TRANSATLANTIC PARALLEL: Perfection, portions and pharmacies

Perfection, Portions, Pharmacies.
After a 3 week hiatus while I went traveling, it's time to resume the game that Letitia Jett A Femme d'un Certain Age, and I play each week on our blogs. We share our views on our adopted countries, France for Letitia and The States for me all the while comparing one and the other.
There are some things we really love, others not so much. Good or bad, fun or unpleasant, whatever our point of view, we bring it to you, accompanied by each of our respective 2 cents' worth of commentary. I mean MY 2 cents; Letitia is surely more in the millions...
Today's topics are fun; I know they will amuse you.

La perfection
I am an interior designer. My job is to create great looking, great feeling and great working interior-and sometime exterior- spaces for my clients and I hold myself and the trades that work with me, as do they, to a pretty high standard. Having said that, I have noticed that here in the United States there is often a wish for absolute perfection that borders on obsession. The trouble with perfection is that it leaves not much room for charm, whimsy nor, well... imperfections. Not sloppy work, just the slight "flaws" of authenticity; un-sanded clean, un-polyurethaned to a mirror-like shine, un-brushed over with a thick coat of "new", un-built-in to NASA precision.
There is something fabulous about imperfections. 
What is a beautiful turn of the century house without them? no trace of its history's worth of quirks and scratches on wood floors, and gaps in door panelings; in other terms: the patina of time. And that hand made antique rug's faded and worn beauty? -one was returned when the husband found that the wool was not the same blue throughout- and the old (not falsely aged) farm table in the kitchen? the slightly disheveled eating corner in the garden? 
I don't mean let's fill our homes and gardens with broken down junk; non, bien sur que non; All I am saying is let's allow un peu de vie in our surroundings. Let's not give everything the plastic surgeon treatment; let's accept the lines and the sags and the age spots; la vie, quoi. 

This will illustrate what I mean:
not a hair out of place
or not a piece matching

methodically pristine

or naturally unconcerned

rigorously precise
or enchantingly appealing
c'est vrai, non?
By the way, in case you see me as a lover of carelessness and chaos, I am, I am told, somewhat of a neat freak. 
I like order. Trust me.

Les portions
There is something amiss in the world of restaurants in New York- in the United States in fact; 
no, it's not the quality- you can find food here just as fine as anywhere in the world; 
no, it's not the presentation- some dishes that arrive at your table are absolute masterpieces; 
it's not the prices- they are the prices you expect from a comparable establishment anywhere else; 
and it's not the service- Americans know a thing or two about service, it is a well known fact. 
No, it's the PORTIONS

I'd be perfectly happy with this beautiful salad.
but all this?

Just fine...
...but that's 2 meals in one.
Of course I am not talking about high end restaurants; they know what they are doing the world over; I am talking about the average coffee shop fare, the regular corner place which I am comparing to the corner bistrot in Paris. 
Oh, and when the menu calls a dish the this-and-that "platter", that's a pretty bad sign...don't you agree? and it does come in a PLATTER not a plate! 
By the way, I DO NOT have un appetit d'oiseau 
I don't eat like a bird. Trust me.

Les pharmacies
When I was growing up -mostly outside of France- we would go "home" in the summer to the Ardeche region of France where we had a family summer home. Our best friend was the pharmacist's daughter (in fact 4 generations have been friends- forever it seems); we would go to the pharmacy under any pretext: we knew that Monsieur Blanc would inevitably give us a piece of licorice or honey candy and a gentle pat on the head. He was a darling. With a kind word for everyone, he would tell the poorer customers that they could pay when they could, he would rush to give the older customers a chair or offer a glass of water on hot summer days; he delivered cows, he gave shots and he knew everything there was to know about the sting of bees, scorpions and every biting creepy-crawly in the département and fortunately, he knew what to do about it all. If you needed something fast, he would promise: it will arrive here on the afternoon bus. It never missed.
The son has now taken over from his father, as Monsieur Blanc did from HIS father; he has kept the old pharmacy intact as his office (it looks something like the one above, in Nice) and has built a new shiny, modern, practical and comfortable one in what was the laboratoire d'analyses across the hall; but what has stayed the same is the attitude of kindness, generosity and respect for everyone. 
It's very different here when I go to the local CVS, one in a huge chain of pharmacies; oh, they are perfectly kind and helpful, but I guarantee that they do not remember me from one day to the next- probably because the customer base is much larger, of course, than the pharmacy in the Ardeche where we still go, of course.
We always will.
a CVS pharmacy
I miss la Pharmacie Blanc. I sure wish there was a Mr. White here....

Please leave your reactions and comments at a petit commentaire below or vite, go see a Femme d'un Certain Age 's take all of this and let us know. 

On which ever side of the ocean you care to leave your comment. Or on both.

images waterworks, marie claire maison, designesquire, brook giannetti, simplygrove, tinyk, applewannabe, puertovallartablog, featinginphoenix, skynet

merci, Letitia 

au revoir.


  1. My cherest Jeanne-Aelia,

    It's so grand you have returned. This post is a masterpiece. I love every personal detail, each little story. It's wonderful.

    You are my partner de reve. Merci, merci.

    Hope you have recovered from your jet-lag. You are certainly en forme.


  2. You forgot to say that Monsieur Blanc was an expert in mushrooms. It saved quite a few lives in the fall when locals would rush to the hills in search of the perfect cèpe or others fungal treasures. No one would dare go home and cook their culinary loot without checking first with Monsieur Blanc.
    Great post. The part about all-you-can-eat is so true. I remember being at a diner for breakfast in the deep of Arizona once and asking for pancakes. When asked if I wanted one or three, I opted for the latter. Soon a plate the size of an average serving dish arrived with three cake-size, perfectly stacked pancakes, a whole stick of butter melting atop and a jerry-can of syrup on the side. It never entered my mind that they would not be your normal palm-size homemade pancakes and I noticed that all the "cowboys" around me were happily gulping down their's.

  3. Letitia. You are a VERY generous partenaire indeed. I did have fun with these 3 topics. Merci.

    Joelle. Yes you are right about the mushrooms. I remember now. and your pancakes...you don't say whether you finished them or not....c'mon; be honest.

  4. Anonymous5/4/10

    Mais...tu as tellement raison. J'adore la "perfection"atteinte par les interieurs americains:Qualite,belles matieres,haute technologie,symetries,etc...Mais je choisi haut la main le charme,le desord vecu,le CHARME de l'ancien,du fouine,du recycle,du passe d'une generation a une autre.
    Ton article est un rendu parfait de la difference entre notre pays adopte,L'Amerique,et de notre France aimee. Merci

  5. Merci, Anonymous. Tu dois rester anonyme? dommage. une co-franco-americanisee...partiellement.

  6. I did not know that you are an interior designer. How nice, since I too am interested in the subject, and do share your opinions about the imperfectness. Living in an old house has taught me patience and a way to look through my fingers when things are not perfect. Why is it, that the food portions must be so large over in US?