The Paul Guide to French Manners
Invitations: Always reply promptly to invitations, whether accepting or declining. If you don’t reply, you won’t be invited again and therefore won’t have the luxury of declining. Remember, if you receive an invitation from someone, you will need to issue an invitation to that person in return. This infernal cycle can continue until doomsday, but PAUL is here to help. A bag of our delicious mini macaroons is always an acceptable gift, and if you take one of our glorious fruit tarts or gâteaux, at least you know that you will enjoy dessert, if nothing else.
Greetings: Greet friends and family with La Bise, a kiss to each cheek, starting with the right, and accompanied by the words “Salut! Ça va?” or similar. Kissing on the lips should be a private activity, as should feeding each other PAUL chocolate or coffee éclairs…
Champagne: If you are hosting a special celebration where champagne is being served, remember that you are not on the podium at a Formula 1 Grand Prix. Open the bottle with as little noise as possible, and retain the cork in your hand as otherwise you may shatter some priceless light fitting. You will know you have succeeded in the perfect opening when the champagne doesn’t foam everywhere. Nonethelesss, it’s sensible to have a champagne glass on hand just in case – to err is human. Try serving champagne with our savoury canapé selection, or perhaps a Pain Surprise.
Parties: If you are going to throw a party, and the budget does not stretch to hiring the Ballroom at the Dorchester or taking over the Café de Paris for the night, remember to forewarn your neighbours and apologise in advance for any noise. This should avoid complaints and visits from the police. If the neighbours still complain, pop round the next day with a lovely box of PAUL patisserie. After that, they’ll be rather looking forward to your next event.
Sitting down to Eat: Men take their seats after women. Once everyone is seated, if a woman gets up from the table, it is customary for all the men to get up as well. It is also customary for men to stand up when new guests arrive – unless they are children. Women remain seated. If a woman returns to the table or arrives late, the men must stand and remain standing until she has sat down. And no, it’s not a game of musical chairs. After all that, you will have worked up an appetite for some PAUL bread.
Bread: When you cut up a PAUL flûte or other loaf to serve at dinner, don’t slice it too thickly, and try to keep the slices regular. If you’re worried about this, buy a selection of our Benoîtons, as these charming little bread-sticks are already the ideal size. Offer the bread basket to your neighbour to help himself. Never pick up a slice with your fingers and give it to him. When eating bread, don’t pull a piece off with your teeth. Tear a manageable mouthful off with your fingers, pop it into your mouth, close your mouth, chew and swallow. Although PAUL bread is irresistibly delicious, don’t eat so much of it that you have no room for the meal itself.
Butter: Use the butter knife to take a small amount of butter and put it on your plate, rather than going back to the butter dish every other minute. PAUL bread is lovely with a good quality, unsalted or slightly salted French butter.
Eating: Never start to eat before everyone has been served. Wait for your hostess to start eating. Don’t eat with your mouth open or speak with your mouth full. We know that our desserts and patisserie are sensational, but don’t shovel them into your mouth too greedily. Take the time to savour them. Never put your knife in your mouth, as not only is this bad manners, but the knife may be sharp. Don’t sing or whistle whilst eating, no matter how much the PAUL Tarte au Citron with a little fresh cream lifts your spirits. Don’t put your elbows on the table. Don’t clean your teeth at the table.
Cheese: When helping yourself to cheese, especially when there is a choice of runny and other cheeses, remember to wipe the cheese knife on the side of your plate so that your neighbour doesn’t find Roquefort in his Brie, for example. Serve a selection of PAUL bread to compliment the different cheese – Pain Paul, Pain Complet and Pain de Seigle for example.
Coffee and Tea: Your spoon is only to stir any sugar and help it to dissolve. Don’t lick it. Don’t leave it in your cup – put it on the saucer. Hope that your hostess will provide Mirlitons, Mignardises or Mini Macaroons from PAUL to accompany your tea or coffee. If you’re worried that she might not do so, bring them with you as a gift.
Conversation: When you are asked “How are you?”, always reply “Very well thank you, and you?” Never make the vulgar error, even if your house is subsiding, your children have chicken pox, your pedigree Persian cat has been kidnapped and your nanny has resigned, of saying anything other than “Very well” or “Fine thanks”. This is pretty much a rhetorical question, and you have been invited to amuse, not to whine. If you’re stuck for conversation, you could always say “I must say, PAUL make the most fabulous chocolate cakes don’t they? And how clever of Pandora to have gone to PAUL for dessert rather than slaving away in the kitchen”.
Breakfast: If a dinner à deux is a roaring success and your guest is still there for breakfast, putting the box of cereal on the table and saying ‘help yourself’ will be a bit of a let-down. To show how much you care, serve warm PAUL croissants, pains au chocolate and briochettes. Provide butter, PAUL jam, freshly squeezed orange juice and PAUL coffee. Perfect!