Earlier this week I posted an overview of a health survey ranking France overall as “average” among Europe’s 27 countries, which of course got me thinking about the good life in France, a cliché with some truth to it. The French may not be the healthiest or the richest (another recent article in Le Monde says 10% of France’s children live in poverty), but there is no arguing that they’ve got an attitude about pleasure that does help make life bearable. Treachery in Bordeaux, by Jean-Pierre Alaux and Noël Balen, has a main character with this kind of decidedly Epicurean approach to life. Here is an excerpt, where the winemaker detective Benjamin Cooker enjoys a cigar.
“He opened the cigar box at the corner of his desk and lit up a sweet San Luis Rey robusto, drawing in a deep puff with great pleasure as he leaned back on the headrest. The vitola immediately delivered spicy flavors of green pepper and cinnamon. The smoke, which was not too ample, rose up, round and light. The tobacco was not strong, but developed an aromatic richness in which he could easily discern honey, caramel and cacao.”
A description like that is enough to make cigars tempting even to me, and I’ve always been more like the ladies in the second excerpt below, who find cigar smoke overwhelming and prefer to explore more subtle aromas.
“They drank coffee in the living room, and no one wanted an after-dinner spirit. Alain lit a pipe of Amsterdamer, and Benjamin dug around in his little rosewood box to find a Lusitania from Partagas, which he then lit with relish. The women stayed at a distance, complaining about the smoke that kept them from enjoying the perfume samples they extracted from their handbags. Cooker took advantage of the moment to remove a piece of paper from his jacket pocket. He unfolded it and held it out to his friend.”
(Excerpts from Treachery in Bordeaux by Jean-Pierre Alaux and Noël Balen. First published in France as Mission à Haut-Brion; world copyright ©Librairie Arthème Fayard, 2004; English translation ©2012 Anne Trager)