I recently read an article by a former Wall Street honcho who wrote that he had changed his job and his life, downsized, got rid of most of his stuff. He says he feels lighter, better, and happier than he ever did when he had lots of money and material goods.
And I thought: hey, the guy would love France!
Why? Because the French have a special relationship with small which they think is good.
“A minuscule espresso, a petit piece of chocolate, a morsel of sharp cheese, a half-filled glass of wine: the French prefer tasting and sipping to goring and guzzling. Small is good”, I wrote in my chapter on the subject of small in Joie de Vivre. I wrote that chapter because I observed that the relationship of the French to “small” is very different than the one we Americans have. We like big!
When I moved to France, I, who come from the Midwest where T-bone steaks overlap the plates and no one knows what a “small” whiskey is, discovered tiny portions and half filled wine glasses. Suddenly I heard the word “petit” everywhere. I take a petit tour around the block or sip a petit café. My mother-in-law called me “ma petite Harriet” which stymied me at first because I’m not particularly “petite“. I learned that putting “petite” before my name was an endearment.
Oh, the French have “grand” as well – la grandeur de la France, for starters, or un grand patron, or a grand prix.
But petit, I found, more often than not describes the charming things I find typically French: petites boutiques (little shops), la petite robe noire (the little black dress), les petits details (the little details that can radically change the look of a dinner table or an outfit), un bon petit plat (a good little dish of food).
In France, there are a multitude of petits plaisirs. That’s why I love this place. Small is good!