Thursday, April 9, 2009

La pause gourmande

In his book, Joie de Vivre, Robert Arbor devotes a chapter to la pause gourmande, the afternoon break. He points out that here in America, schoolchildren take that pause; it is the after school snack. Children come home from school and have a snack before playing or doing homework. Do you remember this from your childhood? For the French, this pause persists, and Arbor talks about his own afternoon break as an adult, living in New York City.

During the summer in Annecy, we eat a late dinner so we do have an afternoon snack. The boys might have a banana or a Pom'pote, my sister and I will have an afternoon tea and a sweet, my brother-in-law might have an espresso, or a beer and some olives or nuts. Sweet or savory, the pause gourmande is part of the French way of living.

True to my idea of blogging about bringing inexpensive but simple and authentic French touches into one’s life, la pause gourmande is at the top of the list. Truly, this is something that costs nothing. It only requires a shift in attitude, a way of thinking differently about your day. As Arbor says, the idea is to “have a little break that adds to your joie de vivre.”

So what do I do here at home, far away from the leisurely summer days in France? It depends on my schedule, but I might have a coffee when I stop in the bakery to buy bread. Or, I’ll sit down for a snack when I get home, but before I begin dinner. Some days it may only be a cup of tea, some days my son will join me, but everyday I take time to pause. Happily it’s a habit that was easy to establish, and I look forward to it every afternoon.

Small changes make can make a big difference in the way we live. Do you have a favorite way to pause?


  1. I pause by stepping away from the computer and sitting my a good old fashion magazine or book and reading for a bit - it totally relaxes me.

    One thing I miss from living in Europe is long lunches. My co-workers, boss and I would have 90 minute to 2 hours (and sometimes longer!) leisurely lunches (with wine!) by Lac Leman (I lived in France, but worked in Switzerland). I really, really miss those back in crazy, busy Silicon Valley. I start work way early so that if I want to take more than an hour (an I often feel like doing just that) then I don't have to worry about it.

    Thanks for the reminder to pause!

  2. Annecychic,
    This is a very interesting post. My husband owns his own construction business and he always pauses at about 3:00 for a snack. If he's home rather than at work at 3:00, he always says "time for break." I will have to teach him the French way - la pause gourmande.

  3. I need to adopt this practice. I've always thought the practice of afternoon tea was so civilized and gave a much needed break to the day to recharge for the last half of our waking hours.

  4. Anne,
    Joie de Vivre is a wonderful book and thanks for reminding me about la pause gourmande. So civilized! When my children get home from school they are ready for a snack so I am going to incorporate my 'pause' to coincide with theirs.
    I have been enjoying your posts very much and am thrilled that you like my blog as well.
    La at

  5. Thanks to everyone for your comments. I can't tell you how much I appreciate them, enjoy reading them. As for la pause, I like to think of it as the beginning of my evening, and dîner as the end of my evening, like bookends. In between is doing homework, reading the mail, preparing dinner, opening the wine, setting the table.

  6. I take a brief pause every day when I get home from work. I simply sit in the chair in my reading corner, close my eyes and listen to some relaxing music for about 15 minutes.

    I have been thinking about buying Joie de Vivre for a while. I think I will order a copy today.

    Great post.


  7. Mary, thanks for your comment; I enjoyed writing it. But even better, it provided an opportunity for me to take a pic for the blog and edit it in Picassa. Honestly, I don't know how photo stylists do it; staging photos is an art.

  8. You are the only other person I've ever come across who has actually read that book! I knew I was going to love this blog! I was sad when I read that you were about to take the summer off from blogging, when I had only just discovered you, but then realized it would be the perfect time to go back and read all the old posts I had missed out on, which is why I'm way back here in 2009. Have a wonderful time in France, and don't worry about me. I'll be fine until you get back (if you don't stay too long!).