Joie de Vivre

Secrets of Wining, Dining and Romancing Like the French

From the publisher:

For  Harriet Welty Rochefort, an American who has lived in France for many years with her very French husband, it’s clear that the French truly are singular in the way they live, act, and think––from the lightness of their pastries to the refinement of their Hermès scarves…The French revel in the moment, appreciate the time spent in preparing a perfect feast, pay attention to the slightest detail–whether flowers on the table or a knockout accessory on a simple outfit–and work hard when not enjoying their (considerable) leisure time without an ounce of guilt. Their joie de vivre can come where you least expect it: for the French it’s better to have a chagrin d’amour than no amour at all, and for the Frenchman a day without discord is a day without a kick. They have fun (yes, fun!) when they fuss and feud, squabble and shrug.

REVIEWS Joie de Vivre

«Rochefort makes it hard to argue with a philosophy that advocates slowing your pace, being fully engaged by what’s in front of you and incorporating four-course meals into your week.» –Publisher’s Weekly

“Francophiles will love this book… Rochefort follows in the steps of Pamela Druckerman’s Bringing Up Bebe and Mireille Guilano’s French Women Don’t Get Fat.” – Library Journal

“I met author Harriet Welty Rochefort whilst in Paris for tea so I may be biased but I adore her newest book, Joie de Vivre:Secrets of Wining, Dining, and Romancing Like the French. Harriet has lived in Paris almost 40 years with her French husband, so what she doesn’t know isn’t worth knowing for us ‘American frogs’ as she calls herself. I’m focusing on her chapter ‘Small is Good’ and sharing with you many quotes from her book,” writes talented artist Carol Gillot in an unusual visual review of Joie de Vivre on Paris Breakfasts.

” After French Toast and French Fried, Harriet Welty Rochefort completes an informal trilogy about her adopted country’s charms and foibles with Joie de Vivre…An American married to a Frenchman and resident in Paris for 30 years…Rochefort offers keen-eyed riffs on footwear, doggie bags, country homes and philosophers as pop stars, and her thorough research has turned up unusual facts, opinions, pithy quotes and anecdotes.

Americans rarely ponder why Swedish women don’t get fat, or the lessons of bringing up bambino. Why the fascination with the French? Rochefort offers a raft of good reasons, both lighthearted and serious. Her breezy, exuberant style makes reading Joie de Vivre like a conversation with a friend over a bottle of wine, and its compact chapters mean you can pause, and take right up again as if you’d never stopped. And she writes with such verve that her own joie de vivre is never in doubt.” —Judy Fayard, France Today

” Last month I flew to the States. Except for a nap and meals, I spent the entire flight reading our own Harriet Welty Rochefort’s latest book—Joie de Vivre: Secrets of Wining, Dining, and Romancing like the French. I finished this fun, intelligent read in Philadelphia while waiting for my connecting flight, feeling as if Harriet’s choice of looking at the French through the perspective of joy had clarified for me—a 20-year veteran of life in France—some elusive parts of their behavior.

Any Francophile can’t help but find the Table of Contents enticing: “Having Fun while you Disagree”, “Hanging Out with- out Feeling Guilty”, and, especially, “Pouting like a Parisienne”. But let’s look at the section on “Marrying a Frenchman”. Let me begin by saying that I was reassured. So there is a critical mass of Frenchmen that pay particular attention to details, like … what tablecloth his wife chooses for a dinner, and is it properly ironed … which shoes his wife chooses to wear on a night out, and are there any scuff marks … and, whether or not his wife is carrying the purse (to be chosen among the scores that he has given her) that best matches those shoes. Now, having read Joie de Vivre, I understand that a French husband’s critical eye is, in fact, driven by an appreciation for aesthetics. He does not have an obsessive-compulsive behavior disorder designed to drive his wife crazy. Plus, because his wife shows annoyance (instead of pouting like a Parisienne to show her “supreme indifference” to his remarks) an argument erupts which he enjoys immensely.

Harriet sees the French glass as half full. She reveals the joyful brilliance in French behavior rather than the insanity. What she says seems obvious, but maybe that is because she articulates like the journalist she is, illustrates with anecdotes, and quotes historical Francophiles.

Of course, it is dangerous to look at a culture and make blanket statements. In a sense, this is what Harriet is doing. Yet it takes courage to decipher a people. This kind of analysis provides a service, as it aids in understanding, even if we know that there are exceptions to each rule. There is no doubt that many of the codes of behavior which Harriet addresses are rooted in old, established French society. Never mind that. Harriet speaks to that “movable feast” part of French culture— the joie de vivre that has caught the imagination of people around the world for hundreds of years. ” – Jane Mobille, AAWE News

Vanity Fair mentions the “intimate indulgence” of  Joie de Vivre

A Woman’s Paris, a website promoting elegance, culture, and joie de vivre asked Harriet what she thought about Paris, writing in Paris, women in Paris, French style, and many other questions.  The full interview was published in two parts:


“For nonfiction on France I have to no qualms in saying Harriet Welty Rochefort’s trilogy French Toast, French Fried and her most recent Joie de Vivre are tops! This latest is a fabulous read for all Francophiles and all those who have yet to discover the French joie de vivre. There are countless books on the market about moving to France, re-making your life in France etc but Welty Rochefort simply lives the French life and has done so for close to 40 years. Welty Rochefort really examines what creates that joie de vivre among the French (and in particular the Parisians). Her book is both light-hearted (often very funny) and a serious analysis of joie de vivre and how that is a foreign concept to Americans. The illustrative anecdotes are often hysterical as when the cleaning staff is horrified at a brown bag lunch meeting (and mystified they weren’t asked to set a table with plates, glasses and silverware for a business lunch). In the second half of the book, there is a closer look at how changes in France have caused people to move somewhat away from the traditional way of life…but not that far away. In short, she reassures us that « we’ll always have Paris. » Jacqueline Bucar

“After reading this book I ordered 3 extra copies to give to friends. For anyone interested in anything having to do with France, you MUST READ THIS BOOK! It is the culmination of 40 years of a personal journey – keen observation, analysis, and attempts to assimilate into a French family by a young American woman who goes to France after college and marries a Parisian. While her first book, French Toast, is a more light hearted description of her adaptation process, this latest book, Joie de Vivre, completes a trilogy of her experiences with EVERYTHING French – politics, opinions and how the French express them, food, fashion, education, medicine, social life, family life – you name it. It’s a veritable Larousse on anything any curious person would ever want to know (and more) on the French. As I neared the end of the book I started thinking that it is really a love story, as the author’s admiration and appreciation of her husband and his country jumps out at you on nearly every page. Her ease and sincerity in relating personal experiences and observations make it easy to read short chapters on every imaginable topic that will give the reader a better understanding not only of the French, but of Americans as well. A delightful book! “– Jenny C. Drews


 The American Clubs (TAC)  conversation with Harriet Welty Rochefort (HWR)

TAC : Dear Harriet, you have been living in France for forty years. While we could thus consider you as a “Frenchie”, would you share with us your American background ?

HWR : I grew up in Shenandoah, Iowa and studied in the Midwest, earning my B.A. at the University of Michigan and my M.S.J. at the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. I traveled to France after my studies – and never left.

TAC : What was so captivating about France that made you want to stay here?

HWR : The ambiance! Everything, from the cars to the people to the size of the drinks, seemed so small in comparison to the States. When I stepped on to a Bateau Mouche, I felt like I was in a painting rather than “real life”. I sensed I was in a place where art and architecture and culture counted, and I wanted to be a part of that life.

TAC : What was your first experience as a writer?

HWR : I was lucky, in Paris, to work as a freelancer at a time when the U.S. news bureaus needed plenty of reporters (we “locals” in Paris were “stringers” as opposed to the full-time correspondents). I started freelancing for Newsweek, then moved over to Time, where I reported on business and lifestyle for more than ten years, toujours as a stringer. I also wrote for The Atlanta Journal and Constitution, European Travel and Life, a wonderful now unfortunately defunct glossy, and the International Herald Tribune. For ten years I was a regular contributor to France Discovery Guide, an annual magazine about France’s regions, which allowed me to travel and report on every one of France’s 22 regions, and wrote a monthly « Letter from Paris » for the Paris Pages website. As journalism became more and more a matter for bloggers, I turned to teaching journalism in the international journalism program at Sciences Po – and to writing books.

TAC : If I understand correctly, Joie de Vivre is not your first book ?

HWR : No, my first book, French Toast, An American in Paris Celebrates the Maddening Mysteries of the French, was published by St. Martin’s Press in January 1999 and remained in a hardcover edition for eleven years. In 2010 St. Martin’s Press brought out the paperback edition of this book which bestselling novelist Diane Johnson called « a classic ». My second book, French Fried, The Culinary Capers of an American in Paris, was also published by St. Martin’s Press, in March 2001. Both French Toast and French Fried were translated into Chinese. In 2005 my adaptation of French Toast was published in French by Editions Ramsay under the title : French Toast, Heureuse comme une Américaine en France .

TAC : Tell us more about Joie de Vivre”: Secrets of Wining, Dining, and Romancing Like the French.

HWR : As you know, I’m a dual national and have lived in France for decades. My first book dealt with frustrations born of not understanding French culture even though I spoke the language fluently and was supposedly “assimilated”. (The result of writing it was fabulously cathartic – I discovered that the problems I attributed to the French were often my problems, not theirs!). The second was an exploration of French cuisine and the “holy trinity” of bread, wine, and cheese. The third book was born out of a desire to see if the French are really as pessimistic as their newspapers and TV programs make them look (if you watch French TV news, you end up wanting to shoot yourself). I asked myself, why, in the country of joie de vivre, no one seems to have any (you just need to take the metro to get that overriding impression.) I asked myself if I would have stayed in a country for forty years if there was no joie de vivre (answer: non!) and if it truly is no longer here. The answer is what I write in the book: the French still have enormous joie de vivre but, as all the polls show, it’s in regards to their private lives. They are pessimistic about the outside world, the economy, unemployment, and worried about the future. At the same time, they retain an astonishing joie de vivre when it comes to friends and family and social life. After living in France for four decades with my “very French husband”, it’s clear to me that the French possess a unique gift for injecting joie de vivre in every aspect of their lives. They revel in the moment, appreciate the time spent in making and enjoying a perfect feast, pay attention to the slightest detail, whether flowers on the table or a knockout accessory on a simple outfit, and work hard when not enjoying their (considerable) leisure time without an ounce of guilt. And they’re not politically correct: Men and women openly look at each other in the streets and if no one looks, well, better to die. At French dinner parties, the guests not only wine and dine divinely but thrive on lively conversation sprinkled with the occasional off-color jokes both sexes laugh at – talking about business and money, on the other hand, is boring and barred. What I especially enjoy is that In France, « small is good », whether it’s the little black dress or a teeny cup of espresso, and that for them joie de vivre is not always about “happy”: it’s better to have a chagrin d’amour than no amour at all, and to paraphrase Pasteur’s « a day without wine is a day without sunshine », for the Frenchman a day without discord is a day without a kick. They’re actually having fun have fun when they fuss and feud, squabble and shrug! When it comes to savoir-fairesavoir-vivre, and joie de vivre, I am convinced that the French are unbeatable. When it comes to being paradoxical, they’re equally gifted: the French have been known to elevate the word « rude » to new heights, but they are the most polite people in the world – when they want to be.

TAC: It certainly sounds like you’ve found joie de vivre in living in France….

HWR : I chose to live in France because I knew that I would escape ennui – and I did. I also decided to adapt to the French, rather than expect the French to adapt to me (useful decision!). My books take my readers on my own personal journey through the often byzantine French mindset and I hope that they will see the genuine affection I have for the prickly, paradoxical, and pleasure-seeking Gauls who, admittedly, aren’t always easy to understand. I loved writing this last book because the more I looked around me, the more I saw how joie de vivre permeates the French way of life, precisely because in France there’s no « pursuit of happiness ». Fortunately, in France, I discovered that you don’t have to « pursue » happiness. It pursues you.

 Harriet on Joie de Vivre in the Huffington Post:

PRAISE for Joie de Vivre

« With humor and authority, Harriet Welty Rochefort provides the keys to understanding the French, while unlocking the secrets to ‘the good life’.” — Eleanor Beardsley, France correspondent for National Public Radio

« Wit, wry humor, and some deliciously withering words of wisdom make Harriet Welty Rochefort’s latest book a must for anyone hoping to understand French expressions of joie. » – David Downie, bestselling author of Paris to the Pyrenees and Paris, Paris : Journey into the City of Light

“A great adventure of joie de vivre to read without moderation.” –André Cointreau, president of Le Cordon Bleu International

“A compellingly entertaining read.” – G.Y. Dryansky, author of Coquilles, Calva, and Crème

« Once again, Harriet Welty Rochefort perfectly deconstructs the mind and spirit of the French. Joie de Vivre picks up where Welty Rochefort’s classic French Toast leaves off, exploring the French in all their alluring and baffling ways…(it) is a sheer pleasure, sure to become a must-read in the canon of books about the French. » – Debra Ollivier, national bestselling author of What French Women Know

A very humorous, well-written, yet respectful cultural analysis of those aspects of French life too often hidden to the casual visitor, but necessary to know if one wants to experience the “joy for life” that defines that nation and its fascinating citizens.” – Ronald C. Rosbottom, Professor of French and European Studies, Amherst College

“Very few ‘get’ the French as well as Harriet Welty Rochefort. That’s …due to Harriet’s own unmatched powers of observation, openness to the subtleties of another society, and great skill at conveying to readers what she has found – as she demonstrates once again in the perceptive, entertaining and lively Joie de Vivre.” -Michael Balter, contributing correspondent for Science, food and travel writer, and adjunct professor of journalism at New York University

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