Jul 4, 2014

Liberty's Girls: Argolay


July 4 is just another day here, but by complete coincidence, it's also the last day of school this year for the elementary school kids. So, in the most heart-felt and personal sense, Pippa is thinking a lot about liberty and celebrating her freedom today.

Last year for July 4th, our girls and some of their friends have an after-school get together in the park that evolves into them choreographing a gymnastics routine, then getting the idea to pass the hat, and then inspiration: Gigi proposes donating the money to organizations that free children from slavery. Amazingly, in just an hour and a half, they earn 50€ (and the next day, another 40€ or so), all of which we donate to Free The Slaves. Only after the fact do we realize how perfect this is: Children working with joy to help liberate children who work in misery -- and all on a day that (for some of us, at least, in many respects) represents freedom. This year's fund-raising plan is in the works, too, though not on July 4th itself.


So, with July 4th upon us and July 14 (Bastille Day) approaching, and since the French and American revolutions were heavily linked in many respects, I figured I'd take a moment to look at some of the many, many references to Lady Liberty floating around Paris. She was, after all a gift to the United States, from France:

In the Jardin de Luxembourg, you might jog by her in this beautiful setting.

Translation of the plaque: "Liberty Lighting the World, Auguste Bartholdi (1834-1904)
On the occasion of the World Expo of 1900, sculptor Auguste Bartholdi offered to the Luxembourg Museum the bronze model he used to create the Statue of Liberty in New York. This statue was placed in the Luxembourg Gardens in 1906." This is, in fact, the original statue upon which all subsequent, larger versions are modeled.
At the Musée des Arts et Metiers, the backdrop is drastically different, and the information only slightly different: Here, the artist is more fully identified as Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi, and credit is also attributed to Gustave Eiffel, the famous engineer known for working with behemoth metal structures. At this museum, which is dedicated to inventions and progress, Lady Liberty stands both outside and inside, with an original 1/16th model. The outside lady is made of bronze, and is created from the original plaster, which is housed inside against a beautiful stained-glass window.

Along the quai is a replica of the Statue of Liberty's flame, now often associated with Princess Diana's death, as it lies just outside the tunnel where she died.

At the Eiffel Tower, engineer Gustave Eiffel's role in the copper statue is, naturally, the highlight. A panel explains: "The framework of the Statue of Liberty, a gift from the people of France to the United States, was one of the outstanding works of the 1880s. Its metal framework was designed like a bridge pylon."

If you're wondering why the buildings behind the great Lady with scaffolding look so very French, it's because this is a photo of her being assembled in Paris in 1884, before she was disassembled and shipped to the United States for re-assembly. (One of the few instances where even in English, I would say "she" instead of "it." Thankfully, the word "statue" is feminine in French, because referring to the Statue of Liberty as "he" would simply fry my brain.)
But the most impressive of Paris' great Ladies is the one presiding over the middle of the Seine, from the Ile aux Cygnes at the Pont de Grenelle.
There are two dates inscribed on the tablet Lady Liberty holds in the middle of the Seine: July 4, 1776, the date of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, and Aug 26, 1789, the date of the signing of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen (Déclaration des droits de l'homme et du citoyen), which is to the French revolution pretty much what the Declaration of Independence is to the American one. Both dates are written in Roman numerals (July IV, MDCCLXXVI and Aug XXVI, MDCCLXXXIX). In New York, only the July 4 date is inscribed.
Originally, she was facing east into the city for the World Expo of 1889, then turned to face the mouth of the Seine (northwest) for the 1937 World Expo. But at the time of a renovation of the island and bridge in 1968, she was turned outward, so that she now looks west (and more specifically southwest) towards New York, while the Statue of Liberty in New York's harbor looks east toward Europe. Theoretically, their gazes should meet somewhere over the middle of the Atlantic, or, if you think about it, perhaps their gazes simply continue east, east, east or west, west, west, till they circle the globe entirely. Wouldn't it be nice if all people caught between and beyond their gazes were indeed living in liberty?
                                 New York                                                 Paris
Argolay is the signature cheese made at the farmhouse called Domaine de l'Argolay in the town fo Saint-Germain-en-Brionnais in the Saone-et-Loire, at the edge of the Loire and Burgundy. The farm started in 1983 with a herd of 40 Saemen breed goats (originally from the Swiss Alps), and today they have over 230. The goats graze on, or are fed, only hay and non genetically-modified grains and produce around 150,000 liters of milk annually.

In June 2011, the Domaine de l'Argolay won a gold medal for their eponymous cheese at the national contest for farmhouse goat cheeses. And no wonder, it's a real jewel of a firm, almost-crumbly goat cheese. The flavor is rich and full, but not overpoweringly earthy. The cheese is aged around 3 weeks, during which time it develops a silky soft, powdery, gray-green moldy exterior. The inside is off-white and while the texture is very firm, it still melts in the mouth. The crust is delicious, too, and adds a little texture and chew.

Not only is this cheese very statuesque, and look something like a pedestal on which you'd place an honored statue, it's also covered with a beautiful gray-green mold that looks very much like the verdigris on a bronze Statue of Liberty -- whether in France or in the US -- which has been long exposed to the elements.


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