Photo of the Week

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The view from the Théâtre de l"Odéon at dusk. Photo: Françoise Deberdt-Meunier

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Paris Update What’s On

Links to events happening this week in Paris.

Left Bank gallery crawl
> Open house at 50 galleries for Art Saint Germain des Prés. Various venues, Paris, May 18-June 3.

Gold in galleries

ParisUpdate-CarreRiveGauche-Passage AH 0

“Passage” ((2017), by Aude Herlédan. At 1831 Art Gallery during Carré Rive Gauche.

> The Carré Rive Gauche, an association of Left Bank galleries, celebrates its 40th anniversary with an event called ExtrORdinaire, featuring gold in works of art. Various venues, Paris, May 18-June 3.

Literary evening
> The Nuit de la Littérature in Belleville and Ménilmontant presents 20 foreign authors reading their work in French. Various venues, Paris, May 27.

 English-language theater festival
> Paris Fringe returns for its second year of English-language theater and comedy. Various venues, Paris, May 18-28.

Hollywood glam
> Marilyn Monroe, Greta Garbo, Ava Gardner, Marlene Dietrich and more in classic films from Hollywood's Golden Age for the Glamour cycle. Forum des Images, Paris, May 3-31.

French film with English subtitles
> Lost in Frenchlation shows Etienne Comar’s Django, preceded by a themed cocktail party (€4.50). Studio 28, Paris, May 26.

Virtual reality
> Drop in on Saturday or Sunday from 2pm to 8pm for a free virtual trip at the VR Express festival. Forum des Images, Paris, through June 30.

Dance in historic sites
> Monuments en Mouvement offers free dance performances in national monuments like the Pantheon in Paris, the Abbaye de Cluny and châteaux. Various locations, through Oct. 21.

African culture festival
> The 100% Afriques festival showcases dance, theater, music, fashion, design, art, food and more from all over the continent. La Villette, Paris, through May 28.

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Hot Topics - C'est ironique !

 

How Sweet It Is: A Report from the Salon du Chocolat

You Wanna Eat It or
Wear It?

Paris Update Salon du Chocolat 1 Stick Costumes

Mom, I’ve good news and bad news. The good news is, I got a job. The bad news is, thousands of people are going to see me at work.

In preparation for this article, I found myself reflecting on a well-known philosophical tenet. First outlined in Plato’s Republic and later elaborated upon in detail in The Confessions of Saint Augustine, it states one of the basic precepts of Western thought: “You can always find something to ridicule at a trade show.”

Having gathered sufficient material for previous C’est Ironiques simply by wandering aimlessly around the Salon de l’Agriculture and the Foire de Paris, I decided last week to head for the Salon du Chocolat, Paris’s annual chocolate fair.

According to its Web site, the salon is “the world’s largest event dedicated to chocolate.” If that’s true, it must not have much competition, because the whole thing was contained on one floor of one building at the Porte de Versailles convention center.

On the other hand, maybe they mean “largest” in terms of attendance: it was so crowded when I went on Friday afternoon, you’d think they were giving away free samples of some kind of popular, widely consumed food item.

Actually, most of the stands were not giving it away for free, although for a modest investment, visitors could sample chocolate in a stupefying variety of forms. In fact, for a slatternly investment, visitors could purchase enough of the stuff to build a house out of chocolate logs:

Paris Update Salon du Chocolat 2 Logs

... paint it with chocolate:

Paris Update Salon du Chocolat 3-Paint

... tile the floors with chocolate:

Paris Update Salon du Chocolat 4-Tiles

... hang chocolate art on the walls:

Paris Update Salon du Chocolat 5-Art

... and when it’s all finished invite their friends over for a chocolate glass of wine:

Paris Update Salon du Chocolat 6-Wine-Glass

... some chocolate cheese:

Paris Update Salon du Chocolat 7-Cheese

... and a game of chocolate Scrabble:

Paris Update Salon du Chocolat 8-Scrabble

... keeping score with a chocolate pencil:

Paris Update Salon du Chocolat 9-Pencils

... on a chocolate tablet:

Paris Update Salon du Chocolat 9a-Tablets

... and then sit on a giant chocolate suppository:

Paris Update Salon du Chocolat 10-Suppositories

In addition to chocolate in uncommon shapes and colors, the exhibits also featured chocolate in unexpected combinations, like mixed with olive oil:

Paris Update Salon du Chocolat 11-Chocolate-And-Olive-Oil

And spread on bread with foie gras:

Paris Update Salon du Chocolat 12 Chocolate-On-Foie-Gras

I tried both of these novelties, and here’s what I thought: olive oil and chocolate is a blend that says, “Ahh, the exoticism of the tropics meets the flavors of the Mediterranean,” whereas chocolate spread and foie gras is a blend that says, “Hey! Who’s the jackass who spilled chocolate all over the damn foie gras?”

After about an hour of roaming the stands, sampling most of the delicacies and all of the oddities, I was reaching the point of “too much of a good thing.” I started to feel like I might as well just smear chocolate all over myself.

Which turned out to be an option: one exhibitor had set up a row of cabins and was offering chocolate facials and massages. And the next stand over was offering hair removal treatments using melted chocolate instead of hot wax:

Paris Update Salon du Chocolat 13-Chocolate-Depilatory

But not in a cabin — the treatment bed was just sitting there in plain view. Strangely, they didn’t have any takers. And I should know: I hung around there all afternoon and not one single customer stepped up for a bikini sundae.

I also noticed that this same stand had a red plastic drum marked “depilatory waste” sitting off to one side, right next to a nearly identical red plastic drum from which the vendor next door was scooping powder to make hot chocolate. He wasn’t getting any customers either. Go figure.

From drinkable to chewable to smearable, the exhibits covered the entire gamut of uses for chocolate, both real and imaginary, including the ostensibly smokable:

Paris Update Salon du Chocolat 14-Cigars

And the ostensibly wearable:

Paris Update Salon du Chocolat 15-Neckties

And even the literally wearable. I refer, of course to the highlight of the Salon du Chocolat: the Chocolate Fashion Show. There was a stage set up in the middle of the space where, every afternoon at 5pm, a dozen models would step into the spotlights sporting specially designed outfits consisting largely of chocolate. Although not entirely — after all, who wants to wear chocolate socks?

This was by far the salon’s biggest draw. By the time it started, there was a huge crowd packed in front of the stage — hundreds of women wondering what the participating fashion designers could possibly come up with in the way of cocoa-based ensembles, and hundreds of men wondering if a sudden noise or temperature rise could somehow trigger a wardrobe malfunction.

In fact, the crowd was so crowded, my view of the fashion show looked like this most of the time:

Paris Update Salon du Chocolat 16-View-Of-Fashion-Show

Although toward the end, I did manage to get one distant photo of this cocoa butterfly:

Paris Update Salon du Chocolat 17-Butterfly-Getup

Yes, that’s an all-chocolate brassiere. And yes, another minute under those hot lights and it probably would have melted into an all-chocolate hernia belt, which is probably why so many of the guys in the audience kept yelling “Encore!”

However, despite its many attractions, both real and imaginary, the fashion show was esthetically eclipsed by another regular feature of the Salon du Chocolat: the annual Charles Proust Competition, a sculpture contest for pastry and chocolate chefs.

Each year, the entrants are asked to interpret a specific theme, which for 2012 was “The Fables of La Fontaine.” As any French schoolboy can tell you, but won’t because he’s such a little snot, Jean de La Fontaine was a 17th-century writer who penned classic versions of ancient cautionary tales like “The Ant and the Grasshopper” and “The Tortoise and the Hare.”

Apparently, foxes are considered to be chocogenic, because many of the entrants chose to depict “The Fox and the Grapes”:

Paris Update Salon du Chocolat 18-Fox-And-Grapes-Sculpture

 

Paris Update Salon du Chocolat 19-Gulping-Fox-Sculpture

But that wasn’t the only tale retold in cocoa, sugar and food-grade colorants. Other famous La Fontaine fables were also on view, including “The Creepy Staring Dude and the Bumblebees”:

Paris Update Salon du Chocolat 20-Staring-Man-Sculpture

Also “The Dead Parrot and the Stripper”:

 

Paris Update Salon du Chocolat Amazon-Sculpture

And of course that great classic that has been enchanting youngsters for countless generations, “The Elephant, the Rhinoceros and the Giant Slugs”:

Paris Update Salon du Chocolat 22-Elephant-Rhino-Slugs-Sculpture

Strange as they were, those entries still weren’t quite as disconcerting as the fox sculpture shown below, which I would have picked as the paws-down winner of the competition:

Paris Update Salon du Chocolat 23 Self-Abuse-Fox-Sculpture

What exactly is going on here? Is this what the fox did to console himself after not getting the grapes? Oh wait — I know: this is a scene from La Fontaine’s oft-neglected fable “The Fox and the Chocolate Brazilian Depilatory Treatment.”

Art! Literature! Fashion! Hyperglycemia! As Saint Augustine could have predicted, the Salon du Chocolat proved fruitful, and fructoseful, for me. In fact, so fruitful I have applied to be an exhibitor next year. I’m going to set up a stand next to the fashion show stage. Selling battery-powered blow dryers.

David Jaggard

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