How a French Major Thinks.

I admit I have an ugly fondness for generalizations, so perhaps I may be forgiven when I declare that there is always something weird about a girl who majors in French. […] She has been betrayed into the study of French, heedless of the terrible consequences, by her enchantment with this language, which has ruined more young American women than any other foreign tongue.

Second, if her studies were confined simply to grammar and vocabulary, then perhaps the French major would develop no differently from those who study Spanish or German, but the unlucky girl who pursues her studies past the second year come inevitably and headlong into contact with French Literature, potentially one of the most destructive forces known to mankind; and she begins to relish such previously unglamorous elements of her vocabulary as languor and funeste, and, speaking English, inverts her adjectives to let one know that she sometimes even thinks in French. The writers she comes to appreciate–Breton, Baudelaire, Sartre, de Sade, Cocteau–have an alienating effect, especially on her attitude toward love, and her manner of expressing her emotions becomes difficult and theatrical; while those French writers whose influence might be healthy, such as Stendhal or Flaubert, she dislikes and takes to reading in translation, where their effect on her thought and speech is negligible; or she willfully misreads Madame Bovary and La Chartreuse, making dark romances of them. […] This is how a female French major thinks.

Have you ever read something so profoundly true and applicable to yourself that you read it over and over and over again until you could almost recite it back word-for-word?  I have, many times.  Today, it was this excerpt from Michael Chabon’s The Mysteries of Pittsburgh.

Best Escargot In Town.

Best Escargot In Town.

Francophile: (n.) an individual who has a strong positive predisposition or interest toward the government, culture, history, or people of France. This could include France itself or its history, the French language, French cuisine, literature, etc.

That word describes me perfectly, especially when it comes to French cuisine. Having studied French for over 10 years, and spending a small amount of time in Paris, I consider myself to be French food snob. (Probably unreasonably so.) But I just could not bring myself to eat escargot. I mean, come on… it’s a snail.

That changed two years ago, when I was sitting across the table from my aunt in a restaurant in Baltimore. (I can never remember if it was her rehearsal dinner or her reception, but I do know that her wedding was involved in some capacity.) Her appetizer smelled delicious, like a hearty butter. She offered me a bite on her escargot-sized spoon, and the rest was history.

My adoration for this cuisine has followed me back to Pittsburgh, where I have been searching for the best escargot in town. I found it at Paris 66.  I decided on this restaurant after some great reviews from our friends, and I quickly ordered their Escargot Bourguignon. My date wrinkled his nose, as I once had, but I promised him that those little soaked snails would win him over.

They arrived at our table on an indented metal tray, dripping with garlic, parsley, and anis butter. I devoured one instantly, but noticed he was still apprehensive. After a little coaxing, he bit one in half — an escargot no-no — and swallowed. Unlike me, he didn’t immediately fall in love.

Too bad for him, more for me.

(Photo by Taste of Pittsburgh. Read her review of Paris 66 here.)