Joie de vivre, the term that means joy of living, is a commonly used expression that represents the French approach to daily life. It means finding the happiness in the present circumstances; slowing down to savor a meal or disconnecting from technology after work. Joie de vivre gives us permission to enjoy the process, a glass of wine with dinner and a bite of chocolat for dessert. “[French] culture delights in elegance, sensuality, quality and form: the exquisite hand-stitching on the haute-couture dress; the immaculately glazed tartes aux framboises lined up in the pâtisserie window. The aesthetics of daily life, the art de vivre, remains a source of both grand gestures and small stolen pleasures.” The Economist.
Today, those small stolen pleasures appeared in the form of rich dark chocolate brownie bites.
Several months ago, as I was finishing up a meal at Le Pain Quotidien, the server delivered the check with a recipe card attached, for “Belgian Brownies.” The recipe called for chocolate, butter, eggs, sugar, and a dash of flour. With ingredients like that, I set the card aside for a special occasion. Months went by, and the recipe card stayed on the fridge, exactly where I had originally placed it. Life was busy, and the last thing on my to-do list, was bake a batch of gourmet brownies from scratch.
Then today, after dropping off my daughter at school, bound for work and feeling bad about it, “Fight For Your Right,” by the Beastie Boys came on the radio. Stay with me here. As I flashed back to 1986, I began thinking about the joie de vivre concept. There was nothing particularly special about today, and tomorrow would consist of the same mad dash to school and work, with as few tears as possible. I knew in that moment, per the wise words of The Beastie Boys that I had to fight for my right to joie. And baking something delicious and chocolaty with my little girl after dinner would be just the fun, messy thing. It would turn this ordinary day into the special time we baked decadent brownies together for dessert.
In the spirit of partying in moderation, and with elegance à la française, I modified the original recipe to make “bites,” instead of full-sized brownies.
It’s a regular day in February today, a perfect opportunity to read the Economist, listen to 1980’s hiphop, and eat brownies with your little one sans guilt. Fight for your opportunity, in your busy schedule, to slow down and steal a few moments of joy… and chocolate. Bon appétit!
Adapted from Le Pain Quotidien Belgian Brownie recipe