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Posts Tagged ‘France

“There is no sincerer love than the love of food”*…

 

French food

 

As the rest of the world had begun to (re)discover their own cuisines and innovate, the French restaurant seemed to be stagnating in a pool of congealing demi-glace.

Elsewhere, places such as Balthazar in New York and the Wolseley in London seemed to be doing the French restaurant better than the French. In France, the old guard of critics and restaurateurs remained convinced that French cuisine was still the best in the world and a point of national pride. The bistros cleaved to the traditional red-and-white checked table cloths and chalked-up menus even as they were microwaving pre-prepared boeuf bourguignon in the back. In 2010, when the French restaurant meal was added to Unesco’s list of the world’s “intangible cultural heritage”, it felt as if the French restaurant had become a museum piece, and a parody of itself.

The perceived excellence of their cuisine and restaurants has long represented a vital part of French national identity. It was too easy to ascribe this decline to a certain national conservatism, complacency and parochialism – facile Anglo-Saxon taunts. The real story is more complicated. The restaurant business always has been subject to changes in society and economic circumstances. Food – what we eat and how we go out to eat it – is constantly evolving, according to trend and time…

French food was the envy of the world – before it became trapped by its own history.  Can a new school of traditionalists revive its glories? “The rise and fall of French cuisine.”

* George Bernard Shaw

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As we ponder prandial progress, we might recall that it was on this date in 1904 (as the Library of Congress notes) that the first ice cream cone was served.

On July 23, 1904, according to some accounts, Charles E. Menches conceived the idea of filling a pastry cone with two scoops of ice-cream and thereby invented the ice-cream cone. He is one of several claimants to that honor: Ernest Hamwi, Abe Doumar, Albert and Nick Kabbaz, Arnold Fornachou, and David Avayou all have been touted as the inventor(s) of the first edible cone. Interestingly, these individuals have in common the fact that they all made or sold confections at the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition, known as the St. Louis World’s Fair. It is from the time of the Fair that the edible “cornucopia,” a cone made from a rolled waffle, vaulted into popularity in the United States.

Another claimant, Italo Marchiony, actually received a patent in 1903 for a device to make edible cups with handles. However the patent drawings show the device as a molded container rather than the rolled waffle seen at the Fair. Although paper and metal cones were used by Europeans to hold ice cream and pita bread was used by Middle Easterners to hold sweets, the ice-cream cone seems to have come to America by way of “the Pike” (as the entertainment midway of the St. Louis World’s Fair was called).

Randolph Smith Lyon, Mildred Frances Lyon, Mrs. Montague Lyon (Frances Robnett Smith Lyon), Montague Lyon, Jr., eating ice cream cones at the 1904 World’s Fair. Snapshot photograph, 1904.  (Missouri History Museum)

The 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis: site of the national debuts of peanut butter, the hot dog, Dr Pepper, iced tea, cotton candy– and of course, ice cream cones. (source)

 

Written by LW

July 23, 2019 at 1:01 am

“Eternity is a long time, especially towards the end”*…

 

A soldier, an urn, and “Faith,” all available from the 1882 Monumental Bronze Co. catalog

In 1898, the people of Elberton, Georgia—like those of many Southern towns a few decades after the Civil War—commissioned a granite statue to honor those local men who had fought for the Confederate army. Two years later, late one night, those same people took their own monument down. Public opinion of the war hadn’t shifted much: the statue was just ugly, with bug eyes, and what looked suspiciously like a Union-style overcoat. The citizens had nicknamed it Dutchy, because it resembled, one said, “a cross between a Pennsylvania Dutchman and a hippopotamus.”

According to the Elberton Star, on August 13, 1900, around midnight, a group of men tugged Dutchy down via “a rope around his neck.” A few days later, they buried him. And after they’d dusted themselves off, what did they do? They ordered a brand new “white bronze” statue from Monumental Bronze Co.—because one of those, they had been told, would last forever.

Today—117 years later—Dutchy’s replacement still stands. (It has been moved several times, and is now at Confederate Memorial Park, in Lee County.) A bunch of his Confederate clones still stand, too, in town squares and courthouses across the American South, while their Union brothers, in slightly different uniforms, remain stationed all around the North.

As recent events have reminded us, many of the South’s Confederate monuments went up not immediately after the war, but half a century later, in the first two decades of the 1900s. During this time, organizations like the United Daughters of the Confederacy were looking to reframe and glorify the Confederate cause, and in many states, the descendants of slaves had been stripped of the right to vote, which impeded their ability to effectively voice opposition.

Today, historians argue that the rush to erect Civil War statues, especially in former Confederate states, was part of that project. “It is hardly coincidence that the cluttering of the state’s landscape with Confederate monuments coincided with two major national cultural projects: first, the “reconciliation” of the North and the South, and second, the imposition of Jim Crow [racial segregation laws] and white supremacy in the South,” writes historian W. Fitzhugh Brundage, at Vox. By memorializing the dead in this particular way, Brundage argues, those who put up statues sought to reframe the story of the war, “making the Confederate cause virtually sacred.” In the spirit of peacemaking, Northerners went along with it, and put up their own statues, too. These goals may have been political, but the means were material: they almost certainly couldn’t have gotten so many statues up, in the North or South, without white bronze…

The role of white bronze– which is neither white nor bronze– in the “memorializing” of the Civil War: “Those Mass-Produced Civil War Statues Were Meant to Stand Forever.”

* Stephen Hawking

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As we remove those eyesores to the museum (or the scrap heap), we might recall that it was on this date in 1715 that the reign of Louis XIV– the Sun King– ended with his death; at 72 years and 110 days, it was the longest recorded reign of any monarch of a sovereign country in European history.  A centralizer of power, he used his ever-grander palace at Versailles (formerly his father’s hunting lodge) to lure, then lull the nobles around him; the system of absolute monarchical rule that he established survived to the French Revolution.

Louis was a patron of the arts (he restored and expanded the Louvre)– and a vigorous promoter of his own image.  With the help of his Minister of Finance, Jean-Baptiste Colbert, he had himself portrayed heroically in painting, sculpture, tapestry, theatre, dance, music, and in the almanacs that diffused royal propaganda to the population at large.  Beyond the 300+ formal portraits he had done, he commissioned over 20 statues of himself to stand in Paris and the Provincial capitals as physical manifestations of his rule.

 source

 

 

Written by LW

September 1, 2017 at 1:01 am

“He was a bold man that first ate an oyster”*…

 

“Speaking to the oysters”: a scene from “The Walrus and the Carpenter”, by Lewis Carroll, drawn by Sir John Tenniel in 1871.

In a change from chocolates and fizzy drinks, the French are starting to offer fresh oysters from vending machines in the hope of selling more of the delicacy outside business hours.

One pioneer is Tony Berthelot, an oyster farmer whose automatic dispenser of live oysters on the Ile de Re island off France’s western coast offers a range of quantities, types and sizes 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

French oyster farmers are following in the footsteps of other producers of fresh food who once manned stalls along roadsides for long hours but now use machines…

Oysters on demand at “French oysters go on sale in vending machines.”

* Jonathan Swift

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As we dispose of the shells, we might recall that it was on this date in 1943 that Sgt. Edward Dzuba received the Legion of Merit award in recognition of his talent for “using food scraps in unusual and appetizing recipes.”

Sgt. Dzuba encouraging one of his patrons

source

 

Written by LW

August 15, 2017 at 1:01 am

“You know why the French hate us so much? They gave us the croissant… We turned it into our croissandwich”*…

 

There’s a looming crisis in France.  Over the last year, the wholesale price of butter there has almost doubled, to over $5,000 per ton.  Exploding demand in Asia and a shifting of producer priorities to cheese and cream help explain the spike.

But whatever the reasons, it’s creating a tight squeeze for the 30,000 bakeries in France (a $9.5 Billion industry); butter is 25% of the ingredient make-up of a croissant.

More at “Croissant Apocalypse.”

* Denis Leary

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As we eat ’em if we have ’em, we might recall that today– the birthday of Sir Frederick Gowland Hopkins, who won the Nobel Prize in Medicine for the discovery of vitamins– is National Vanilla Milkshake Day.

 source

 

“We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.”*…

 

The Chapman University Survey of American Fears Wave 3 (2016) offers a look into the fears of average Americans.  In April of 2016, a random sample of 1,511 adults from across the United States were asked their level of fear about 79 different potential sources across a huge variety of topics– crime, the government, disasters, personal anxieties, technology, and others.

As readers can see in the highlights chart above, the top anxiety suffered by Americans is “corrupt government officials”; fully 63% of respondents ranked it “Afraid” or “Very Afraid.”  That said, as readers will also see when they click through the link that follows, 10.2% percent of Americans are “Afraid” or “Very Afraid” of “zombies.”

Peruse the results at “America’s Top Fears 2016.”

* Plato

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As we overcome our wistfulness on remembering that this is Oscar Wilde’s birthday, we might recall that it was on this date in 1793, nine months after her husband, the former King Louis XVI of France, was beheaded, that Marie Antoinette followed him to the guillotine. (Readers who are parents– or collectors– can find commemorative dolls here.)

source

Written by LW

October 16, 2016 at 1:01 am

Helpful Hints…

C’est ne pas fixer une passagère avec insistance, quand bien même elle aurait les yeux revolver. (Don’t stare at a female passenger, even if she has eyes like a revolver)

Being stuck in a grimy, crowded metal box deep underground doesn’t bring out the best in the average subway commuter. And Parisians aren’t exactly known for their willingness to keep their complaints to themselves.

Last year, the regional transit authority Régie Autonome des Transports Parisiens launched an ad campaign to discourage rude behavior on the Paris subway. They used images of hens, warthogs, and sloths to scold riders for holding loud phone conversations, eating gross foods, and taking up too much space.

When public shaming failed, RATP turned to an equally Parisian solution: charming PSAs that look straight out of the Belle Époque. The newly released ebook Manuel de Savoir-Vivre a l’usage du Voyageur Moderne names 12 essential, if slightly tongue-in-cheek, rules for getting by on the subway. Local graphic designer Marion Thomas-Mauro created some very French illustrations to accompany the rules, offering a slightly wacky take on the recommendations…

C’est les jours de grosse chaleur, tel le manchot empereur, bien gardes les bras le long du corps et prendre sa meilleure prise en bas du poteau, pas tout en haut. (On very hot days, be like the emperor penguin — keep your arms along the sides of your body and grip the lower handholds, not the ones on top.)

Read the full story, see more of the instructive illustrations, and find a link to the full guide at “Keep Your B.O. to Yourself, and Other Friendly Tips for Paris Metro Riders.”

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As we just say “non,” we might recall that it was on this date in 1944, that Glenn Miller and the plane on which he was flying disappeared over the English Channel.  The musician, arranger, composer, and bandleader– the biggest star and best-selling recording artist of Swing Era– had put aside his career when the U.S.. entered World War II to enlist and lead The Army Air Force Band.  He was on his way to Paris to perform for troops there; the wreckage of the plane was never found, and he remains listed as “missing in action.”

 source

Written by LW

December 15, 2013 at 1:01 am

Eating like it’s your last meal…

source

A pair of scholarly siblings compared 52 artists’ renditions of “The Last Supper,” and found that the size of the meal painted had grown through the years. Over the last millennium they found that entrees had increased by 70%, bread by 23%, and plate size by 65.6%. Their findings were published in the International Journal of Obesity.

The apostles depicted during the Middle Ages appear to be the ascetics they are said to have been. But by 1498, when Leonardo da Vinci completed his masterpiece, the party was more lavishly fed. Almost a century later, the Mannerist painter Jacobo Tintoretto piled the food on the apostles’ plates still higher.

Read the LA Times story here. (Via Slashdot)

As we think twice about “super-sizing that,” we might recall that it was on this date in 1309 that Pope Clement V (best remembered perhaps for suppressing the Knights Templar, executing many of its members, and thus, securing the career of Dan Brown) excommunicated the City of Venice– all of it, every last resident.  Indeed, he decreed that Venetian citizens captured abroad could be sold into slavery “like non-Christians.” He was a pawn of French King Philip IV; still…

Clement V

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