I hope this will not come out as self-indulgence. I spent almost thirty years developing the Joie de Vivre catalog and I loved it. After I announced my retirement, so many customers told me they would be hanging on to their catalogs as souvenirs that I thought it might be fun to go down memory lane. A few (very few) of you will remember what my first catalog looked like. For everybody else, here is the complete JDV retrospective, broken down in three decades.
10/1989 Premier Numéro
The very first catalog. Photography by Jeff Broome who will shoot the catalog until his death in 2006. 12 pages, duotone. Printed at Valley Color Graphics until they shut down twenty years later. Notable: Fallot mustards, A l’Olivier olive oil, Guinettes cherries, and Valrhona chocolate, all fantastic products that I offered in every single catalog until the last one. I also feature Delpeyrat canned goose foie gras and goose confit! Some people laughed at me when I declared I would be selling foie gras to private individuals…
The first (and last) spring/summer catalog that I published: a money pit. But the cover is still one of the very favorite pictures I took: that painter was sitting on the Pont des Arts in Paris and the Samaritaine department store (top right) was still open. I saw him at that location for a few years; then he was gone; then he was showing his works right outside the St-Germain-des-Prés church in October 2008. Notable: Suavor, a French specialty coffee when Americans were still drinking jus de chaussettes; L’Occitane soaps, waaaay before they decided to open their own retail outlets.
I start working with Graphique de France (posters, cards, calendars) and use one of their images for the cover. 16 pages, duotone. Notable: Clément Faugier marrons glacés and crème de marron, La Perruche sugar cubes, dried green lentils and flageolets beans, herbs of Provence, cornichons, olives niçoises, and Apilco porcelain dishes.
10/1991 The Black One
First and only black cover. 20 pages, 4-color and duotone. In retrospect, a bit over dramatic but it seemed to be a good way to showcase André Renoux’s striking placemats and coasters. Notables: butter galettes and palets from Brittany, Delpeyrat pâtés, dried mushrooms, the famous St Dalfour trio, canned salsifis and flageolets, Emile Henry cookware –before it was on anybody’s radar– and my first curated book selection on France, including Patricia Wells’ Bistro Cooking. Oh, and Le Marché French vegetable seeds imported by Georgeanne Brennan.
10/1992 Belle Epoque
Renoux’s paintings serve as inspiration again. 20 pages, 4-color throughout. Notable: I introduce calissons, nougat, and dragées; Monin syrups, the first syrups to be introduced to the US, a couple of years ahead of the “Italian” ones. Provençal scent diffuser and lavender oil. And the Quo Vadis agendas in French!
Sensing the Americans’ developing interest in good coffee, I introduced Etienne Knopes collection box: excellent Belgian company. 24 pages. Notable: Bizac cassoulet, foie gras, confit, and pâtés. Escargots and lobster bisque. Savora mustard and grated celery root. First tilleul and verveine herbal teas. Sablés de l’Abbaye, Les Gavottes, stuffed prunes from Château de Born. Enamel signs and first foray into T-shirts.
10/1994 Les Boîtes
Fabulous tins featuring vintage French posters. 28 pages. Notable: our first Saucisson Sec de Montagne and coarse salt from Guérande (nobody had even given a thought to salt before.) Capitaine Cook’s mackerels in white wine! Savora mustard! Dea harissa! Doucet pâtes de fruits, vacuum-packed chestnuts, madeleine, and charlotte pans. Le Petit Marseillais soaps. Christmas cards in French.
10/1995 Le Canard
I persuaded my friend Claude, CEO of Grimaud Farms, that I could sell fresh Muscovy duck and raw Sonoma Foie Gras to my customers. Six months later, he starts raising pintades and I sell half of his first batch. 32 pages. Notable: in addition to fresh meats, I offer our first selection of French cheeses. I’m also the first US retailer of Gabriel Perroneau’s honeys and pain d’épice. Arnaud specialty olives. Roger & Gallet eau de Cologne (still miss that one.) And I feature Linda Dannenberg’s French Country Diary for the first time! The rest is history…
10/1996 Les Fromages
Expanding on the French cheese offering and Président butter, a long time before it became (relatively) ubiquitous. 32 pages. Notable: marrons glacés from Confiserie du Périgord, madeleines, chicorée Leroux, and crème Mont Blanc. Our first exclusive T-shirts designed by my friend Nancy Liston.
10/1997 Scents of Provence
Cover is inspired by incense holders handmade in Provence. 36 pages. Obviously, some opacity issues with the paper… Notable: Amora mustard, canned coquilles St-Jacques (trust me, they were very tasty,) Mariage Frères teas, Révillon papillotes, praslines Mazet, chocolat Cluizel, and La Mère Poulard cookies.
Great porcelain mugs screened with scenes from Paris. 36 pages. Notable: Grimaud markets confit of duck legs based on my recipe. After Rougié buys Bizac, I switch to their brand for our French duck, goose, and foie gras products. Traou Mad is now my preferred choice for Brittany cookies. First fleur de sel from Guérande, biscottes, Fossier pink cookies, and palmiers. Conserverie de Haute-Provence jams, including gelée de coing and gelée de groseille.
Follow me to Part Two.
Le premier numéro: first issue
Le jus de chaussette: (lit.) sock juice; weak coffee
La boîte: box, tin
Le canard: duck
La pintade: Guinea hen
Le pain d’épice: French ginger bread loaf
La gelée: jelly
Le coing: quince
La groseille: red currant
La biscotte: similar to Melba toast, often served for breakfast