Friday, June 29, 2007

Xenophobic Confectioners

Dana and I met in German language class four years ago. She had just moved to Switzerland from Minneapolis, and I had just arrived from Georgia. We hit it off right from the start, developing a friendship as close to sisterhood as I have experienced.

When I was pregnant with the twins and laid up in the hospital on strict bedrest for three months, Dana took care of my life for me. When the babies were born ten weeks prematurely and terribly fragile, Dana stood by me as I morphed from a strong, wise-cracking woman to an emotionally shattered ghost.

After dealing with the serious and intense side of life for nearly two years, we decided to dust off our sense of humor, kick up our heals, kiss the husbands and kids goodbye and head off to Beaune, France Ah, Beaune-- located smack-dab in the middle of Burgundy wine country, it's a small, Medieval town surround by rolling vineyards and pastures with free-roaming, white Charolais cattle (they make for some delicious steaks...).

We enjoyed ourselves to the fullest; eating at fine, French restaurants, shopping at the expansive Saturday market (per my MO, we rented a small apartment so that I could cook with local ingredients), visited a vineyard or two and tasted lots of wine. We soaked it all up.

On our last day in Beaune, we were strolling one of the shopping streets when a candy store caught Dana's eye. We entered the small, cramped shop and looked around. Dana squeeked with joy (she is a fairly tiny woman-- mighty but compact, and prone to enthusiastic 'squeeking') as she found bags of housemade Cassis jellies. They were really expensive, about 20 Euro, but she said that they were her father's favorite (her father also being a foodie). She held tight to the Cassis jellies as we made our way over to the chocolate confection counter to admire the vast assortment. Even though I am not a sweets fan, it was a most enticing display. A couple of other French women were there ordering boxes of handmade chocolates, so we quietly chatted about what we would get when it was our turn. A few other local women came up to the counter, then a few more-- all were being helped before us. While this was annoying, it is also common, to my experience, in Europe-- there's just not the same adherence to lines and order as in North America.

Finally, everyone left and it was our turn. Dana wanted to get a few nice chocolates for her three children. She pulled out her best college French and asked for a number of different chocolates to be placed in her box. Then she asked for one that we didn't see in the case, dark chocolates filled with coconut.

"WHAT?" The confectioner looked at us with disdain. We just stood there, maybe blinked a few times, wondering what the problem was. The xenophobic confectioner went on, "You Americannns want shocolates filled weeth coconutz, or worse, peanut butt-air! Well, you are not IN Americah now-- you are in FRAAANCE and we do not make shocolates with coconutz and peanut butt-air!"

Are you kidding me? This lady's shop is in the middle of the tourist shopping area in a tourist-filled town. I love living in Europe and love vacationing in France, but this woman was as ridiculously closed-minded as the few Americans I know who think all French people are snobs, having never even traveled to France to meet a one.

That was it! I turned on my heel and stormed out of her shop. I was fuming! Dana was right behind me, leaving her half-filled box of 'shocolates' with the mean cofectioner lady. We marched down the pedestrian street angered by the treatment we had just received.

After about two minutes of marching and muttering, Dana stopped. "Oh my God." "What?" I asked, still steaming and annoyed that she had stopped-- we were on a roll. She held up her hand that still clutched the tres expensive Cassis candies. "Should we go back? We should go back." Dana stated. "Hell no! Absolutely not!" I shouted. Dana put up a half-hearted fight. Stealing is bad. Stealing is wrong. I believe this, but I was not going to go back there and admit to that cow that we inadvertantly stole a bag of costly candies-- no way would I give her that satisfaction.

So we didn't go back. And Jack, Dana's father, enjoyed a fine bag of stolen Cassis candies for Father's Day.

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