The “All Good” Law

Languages are always evolving, and the speed at which they’re doing it has only increased in recent years. Broader international travel, continued waves of migration, and the dawn of the Information Age have made cultural exchange, including the importation of words from other languages, quicker and easier than ever before. There’s a clear trade imbalance, though, and it’s English that’s the chief exporter these days. And the French are very sensitive to that. Continue reading The “All Good” Law

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The rabbit of Easter. He bring of the chocolate.

Well, Easter is right around the corner, so it came as no surprise this morning when my French oral expression teacher broached the topic of the holiday with my class. Since we all come from somewhere other than France, the logical first question was:

“Do you celebrate Easter in your home country
and, if you do, what are the traditions there?” Continue reading The rabbit of Easter. He bring of the chocolate.

The dish ran away with the spoon.

The dessert spoon: everybody knows what one is and what it’s for. If, after a big meal, you’re served … say … a banana pudding, you need a little spoon to eat it. The same is true here in France, of course: to savor a mousse au chocolat, you need a little spoon … for a crème brûlée, you need a little spoon … for a slice of chocolate cake, you need a little sp …

Hold on, wait just a minute …

Continue reading The dish ran away with the spoon.

That was one FAT Tuesday!

Last year, I wrote a fairly popular article about Mardi Gras. In it, I talked about the HBO series Treme, my attraction to the city of New Orleans, the history of Mardi Gras celebrations there, and the story of my first attempt at making a New Orleans King Cake. It was really quite informative and pretty entertaining. (In case you missed it, that was a plug for you to go read it. Go ahead … you can get to it from here.) The article got a lot of hits this Mardi Gras season, too, apparently from people searching for the correct way to pronounce “Laissez les bons temps rouler!” — that infamous Cajun expression that absolutely no one says in France … except for Americans!

To be honest, last year’s attempt at making a New Orleans King Cake here in France bore almost no resemblance to the real thing. Since we didn’t have an oven, we had to depend on the local bakery for our brioche, and they just don’t make brioche here in Paris in the form of a ring or crown. On top of that, we couldn’t find colored sugar or the right food colorings at the local supermarket, so we improvised with candied fruit. And in place of the little plastic Baby Jesus, we used a ceramic Virgin Mary, the fève from one of our several galettes des rois from the Epiphany season. The result — as delicious as it most certainly was — looked more like a shrine to Our Lady of Candy Land than a King Cake.

King Cake à la je parle américaine—You have to work with what you've got! © 2012 Michel Denis Pouradier
King Cake à la je parle américaine — You have to work with what you’ve got! © 2012 Michel Denis Pouradier

This year, I tried my hand at it once again, and the result was a much better approximation of the real thing. Continue reading That was one FAT Tuesday!

Did we eat the President’s galette by mistake?

January 6 is Epiphany, the Christian holiday that commemorates the visitation of the Magi (the Three Wise Men, or the Three Kings) to the Baby Jesus. I’m not going to get into a long discourse on the theological meaning of the festival, but I do want to share with you its culinary meaning …

Continue reading Did we eat the President’s galette by mistake?

Three Parisian Thanksgivings


My first Thanksgiving as an expat was in 2010.  It was the first time spending this quintessentially American holiday in France, so I really wanted to go all out and impress my French family with a traditional Thanksgiving experience. I even posted a little article from French Wikipedia on Facebook for them, explaining what Thanksgiving was — that it’s about more than just parades, football games, and oven-roasted turkey. Then I ran off to a little American épicerie in the Marais (incidentally called “Thanksgiving”) and loaded up on the traditional fixin’s. Here’s my Facebook status from November 24, 2010, pretty much summing up my grocery list: Continue reading Three Parisian Thanksgivings

Hot Dogs, Bagels, and Sticker Shock

I often complain about sticker shock in France, and with good reason. Everything here — except for French wine — is more expensive than it is back in the States. Part of the explanation for that is the TVA (or VAT, “value added tax” in English), which approaches 20% for some things. Another reason is that the cost of production is just higher here. For an American, the sticker shock can sometimes be eye-popping, even before converting the price you’re looking at into dollars. Translation: to appreciate the true impact on your wallet, tack on another 30% if you’re spending money you earned in dollars.

I commented on this most recently in my post about the Pumpkin Spice Latte at Starbucks. Everybody already knows that the prices at Starbucks are simply outrageous, but Starbucks in Europe is just a whole other story. I mean, a tall latte for $6 is off the rails — not that it prevented me from buying one last week. After all, c’est la vie here in France; after a while, you just get used to it. These days, I’m completely accustomed to paying $3.50 for an espresso and $14 for a cocktail, getting one hour of talk time with unlimited texts and data for $60 a month, and thinking that a $12 Chipotle burrito isn’t too bad a price.

But last week, I stumbled across this: Continue reading Hot Dogs, Bagels, and Sticker Shock

Pumpkin Spice!

A few weeks ago, I noticed certain posts popping up on Facebook that made me wax nostalgic for fall in America. They were all about the arrival of:

The Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte

© 2011 Starbucks Corporation

Ah, the memories of that delectable autumnal con-coction that has eluded me now for years! Living here in France and rarely traveling back to my homeland between September and December, I had resigned myself to the likelihood that I might never again savor this cinnamon- and nutmeg-laced libation to the gods of falling leaves. After all, I knew from firsthand experience that the French don’t quite understand the pumpkin … at least not a sweet, spiced one …

You see, on my very first Thanksgiving in France, I was psychologically scarred by my French family. Back in 2010, I decided to treat them to a real American Thanksgiving dinner. I even went to an American specialty store in the Marais (called Thanksgiving, by the way) to get all the necessary ingredients to make a real Thanksgiving feast. Now, my French family simply adored the stuffing and the homemade cranberry sauce. The pumpkin pie, on the other hand, well … it just confused them:

“Hmm. Interesting. It would make a good appetizer. You know, with a side salad,” was my sister-in-law’s reaction.

Alrighty then … no more pumpkin pies for the Frenchies. Continue reading Pumpkin Spice!

Bottle Shock

The French and wine. What can you say? They go together like a horse and carriage, right? In fact, after the Vatican City (communion wine?) and Luxembourg (which everyone overlooks), France is the country with the highest level of per capita wine consumption at almost 46 liters (12 gallons) a year. (By comparison, the United States’s per capita consumption is less than 10 liters, or 2.5 gallons, a year.) The French also produce more wine than any other country: over 4.6 billion liters (1.2 billion gallons) in 2010!

The wine section of a Paris convenience store. Notice how it's 3 times bigger than the beer section.
The wine section of a Paris convenience store. Notice how it’s 3 times bigger than the beer section.

We all know, too, that the quality of French wine is superb. No country becomes known for its wines without a long history of top-notch products. But we Americans also know how to make some exceptional wines (even if we don’t drink them up at the rate the French do). I sometimes point out that the best pinot noir in the world comes from Oregon’s Willamette Valley. (Don’t get me wrong — I’m no wine connoisseur or anything. It’s just that I’ve read that tidbit somewhere, so I try to sound as authoritative as possible when I repeat it to French people.) And, of course, you’ve all seen the movie Bottle Shock, right? Bottle Shock — “Le Choc  … de Bouteille“? The movie about how a Napa Valley chardonnay beat the pants off the best French wines in a blind tasting by a panel of Parisian judges? Oh, was that censored in France?

Well, the newest addition to the stream of American wines trouncing their French competition is Southern Sunrise BlushContinue reading Bottle Shock

“I’m fabulous, baby!”

Putting aside my recent frustration at the post office and the continuing saga of my immigration headache, I’m having a fairly entertaining couple of weeks hanging out in Paris theaters. Tomorrow night, Michel‘s musical theater troupe returns to the stage with their September reprise of Pas de Gondoles pour Denise. I’m obviously partial, but this amateur troupe’s latest production is, quite simply, top-notch fun … and the Paris theater critics agree. A fun and uplifting tale about the search for love, the story of Denise unfolds on stage through powerful vocals and impressive choreography, with a musical score set to the melodies of popular songs. I’ll be there Friday night (with friends) and Saturday night (with Michel’s family) for my third and fourth times seeing the show.

As much as I’d like to encourage you to come out and see Denise, there won’t be any available seats for the September shows by the time you read this. They will go on tour around France, though, in the coming months, so stay tuned. I’ll keep you posted! In the meantime, how about this:

That’s right! Sister Act … the Musical … in French!

Continue reading “I’m fabulous, baby!”