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Posts Tagged ‘France’

My friend Ronnie is a former broadcaster, a poet, and a food maven, who lived in France for years and later wrote a book called Eat Smart in France. Recently Ronnie interviewed the mystery writer Cara Black for a blog called My French Life. Black writes about Paris. Her latest novel is Murder in Pigalle.

Ronnie asks, “What drew you to this part of town?

Black: “There are two worlds in Pigalle. The world of the day with families and people who work in the shops, and the world of the night, where people work in the clubs. …

“I really like Pigalle. I discovered so much I didn’t know. [But] I get intrigued by different districts, their flavor and feeling. If I ever figure them out, I’ll probably stop writing about them.” More of the interview here, including a observations on the German occupation of Paris during WW II.

For a wonderful, unusual book with the occupation of Paris as a setting, I recommend Léon and Louise. It’s an odd love story taking place over many decades in France, written by a Swiss and translated into English. I haven’t read many books by Cara Black, but if you like novels that teach you something about a different part of the world in a rather fanciful way, I recommend Léon and Louise, by Alex Capus.

Photo of Ronnie Hess

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… turn them into escargots.

Lalita Clozel has a great story at the NY Times today about snails that nobody wanted.

She writes, “On this storm-weathered tip of Mont Saint-Michel Bay, the sweeping tides have washed away the line between land and sea. Fishermen drive their wheeled boats straight into the bay to gather their harvest: an assortment of shellfish prized all over France.

“But now they are finding their nets weighed down by an invasive species: the crépidule, or Atlantic slipper shell, a curious type of sea snail that has spread from the East Coast of the United States.

“Oyster and mussel producers here have watched helplessly as the colony has taken over their beautiful bay, flush with phytoplankton, the micro-organisms that make it a haven for all manner of shellfish and tint the water turquoise.

“Enter Pierrick Clément, a local entrepreneur who looked at the encroaching Atlantic slipper shell and asked an unthinkable question in a town that has built its livelihood on bountiful seafood: Would people eat the insidious creature?

“ ‘As a businessman, I see an opportunity here,’ he said. …

“The community of Cancale now finds itself torn between disgust and relief at Mr. Clément’s project to fish and sell the sea snails for consumption.

“After years of administrative haggling, he has coaxed local municipalities and producers to back his project and begin a campaign to rehabilitate the snail’s image. …

“His pilot factory, among the bustling oyster plants in nearby Le Vivier-sur-mer, ships to a few stores and restaurants in France, Spain and Germany.

“Eventually he hopes to process as much as 100,000 tons of slipper shells per year — enough to offset their growth in the bays.” More here.

This entrepreneur’s adaptability fits with what my father used to say about the French secret of beauty. It was along the lines of Feature what you’ve got.

“If you have a big nose,” he said, “hang a beer can on it.”

Photo: Catalina Martin-Chico for The New York Times

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Got to share this movie: Le Havre (in French with subtitles).

Lately, nearly all the movies we see are on Netflix. Our taste seems to run to animation, documentaries, and foreign films. Not exclusively, but in general.

Last night we watched an odd, wistful comedy about an old guy in Le Havre,
France, who makes up his mind to help a boy whose family is arrested after being discovered in a packing crate near the harbor, on route from Africa to London.

Every shot in the film was like a painting, every gesture true. The characters were good-hearted, down-and-out types in the roughneck port, where many undocumented immigrants come looking for work. There they find squatter camps, deportation, kindness, hostility, drugs, poverty, crime, and sometimes a living.

The dialogue in the bar scenes reminded me of Mike Leigh films, the ones where he has his actors ad-lib their lines. It was just so funny and believable. And the “trendy” charity fundraiser the old guy arranges with the graying rock band has to be seen to be believed.

The “2011 comedy-drama film written and directed by Aki Kaurismäki, starring André Wilms, Kati Outinen, Jean-Pierre Darroussin and Blondin Miguel. It tells the story of a shoeshiner who tries to save an immigrant child in the French port city Le Havre. The film was produced by Kaurismäki’s Finnish company Sputnik …

“The film premiered in competition at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival, where it received the FIPRESCI Prize. Kaurismäki envisions it as the first installment in a trilogy about life in port cities. His ambition is to make follow-ups set in Spain and Germany, shot in the local languages.”

More at Wikipedia, here.

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I’ve been on one of my periodic murder-mystery splurges, with a couple mysteries this month that take place in France.

Books about France should never be read on an empty stomach — there is always wonderful food.

The author of The Crowded Grave actually went overboard, I thought, stopping urgent action to prepare elaborate meals. I think The Bookseller mystery will maintain a better balance. So far the hero has only had pastries and lovely coffees on route to something actually related to the story.

Thinking about France makes me want to point out a website where my friend Ronnie Hess blogs, My French Life. Ronnie lived in France for years working for CBS and more recently wrote a guidebook called Eat Smart in France that taps her her deep knowledge of French food.

Ronnie was already a fine cook as a teenager, when I recall making a Scripture cake at her house:

  • 3/4 cup Genesis 18:8
  • 1 1/2 cup Jeremiah 6:20
  • 5 Isaiah 10:14 (separated)
  • 3 cups sifted Leviticus 24:5
  • 3 teaspoons 2 Kings 2:20
  • 3 teaspoons Amos 4:5
  • 1 teaspoon Exodus 30:23
  • 1/4 teaspoon each 2 Chronicles 9:9
  • 1/2 cup Judges 4:19
  • 3/4 chopped Genesis 43:11
  • 3/4 cup finely cut Jeremiah 24:5
  • 3/4 cup 2 Samuel 16:1
  • Whole Genesis 43:11

Her mother helped us think through what was meant by leavening and certain more arcane references.

Do check out Ronnie at My French Life, here.

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This is special.

Joe Berkowitz justifiably sprinkles explanation points at his FastCoCreate report on footage shot by an eagle.

“Eagles are praised for their eyes,” he writes. “Now you can basically see through them.

“It’s a moment of extreme cognitive dissonance when the most patriotic thing you have ever seen in your American life is actually super-French.

“A video featuring GoPro footage shot by an eagle (!!!) soared to the top of Reddit’s video page recently, delighting all who laid eyes upon it. Before anyone watching has the opportunity to shed a tear for the purple mountain’s majesty, etc., though, a caption on the video mentions that this was shot in the Chamonix valley of France’s Mer de Glace.”

To see the beautiful video, go to FastCoCreate, here.

Photo: titaniumdoughnut at Reddit
Eagle in flight, unknowingly taking video.

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