Skip to main content

242. ART de VIVRE

I often clash with friends and even members of my family about ways and manners of doing things. Specially, being French, about table manners. It is said that the French have a special ART de VIVRE concerning food and eating habits and other things as well. When looking for a translation into English of this particular phrase, I found that people were at a loss with it: "art of living" does not really translate the concept.

Let me explain my views on this. It has to do with esthetics and the epicurean philosophy. As applied to life it means: the manners showing your sense of beauty with which you tackle a given situation or activity. Your "art de vivre" shows you have an ideal for beauty. Linked with epicurian philosophy it shows you have the ability to see beauty in every simple gestures of human activity and you derive pleasure out of it. Your perception of beauty triggers a feeling of pleasure.

For my part I have a highly developed perception of beauty and it triggers in me a strong feeling of pleasure when the level of beauty is achieved. I am not talking of the beauty of ladies as seen by men. I am talking of the harmony, sense of peace and balance, you can find in everything. French culture, as I know it, has developed this need for harmony, balance and peace in every field of life and particularly with anything to do with food and eating habits. The contrary applies when my sense of harmony is aggressed and the peace is destroyed by anyone who has no "art de vivre", I get very depressed.

For example... say I'll have someone for lunch. It will be at the table simply decorated, the plates perhaps matching the color of the tablecloth, a glass above the plate and in the middle of it, cuttlery on each side. The food is served, not out of the pot in the kitchen and then delivered, but in a nice dish at the table so that everyone is free to help themselves for the amount they require. The food is eaten as accompaniement to a pleasure giving conversation, not gulped in a hurry to satisfy mondane needs. The food is eaten completely to show respect for those who prepared it. Harmony, peace and pleasure converge.

When I have teenagers for lunch who nowadays don't have this "art de vivre", destroy the beauty and kill my pleasure, I get quickly angry and depressed.

Can you teach "art de vivre"? or is it innate, inborn, inbred? How did I learn about it? At home? At school? in books? in films?

Will this French "art de vivre" survive my generation or will it disappear within the next decade?

Those manners, not necessarily table manners, showing a definite sense of beauty with which any given situation or activity is tackled, have been developed over the last few thousand years, in France and on continental Europe in general. This age old ideal for beauty shows best in our old cathedrals and in our landscapes. Beauty for its own sake. Linked with the epicurean philosophy throughout the centuries, every little gesture of human activity was made to gain and give pleasure. 

To finish, here's an article in "The Local", France's news in English, entitled: The French eating habits the world should learn from.

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

251. Stalking Jules Verne

I recently came across photos of a google-plus user from the country of Georgia in the Caucasian mountains, somewhere between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea, somewhere between the south of Russia and Turkey. A difficult position for a small country really, being tossed from one to the other in ruling and/or heavy cultural influences. From the dawn of History, however, the Georgians have managed to retain their own personality, cultural heritage, language and… yes, spelling and writing. Georgia in the Georgian language is spelt საქართველო.  This small country remained hidden away from main stream History by bigger bears until, well yes, the advent of internet. And since cables have now been laid in the bottom of the Black Sea by Americans to reach the port of Poti, any Georgian can now tune into internet at will and post photos on FaceBook or Google+ and be seen and contacted by the rest of the world. Nice story!
When I recently saw those photos of Georgia posted on my own google+ …


My mad idea of stalking Jules Verne in his story of travelling round the Black Sea clockwise to avoid crossing the Bosphorus is snowballing. From one idea to another I am now up to figuring a real plan.
1. A group of 3 or 4 people will travel by road from Istanbul following the coast like Keraban and his team did. It means going through the north shore of Turkey, then Bulgaria, Ukraine, Russia, Georgia. To finish off back in Turkey on the south shore of the Black Sea. As I would want to stay in Georgia, perhaps another team could take over from there. I expect my old friend Zara to travel with me. We will need a photographer to make a documentary of this adventure. It will happen at the same speed that Keraban travelled, i.e. in slow motion for us in this century. My main purpose is to encounter and meet as many people as possible. Interactions between people, our small group, and the daily problems of the moment is to be the subject of the documentary. Not visiting famous monuments …


I recently came across a virtual invitation for coffee and since then have met and keep meeting new friendly American bloggers. I find they easily write poetry, play games at writing a story prompted by a silly picture posted by someone else... AND they also write about their nitty gritty daily lives like being pulled up by the police or having their computer crash down and the price of buying a new one. So today is my turn. I can't write poetry but I can tell at great length about my nitty gritty ordinary life.

 On Wednesdays I usually have my grandkids over for lunch and activities in the afternoon, learning how to sew with a sewing machine with my granddaughter and following an online course to learn English with my grandson. Looking after the two of them is very tiring so I asked to have one at a time in turns. Yes but the lady who takes Bertrand to my door said she had not been told of the change so... never mind, don't worry, thank you. Then Binta turned up surprised: ar…