culture

Finding Paris in Pittsburgh.

 
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I have recently been haunted by a certain Facebook video poking fun at study abroad students. The blonde caricature student rambles again and again, “when I was abroad…” filling in the blanks by longing for every European cliché from a more relaxed lifestyle to a different drinking culture.

This is a stereotype I may just fall into, but with a tiny bit of pride. This past spring semester I studied abroad in Paris. And yes, for four months I got to bask in espresso, sidewalk café terraces, and croissants galore. Sometimes clichés are beautiful. 

At the beginning of my study abroad program, we had a week-long orientation that included presentations on cultural and academic differences. During one of these sessions, our presenter lamented that while she loves the laid-back business style of the French, she often craves American efficiency. 

“Americans are just so efficient. They respond to emails; they have quick meetings. When I work in France everyone wants to get coffee or have a two-hour long lunch before anything gets done.”

I have to admit that I had noticed a difference in my day-to-day activities in Paris. Things take a bit longer in France. They aren’t rushed quite like they are here—unless you’re walking through the metro.

Americans really do value efficiency and convenience. We have quick meetings. We snack all day to keep from getting hungry. We don’t use all of our vacation time.

I was surprised to learn there was no online portal for my university and that professors most likely would not respond to my emails within 24 hours. I was also shocked by how often my host family had off work/school for a national holiday. 

And then there was the food. My host family made the most delicious dinners. In the early evening or sometimes even late afternoon, the smells would begin to waft through the house. Each night we sat down at the dinner table—no take-out or rushed fifteen-minute dinner. Sometimes it was just three or four of us, sometimes all six people. And we always had an appetizer or dessert along with our entrée. 

While I’m at school, I barely make myself three real dinners a week—and that’s a good week. I love how people in France take the time to enjoy food, from taking hours to eat, to shopping for fresh food at specialty stores, to spending hours in a café just to have a coffee. In the majority of cafés, you don’t see laptops and people working. They just sit, talk, and enjoy their espresso or café crème.

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I thought a lot about which style I preferred. The truth is I like a little bit of both. I wanted to bring some of those French traditions back with me, especially when it comes to food. But would it really be possible for me to live like that in the U.S.? How would I find time to cook each day?  Where even is the closest bakery? 

I realized that while I may be able to add some crepes into my diet, I would have let a lot of the other things go. If I have time to go to a farmer’s market, great. But the way I live at home just isn’t conducive to spending hours each night cooking and eating.

In the midst of this culture shock, the time came for me to apply for summer internships. Elisco was the first one I applied for and the first reply I received:

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I started to stress out because I realized how badly I wanted this internship.

“We’re reviewing your resume over espresso & croissants.”

It was only one sentence, but it made me really, really excited. I realized there might be a place where I could have the best of both worlds.

I enlisted my roommate’s help for my project. We spent the next few days running around Paris searching for the letters to spell out “Elisco.” Once I had photographed all six letters, I combined them into a photo collage that I posted on Facebook. A few weeks later, I was offered and accepted the position with Elisco. 

Sure there may not literally be any croissants, but I had found a place that had the American friendliness and efficiency I missed while in France, and also valued food like the French. We understand that food is more than just fuel, but an experience, a ritual, and an important part of life.

In the Elisco office, I’m surrounded by photos of food, the people are passionate about food, and every catered lunch is wonderful. The neighborhood helps too. I can help finish a proposal template before noon and then enjoy lunch on any one of Lawrenceville’s restaurant patios. Some days the people-watching rivals Paris’.

Because maybe how you get things done has less to do about where you are on the map, and more to do with what you value. A good meal doesn’t have to be sacrificed to squeeze in a meeting. Why not have both? Maybe we can forgo the formality of a corporate French lunch, but keep all of the flavor.  

And lucky for me, there is a French bakery right up the street.

 

SOURCES:


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Sydney Brown, Account Management Intern

As a Strategic Communication and French Studies student at the Ohio State University, Sydney seeks opportunities that allow her to combine her interest in communications with her passions outside the classroom. At OSU, she works on marketing and campus engagement for student organizations including BuckeyeThon and She’s the First. Sydney recently studied abroad in Paris, where she was able to improve her French; she hopes to keep advancing her language skills in her future career, or simply through her love for travel.

 

One part cuisine, one part conversation: Anthony Bourdain’s best recipe.

 
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Anthony Bourdain knew that the best conversations unfolded over a meal. At Elisco, we know this, too—it’s one of the beliefs that inspired our café-like office where advertising is always made from scratch. As an office full of creative minds who love food and the conversations that come with it, we were saddened to hear that Bourdain—a fellow food-lover and creative—had passed on June 8th.

In his 11-season run as host of CNN’s Parts Unknown, Bourdain sat, dined, and spoke with a myriad of people: chefs making names for themselves in oft-forgotten American cities, local residents in far-flung corners of the globe, small business owners in the Bronx, and a certain Mr. Barack Obama. More often than not, these conversations brought forward issues that aren’t candidly discussed in the mainstream media. For example, while traveling through Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza, Bourdain spoke openly with citizens on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In Massachusetts, he explored the opioid epidemic that has taken hold of New England while also speaking frankly about his own history of addiction. Following an episode in Iran—a nation which most westerners know little about, despite its prominence in our newspapers— Bourdain wrote, “Nowhere else I’ve been has the disconnect been so extreme between what one sees and feels from the people, and what one sees and hears from the government.” In this way, Parts Unknown became an easily digested and well-disguised public service announcement that allowed viewers to eavesdrop on meaningful conversations from halfway around the world.

Bourdain spent the beginning of his career as a cook toiling on the lines of New York City’s top-rated restaurants, and still, was able to maintain an unwavering belief in simple food. Parts Unknown was made genuine by Bourdain’s inclination to seek eateries off the beaten path. Ever a fan of the 24-hour diner, Bourdain preached the virtues of street food, imbibed in dive bars, and shared a $6 meal of noodles and beer with Barack Obama. For all of the unfamiliarity featured on Parts Unknown, these modest locales gave the show a grain of humility, and endeared viewers to its host with the implication that you, too, can eat like Anthony Bourdain.
 

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Bourdain visited our home city of Pittsburgh in a Parts Unkown episode that aired on CNN in October, 2017. The saga of Pittsburgh is a familiar one: an industrial town enjoys a period of intense prosperity in the early 20th century before falling into economic collapse in the late-1980s. In recent years, however, we’ve been able to enjoy Pittsburgh’s renaissance first-hand. The city’s slow but steady revival is due in part to the introduction of big tech names to the area—not to mention its cultivation of a nationally-recognized arts and culinary scene.

Parts Unknown: Pittsburgh adhered to Bourdain’s “simple food” philosophy— while in town, Bourdain skipped Pittsburgh’s more familiar establishments, such as Primanti Bros., and opted instead for under-the-radar joints in the Hill District and East Liberty. In a nod to Pittsburgh’s more refined fare, he also shared a meal with notable Pittsburgh chef Kevin Sousa at Sousa’s restaurant, Superior Motors, in Braddock.

The episode was met with mixed criticisms from those who know—or have always assumed to know—Pittsburgh. Some felt that the show laid too heavily upon Pittsburgh’s gritty past, rather than highlighting the strides the city has taken to reach its glowing present. Others felt that the critique was fair for a city that seems all-too-eager to move forward, regardless of what or who may be left behind in the process.

Even still, in this dispute, Bourdain’s segment on Pittsburgh achieved what his work has always set out to do: encourage people to step outside of themselves and look at the world around them. For that reason, the episode—not to mention the show, and Bourdain’s career as a whole—should be regarded as an overwhelming triumph. Bourdain created a media phenomenon using three simple ingredients: a passion for food, a talent for storytelling, and an innate ability to get people talking.

It seems especially pertinent now, after his passing, to ask ourselves how we can take these same ingredients and create our own recipes. At Elisco, talking and eating comes naturally for us—and if we’ve learned anything from Anthony Bourdain, the stories should only follow. With simple food and genuine curiosity, not only can we eat like Anthony, but we can live a little bit like him, too.

 

IMAGE SOURCES


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Theresa Doolittle, Copywriting Intern

Theresa is a senior at the University of Pittsburgh, where she is pursuing a B.A. in Writing and Communication, with a concentration in Digital Media. Theresa has studied abroad in London and Prague, where she took courses in literature, art history, and new media. An intrepid traveler and avid photographer, Theresa uses a culmination of her personal and professional experiences to improve her craft and develop her style.