Sunday, April 25, 2010

Papillottes and Patriarchy

I have been wanting, since Christmas, to write a little blog about Papillotes.  Papillotes are a traditional French Christmas candy (originating in Lyon) and, kind of like our candy canes, are only available in December. 

They are wonderful treats.  It is a small, usually metallic or sparkling paper that covers a chocolate filled with fruit cream, or other yummy filling.  Between the outer wrapper and the candy is a white paper with a quote or a joke.  The best kind also has a small ‘snapper’ type firecracker in it that makes a spark.  They are great fun. When Santa visits the children around here, he always has a basket of papillotes.

“Legend has it that papillotes were born in Lyon at the end of the eighteenth century.  It seems that the young clerk who worked in the candy store candy came up with the idea in order to charm his love.  She worked in the floor above the shop.   He sent her little words of love wrapped around pieces of candy from the store. His boss, Mr. Papillote, caught him at it and was going to fire him but then found his idea to be very interesting.  He decided, instead, to put it to good use: and the papillote was born.”

Papillote literally means, “little package” and, in fact is also used to describe any French dish where you wrap the food inside parchment paper or foil to bake.  But, I’m not really interested in that type of papillote, it doesn’t involve chocolate, racism or sexism, some of my favorite topics.

Sexism and racism in chocolate?  Yes folks, that’s right – there is a place where females and multiculturals have yet to break in, and that’s the inside of the papillote!  I probably ate dozens of these delicacies before the insidious truth started to sink in. I realized that the words of wisdom, written within, were all attributed to men, who, by the way, are all white, and dead for at least 100 years.  And this is the candy of the children?

Of course, I haven’t done exhaustive investigative research on this, but the circumstantial evidence is damning.  Here are just a few of the quotes I collected. (In French and then, for your convenience, translated to English.)

S’il fallait tolérer aux autres ce que l’on se permet a soi-meme, la vie ne serait plus tenable – Georges Courteline

If others subjected us to what we allow to happen to ourselves, life would not be worth living.

La sagesse, c’est d’avoir des reves suffisamment grands pour ne pas les perdre de vue lorsqu’on les poursuit – Oscar Wilde

Wisdom is to have dreams that are big enough you don’t lose sight of them while pursuing them.

Une idée qui n’est pas dangereuse ne mérite pas d’etre apellée une idée- Oscar Wilde

An idea that is not dangerous does not deserve to be called an idea.

La critique est une chose bien commode: on attaque avec un mot, il faut des pages pour se défendre. – JJ Rousseau

Criticism is something very convenient: you attack with a word, it takes pages for the defense.

Les hommes de génie sont des météores destines a bruler pour éclairer leur siecle. – Napoléon Bonaparte

Men of genius are meteors, destined to be burned for illuminating their century.

Aux ames bien nées, la valeur n’attend point le nombre des années. – Cornielle

For well-born souls, value does not await age.

OK – there were three that didn’t fit the old white man stereotype:

Proverbs (but very old):

Pour fair taire autrui, commence par te taire – Séneque

To get others to shut up, start by shutting up yourself.

Il vous faut 2 ans pour apprendre à parler, et le reste de votre vie pour apprendre à se taire - Proverbe chinois

It takes you 2 years to learn how to talk, and the rest of your life to learn how to shut up.  (I actually really like this one)

I also have to include this one.  I love how supercala is changed, ever so slightly, in the French Mary Poppins.  “deliliciuex” instead of “docious”.  Linguistic scholars everywhere are burning with curiosity.

Quelle nurse anglaise, volant grace a son parapluie, prononce ce mot maquique: “Supercalifragilisticexpialidelilicieux”?

Which English nurse, flying with an umbrella, says the magic word: “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocius”?

At least she came about in the 1900’s – written in 1934 and famous movie from 1964.  She’s female and magical as well – a modern day witch.  Here’s a role model I can applaud, to some degree or another.  But she still seems dated.  Are these really the words of wisdom that should be used to form the minds of the French populace each holiday season?

Someone needs to speak up, to put a stop to the dictatorship that dead white men have over this candy.  It deserves better.  I guess I’m just the blogger to do it.  Of course, it won’t change a thing, but it still feels good to put it out there.

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