Since it was Christmas, a friend of mine came over to help bake an enormous batch of cookies. We made fluffy snickerdoodles, brown-butter chocolate chip cookies, raspberry roll-ups (that ended up looking more like brains, but a little silver powder fixed it), and some of Geep’s favorite peanut butter kiss cookies. The smell of baking cookies, and a little Christmas music, helped add a dash of holiday spirit during the strangely warm winter here. It has been strange to walk outside in a light coat and not die of frostbite, which was the case last year. Damn El Nino.
Anyways, we baked the cookies, sent some to friends, but still had quite a few left over. I even gave some to our gardienne, along with her Christmas bonus and a small card. She was pleased and smiled when I told her, “J’ai fait des biscuits hier pour Noël” (I made cookies yesterday for Christmas.) She was also happy that we have learned enough French to communicate with her on occasion, she even showed me a little English she had learned.
After giving her some of the baked goods, we still had bags full. When Geep decided to finally get a haircut by his favorite stylist, a sweet older french man that is an absolutely artist when it comes to hair, I decided to give him some cookies, too. Geep made concerned faces at me when I suggested this, telling me it’s ‘not a very French thing to do‘. I assured him that I would bring them along and casually ask him if he liked cookies and go from there. Geep proceeded to get coiffed to perfection by Le Monsieur, and we headed to desk to pay. I asked him, as I had promised, very casually if he liked cookies. His whole face lit up like a Tree as he smiled from ear to ear. Bien Sûr! Oui Oui! He about danced from behind the counter as I pulled the sachet of cookies from my bag and told him the flavors inside. He proceeded to hug me and kiss me on both cheeks before we walked out. Geep was astonished by his reaction. ‘I guess the French like cookies. I hope the girls in the salon don’t steal them from him…‘
On the actual day of Christmas, I went across the street to procure a croissant for breakfast and a bûche de Noël from Fred’s before the lines were too crazy. As I left the apartment, a van full of military people were unpacking and heading to guard the church across the street. Thanks to the recent attacks here, they were posting military and gendarmes around churches in case of an attempted attack on Christmas. Many were setting up metal detectors and locking the doors once the mass started. Since they were forced to stand guard in the rainy weather because of a few idiots, I thought it would be nice to share some of the cookies. I came home to drop off the stuff for breakfast and told Geep of my plan. Once again, he was concerned. Granted, walking up to a group of four heavily armed military people with a small sack doesn’t sound like the greatest idea, but I have a small advantage. It may sound terrible, but being a rather pale and very blonde female American, I don’t set off any alarm bells. We were not sure if they could even accept them, but I told Geep the worst they could do was say no. I packed a rather large (clear plastic, for safety sake) bag with cookies and walked across the street practicing my french along the way. I approached the first guy and said hello. After saying my French was bad, he asked if I was better at English. (Woo!) I explained that I saw them outside and wondered if they would like some cookies for later. I told them what they were, in French and in English so the others would understand, and watched them all start smiling. One of the soldiers, a female, was ooo-ing over the raspberry ones, and a man at the end asked about the peanut butter. They thanks me profusely, giggled at the weird american girl, and put the cookies safely in their car for later. When more replacements arrived, we saw them sitting in the car munching and kidding around with each other for their break.
Granted, Geep is correct, that the French don’t really do food gifts unless they are close with the person, but that is what made it more fun. They were not expecting it, so it was surprising and novel. The fact that I handed out cookies to random people made Geep make the comment that I am a much better person than him, but I reminded him it helped me dump a lot of cookies,too. Mutually beneficial.
Cookie love is universal and can cross cultural barriers. Perhaps cakes can end wars.
(Random Small Rant:Do not put off a trip here if you are planning one, by the way, as there are more military and police all over the city than you can imagine. Paris is a safe place that had a bad thing happen, like many places in the US and elsewhere. I encourage people to come and help Paris get back on its feet.)