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August 2017

Karma Chameleon

I know. It’s been a while. I’ve missed you too. “So what happened?” I hear you ask, “Where have you been these last few years? What’ve you been up to?”

Well, it’s been quite the journey. I daresay there may have been warning signs in my earlier posts because it was during the writing of Letter From Paris that I developed a rare syndrome. A therapist may have considered it a personality disorder. I prefer to think of it as a need for reinvention upon reaching a certain age. Whatever it was, since I last blogged… I have become French.

Becoming French has not been cheap. What began with the sartorial twist of a few scarves, rapidly developed into marathon shopping expeditions and the quest for quintessential navy blazers, white shirts, leather trousers, ankle boots, trench coats and lingerie. It also led to the complete refurbishment of my home; the addition of antique armoirs, Philippe Starck Ghost chairs, framed Rodin prints and old stone kitchen counter tops. Fortunately the house was desperately in need of renovation which allowed for a relatively guilt free exercise where I became more Gallic by the day.

The foray into French cuisine was less successful. La Bonne Cuisine de Madame Evelyn Saint-Ange, first published in 1927 (mille neuf cent vingt – sept …cough) is known to be the bible on every French kitchen shelf. It remains firmly lodged on my own kitchen shelf. We are told the recipes are ‘ enveloped in charming intricacies of even the most fundamental cooking techniques.’ I suggest you try some of Madame’s recipes to see just how charmingly enveloped you feel after attempting her Bouillon de Poisson pour Apprêts, the ‘fundamental’ of which is a home- made stock from ‘bones, heads and raw trimmings of whiting, sole, brill and turbot.’ Finally we have the answer to all those unused fish entrails. I opted for regular visits to French bistros instead.

Bien sûr becoming French involved many trips to Paris where I would keep conversation to a minimum opting for enigmatic silences, thoughtful pouts and overusing ‘d’accord.’ My school French was about as useful as chopsticks with soup. Looking more authentically French than the average French woman often resulted in people asking me for directions. I would send them off with a cheery “ à droite,” with no clue where they wanted to go. The epiphany came in the form of a gherkin. It arrived with yet another serving of saumon fumé, the one meal I could order with confidence. I’d been there a week. There’s only so much salmon a woman can eat. Clearly it was time to address the communication issue.

Back in LA I signed up for conversation classes. At my first lesson I knew enough French to recognize that the classroom was giving me déjà vu; bare walls, dusty tables, uncomfortable chairs, harsh lighting. Not a croissant in sight. The student booklet was as exciting as an IKEA instruction manual. I was checking the exits when in walked my teacher Amélia. She had me at “Bonjour.” I wanted to be Amélia, she was just so, well… French.