I’m off….

So sorry, I’ve neglected Friday@Flore this month, but working in the ‘burbs has made it rather impossible to spend my afternoons sipping champagne. I’m working on a solution!

In the meantime, I’m on a flight bound for Venice, where I’ll be exploring the city and wearing The Dress with Mr French. I am very excited! And a little nervous. Keeping my fingers crossed I don’t break a heel, or fall into a canal. Both of which are possible as my heels are ridiculously high and fate-temptingly thin.

Shopping for the dress was a dream come true, but I hadn’t realized that it would require new shoes. In fact, there were lots of little details to take care of that I didn’t consider until I started packing…. like finding the backless bra I’ll need, choosing the “right” stockings (I thought nude, the sales girl rightfully pointed me towards transparent black), picking the right wrap (I was going to wear white, Mr French suggested the perfect grey), pulling out the tummy-tucking, ass-lifting under garments, putting aside a bit of make-up, selecting the fragrance, packing the evening bag and booking an on-site hairstylist. Oh, and running out of the office, between meetings, to get waxed just hours before leaving.

Yesterday, in the sardine-can-commute via metro, the man who was sharing the central pole, squished up against me had pink eye. He rubbed his eye, and touched the pole several times. I was horrified as I started manically repeating the mantra; get to work, go directly to the washroom, scrub your hands. Do not pass go, do not collect 200$. I was so deep into my meditation that I wasn’t aware of my own hand reaching up to itch my left eye. Brilliant.

Then this morning, as I bent down to kiss a sleeping Em goodbye for the day, she lifted her head bashing my two front teeth into my lower lip. Which has swollen to twice its regular size.


Sweet 16

I can not, for the life of me, understand why I think anyone would want to read about my non-adventures in finding a Sweet 16 birthday cake for Em. But I had fun, and there are few good addresses buried in here, so I’m sharing.

I’m still working at The Agency. Yesterday the family was coming for dinner to celebrate Em’s birthday and I had not figured out the logistics. More importantly, I did not have a solution for the birthday cake. When I work from home, ordering a cake is something I think of while eating my lunch alone at the table. From the office, it had not even occurred to me. Of course, finding a cake in Paris doesn’t sound like it would be an issue, but French pastries are not particularly exciting to a kid who grew up passing them on her way to school every morning.

This would not stop a Parisienne mom, but Em and I have always had a special thing about her birthday cake. There was the year she asked me to spread out a tub of chocolate ice cream and cover it with M&Ms, or the year that she wanted a strawberry cake, as in strawberries formed into the shape of a cake with flowers instead of frosting. This year I was left to my own resources, but it was clear, the girl had expectations!

Em loves meringues, but random bakery meringues can range from horrible, to divine and it is hard to tell which it will be without testing them first, so I called our preferred meringue supplier to put in an order. Yes, it is true, living in Paris, one tends to develop a rather peculiar list of go-to-addresses and I happen to have a meringue supplier (or two, she added, whistling softly, her hands behind her back and her eyes looking for a place to hide as her cheeks flushed red). Our first choice is always Gerard Mulot. His meringues are delightfully chewy on the inside, and even better, he splits them filling the void with decadently rich whipped cream. Yum!

Readers, take note! Those meringues are only available on weekends. Who new? I hadn’t had a clue. So I called meringue supplier number 2, Maeder Benoît. His meringues are the perfect balance of crispy crunchy and ooey chewy, and without Mulot’s whipped cream, they’re totally guilt fat free. BUT : Maeder is closed Tuesday AND Wednesday. At this point, I no longer cared if the meringues were good. Its the thought that counts, n’est-ce pas? So I headed out the door and hit every bakery in a 3 block radius. As the French say, « jamais deux sans trois» There were no meringues.

Six months ago I had lunch with La Fashionista at swanky bar/bakery/café. As we left, I stopped at the pastry counter where perfectly frosted, pristine white cupcakes with sparkling silver beads had caught my eye. LF quickly set me straight, they were not cupcakes, they were meringues. They were so gorgeous I took a photo.

And that is the photo that came up on my random screensaver as I sat at my desk trying to come up with a Plan D. I got very excited! I called. Not only did Josephine Bakery have meringues midweek, but yes, Madame, they would be thrilled to put 6 of them aside for me and although the bakery closes at 19h, the bar is open until 21h. I would have plenty of time to leave the office at the official 19h, take the metro into the city, transfer trains, and pick up the meringues before heading across the Seine to the pizzeria where 6 take-out boxes would be waiting for me to pick-up before I could hail a taxi home. I was saved!

A  meringue disguised as a cupcake is a special treat, but it does not exactly shout “Happy Birthday”, and its pretty far from our quirky tradition. Fortunately the 7 year old Em’s strawberry cake had given me an idea for the 16 year old and I filled the cake plate with a kilo of gariguettes, before giving them a generous dose of artisanal whipped cream. The resulting “cake” couldn’t have sung out Joyeux Anniversaire any louder.

Gerard Mulot – 76 Rue de Seine – 01 43 26 85 77

Maeder Benoît – 18 rue de Lourmel – 01 45 78 89 31

Boulangerie Josephine – 69 ave Marceau – 01 47 20 49 62

Inès sez…

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it is time for another quote from my fashion icon.

Inès sez…
En mai, mets ce qu’il vous plaît! Ok, she stole that line from a classic French saying which warns you that you still need your winter wardrobe in April, but May you can do as you please. And, yes, I am aware I have already ranted about our freezing cold spring and my lack of optimism for May.

But Inès isn’t necessarily talking about the weather, she recommends going all out to please your inner fashionista, even if it displeases your man. Which is very un-Parisienne of her, because although the local women dress to please themselves, they do so keeping in mind their man’s taste and respecting it with in the limits of their own tastes.

I know Parisiennes who don’t wear platform shoes, or open-toed pumps, or the color pink, all because their men don’t like it. And I know even more divorces that have resulted in immediate shopping sprees collecting platform shoes, open-toed pumps or pink shirts.

It was hard for my hippy dressing little self to understand at first. When Mr French would say things like, “You don’t really plan on going out with that handbag, do you?” I’d do a double take. Seriously, imagine that coming out of the lips of an American alpha male. You’d think you’d entered the Twilight Zone!!!

So every spring, Inès suggests going a bit wild and putting on that pink shirt even if Monsieur detests the color. Especially if Monsieur detests the color (I’m paraphrasing now). There are two advantages to this strategy. You get to wear that beloved pink shirt you’ve been keeping in the back of your closet for ages and Monsieur gets a loving reminder that “you’re not the boss of me”. Keeps him on his toes. Spices things up a bit and keeps you just a tad more interesting, because he never knows what to expect.yet its not threatening at all, because there you are, by his side, savouring the month of May.


French working girl

Wardrobe worries are the fun part of being a 10 – 7 working girl in Paris. That and the fact that I love my job and the people I work with. But there are also some boobie traps along the way, some of them of my own doing, and some uniquely French.

While I am loving this gig, it is only an eight week engagement, and then its back to the scrape and grind of being a freelancer, so I feel some pressure to keep this blog running and to continue working for other clients while also taking care of myself and the family with out changing our regular routine. As a result I have days like last Thursday, when I was out the door at 7am to get to the gym. I worked out for an hour before running across the Seine (in high heels) to attend a press conference showing off the new cosmetics department at the BHV. Then back down into the metro to be at my desk, fresh squeezed orange juice and espresso in hand by 10am. You exhausted yet? I was!

That day I was wearing a dress with relatively comfy heels because I was presenting to “the client”. No worries, I’ve been practicing how to dress like a local for ages now and by some miracle I even managed not to forget anything when heading out the door for the gym. I was ready to go. Running to the meeting, I heard a distinctive SCHLACK. Those comfy sandals I’d been so happy with were not happy with me. They were particularly insulted by the forced run across the Pont d’Arcole (had to look that up. Its the bridge from in front of Notre Dame to the Hotel de Ville!) and they decided that now was the moment to go one strike, the outside flap of the right foot coming totally unglued. The rhythmic “whack, whack” of the strap hit my foot, creating an indiscrete little beat as I hobbled my way into the conference room where the client sat waiting.

19h I leave me desk promptly, my shoe still beating a lively tune. I have a dinner date with my friend Jane in the 16th, to test a new restaurant for The Girls Guide. Dinner was lovely as we savoured peach flavoured kir royals and enjoyed refreshingly bright, light cuisine. It was the only nice day of the week. The evening was deliciously warm and balmy, so after dinner we took a quick taxi ride home, changed shoes and headed back out the door for a long stroll along the Seine where all of Paris seemed to have spilled out on to the streets, bands playing, glasses clinking and a roving astronomer showing us the full moon. Lovely. But exhausting as I wandered home sometime just after midnight.

In double income homes, French women do 80% of the domestic chores and pretty much everyone finds this normal. I am not pretty much everyone and I’d be screaming from the rafters if I didn’t usually set my own schedule, and if I didn’t represent 2/3 of the household chores by being the parent of the sole child in the home. Mr French isn’t everyone, either. He has lived in America and knows that this is not necessarily normal. But it has become something of a habit and I am not sure I want to change the routine for an 8 week gig. So, every Sunday since working at the agency, I hit the organic market up the street and prepare enough light dishes to get us through the week at the same time as I prepare Sunday dinner for our troops. On the first Monday of this routine I ran home from the office, steamed a bit of fish and reheated the green beans I’d prepared the night before, sprinkling them with a tasty basil chiffonade. A healthy dinner was served.

As we sat their munching away Em commented that the green beans were slightly undercooked. Mr French concurred. Their comments were met by utter silence, then Mr French broke out in hysterical laughter, “If this isn’t the hell of being a bourgeois housewife. You work all day, come home to make dinner, and we dare complain about the green beans. God, are we spoiled.” Spoiled indeed. Madame was not amused. The next night the same green beans were to be found in our salad niçoise and I can assure, no one dared say anything except, “Wow, Mom, these green beans are just perfect. Thank you!”

My left breast


On any given day, if a man came up to me on the Pont des Arts and asked to take a photo of my left breast, I’d probably clock him one.

Yesterday was not any given day. It was the one week anniversary of the explosions as the Boston Marathon. Local marathon man, blogger, Phd student and over all good guy, Bryan Pirolli was inspired by events to organize a run, Boston Strong Paris, in commemoration of all those who could not complete their run, and others who will never run again.

Until recently I was very disconnected from the local expat community. My girls went to public school because I wanted to be an active member of my neighborhood. Blogging has changed all that and I am now aware of events that happen regularly across the city. Between my busy schedule, French friends and the very limited time I have with Mr French, I don’t attend very many events.

But Boston Strong Paris fascinated me. Here was a guy organizing a large event on the spur of the moment. In Paris!!! 130 runners with about a dozen paparazzi met at La  Bastille, as 19h last night.  Bryon had asked some friends to be our “guides” leading groups of 10-15 runners towards the Seine so that we wouldn’t stopping traffic, or getting run over by cars, as a large group. Then it was a direct line along the river to the Pont des Arts, where we stopped for a photo op before crossing over into the Tuileries gardens and ending at L’Orangerie where Bob’s Juice Bar had set up a table with refreshments for everyone.

In a refreshingly un-French way, we started our run on time, people respected their groups and there was no complaining. But there was a ton of yelling as a core group of French ran with shouting cheers for Boston. Running under the arch of bridge, along the uneven cobblestones with the Seine just metres from my feet, I looked up and there was Notre Dame, perfectly framed by the arc of the arch, a beautiful rosy gold enchanted castle in the intensely blue, dusk tinted skies. Breathtaking.

Tourist on the Bateaux Mouches cheered us on and after the photo op on the Pont des Arts another tourist stopped me, asking if he could take a photo of the blue and gold ribbons I was wearing in on of Boston.  On my left breast. Absoluement ! I replied, proud to have been invited by a remarkable group of people who get things done!











The Dress, part 2

Then we really went wild, jumped into a taxi and headed off for the Faubourg Saint Honoré. We entered boutique after boutique; it was as if time had stopped and we were running through a frozen film set. People came to life as we approached, everyone else blurring into the background. I tried on a slinky skintight sexier-than-peeled-grapes dress that looked great on me, and I relished watching Mr French eat me alive with his eyes (thank you for that, Mr Raf Simons). Almost everything seemed to fit, and as sales person after sales person entered the dressing rooms, I quite pleased I happened to be wearing my very best purple silk lingerie for the day.

Then we arrived at Prada. I was never much of a fan, finding the large metal logos on her handbags such a turn-off that I never looked beyond to the clothing. But the shop was there, and we were having fun, so we walked in and I asked the burly, rather intimidating security guard to point us towards dresses.

Downstairs, a lovely lady named Magali, asked if she could help us. I explained our challenge and she set to work, bringing me dress after dress. I did not know this at the time, but Magali is an image consultant, and spends her free time helping Parisiennes learn to dress. It was as if a good fairy had waved her wand, each dress was more beautiful than the next. It is no surprise that Miuccia Prada was nominated for the Design Awards for her spring 2013 collection. And she designed the dresses for Baz Lurhmann’s The Great Gatsby, adding a little capsule collection for the event. I was spoiled with an exceptionally rich collection.

I tried on a sublime finely knit black silk tunic with 1920’s fringe on the bottom that swayed seductively with every step. Then came a silk taffeta princess’ dress in rich blue with large green and ivory dots, a tight bodice and full skirt. A fun, 1950’s inspired white-trimmed black dress with a full skirt, v-neck and sleeves that rested just off the shoulders, followed by a shiny black silk dress with kimono accents that ended about mid-calf. It all fit, and it all liked good, I could tell by the look in Mr French’s eye as he sat there patiently waiting for me to don one dress after the other.

Finally, I tried on a grey silk dress that had been cut like it might have been made for Joan from the hit show Mad Men. Steel grey and sleeveless with a long pencil skirt, a fitted bodice and a rounded scooped-back opening nearly to my waist. The fabric was airbrushed with a large patch of white that through the skirt and across the bodice where some mauve Japanese style flowers printed on to the silk taffeta. Seeing it on there was no doubt. We had found The Dress.


The Dress, part 1

Last week I referred to a certain shopping trip for a special dress, but I was so distracted by the prostitute scene at a swanky hotel that I forgot to talk about The Dress. Or rather, Shopping for The Dress.

Between the two of us Mr French and I have five children (I know, this is an odd segueway, but bear with me). This is probably not the first time I mention this overwhelming fact. Five is a pretty big number, and it amazes me that we are responsible for all those little souls. They’re mostly grown, but we’re seven, so there is plenty of turbulence; emergency hospital visits, existential angst, growing pains and ski accidents are just a few of the bumps that have come our way in the few months. But right now, this week, everyone is doing ok. It’s amazing, and we are both savouring the moment, which is why Saturday was so damn fun.

We headed out the door to run errands; the cobbler, tailor, dry cleaner and the stationary seller were all on our list. As I Iocked the door, Mr French asked if I had brought the window dimensions along, we really should look into getting some curtains. I had not, but then again, neither had he.

Our errands brought us to the Bon Marche, and after getting ink for his pen, he suggested a visit to the clothing department for The Dress. I need a dress because we have been invited to a dinner party. In a palazzo. In Venice. Tenue de Soirée is what the very sober, elegantly engraved invitation read. I had called the hostess, and she had confirmed that she’d be wearing a long dress.

My first thought had been Yves Saint Laurent’s tuxedo jacket. I mean doesn’t everyone immediately think of the YSL tuxedo jacket when having a fashion emergency? No? Well, I’ve been thinking of this jacket for years, and this was the perfect once-in-a-lifetime excuse. I know it’s not a long dress, but it is THE Style Icon of my generation. I went to my nearest YSL and was quickly jolted back to reality: in my excitement I’d forgotten that the brand is now Saint Laurent. Again. After discovering that there were no jackets for me in all of France (yes, they took the time to look!) I complained to the manager about the name change, explaining that I was a traditional kind of girl.

“Then you should love it!” He protested, filling me in on the history of the brand and letting me know that Hedi Slimane, their new Creative Director, was taking the brand back to its origins, using the original name and the original logo. I didn’t leave with my smoking, but I did walk out that door convinced that Saint Laurent has some of the best customer service in Paris.

I would not be getting my dream garment. Not wanting to spend a fortune on a dress I’d have very few occasions to wear in this lifetime, I was determined to visit my old friends at Reciproque, a consignment shop that has a room of gowns. My friend Out and About in Paris had an even better suggestion: La Femme Ecarlate, a gown rental service. But everytime I’d suggest a visit to either shop, Mr French would simply grunt and head to an art exhibit.

So we were looking, but I was not shopping. Because the party is in Italy and there may actually be a spot of sunshine, I was hoping to wear a bit of color. At the Bon Marche, in an area featuring new, international designers we spotted a dress we both liked by someone from Lebanon. And then another, and another. Enough choices that it was worth disturbing the saleswoman to try on a few pieces. I went into the dressing room as she brought me the wrong dress, and then one that was two sizes too small, before confessing she didn’t have any of the dresses in my size. This made me feel fat and kind of grumpy.

Around the corner Alexander McQueen had a gorgeous tuxedo jacket with exquisite tailoring, the lapels integrated into the body of the vest. Even better, there was a dress version of the design. The designer, or creative director as they are now known, Sarah Burton, knows women and our bodies. I slipped into the dress, and it was a perfect fit. I liked they way it felt, they way it moved and the way Mr French looked at me wearing it. But it was black and stopped at the knees, and I didn’t really see the point since I already have something similar. At least I wasn’t feeling so grumpy any more.

Then we really went wild, jumped into a taxi and headed off for the Faubourg Saint Honoré…


Reciproque – 93 rue de la Pompe, 16e – 01 47 04 30 28

La Femme Ecarlate – 42, avenue Bosquet, 7e – 01 45 51 08 44

Le Bar à putes

Last Saturday after an exhausting day spent shopping for a very special evening dress,    Mr French announced that he needed a drink. I am not sure if this is because he was parched, or because we’d just wasted an insane amount of time hunting down a wispy little handful of silk.

He’d actually been a bit more specific than needing a ‘drink’. The man wanted a cocktail, so I suggested the bar of a swanky hotel just up the street from where we were standing.

Mr French travels a lot for work, so he is quite hotel savvy and doesn’t even think twice before walking past the security standing in front of these places. I do. It intimidates the hell out of me. My heart used to skip a beat, worried they’d shoo me away, and that I’d be mortified. Neither of which should matter, but they both seem to.

The concierge pointed me to the bar and there was actually a maître d’ seating people. At a bar. I found that just slightly over the top. No one seated me at the Hemingway Bar of the Ritz. But we were in and I was happy to rest my shopping weary legs. It was a tough job, all that shopping, but I had enjoyed every minute of and was ready to savour some more adventure.

As we settled in, Mr French excused himself to the powder room and I started to look at the other guests. Next to us was a Mom with her 7 year old son. The bartenders and staff were so sweet to him that I immediately got over my surprise at seeing a young child at a bar. Then there was a couple our age. I was particularly taken with her stunning taupe Birkin bag and the fact that they were very much into each other, petting each other’s hands as she worriedly confirmed three or four times that there was no added sugar, or alcohol in her husband’s drink. I don’t think she was a nut, I think there was a health issue there.

Mr French arrived and asked what I was looking at, so I pointed at the next couple my eyes had moved to; two young, attractive girls laughing and giggling away in strongly accented English as they both played flirtatiously, running fingers through lustrous black hair. One of them had Celine’s Luggage bag in phantom black crocodile.

“Why are you looking at the prostitutes?”
“Prostitutes? How do you know they’re prostitutes?”
“Are you kidding? I spend my life in these hotels. They’re prostitutes,” he affirmed with that irrefutable gaelic shrug.
“They can’t be prostitutes, she’s got my dream bag!”
“How do you think she can afford your dream bag? I wouldn’t be surprised if those two girls over there are prostitutes, too. When you have a hotel bar with so many more women than men, its louche.”

I was amazed and intrigued. Our drinks arrived, delightfully refreshing, and I started paying more attention to the scene. An Asian man arrived and sat himself down at a table, quietly text-ing away on his iPhone, or was her sext-ing? Then came a European guy, and the Maître d’ showed him a spot immediately next to the girls. Within minutes they were laughing and giggling, the three of them.

In walks a stunningly gorgeous girl in a mini white Chanel quilted skirt and some gorgeous black and white heels. She looks around the room until her eyes land on Asian gentleman who jumps up like a bolt, greeting her proprietarily, his hands on her hips.

“Oh my, god!” I exclaim, “a call girl, that is a call girl!”
“No doubt” affirms a blasé Mr French as one of the girls at the bar starts typing her number into the European’s phone. The man asks the bartender for the bill, indicating he’d be paying for the girl’s drinks, as well. He leaves and the girls toast their good fortune enthusiastically. I am confident that Mr French has made a mistake, pointing out that the has man left… alone. He tells me that the girl will be leaving shortly. And she does. Leaving her friend alone at the bar for 27 minutes. I’ve become the crazy stalker-type.

Mr French goes on to explain that the girl alone at the bar is just learning the trade (the cheap jewelry, is how you can tell) and that the girls pay the staff to let them in the bar. I should be alarmed that he knows so much about the business, but I’m not. He says its from all the detective novels he reads and I am happy to believe him and thrilled to have an inside peek at the fascinating show at the bar. I mean, really, we’re just making this all up in our heads. Perhaps the girl in the Chanel skirt was a long lost friend of the Asian gentleman from their Oxford days? Or the two girls were distant cousins and the one disappeared on an innocent errand? Circumstantial evidence, my friends, but its fun!

The girls decide to leave at about the same time we’re heading home and as they leave the girl puts her hand into that Celine bag, pulls out a bill and tips the Maître d’. Case closed.

The Closet

Somebody recently googled “in every Parisian’s closet” and landed on my blog. I’m sure I’ve written this sentence one or sixty times, but I have never actually produced a post about what I imagine to be in every Parisienne’s closet. So I thought I’d put it in writing. But, despite dwarf sized apartments with miniature closets, the list is long, très long. Especially when we start talking shoes.

The list is so long, in fact, it requires a book, not a post, so today I’m sticking to spring 2012. If you want the whole enchilada, I suggest consulting Inès de la Fressange’s book, but be forewarned; her list includes grandmother’s diamonds and vintage Hermès bags, so its not what the French would call accessible to every woman. Rest assured, this list is more reasonable;

1/ A military shirt. I found one at the military shop at Montparnasse and has a large, black ink HS (hors service) stamped on the back. At 20€, it was a easy purchase for all the girls chez nous. But, even the designers like Hartford are getting in on the action, re-vamping the classic for those who want a fresher look.

2/ A dark blue blazer. Some like them in linen for the summer, but usually they’re just a light weight wool. They’re worn by everyone, of all ages, even teens are happy to be sporting them.

3/ White or colored jeans. Denim blue is oh so very yesterday this summer, although I have no doubts it will be back for the fall. It is particularly obvious this spring because the weather has been too abysmal for the skirts and dresses we’re all wishing we could wear.

4/ Low ankle boots. Gotta have ‘em. With a dress, with jeans and even with shorts (if you’re young enough, or brave enough), looking like a cowboy from the Camargue is definitely a fashion faut this spring. Of course, we don’t have a lot of options as torential spring showers keep flip flops, or any kind of sandal from being a serious option.

5/ The Vanessa Bruno bag. That’s the canvas bag with sequin straps that you see on every other Parisienne as soon as spring has sprung. My first year in Paris, I was totally mystified when I opened my front door on that first warm day to discover that everyone was sporting the same design. I became convinced that I’d missed the national spring fashion bulletin. It has been popular for years now and will probably be so for many years to come. Boring, but tried, true and oh, so practical.

Perhaps, as the season progresses, the sun will come out and I’ll be able to add a bit of color, a swooshy skirt, or a lovely dress to the list, but for now I’m staying covered up.

Hag Semeach

Passover, or as the French call it, Jewish Easter is ending. Woot. Woot.  This is the time of year when Jews do not eat bread. Living in Paris and passing by the bakeries which seem to pop up up every 10 metres, as well as avoiding the bread basket on every table, is something of a challenge. Actually, being Jewish in France has been, hmmm… interesting. It starts with a government thing, which, when you think about it, is the source of many interesting moments for those of us who live here.

Napoleon was a major organizer. Today they’d probably give him drugs to control something with initials like ADHA or OCD, but back then he was free to conqueror vast territories and create the Civil Code. He decided that it was time to let Jews live within the Paris city limits, and had them form a recognized administration putting them on par with the two other official religions of the country at the time, Catholicism and Protestantism. Thus was born the Consistoire, the official administrative branch of Jews in France.

When we came to France, 200 years later,I decided it was time for my daughter to get a little religion. I called a synagogue. The rabbi asked for proof from the Consistoire that I’m Jewish. This is not unique to France and as someone who has converted, it drives me crazy. Seriously? Proof? Should I show you the yellow star Hitler would have made me wear? He didn’t need proof, simple rumour was enough. Who in their right mind would claim to be Jewish just for the fun of it? I mean while the rest of the world is exchanging extravagant gifts and eating melt in your mouth chocolates over Christmas, we’re frying up potato cannon-fodder grease bombs and spinning lame plastic tops. We sing ridiculously silly songs instead of heart wrenchingly beautiful carols. And John Stewart has a laugh out loud routine about this time of year! http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/mon-april-9-2012/faith-off—adapting-passover.  While my friends were busy taking horse back riding lessons or dance class I was mucking my way through Hebrew lessons. Spanish ham lovingly fed on acorns? Forbidden! Lobster? No way! Honestly, once all your friends have had their Bar/Bat Mitzvahs and the party circuit has reached its end, No One in their right mind is going to pretend to be Jewish.

In protest, I decided never mind, we weren’t going to do the whole Jewish thing after all. Their Dad, who had grown up without much religion, liked the idea. This sent my Mother in law, the woman who raised her son without teaching him a single prayer, into a conniption fit. Her husband had survived the Lodz ghetto, she had escaped the French collabos, there was no question that her granddaughters would not be officially registered with the Consistoire. She had a point and in honor of their family, I set out to get my daughters certified.

I gathered all the paper work requested by the Consistoire. Then I added more,knowing I was dealing with French bureaucracy. Appointment time arrived and I was called into a very plain office, with a wooden desk and a Rabbi. I handed over my Jewish marriage contract, as well as the burial certificate for my Mom, from a Jewish cemetery. The Rabbi looked at me dubiously, “Your Mom’s name doesn’t sound very Jewish. It sounds suspiciously Italian… are you sure she was born Jewish?”

“Absolutely” I declared confidently, brandishing the death certificate and not at all hesitating in my pure, bold faced lie.

“And the father?”

I had my electric bill and 3 different versions of each girls birth certificates, but I had not come prepared for this question. In Judaism, you are what the mother is, the father is irrelevant. I gave the Dad’s background, which included his family’s listing in the Jewish Who’s Who but without written proof, it was just air and he was not impressed. I was not coming back to do this dance again, so we were at something of an impasse. After much negotiating with Hebrew terms being thrown about in French, the rabbi took out the certificates, claiming the girls, “Jewish by mother, father’s religion unknown” and I was done.

It turns out that I was more done than I had ever imagined and it was not long before I was planning Easter Brunches for my step-children. Em still loves Passover, so yesterday I went to the Bon Marche and got her one of her favorite holiday treats that we discovered after moving to Paris, unleavened bread with orange flavor. I had some for breakfast this morning and loved the mix of orange and zest. Bitter sweet.



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