Quotes

Aug 22, 2018

South of the Border: Abbaye de Belloc

THE STORY: 

As you approach the Belgian border, you'll notice a certain Belge-ifying of the architecture and even the language. In Alsace and Lorraine, as you approach the German border, you'll notice not just the change in architecture, building colors, and names of towns but also how Germanic the food becomes. But head down to the Spanish border and it's as if France comes to a dead end, with nothing south of the border.


Aug 8, 2018

Saumur is Set in Stone: Lochois

THE STORY:

Saumur, a small city out past the Loire Valley in the department of Maine-et-Loire in the region of Pays de la Loire, is famous for several things: One is the beautiful reflection of the city over the Loire River. Another is the history -- and there's a lot of it. And you can't hear about Saumur without hearing about tuffeau (also sometimes spelled tufeau) or limestone.

Jul 25, 2018

Temple of Reason: Tomme de Chartreux

THE STORY:

In today's episode of "things in history you never heard of before," I bring to you the Temple of Reason, which was the place of "worship" in the Cult of Reason, which was supposed to replace Christianity (and organized religion in general) in France in the 18th century. You've probably never heard of the Cult of Reason, but you've certainly heard of the most famous Temple of Reason...

Jul 11, 2018

The Big Cheese: La Grosse Tomme

THE STORY:

This is a story of big cheeses, not just one but five: two big cheeses that are actually cheeses, and three big cheeses that are "merely" generals, presidents, and founding fathers. And they're all related and tied in to this time of year, July, which is the month both France and the United States celebrate their revolutions.


Jun 27, 2018

Lolita Complex -- Not So Complex: Tomme du Fédou

THE STORY:

You've probably got the wrong idea about sex in France. The truth of the matter is less, well, sexy than what you imagine. That is to say, it's not all wild abandon and mistresses and promiscuity, no matter how much the movies and jokes -- and occasional politicians -- embody that. I'm not sure whether this proves or disproves my point, but the French even have a new law, introducing for the first time in the country's history a legal age of sexual consent.

Jun 12, 2018

Of Corset: La Miche Gavotte

THE STORY: 

The tortured history of French dresses is, let's face it, mostly tortured because of the corset. However, it's also partly due to the paniers -- those enormous hips created under the ball gowns -- as well as the bustles behind. And yet, no matter how god-awful they must have been to wear, my girls and I continue to fantasize about them, and "ooh" and "aah" each time we see one.



May 24, 2018

Madeleine/Madeline: Géromé

THE STORY: 

Sure, macarons may be trendier, but if there is one simple sweet treat the French love to eat in droves, it's madeleines, a ubiquitous cookie-cake eaten by -- according to my estimates -- 61% of children as an after school snack on any given school day. (The other 39% are eating pain au chocolat.)

May 2, 2018

Paris, Paris Everywhere: Crottin de Pays

THE STORY:

The world's most famous Paris, after Paris itself that is, has to be Paris in Las Vegas, thanks to the half-sized Eiffel Tower, and to the millions of pleasure-seeking visitors. My motto for the Paris tower and casino: Half as Tall, Twice as Tacky. Actually it's much more than twice as tacky -- you can bet on it.


Apr 18, 2018

What Time is It? Cheese O'Clock: Le Cendré Fermier

THE STORY:

Now that most watches and clocks are digital, analog watches with their big and little hands are practically relics of the past. Until, of course, you compare them with actual relics of the past, ancient timekeepers -- sundials. There are plenty of these around France, and even in the heart of Paris itself. You really can't set your watch by them (and no need to set your phone as it is syncing automatically, of course), but you can at least count on them to be fascinating.


Apr 1, 2018

Emma-ma-ma-Marianne: Le Volcanique

THE STORY:

Emma-ma-ma-Marianne. It sounds like a lyric in a rock song of two names colliding. Actually it's two images colliding in my head -- two young women who stand as symbols: American Emma Gonzalez, the Parkland student symbolizing a movement whose image is everywhere, and Marianne, the French symbol of liberty whose image is...everywhere. Here, for example, a piece by street artist Obey (real name Shepard Fairey) hangs in l'Elysée, home of French President Macron.

Mar 14, 2018

What's Lacking: Crémeux des Cîteaux

THE STORY:

Though English remains our family language, we find after so many years of parler français, that there are certain French words and phrases we miss and can no longer quite express in English. Ironically, one of the words I'm annoyed I cannot express when I'm not speaking French is "dépaysement" (literally "being out of country") or that feeling of being someplace exotic and away from home. Which for me, at this point, is virtually everywhere I ever am (in Paris, I'm dépaysée, but also in San Francisco. It's either all "home" or all "exotic" to me!).

Feb 14, 2018

All Dressed Up and Snow Place To Go: Flocon de Savoie

THE STORY:

It's been all over the news, and all over the ground: snow in Paris. My friend complained of a 739km traffic jam coming home from a ski vacation. Another complained that because so much of Paris' public transportation was paralyzed, they had to walk 4km, at night, with children, dragging ski luggage in the snow, in order to get home. Meanwhile, in Tahoe, the ski grounds of Northern California, my friends complain there's virtually no precipitation and temperatures around 60°F (that's 16°C) in the middle of winter.


Jan 31, 2018

Out of Time: Coup de Corne

THE STORY:

To live in Paris is to live, always, a little anachronistically. There is so much old, juxtaposed against modern life. Nothing proves this point better than this sign:

Jan 18, 2018

Give Us This Day Our Day-Old Bread: Raclette Fumée

THE STORY:

When my aunt visits Paris, she goes out to breakfast at her fancy hotel and asks for something that is not listed on the menu but that she feels certain she can obtain in France: French toast. To a Frenchman hearing these words, this means French bread (that is, baguette) toasted. This is easily done; however, it is not at all what she wants. No amount of her translating the words "French toast" into the French language can make the waiter understand that she does not want toast from French bread. What she wants, in French, is not "French toast" at all; it's "pain perdu" which literally means "lost bread."

 
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