given some serious advice. All of which, up to this point, had left me feeling constrained).

But no. This French person, for the first time in my mingling with the French, offered a real, valid reason why there is only one method to eat a tarte tropézienne (it is also possible I just hadn't been listening). She explained that the way to eat the tart (plunging the fork vertical style, through the two layers and the cream, all at the same time - never separating them) was not created to bother me. Rather, rules like this were made to increase pleasure. The thing itself was conceived of in this way. In fact, to eat a tarte tropézienne differently is to no longer eat a tarte tropézienne.

It is for this reason that at another dinner in St. Tropez, a lovely French woman proclaimed, as she spoke about Americans, "There are many things they haven't understood. They are capable of serving their wine in a plastic glass! 50% of the appreciation is in the glass." It is the smallest morcels of life, when put in the right light or focused on properly, that deliver the greatest satisfaction. And so, after years of misunderstanding the French, I exhaled a big puff of air "ha!" And I got it.

Since then, I have been focusing on the art of 'profiter' as a sort of personal mission. And I am learning a lot from the French.

So we were back and downright indulged by the place and the sight of it all. Back to profiter.

We rented a small boat to go out on the water and mingle with the mammoth sailboats. We especially loved being up against the massive wooden yachts from the 20s and 30s and the crashing waves of the sea. Heavy zephyr making the boats plunge ahead.

We spent the time sous le soleil, strolling along la ponche, between the cantaloupe walls. I got up early and ran a portion of the Sentier du Littoral one morning. The place has the same effect on me: my chest rises and falls differently - in gasps.

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