Pre de Provence – Lavender

"Christmas in Paris"

This is the soap that someone bought me for Christmas one year (can't remember who, but thanks!) which opened up my world to the idea of interesting soap. Before that, I was strictly an Ivory Soap Man (for some reason, it was really important to me that my soap floated), or worse, the deadbeat who used whatever was around—like the roommates' soap—and if there wasn't anything around, then no soap. I was skeptical at first—French soap seeming an unaffordable extravagance—but then I realized this soap actually lasts so long it ends up being cheaper than buying cheap soap. And then, also, I found that it brought me a singular pleasure. Now I associate this soap with the holiday season, and I usually buy a bar of this once a year. It has a really intense, unmistakable lavender fragrance, and is also filled with tiny bits of lavender leaves (or so they would have you believe—it could be soap-makers' Gauloises). (With the autumn leaves/she leaves, and/leaves my love life/on leave.) (Sorry about the poetry aside—but that's what this soap inspires!) Anyway, the texture is always pleasingly rough, and also it leaves bits of debris in the tub—so if you squint, you can justify a bit of a dirty tub as being “French.”

Often, this soap seems ubiquitous—you find it everywhere—well, at least if you shop at health food type places. When I was in New York, for awhile, it seemed I couldn't find it (the town taken over by the Duane Reade/Walgreens conspiracy of blandness) until I realized it was at King's Pharmacy (which, for the sake of New Yorkers, I hope still exists). Looking online, however, it's odd that Pre de Provence don't have a website that leaps off the search engine—maybe they have a French one and you need to use French Google? Most of the i-presence seems to be secondary sellers, yet this must be a huge company—and now they seemingly add new flavors faster than LaCroix water. I'd include a partial list, but it's too long (on one wholesale website I see 30 varieties). I have, in the past, enjoyed (and may write about in the future): linden, mint, verbena, milk, rose, sage, provence, and patchouli. Yet, no website. It seems like, sometimes, the English/French language gap is one thing that is immune to the corruption of money. Maybe I'm making this out to be more sinister than it is, but I can't help but suspect this soap is being illegally manufactured by the forced labor of the cigarette smoking children of deadbeat poets.