“I firmly believe that it’s the little things we do that eventually add up to a happy life. I am not asking you to change everything about the way you live, but perhaps to reconsider a few details of your daily routine. Remember that joie de vivre is not revolutionary —but it is evolutionary.” —Robert Arbor, author of Joie de Vivre: Simple French Style for Everyday Living
Sixteen years French chef Robert Arbor released a book that offers a personal glimpse into his everyday routines which adhere to the French’s simple approach to living well. With time split between living in Connecticutt and living in a country home in Flaujac-Poujol, France, with his wife and two sons, he shares how the secrets of the French are really quite simple when it comes to elevating the everyday.
Yes, it took me far too long to pick up this book, but as soon as I did, his words were music to my ears as he too celebrates and revels in the everyday routines, cultivate seemingly simple rituals that are savored and deeply appreciated. A way of life that is inspired by his own upbringing in Fontainebleau, France, just outside of Paris.
Many readers recommended Joie de Vivre: Simple French Style for Everyday Living and many readers have shared they return to read this book often to reminders of how to slow down and savor the lives they have worked so hard to have the opportunity to live. Joie de Vivre is a gem of a resource for reminding ourselves of the beauty of life – understanding that our lives are made up everydays is all we need to do to recognize and embrace a truly contented life.
While I will certainly be picking up the book many times more in the future, having highlighted and annotated heavily throughout, I wanted to share 36 ideas Arbor shares in the book as an introduction to how grand the everyday can be, and how it truly is quite simple.
~Be sure to tune in and listen to the podcast episode and more discussion on each point is shared.
1.Breakfast – enjoy alone and make it nice or with a very close friend, someone you like – make it your personal time of the day.
2. Savor the buttery goodness of a croissant on weekend or for special occasions
~TSLL’s homemade croissant recipe~
3. Cloth napkins for everyday dining
4. Cultivate a routine you enjoy around your breakfast and morning “to give a quick thought to each day’s potential”.
5. Cultivate your own potager (vegetable garden) to “grow a few things to eat fresh”. And only grow what you love to eat and share.
6. Disperse flowers throughout your potager, let go of perfection and separation.
7. Place your fresh, delicate vegetables and fruits (tomatoes, courgettes, most fruit) in a compote on the kitchen counter to be reminded to use them immediately (or very soon).
“A big part of comprehending joie de vivre is understanding that enjoyment in day-to-day life is the true key to happiness. Finding happiness in small things means that ordinary days are filled with pleasures rather than obligations. Joyful anticipation of life’s everyday events is part of bringing joie de vivre into your home in a lasting way.”
8. Grow your own garden of herbs
9. Make food shopping enjoyable – visit a special shop, a farm stand or make it a social engagement.
10. Enjoy good, seasonal food and revel in it.
11. Welcome cheese into your eating regimen
12. Regularly frequent le marché in your area when available
“Great food and ingredients can be found anywhere. One just has to make more of an effort and decide on a lifestyle choice about the quality of the food.”
13. Make the kitchen the center of the house, but it need not be state-of-the-art.
14. No need to spend a lot of money to have a pleasant workable kitchen – regular height chairs, let go of the high stools, so you can relax and enjoy conversation – sitting back, etc. Only purchase the equipment you will actually use and buy quality items that will last. Here are a few ideas: 3-4 pots with lids, a cast iron skillet (keep it seasoned), a teakettle on the stove for boiling water, a Dutch oven or cocotte, but again, only tools you will need for the food you and your household enjoy eating.
15. Have the basic cooking utensils stocked in your kitchen so no matter what the season, you can make what you enjoy: 3 sharpened knives (paring, chef’s and serrated), 2 cutting boards, earthenware jugs full of different wooden spoons and spatulas, a stainless-steel spoon and 8-oz ladle, perforated stainless steel spoon, tongs, a whisk, 3 graduated mixing bowls, a fine mesh strainer, hot mitts, a hand-cranked can opener, cork screw, cotton kitchen towels, and a scale, measuring cups and spoons, rolling pin if you are a baker.
~A Cook’s Kitchen (necessary utensils)
~A Baker’s Kitchen (necessary utensils)
17. Tidy your kitchen as you go to make the space a place you enjoy stepping into each time.
18. Lengthen and deepen (full and satiating) your midday meal as much as possible.
“This is a time for stepping away from your work — even if you are eating with your coworkers—and talking and thinking about something else . . . Whatever the company, the conversation is always pleasant and positive. And that, naturally, adds to the pleasure and anticipation of lunch. It is a real break from the rest of the day. Le déjeuner is not about using time, it is about taking time.”
19. Enjoy a picnic and make it comfortable
“I do love a picnic in the French style, which, of course, means comfort, comfort and more comfort. First of all, a French person is simply not going to eat on the ground. Although we might lounge around on a blanket later, it is much butter to eat sitting up.”
20. Reserve Sunday to enjoy a big Sunday lunch, focusing on pleasure rather than obligation.
21. And grab that nap after the lengthy lunch to add regular moments of rejuventation .
“Remind yourself that sometimes the best ideas and solutions rise to the surface when you’re not thinking so hard.”
22. Grab an afternoon break regularly with la pause gourmande to give yourself a treat – “a treat with a purpose” and offer the perfect solution to the “afternoon blahs”.
23. Enjoy dinner in the dining room regularly and offer the opportunity for everyone to contribute (whether by setting the table, etc.) somehow.
24. Unwind after dinner with a little dessert treat (nothing too grand), and partaking in something you enjoy on your own or with others so that you can go to bed happy and content.
25. Share dinner with friends with a casual dinner party – only invite people you truly like and don’t “overstretch yourself”.
~10 Ideas Gleaned & Confirmed from My last Dinner Party, episode #235
26. Create a warm and inviting atmosphere, which means you need to be able to be relaxed and enjoy the evening as well. The goal: good food, good conversation and good fun.
27. Begin with apéritifs – small nibbles and drinks.
28. Have very small groups of flowers on the table to create a welcome, but not cumbersome table to sit around and enjoy the meal.
29. Add candles to the dinner table either in glass hurricanes, or small tea lights spread around the tabletop.
30. Add a low volume lyric-less music to the background, as the conversation amongst friends is the best music.
31. Enjoy cheese and a vinaigrette dressed salad course after the main course prior to dessert.
32. Add water to the meal to be enjoyed while enjoying glasses of wine with each course.
33. Dessert need not be homemade when you have a favorite local patisserie.
34. Savor the winding down at the end of the day and do not skip this important part of each day. Cultivate a pleasant ritual, perhaps a different one for each season.
35. Make lavender-scented linen water to add an inviting scent to your bed linens.
36. Enjoy a good night’s sleep
“Americans are fascinated with how the French manage to live so well, and so contentedly, in their ordinary, day-to-day life. It’s not just about cooking, decorating, or entertaining — it’s about enjoying all the small details of domestic life.” —Robert Arbor
May your everydays be full of simple pleasures and moments of joy as well as you remember how extraordinary your life already is at this very moment.
~Order Robert Arbor’s book Joie de Vivre: Simple French Style for Everyday Living
~SIMILAR EPISODES/POSTS from THE ARCHIVES YOU MIGHT ENJOY:
~The French Way: How to Create a Luxurious Everyday Life, episode #23
~View all French-Inspired podcast episodes here
~Call My Agent (Dix Pour Cent)