Papoter (pap-oh-tay) is a casual way of saying to chat, talk, gossip. Now that the weather is improving, you may enjoy spending time at a café catching up with friends and family. It’s during weather like this that I particularly miss Paris and its sidewalk cafés. One of my favorites, Les Éditeurs, was being renovated last summer when I was in Paris. I’m looking forward to the chance to sit there and papoter for an hour or two.
I keep seeing the name “Boulle” when I look at French antique furniture, so I thought I should learn a bit about him. André-Charles Boulle was the preeminent French cabinetmaker active early in the 18th-century. The style that he created of marquetry that combined inlays of brass and tortoiseshell along with the typical fine woods was named after him.
Boulle’s work was so highly valued by king Henri IV that he was given an lodgings in Louvre, providing both economic security and freedom from the rules of the trade guilds. He was the named le premier ébéniste du Roi (prem-e-ay ay-ben-ist due rwah), or the king’s first cabinet maker. Before Versailles was the vast, gilded jewel box that it became under Louis XIV, it was a hunting lodge – a pretty swanky royal hunting lodge. There, Boulle worked for many years, creating wood mosaic floors, inlaid paneling, and marquetry furniture. A suite of furniture created for the Dauphin (heir to the throne) was considered a masterpiece of the art. When not busy with his royal commissions, Boulle worked for the aristocracy and influential families of Europe, crafting chests, desks, armoires, pedestals, clock cases, and lighting-fixtures.
Despite his talents and the volume of his commissions, Boulle constantly lacked for money. His own art collection seems to have absorbed all of his financial resources. He borrowed money at a high rate of interest to pay for purchases bought at auction when art treasures came available. His workers were not paid consistently and clients did not always get furniture for which they had paid substantial deposits. Living at the Louvre provided him with a certain degree of protection from his creditors. Even one of his sons was arrested and held for his father’s debt until the king got him released.
Several years after this event, his financial situation was further affected by a fire that destroyed his workshop and all of the tools and supplies inside. He may have been even more cut-up by the loss of his art collection, which, according to the fire inventory included fourty-eight drawings by Raphael, wax models by Michelangelo, and a journal belonging to Rubens. Boulle was simply addicted to collecting, and he could never kick the habit. He died famous and deeply in debt.
André-Charles Boulle: A New Style for Europe, 1642-1732
I have a 3 x 5 card on my desk at school with a quotation by Gaston Bachelard that says, “Qui ne continue pas à apprendre est indigne d’enseigner” (key nuh kohn-tin-u pah ah ap-ren-druh et an-dean-yuh dohn-sen-yay), which means “He who does not continue to learn is unworthy to teach.” Fortunately, since I love all things French, continuing to learn is a pleasure. For years, we’ve enjoyed courses by The Great Courses, and I’ve previously recommended them on the blog. Recently, my husband gave me Living the French Revolution and the Age of Napoleon, by Professor Suzanne M. Dean. The lectures are packed with fascinating information. Did you know, for instance, that 40% of those who were imprisoned in the Bastille were writers, publishers, and printers whose publications offended the king? Professor Dean’s explanation of the Diamond Necklace Affair, one of the factors that led to the French Revolution, made a convoluted series of events crystal clear. If you enjoy learning about French history, I highly recommend this course to you.
The Oxford History of the French Revolution
The only place I have ever seen a line streaming out the door of a bakery and down the sidewalk. That was in Paris. I’d read that Clear Flour Bread in Brookline, Massachusetts, had the best croissants in Boston. The line out the door tended to support this praise. We joined the queue and ogled the rich variety of baked goods through the window while we waited our turn. When we were finally able to get inside the door, olfactory temptation was added to the visual enticement. What to choose?
We ended up taking a bit of everything; small loaves of bread, brioche, a rustic strawberry and rhubarb tart, and, of course, croissants – both plain and pain au chocolat. In the interests of gustatory research, we’ve been working our way through our haul. The verdict is that their pastries are simply excellent, but the bread, while perfectly fine, is not off the charts. The croissants were worthy of a Parisian boulangerie, the rustic tart was full of flavor and the pastry was flaky and light, and the brioche de Provence was studded with orange peel. Yum!
The French phrase for “to line up” is faire la queue (fare lah kuh). Although Brookline is half an hour away from where I live, I see regular trips to Clear Flour Bread in order to faire la queue in my future. If you’re in the greater Boston area, I highly recommend that you faire la queue as well.
The Larousse Book of Bread: 80 Recipes to Make at Home
Les pattes d’oie (pat dwah) literally means duck’s feet, but it’s the equivalent expression to crow’s feet in English. I prefer my pattes d’oie on a duck paddling happily on a pond than anywhere near my eyes, but I must admit that I prefer ducks to crows. Some of the best rated eye creams are French: Lancôme Génifique Yeux and Caudalie Premier Cru, among them. Caudalie products incorporate grapes, one of the most famous creams in the world uses sea kelp. I’m never sure if the eye creams I’ve been using for almost three decades are effective or if they just make me feel better about my efforts to stuff the sands of time back into the top half of the hourglass. But I’ll keep using them; I don’t want those duck feet making any more tracks on
It’s spring in my corner of the world – officially at any rate. Even when we have lots of clothes already, spring calls us to add a few pieces to our wardrobe. After a brutal winter, it feels so great to shed all those heavy, dark layers and embrace something light and bright. I love that there is a word in French for the special feeling of wearing something for the first time – étrenner (ay-tren-ay). Every major retailer seems to offer a variation on the classic French marinière in the spring. I’m quite tempted by the one shown here by Talbots. I think it shouts “Spring!” What’re you adding to your wardrobe for spring?
How To Dress Like A Cool French Mom: Dissecting The French Wardrobe Philosophy One Breton Stripe At A Time
The Barn at 17 has one of the best selections of antique furniture and accessories that we have found in the Boston area. The building looks a little decrepit on the exterior, but inside it’s Ali Baba’s cave, chock full of heirloom-quality treasures. They are affiliated with a restoration business on the property, so any pieces for sale are in pristine condition. After touring the huge warehouse, I asked my husband what he would load in the car if money were no object. He was sincerely stumped – there was so much wonderful merchandise on offer. We decided that our hypothetical purchase would be a carved china cabinet from a Boston cabinet maker. If you’re not in the Boston area, they also sell on One King’s Lane; just type their name in the search box. Fortiche (for-teesh) is a slang term that means that something is really terrific. The Barn at 17 is fortiche from the smallest objet d’art to the largest dining room suite.
The Flea Markets of France