John Lichfield: How I became chic growing roses and parsnips

Share
Related Topics

For the first time in my life, possibly only briefly, I have reached the pinnacle of Parisian chic. The newspaper, Le Figaro, has published a list of what it calls the panoplie du snob: a catalogue of 50 things which are at the furthest cutting-edge of in-your-face trendiness amongst the wealthy, Parisian chattering classes.

Please note that snob is one of those words which subtly changes its meaning when it catches the Eurostar. Something is très snob in French if it is a symbol of cool trendiness. It is what we would call, in English, "very chic" – a word which is no longer trendy, or snob, in French.

Items on the Figaro snob list include English bulldogs, which are now apparently the mutt of choice for wealthy Parisians parading in the Bois de Boulogne on Sunday afternoons. The bulldog – or bouledogue – has supplanted the Jack Russell and the Labrador. Those breeds have become too populaires, in other words down-market or de-classé.

Amongst the bulldog qualities admired by the wealthy French, Le Figaro says, is their flegme is so British. The word flegme refers to the dog's phlegmatism, not its phlegm.

I also learned from Figaro that the self-respecting, rich French trendy- in-sunglasses would never wear a pair of Ray Bans. The shades of choice are now the Italian-made Persol, as worn by Daniel Craig in Casino Royale.

Exquisitely fashionable good taste also requires Parisians to drink "green tea" and the right kind of bottled water. Perrier, Evian and Badoît are for ploucs (yokels) or beaufs (chavs). The snob water of choice is Chateldon, which used to be drunk by King Louis XIV.

The height of cool in a select Parisian brasserie is to order a café blanc. This has nothing to do with white coffee or even café au lait. It is a Lebanese drink made from warm water and the flowers of the orange tree. You can't yet order them in the Starbucks outlets which are advancing like a green weed across Paris. It probably won't be long. By then "white coffee" will no longer be snob.

Parisian cultural snobisme is highly perverse, it appears. The trick is to claim to adore artistes who were, until recently, regarded as hopelessly old-fashioned or just hopeless. The top kitsch cultural icons of le snobisme nouveau include Arielle Dombasle, the actress and singer of modest talent who is married to the philosopher, Bernard-Henri Levy. Another is the deceased French comic movie actor, Louis de Funès, a kind of diminutive Gallic John Cleese.

Why does any of this transform me into a trendy? I do not wear Fred Perry shirts or Persol sunglasses or drink warm water and orange flowers or own a bouledogue. I cannot abide Dombasle.

Le Figaro lists two other snob traits. It is now apparently utterly oafish behaviour to turn up at a Parisian dinner party with a bunch of shop-bought flowers or a box of marron-glacés. The annoyingly cutting-edge thing to do is to present your host with a few roses, or even a herb plant, "from my little garden in Normandy".

At the same time, the humble parsnip, or panais, in French, has become an exotic vegetable prized by Parisian food bores. Parsnips were long regarded in France as fit to be eaten only by horses and the English. They have now become, according to Le Figaro, "top of the hit parade of forgotten vegetables, with a very subtle taste reminiscent of the artichoke".

I happen to have "a little garden in Normandy" where I grow not only roses but parsnips. For the first time in my life, until the restless wheel of fashion moves on, I find that am not only chic, but snob.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Telesales / Telemarketing Executive - OTE £30k / £35k plus

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises provid...

Austen Lloyd: Commercial Property Solicitor - Exeter

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: EXETER - A great new opportunity with real pot...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Private Client Solicitor - Exeter

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: EXETER - An outstanding senior opportunity for...

Sauce Recruitment: Retail Planning Manager - Home Entertainment UK

salary equal to £40K pro-rata: Sauce Recruitment: Are you available to start a...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Errors & Omissions: When is a baroness not a baroness? Titles still cause confusion

Guy Keleny
 

CPAC 2015: What I learnt from the US — and what the US could learn from Ukip

Nigel Farage
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower