12 January 2011

Fortune Cookie à la française

The holidays are over, and even if you've composted your tree (or dismantled it) and stored the decorations away in boxes for another year, there are still some small reminders - in our house at least - that les fêtes weren't that long ago.

In Lyon, the end-of-year celebrations would not be the same without a bag or two of those delicately rich, gift-wrapped chocolates laying around the house.

The papillote (pronounced pap-ee-ought) is a Lyonnais invention. You can go to this French webpage and read more about its history and lore (the photo to the left comes from there).

Like most things gustatory coming out of Lyon, these chocolates taste good. And like Chinese fortune cookies, each golden-wrapped packet contains a proverb or joke or well-known quote that can add some laughter and fun...and sometimes a healthy dose of contemplation...to any after-dinner table conversation.

So yesterday I reached for a papillote, unwrapped it and found a quote and a proverb. From Mark Twain: "They didn't know it was impossible, so they did it."

The second was a Tibetan proverb: "Learn as if you had to live forever and live as if you had to die tonight!"

Got me to thinking.

There's still a host of foreign languages I want to learn; if I had to live forever, or even half that time, I just might get to them all.

And if I had to die tonight?

Ideally I'd be able to tell my kids the story of how I did everything I ever wanted simply because I never thought it impossible.

And then we'd sit down together and finish that bag of papillotes.

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