How To Write About France: A Guide For a Rising Junior English Major from Kentucky

This essay was a creative-writing assignment in the first week of ENGL S247: Travel Writing.

Start your piece in the middle of a quarrel with the chef cuisiner at a high-class Parisian restaurant. The chef, of course, wears a toque and a white double-breasted jacket; he must have a thin curly moustache and thick black eyebrows, but no beard, and must call you “monsieur”. The quarrel concerns the choice of vin blanc to go with the saumon you ordered; he strongly suggests Sauvignon Blanc for you, but you insist on Beaujolais, which he snortles at for no good reason. (You attempted to order the poisson d’avril that your last one-night-stand suggested to you during pillow talk, but the waiter’s raised eyebrow made you reconsider.)

Conclude the argument by ordering un caffé Américano as dessert triumphantly. In your mind, make psychoanalytic conjectures that use the Second World War and inherent French défaitisme to explain the chef’s rudeness as an artifact of being beholden to and ashamed by valiant foreigners like you.

In your writing, use French mots in abundance.

Let your memory wander to the last night at le bar. Since all French people are sex-crazed, they all wanted you, men and women alike; since you’re tolerant, you did not discriminate and made love to them all. Do not describe the love-making; refer to your partners as numbers and make sure the only vivid detail of the sex scene is the discussion of their nipple hair. Write:

Numéro deux slowly pushed me down on my hotel lit. As she took her brassière off, I saw that, much like the roots of her hair, the pubes on her medium-large round nipples had started to gray.”

Rapidly progress to the current night, when you have sex with the chef from earlier. Make sure the curls on his nipple hairs match his mustache. When the night turns to whips and chains, make sure to meditate on Foucault’s Surveiller et punir.

Use this moment to describe the French people in more detail. Make sure that you describe all French men as dark and tall or plump and stodgy; and all French women as seductive, especially in their middle age, but also surprisingly long past it. Say that all men resemble either Jean-Paul Belmondo in their rugged handsomeness, or Louis de Funès in everything else. Say that most women are thin and dress fashionably; all have Sophia Loren’s fundamental charm, if not her looks. Make an exception for French feminists, who are hairy, smell bad and refuse to have sex with you.

Never actually go to France.