February 28, 2016

Big Time

Jeudi prochain, je vais animer une conférence au Centre Social d'Arnay-le-Duc sur les élections américaines. Venez nombreux. Avant cette soirée pleine de convivialité où je présenterai l'histoire du système américain et les candidats actuels, Le Bien Public a publié un petit portrait ce matin. J'aurai mis des chaussures différentes si j'avais su qu'ils allaient me prendre en photo comme ça...

On Thursday, I am giving a presentnation on Americain elections to local people in Arnay-le-Duc. I will talk about the Electoral College, when and how Americans vote, discuss the current candidates (in this land of distinguished discourse, I think I will avoid delving into "she called him a p****" and "maybe to make sure his pants weren't wet" and "blood coming out of her" and "I don't know if sand can glow in the dark" and "dead broke" and "I don't believe I ever lied" but I might give them some good Democratic-Socialist love...this is France, after all) and answer any questions. Today, in anticipation of this seismic event on the political landscape, the local paper ran a piece about yours truly. Two things: First, yes, French food agrees with me and second, no, I didn't forget which was his first name and which his last when talking about my old boss. The link, behind a pay wall, is here.

February 22, 2016

Plus de Buisson à la Maison Blanche

Dimanche a vu la fin d'une certaine dynastie politique américaine: la famille Bush n'habitera pas la Maison Blanche une troisième fois. Dans la Caroline du Sud, M. Jeb Bush, le fils et le frère de présidents, a fini en quatrième position, loin de Donald Trump et deux autres candidats, Marco Rubio et Ted Cruz. La classe politique américaine est un peu sous le choque que la campagne de M. Bush n'a rien donné. Après tout, en principe, il avait ce qu'il fallait: un nom connu par tous les citoyens du pays; une carrière politique importante (gouverneur de l'état de Floride); le soutien de nombreux élus et gens puissants dans les mondes politiques et de business; et surtout de l'argent. 

February 18, 2016

No "S" in Lyon

I have no photos today...so to make sure you get your money's worth, here's a thousand words. Seriously. Check it yourself.

We are in Lyon, where apparently there is a lot of fascinating history to explore. For anyone out there who has had two children under 6, you recall how much they adore discussing the Roman era versus the Middle Ages versus the Renaissance. What toddler doesn't love visiting churches, basilicas, or ancient theaters? 

Happily, everyone eats, and we are a bit more in tune with the city's gastronomic reputation. The typical Lyonnais restaurant is called a bouchon, and they dot the city's landscape, inviting the hungry local and traveler alike to step in from out of a cold February wind to linger over local specialties for 90 minutes or so. We chose Le Poêlon d'Or for our first foray into the city's food scene. 

February 12, 2016

41 Minutes

Time for an update of my post about the butcher shop from summer 2014. Here is what the same butcher shop is like in early 2016.

I went, as I too frequently do, on a Saturday morning. This is colossally dumb, as everyone does their shopping on this day in Saulieu: it's the weekend, there is a market, everything is open. Everything except the hotels and restaurants, which are in the midst of their fermeture annuelles, when they shut down from December 24 through mid-February. The pre-holidays must have been particularly exhausting this year. (On a side note, we are heading into school vacation starting this afternoon, and the café, two of the three bakeries, a hair salon, and the wine shop will all be closed in our town for at least a week. As Trump might tweet, "Sad!") I got to the shop slightly after 11. The inside was pretty packed and I had a few seconds of self-doubt...did I really want to wait in this line? 

Apparently, I did.

February 10, 2016

La Vie Politique Américaine, part 2

Le monde politique américain est très perturbé ce mercredi matin. Après l'Iowa, c'est le New Hampshire qui s'est exprimé hier soir. Pendant la journée, entre 7h00 et 19h00, les citoyens se sont rendus aux urnes pour voter par bulletin secret. Et des deux cotés, démocrate et républicain, les électeurs dans ce petit état nous ont donné les résultats aussi définitifs que surprenants.

D'abord, chez les démocrates, il va falloir que les français qui sont férus de la vie politique apprennent le nom d'un "socialiste-démocrate": Bernie Sanders, sénateur qui vient de l'état du Vermont (nord-est des États-Unis). C'est lui qui a gagné contre la machine Clinton avec près de 60% du vote. Pour M. Sanders, c'est une victoire qui valide sa campagne et montre que le concours entre les deux démocrates va durer au delà des premières élections (rappel: il y a 50 états qui vont voter; seulement deux se sont exprimés jusqu'au présent). Une réalité qui fait peur aux démocrates "traditionnels" parce que maintenant, Mme Clinton va devoir faire face à M. Sanders et non pas aux républicains. Elle va être obligée de tourner plus à gauche si elle veut être le choix du parti de Barack Obama. Et plus on discute entre démocrates, plus cher c'est.

February 8, 2016

Gifts à la française

NDLR: Pour mes lecteurs français, rendez-vous mercredi pour la vie politique américaine part 2.

Although there are days when I pine for city life (no take-out Chinese in two years!), there are many wonderful surprises and treats when living in the country. Recently, I have been taking my boys on a lot of walks where we identify as many animals as we can along our path. (If they would ever be quiet, they would surely hear about a dozen more than we actually note.) Naturally, horse poop (full of hay!), cat feces, cow dung, dog logs, deer droppings, and white and gray splotches of avian refuse are the biggest and most obvious hits. But we also spot empty snail shells, white herons, magpies, Charolais cattle, hawks, earthworms, spiders, flies, and ladybugs. Thanks to a library book about wild boar, we learned to look at the barbed wire fence for signs of their long, thick black hairs caught in the barbs. Foxes and cats use the same trails, leaving little bunches of their fur behind as well. It is, simply, a lot of free fun, without any worries about traffic.

February 5, 2016

Breakfast Part 2

Following yesterday's post, I was surprised to turn on France Bleu Bourgogne, the local radio station, this morning and hear a nutritionist discussing what French people eat for breakfast. Listeners called in to say what they ate for breakfast. Guess what? Toast with butter and jam and a cup of coffee was the landslide winner. 

I am not making this stuff up. 

The expert said, "Un bon pain bien fait, c'est pas trop mal." A good bread, well-made, is excellent. The "petit déjeuner classique" is everywhere in France, and a good way to start the day. She said it was important to "fuel the machine" first thing in the morning, and chatted at length about the challenges of digesting coffee and milk together, why to choose butter over margarine (natural v. artificial), and the dangers of puffed cereals.

A woman of a certain age called in from Dijon. Her breakfast? "Les biscottes à la cancoillotte et la chicorée au lait." The cancoillotte replaces the traditional butter. 

Then we got into the eating habits of the English and -- gasp -- Americans. "Bacon is very fatty." Everything is possible on the protein front, "I suppose." (The derision was thinly veiled.) She encouraged experimentation: "Lentils or pasta for breakfast...why not? Anything is worth trying once. It's important to vary things." And the next sentence was "Most of the time, in France, we're going to eat bread in the morning." 

There followed a discussion of what "brunch" is here, which is almost as depressing as their efforts at club sandwiches and wraps. The French are wonderful at what they know, but they do not always excel at what they do not. They are not alone, of course; after all, you don't go to China for the lasagna. 

The expert left the studio, to be replaced by a couple more food pros who discussed how to make a quick meal with what you have in the cupboard or the fridge. You know, just throw something together. (American mind: mac and cheese, grilled cheese, can of soup, microwave popcorn, PB&J, Ramen.) The French were back on very safe ground...chicken with apricots; salmon with crème fraîche, mustard, and chives; sardines, walnuts, and shallots cooked in olive oil and served over pasta; quiche with mushrooms; "Sunday night risotto," with any and everything you can find in the fridge: vegetables, chorizo, cheese, etc. 

"Just something simple."

February 4, 2016


Americans's knees buckle when they rip into their first croissant, fresh from the local bakery in France. Though cliché, it is the definitive French treat in the morning. Surely a warm croissant with butter and jam and a cup of hot coffee belongs in the Hall of Fame of Great Gourmet Combinations, joining peanut butter and jelly, ham and cheese, the BLT, mint and chocolate, raw fish and rice, pasta and tomato sauce, Rice Krispies and marshmallows, and red beans and rice. (Any I missed?)

But it is not a staple of the French diet in the way you may imagine. From time to time, people might venture out for croissants or pains au chocolat in the morning, but, for the most part, in the rural countryside when the nearest boulangerie is 5-20 minutes away by car, there is simply no time in the morning. 

February 2, 2016

La Vie Politique Américaine, part 1

Alors, la fête a commencé lundi soir aux États-Unis. Les deux partis principaux, les Démocrates et les Républicains, ont tenu leurs caucus dans l'Iowa. C'est le premier des 50 états à s'exprimer dans la campagne présidentielle 2016. Les autres états voteront d'ici fin juin. 

Pour comprendre un peu le côté individualiste des électeurs américains, les 50 états votent de plusieurs manières différentes. Dans l'Iowa (état au plein milieu des États-Unis, très peu peuplé [3 million d'âmes], et majoritairement blanc), c'est un caucus, avec des règles différentes pour les Républicains et les Démocrates. Dans les deux cas, il faut être membre du parti en question, et, globalement, environ 20% des électeurs vont participer au caucus. (NDLR: Triste!) Pour les premiers, ils votent au bulletin secret ; parfois, le bulletin est très officiel, parfois les gens écrivent tout simplement le nom de leur candidat préféré sur un bout de papier quelconque. Quand même surprenant au XXIème siècle.