Monthly Monday Miam-Miam: Food and Books to Be Thankful for

Only three days until Thanksgiving, and I’m in panic mode.

Last week, my menu was down and my grocery list made. So, late last night, I kicked my feet up and flipped through an old newspaper that was gathering dust on the coffee table. There, I read that you should NOT introduce the same ingredient twice in your Thanksgiving menu. For example, let’s say that you serve a pecan pie for dessert, then you should NOT offer glazed pecans as a snack.

I jumped up!

My menu included THREE dishes with the same ingredient. Not my fault if sweet potatoes are just so yummy. Besides, they are really healthy, as everyone knows.

So, I had planned to serve mashed sweet potatoes, a sweet potato casserole, and a sweet potato cheesecake. With brown sugar and vanilla the sweet potato casserole was acting as a side dish and dessert. Even better, had thought sweet tooth me.

Now, the newspaper article triggered second thoughts. At the same time, I also knew that there is no such thing as a Thanksgiving police. My years in the U.S. have shown me that if there is one day where excesses are allowed in the American kitchen it is on Thanksgiving Day.

Yet, as the newspaper was darkening my fingers, I realized that as much as I love sweet potatoes, as healthy as they can be, and even as crucially important as they are on Thanksgiving the journalist had probably a point. I also had to admit that I follow this one ingredient rule too, when composing menus.

But again a Thanksgiving menu is not any other menu. The cooking and baking possibilities are endless on that particular day, so unlike any other. Especially with sweet potatoes, the choices are just too mouth watering to settle on one meager dish.

With much internal debate, I decided, though, to cut. But how does someone choose mashed sweet potatoes over sweet potato casserole or still sweet potato and carrot purée (a classic in the family) over the sweet potato cheesecake recipe I had just found (I always introduce a new dessert at Thanksgiving)?

A dilemma, made even harder now that I had also bumped into a really cool recipe for sweet potato pie cupcakes that I was sure everyone would love. Okay, don’t get carried away, Mom, my son would say, there will be next year.

In the end, the sweet potato carrot purée won over the mashed and the casserole because it’s a classic. I also learned that traditions matter on Thanksgiving Day.

The good news was that I had to find replacements. So I went for mashed cauliflowers. Very hot this year the cauliflowers AND very healthy too, so all is good on the side dished front. I will have of course regular mashed potatoes because that’s a real classic, too, right? And green beans, of course, even though I still call them haricots verts.

Then, for dessert, I was hesitant between the Lavender Panna Cotta with Honey Poached Pears and the Maple Gingerbread Pots de Crème. I already had a pumpkin pie and since I had to cut my traditional pumpkin chai puddings because of the new rule of ONE similar ingredient I decided to do BOTH the panna cotta and the pots de crème.

We all know that the best of Thanksgiving are the leftovers.

 

Chrysanthemums, mums in the States, symbolize cemeteries in France, but to me they only mean fall

And because we also need food for the soul…

Among the readers of my blog there are many parents and grandparents, thankful to have children and teenagers in their lives, so here are four outstanding books, made just for them. I read them over the last two weeks while I was testing my Thanksgiving menu. They have nothing to do with Thanksgiving, but I find each of them a reason for being thankful to live in a world where there are so many creative, smart, funny, and goodhearted authors.

 

For Little Ones:

I Am Peace: A Book of Mindfulness by Susan Verde illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds

Even young children can feel overwhelmed. This picture book is perfect when calming a too busy mind is needed. The approachable and yet poetic text offers suggetsions to reconnect with the present when too many thoughts arise. The simple, gorgeous illustrations compliment the text to the perfection. Page after page, the child reconnects with the five senses, with nature, and the present moment. In the end, the young readers will also reach peace of mind, allowing them to offer peace to their surrounding world and ultimately to the rest of the world. The illustrator has illustrated Dot, one of my most favorite picture books, and the bestselling Judy Moody and Stink series.

We’re All Wonders written and illustrated by R.J. Palacio

The phenomenal middle grade novel Wonder triggered the movement Choose Kind. In Wonder, the main character Auggie was born with unusual physical characteristics and his loving mom calls him a wonder. With this picture book the author is reaching to younger readers. The sparse-sober and movingly powerful text shows young readers what it’s like to live in a world in which you feel like any other kid, but aren’t always seen that way. Beyond Auggie’s story, the novel and now the picture book tap into every child’s yearning to belong and to be seen as who they truly are.

 

For Middle Graders:

Yvain, The Knight of the Lion by M.T. Anderson and illustrated by Andrea Offermann

There are authors who never disappoint you because they write in a niche, so you expect their next book to please you as much as the precedent. And there are authors who surprise you each time they publish a book because you never know what it will be.

M.T. Anderson is of the latest category. He’s everything but predictable. He writes all over the spectrum and beyond. Though, each of his books being excellent, you are guaranteed to find a gem, whether for a child or a teen.

His latest caught my attention, not only because I am from France but also because I’ve really enjoyed learning about the Middle Ages when I was a kid.

This graphic novel is an adaptation of one of the first Arthurian epics, Yvain, le chevalier au lion written by Chrétien de Troyes, almost eight centuries ago. In fact, most of the tales we tell of King Arthur are derived from Chrétien de Troyes’ epic poems.

The text for this novel has been of course translated from Old French. And I must applaud the author for his impeccable research.

The illustrations are also absolutely terrific. The artist is from Germany and her work is stunning. Since I grew up in France and am accustomed to depictions of medieval scenes I was amazed by the accuracy of the costumes and décor at large. Impeccable research on the artist’s part too.

I recommended the book to my daughter, currently searching for material for seventh and eighth grade students studying medieval times across the world, because it is a highly accessible and thus enjoyable read, due to the striking artwork but also to the text filled with wit.

Doesn’t mean that it’s not deep. The middle ages were neither a peaceful period of time nor exactly feminist. However, it is interesting to note that it was not unusual for women to play crucial roles back then, as it is the case in this tale. In my French Friday post about the French écriture inclusive reform, I mention that women didn’t use to be as invisible as they became starting in the 17th century. In the medieval times, the feminization of professions such as poétesse for poète existed. We still have so much to learn from our ancestors 🙂

As a side note, I will add that I am familiar with the geographic area where the Knight of the Lion and the Arthurian tales take place in Brittany. I didn’t grow up very far from there, and my family vacationed several times near the forest of Brocéliande.

Reading this graphic novel was traveling along memory lane on several levels.

 

And last but not least, another gem for Middle Graders:

Me and Marvin Gardens by Amy Sarig King

The author, who writes young adult fiction under the name A.S. King, is my all time favorite for her work in teen literature. So I was curious to read her latest novel, since the protagonist is an eleven-year-old sixth grade boy.

Obe Devlin’s nose bleeds often and at the most awkward moments, which triggers real embarrassment. Obe and his family live in the smallest house that’s left from the much larger property that his maternal great grandfather owned one hundred years ago. But as his mom put it, “he drank 175 acres of the Devlin land.”

And now the much smaller patch of land where Obe, his parents, and high school sister live is surrounded by lots of similar looking houses, built on his former beloved cornfield. The creek, which Obe cleans diligently, still runs at the bottom of his family’s property, but the woods now belong to the kids living on the other side. This separation is the consequence of an orchestrated fight between Obe and his longtime best friend Tommy. What happens during this fight is crucial to the plot of the book and moreover to Obe’s development, so I hate to reveal it. Let’s say that it ends the longtime friendship. Obe has, however, a new friend and fifth-grader Annie is as loveable as him.

When Obe meets the most unusual animal that doesn’t look like any other, he instinctively protects this creature that only feeds on plastic, either found in the creek or left behind by the crew workers who continue to develop the area for still more house building. Obe’s world has changed so deeply since the bulldozing of his land started that the strange and quite unattractive, stinky animal he names Marvin Gardens, for the Monopoly game he plays with his father and sister, becomes his secret friend.

Skilled as she is, the author manages to squeeze one hundred years of American immigration, real estate, banking, and housing development history in barely more than 10 pages, all printed on gray paper and woven through the book which tells of Obe’s current story. These pages, short chapters all titled One Hundred Years Ago, illustrate the deep and frighteningly inevitable weight of wars, government’s decisions, and greed on people’s lives. A real tour de force since the novel remains seamless and highly readable despite these brief flashbacks in times.

It’s impossible to resist Obe. The eleven-year-old demonstrates loyalty, wisdom, and a sense of purpose that few adults believe young kids can possess. Of course, Obe is also caught between his desire to remain a child and the pressure of his ex best friend and the new kids to act as teenagers. In the end, Obe makes the hardest choice each of us has to make: being oneself.

The book pays also homage to good teachers, to strong moms, to cool loving big sisters, to girls with ambitious dreams, and boys with big hearts. I LOVED every word of the novel.

P.S. As a child, the author has also witnessed the bulldozing of a beloved cornfield in southeastern Pennsylvania where she grew up. If you’ve also seen a place that was home demolished for development intentions the novel and Obe’s emotions will deeply resonate, I guarantee you.

And even if you lucked out, you’ve still be eleven once, and you’ll find yourself tearing up, laughing, cringing, and everything in between as you’ll live with Obe for 240 pages.

As I read this book, I was back to the own fields of my Normandy childhood, thousands miles away from those of Pennsylvania, and yet knowing exactly how Obe felt facing daunting changes.

This novel alone deserves a whole blog post and I will introduce it again early December when I write about books as holiday gifts.

From my kitchen to yours, I wish you all a very happy, peaceful, and loving Thanksgiving Day and extended weekend.

Regardless of the state of our country and the world, it is okay to be merry on Thursday and absolutely mandatory to be thankful for the lives we have and the people in these lives. Life is not always easy and living feels sometimes daunting, so I am thankful for my family and my friends to pull me through, whenever it gets harder.

I’m certainly thankful for you who visit me in my small home that is my blog. Due to the holiday, I will skip my weekly French Friday post and see you the following week.

PERFECT Leftovers from my very recent birthday!

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

 

 

 

French Friday: L’Écriture Inclusive or a French Reform that Goes Beyond Grammatical Changes

This post is much longer than any of my typical French Friday post, since I wrote an English and a French version. So you can skip to your favorite one 🙂

As always, thank you for reading me.

The other day at yoga, I spoke with another member of the studio who told me that it was exciting and frightening at the same time to go through a real revolution for the first time of our lives. We are about the same age, too young to have experienced first hand the big changes of the late 1960s but old enough to be grateful to these changes that have made our lives as women more equal to men’s.

The viral #metoo campaign has shown that there is still a lot to do in order for girls and women to be as respected as men at work and in the street. This campaign has resonated beyond the U.S. France, among other European countries, has followed in the steps with the # balance ton porc.

As a side note, I will say that I am partial to the American #metoo which doesn’t have the denunciation inference of its French counterpart. The verb balancer means rat out.

What my partner and I realized at the yoga studio was that the late 2017 shift didn’t look like a fade. We had seen the power of women at work after the American presidential election and inauguration. Many felt that these marches were only the beginning of a larger movement, but who would have thought that the shift would be much wider and that women would speak up in such great numbers and that stories of sexual harrassement and violence against them would pile up, affecting every industry, every social class, and not only in the U.S.? I certainly didn’t envision such a movement.

I certainly didn’t envision either that a reform affecting the French spelling and grammar would eventually reflect these changes.

Anyone who has studied a little bit of French knows that French nouns come in two genders, either feminine or masculine. Any adjective describing this noun will then take either the feminine or masculine form. But when an adjective describes two nouns, one in each gender, then the masculine wins over the feminine. Always.

Example #1: Le garçon et la fille sont intelligents. The boy and the girl are smart.

The adjective Intelligent takes an E when it defines a feminine noun and an S for the plural. In the above sentence, it is clear that the adjective took a masculine plural form.

Example #2: Le garçon et les filles sont intelligents. The boy and the girls are smart.

In this case, we have one boy versus more than one girl, and yet, the same rule applies.

The masculine always wins over the feminine in French grammar.

I was in first grade when I read in my textbook that, regardless of quantity or the proximity with the noun, an adjective always took a masculine form since, “Le masculin l’emporte sur le féminin.” As a French native speaker I had already assimilated this rule, by habit. But seeing it in written took a whole different meaning. It felt unfair.

“Why does the masculine always win over the feminine?” asked one of my classmates, also a girl.

“C’est comme ça,” answered our teacher, a middle-aged woman.

“But why is it this way?” the girl insisted.

“I told you, c’est comme ça.”

“Because boys are stronger that girls, dummy,” shouted one boy.

Which triggered peels of victorious laughter from the other boys and outcries from the girls.

“Enough now!” said our teacher.

She was strict, so we all calmed down. But this is with words as simple as “This is the way it is” that the world is made different whether you are a boy or a girl.

My elementary school is on the left past the church (Photo Google)

How would have I known that decades later, thousands of miles away, in another continent I would use the exact same words to answer the exact same question?

I found myself unprepared to justify this particular French grammatical rule to my own children. Talk of the weight of education.

“Why is that?” they asked.

“C’est comme ça,” I replied.

“But Maman, it’s so-o unfair!”

This rule had not always ruled. Until the 17th century the rule of proximity applied. Meaning that the adjective took the gender of the closest noun.

Back then, the sentence above would have been: Le garçon et les filles sont intelligentes.

So what happened in the land of Liberté, égalité, fraternité?

“The masculine gender is more noble, alone a masculine noun is superior to one or more feminine nouns, so regardless of proximity an adjective will always take the masculine form.” Dupleix, Liberté de la langue française, 1651

“The masculine gender is indisputably more noble simply because of the superiority of the male over the female.” Beauzée, Grammaire générale, 1767

Yep. Here we are. This deliberate decision affected, of course, much more than grammatical choices.

I’ve never met any girl or woman acting as a victim. But I’ve met tons who knew at a very early age that there was a difference between being born female or male, including in France. My paternal grandfather, for example, uncorked a bottle of champagne when his first great grandson was born. He had six granddaughters and I still remember of my disappointment mixed with anger when he proudly cheered my cousin’s little boy. I’ve also met tons of adult women who admitted that they had wished to be a boy at some point, particularly when very young.

I’m one of them.

 

Maybe I also wanted to stop wearing stripes and plaid 🙂

 

Fast-forward several decades to jump to October 2017 in the U.S.

Over breakfast my husband annouced that he found a great topic for my French Friday post. I’ve made no secret on my blog that he and I have known each other for a very long time now. We’ve been through a lot together. We still do as any couple, as any parents of four kids. We stick to each other through sunny and rainy days, sometimes annoyed at each other, often unbelievably grateful that our paths met, always émerveillés that we’ve lasted so long – it’s amazed in English, but the translation doesn’t cut it 🙂

But when he mentioned l’écriture inclusive, we quickly realized that we didn’t see exactly eye to eye.

My husband doesn’t believe that this reform will bring more equality between men and women and ultimately serious issues such as harrassment on the work place or in the street – a real problem in France.

I believe that he cannot possibly understand why I care about l’écriture inclusive, simply because he was born male. No more his fault than mine to be born female. We cannot see the world exactly in the same way. How could we, even though we were once seven years old at about the same time? The rule “The masculine won over the femine” could not have the same resonance for him. Maybe he didn’t even notice the rule.

 

So what is l’écriture inclusive?

The reform holds three points:

  • The names of professions, which don’t come with a feminine version, should, in order to include women, now working in every industry. Most professions in French have indeed only one male version. For example: un docteur, un professeur, or still un auteur. A doctor, a professor or an author. So far, most people say, “Mon docteur,” regardless of the doctor’s gender. Years ago, many people started to add an E at the end of this type of words. Docteur/docteure. Professeur/professeure. Auteur/auteure. The reform would ascribe a feminine equivalent to each profession. Even for this decision French people are divided. And believe it or not, including some feminists who argue that feminizing professions mean that women cannot hold the same status as men. Some want to remain écrivains and not become écrivaines or writers, for example.
  • Le point milieu is probably the most controversial part of this reform and I’m not convinced it can work. I find it very distracting and have a hard time imagining reading a novel written this way. The idea is to add an E – the mark of the feminine in French – between two periods, so each word can be read in a masculine and a feminine version. When the noun is plural there is an additional S at the end. For example: les candidat.e.s for the candidates or les président.e.s or still les citoyen.ne.s for the citizens. I highly favor the use of the personal pronoun ils and elles for they.
  • No more Droits de l’Homme or Droits de la Femme but only Droits humains or Human Rights.

 

This reform wants to bring more equality between the two genders. It is a complex reform, not really with its technical aspects, but because it is signaling a shift in the way people think and see the world. And we all know that any shift triggers reactions, always related to the way we see the world. And we see the world through the person we are. Primarily defined by our gender.

For many women and also men, especially young, this reform is a step toward a more inclusive world, a world where everyone, regardless of gender, has a place and a valuable role to play.

The Académie Française, the pre-eminent French council for matters pertaining to the French language, is vehemently opposed to the reform. If you read French, here is the link to their statement, published on October 27, 2017.

As a personal note, I add that currently only five women among the forty members belong to the Académie Française. And only eight have been members since Richelieu founded it four centuries ago.

For the other opponents to the reform, they describe it as futile and even distracting. These opponents argue in defense of the French language. They insist that it will be impossible for teachers to apply these changes, particularly now that they teach a more diverse population of students.

Of course, things have changed a lot between my first grade and now. Has a language to change to reflect the progress made in terms of equality between men and women? Has a language to go through more reforms to trigger more necessary changes?

A French friend of mine told me about an Iranian journalist who commented that Farsi has no gender and yet the countries where it is spoken have still a lot to accomplish in terms of gender equality. English and American English don’t either and at least in the U.S. we also know that exact equality between men and women hasn’t yet been reached.

So will this French reform be helpful? Women know first hand that changes come with education. Many teachers support l’écriture inclusive since they see more than anyone how boys and girls react in a classroom. For them, this reform, which makes the feminine gender so visible, in your face we would say here, is a huge step toward equality. Only the future will tell.

If you read French I invite you to scroll down, below the French part of this post. I linked to several websites where you can read more about this controversial reform that creates heated debate across France.

What do you think? That the French are even more complicated than you thought? That a language being alive must reflect the changes that affect the countries where it is spoken? Tell me…

 

“Le masculin l’emporte sur le féminin.” Au nom de ce principe, on dit “les garçons et les filles sont intelligents.” Mais il n’en a pas toujours été ainsi. Ce n’est qu’au XVIIe siècle que le masculin est imposé. Avant cela, l’usage était à la “règle de proximité.” Elle consiste à accorder le genre de l’adjectif avec le plus proche des noms. Cela donne : “Les garçons et les filles sont… intelligentes.”

Le changement arrive avec des grammairiens aux idées très égalitaires comme vous pouvez en juger vous mêmes :

«Parce que le genre masculin est le plus noble, il prévaut seul contre deux ou plusieurs féminins, quoiqu’ils soient plus proches de leur adjectif.» (Dupleix, Liberté de la langue françoise, 1651)

«Le masculin est réputé plus noble que le féminin à cause de la supériorité du mâle sur la femelle» (Beauzée, Grammaire générale…1767).

Ben voyons. C’est donc bien un choix idéologique qui est fait quand la dominance du masculin sur le féminin est imposée. Les conséquences ne seront pas négligeables. Si vous êtes née fille en France vous en savez quelque chose.

Ma copine de classe qui a pris la parole en CE1 pour demander à la maitresse d’expliquer pourquoi le masculin l’emportait toujours sur le féminin se souvient sans aucun doute de ces mots qui en disent tant, « C’est comme ça. »

J’ai voulu être garçon pendant mes années d’école élémentaire. J’aimais la personne que j’étais, mais je n’aimais pas la définition d’être une fille, ni les limites, ni les moqueries que naitre fille imposait sur moi et mes copines. A la ville comme à l’école. Y compris dans nos livres de grammaire.

Mon école élémentaire est le bâtiment au fond à gauche (Photo l’Orne Combattante)

La réforme appelée l’écriture inclusive est donc un pas vers l’égalisation entre le masculin et le féminin.

Cette réforme n’est pas vraiment complexe, mais elle suscite des opinions très tranchées du fait qu’elle bouscule des siècles de « c’est comme ça. »

Voici la réforme si vous n’avez pas ouvert un journal or un website français ces derniers temps.

Ses premiers opposants sont les membres de l’Académie Française qui ont voté à l’unanimité une solide mise en garde contre la réforme. Composition de l’Académie: Cinq femmes et quarante hommes. Depuis sa création par Richelieu on ne compte que huit femmes parmi ses membres. No comment. Si ce n’est ce lien vers un article relatant l’arrivée de Marguerite Yourcenar dans ce club ouvert à tous et à toutes.

Voici la déclaration de l’Académie Française du jeudi 26 octobre 2017.

« Prenant acte de la diffusion d’une « écriture inclusive » qui prétend s’imposer comme norme, l’Académie française élève à l’unanimité une solennelle mise en garde. La démultiplication des marques orthographiques et syntaxiques qu’elle induit aboutit à une langue désunie, disparate dans son expression, créant une confusion qui confine à l’illisibilité. On voit mal quel est l’objectif poursuivi et comment il pourrait surmonter les obstacles pratiques d’écriture, de lecture – visuelle ou à voix haute – et de prononciation. Cela alourdirait la tâche des pédagogues. Cela compliquerait plus encore celle des lecteurs.

Plus que toute autre institution, l’Académie française est sensible aux évolutions et aux innovations de la langue, puisqu’elle a pour mission de les codifier. En cette occasion, c’est moins en gardienne de la norme qu’en garante de l’avenir qu’elle lance un cri d’alarme : devant cette aberration « inclusive », la langue française se trouve désormais en péril mortel, ce dont notre nation est dès aujourd’hui comptable devant les générations futures.

Il est déjà difficile d’acquérir une langue, qu’en sera-t-il si l’usage y ajoute des formes secondes et altérées? Comment les générations à venir pourront-elles grandir en intimité avec notre patrimoine écrit? Quant aux promesses de la francophonie, elles seront anéanties si la langue française s’empêche elle-même par ce redoublement de complexité, au bénéfice d’autres langues qui en tireront profit pour prévaloir sur la planète. »

Mon mari est le premier à m’avoir suggéré un billet sur le sujet. Ce qui a suscité quelques discussions animées au moment de l’apéro 🙂

Nous ne pouvons pas voir le monde exactement de la même façon puisque nous sommes nés fille et garçon. Il n’a sans doute pas entendu la phrase, “Le masculin l’emporte sur le féminin” exactement comme moi. Mais j’ai trouvé son idée de billet excellente.

Il me semblait cependant important de connaitre l’avis d’un français ou d’une française qui vit actuellement en France. Et qui d’autre mais mon amie Simone? Non seulement elle écrit merveilleusement bien à propos des livres qui la touchent et lui paraissent importants, mais elle s’intéresse à l’évolution de la langue vivante qu’est le français.

Je suis assez contente de constater que même si un continent nous sépare nous sommes sur la même longueur d’onde.

  • Comme moi, elle est en faveur de parler des droits humains plutôt que des droits de l’Homme et des droits de la Femme.
  • Comme moi encore, elle est favorable à la règle de proximité, qui n’est qu’un retour à une règle très simple en vigueur jusqu’au 17ème siècle.
  • Bien sûr, nous sommes aussi en faveur de la féminisation des fonctions, professions et grades hiérarchiques. Depuis longtemps, j’ai remarqué que Simone écrit “auteure” ou “écrivaine.” Elle pense que le travail de féminisation est déjà fait dans ce domaine parmi les français. Je l’ai aussi noté en regardant quelques séries télévisées françaises où l’on dit « la cheffe » ou « la juge », par exemple. Par contre dans la série Call my Agent! le mot Agent reste au masculin, même si l’agence comporte des agents de sexe féminin. Agente? Mouais. Est-ce l’habitude de certains mots? Est-ce la peur de trop de changements? Ou simplement une raison esthétique, comme mon amie qui me dit très nettement préférer le mot « poète » à « poétesse, » vraiment moins beau. Je reconnais que le mot « doctoresse » dont je me souviens enfant me semble péjoratif par rapport à « docteur. »
  • Quant au point milieu, mon amie et moi pensont que son usage rend la lecture difficile. Sans doute moins pour des documents administratifs mais lire un roman ou un poème coupé par des points qui ne sont pas des points marquant la fin d’une phrase nous parait franchement compliqué. Utiliser les pronoms ils et elles en se référant à un groupe est sans doute une meilleure façon d’inclure féminin et masculin.

En conclusion, comme me le faisait remarquer la même amie, le persan ou farsi en Iran et Afghanistan n’a pas de genre et pourtant il y a beaucoup de chemin à parcourir pour l’égalité hommes femmes dans les pays où cette langue est parlée.

Est-ce que les français auraient les soucis frivoles ce ceux qui ont trop de temps sur les mains ou sont-ils vraiment soucieux d’un équilibre plus juste entre les deux sexes?

Je n’ai pas voulu corriger cette phrase car elle prouve à quiconque en doute que le poids de l’éducation et d’une culture ne disparait pas en un clin d’œil.

Ce qui clôt ce billet, qui je l’espère ouvre les portes à vos commentaires sur le sujet de l’écriture inclusive.

P.S. La presse couvre ce sujet depuis la publication du manuel de CE2 paru chez Hatier. Le Monde a publié un certain nombre d’articles comme celui ci ou encore celui . Slate et France Culture également. Le Figaro a largement couvert le sujet aussi. Ici vous pouvez lire la pétition des 314 enseignants en faveur de la réforme et un autre article à ce propos. Et vous pouvez même télécharger ici le manuel de l’écriture inclusive.

 

Alors, maintenant à vous! Que pensez-vous de l’écriture inclusive? Étes-vous favorables ou opposés à cette réforme? Avez-vous des enfants et particulièrement des filles qui ont un avis sur le sujet?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

French Friday: Everything Was SO-O Big in American Supermarkets

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Besides learning about American cooking when I clipped recipes from magazines and newspapers, my field trips to American supermarkets were true hands-on experiences that taught me a lot about my adoptive land.

In the months that followed my move to California I spent a lot of time inside supermarkets and any grocery store, even when I didn’t really need groceries. Remember that the early 1990s had yet to see lots of changes, in all areas. The contrast between countries was greater. Paris and the San Francisco Bay Area had little in common back then. Since so much was totally new or just different I had to satisfy my curiosity.

The cereal and freezer sections as well as the products’ sizes impressed me the most. I had never seen as many different types of cereal, although when I looked more closely, they seemed very much alike, except for the name of the food company. I stuck to Cheerios – the list of ingredients was the shortest – and to Muesli – there was something reassuring about a Swiss product.

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The frozen products took at least two full aisles in most supermarkets. I realized, with a mix of admiration and wonder, that Americans could eat frozen meals from breakfast to dinner, including countless snack options. Microwaves had entered French kitchens only recently. My neighborhood store had carried a selection of frozen, traditional French dishes, which were really close to the “from scratch” version.

The American frozen food section was far bigger, but the buttermilk pancakes, the hash browns, the egg-sausage-bacon muffins, the double-crusted pies, and the TV dinners couldn’t compete with the quality of their French counterparts. The French, though, lost when it came to ice cream. Who else but Americans could have thought of creating so many ice cream companies and imagined flavors such as chocolate chip cookie dough, banana split, rocky road, half-baked, or butter pecan? There was vanilla, natural vanilla, extra creamy vanilla, vanilla bean, homemade vanilla, and French vanilla. And every kind came in different sizes, the biggest one appearing gigantic to me.

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I was equally impressed to see that an American soda bottle was twice the size of a French water bottle and that a gallon – more than four liters – filled a typical American water bottle.

Evian is now easily found anywhere in the US. In pretty small sizes too.

Butter came in four sticks – each stick barely smaller than a whole French butter package. An individual yogurt container weighed eight ounces – almost 227 grams versus the French container at 125 grams. American fruits and vegetables weren’t bigger than their French fellows. I noticed that their life expectancy was also far longer. I stumbled on products sold in bulk. Where would French people have stored them?

Everything was so-o big in these American supermarkets.

Besides drugstores, supermarkets carried medicine. I noticed people in line, either dropping their prescriptions or picking up their medication. The pharmacy aisle was in fact the equivalent of a French pharmacy without a pharmacist behind a counter. This is how I learned the expression “Over The Counter.” In these American pharmacy aisles everything was sold without a prescription. In contrast, almost everything would have required one in France.

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Starting this year and only in two regions in France, pharmacists are allowed to provide flu shots

Don’t assume that French, though, take less medication than American people. France is a highly medicated country. But it’s impossible to get most drugs without a prescription from a physician and then by meeting in person with a pharmacist. In the 1990s, only a pharmacist could sell ibuprofen for example. Nowadays, the steroidal and anti-inflammatory drug is available over the counter in France for 200 mg, but the 400 mg is sold in much smaller bottles than in the US.

On the other hand, the American beauty products aisle in supermarkets and also in drugstores was prehistoric when I remembered my neighborhood Monoprix that carried dozens of face moisturizers, shampoos, and body lotions for women, men, children, and babies. However, I had never seen shampoos sold in such large bottles before moving to the US.

Over these first exploration/discovery weeks I was often alone with my one-year-old daughter. At night, my husband and I shared our discoveries du jour. My vocabulary grew faster than his in all things domestic and children related. His was vastly superior to mine in everything business and finance. Seems a little cliché and even archaic? I wasn’t able to work when we arrived, so we split the tasks. It wasn’t a bad idea to trade info. It was often funny too.

For example, when I found it strange to see a sign directing to a nursery along busy, commercial El Camino. Nurserie in French also designs a room for babies and infants, but never a place to buy plants and flowers. Or when I believed that a bodyshop was a spa. My husband, on his side, had endlessly searched for ground coffee at Safeway, until he spotted someone using the coffee grinder. In France, you either grind your coffee beans at home or visit your local torréfaction, a shop where coffee is roasted and sold. Now, of course, they have Starbucks 🙂

The French press and the American coffee grinder team up

This is around dinner that we traded our newly acquired knowledge and exchanged our impressions, our baby girl between us. Perhaps even more than food the rituals that surround meals matter to the French. This is why most French children eat with their parents and share the same food at a very young age.

In our sunny California bungalow, our daughter always ate dinner with us.

Miam, miam,” she said as we tied a bib around her neck.

When she learned some English, “yum, yum” was one of her first words.

She not only shared the same food as her parents but she also quickly used a real spoon, fork and plate.

Only smaller in size.

 

P.S. With Veterans Day falling on a Saturday this year, schools, many government agencies and court systems are observing the holiday today to honor anyone who served in the United States Armed Forces. In France, November 11 celebrates l’armistice or Armistice Day and mark the anniversary of the end of WWI. So whether we live in the U.S. or France, we can all relate to this holiday. 

 

French Friday: Beyond Recipes

Now that Halloween is behind us…

 

One Holiday. Two Interpretations for my friend and me.

I’m switching to Thanksgiving mode.

And when Thanksgiving is in the air I think in recipes. When I think in recipes I dig through my Manila Recipe Folders.

Which are filled with clipped recipes, the only reasons why I liked taking my kids to their pediatrician, dentist, and orthodontist. There, the waiting rooms were packed with the latest – and also very old – issues of women’s magazines. So, while we waited for the appointment, I leafed through Sunset, Real Simple, Woman’s Day, Martha Steward Living, Family Circle… and copied recipes. Sometimes, I tore the page, but only from the very old issues. I assumed I wasn’t the only one who didn’t buy these magazines but still liked the recipe section. I did the same with the San Francisco Chronicle, The San Jose Mercury News, The Boston Globe, and the New York Times. But I bought some newspapers, so I could tear the pages.

Sometimes I glued them in a notebook. More often I filed them into my Manila Recipe Folders, which I labeled with titles. Some obvious: Appetizers, Main Dishes (still have a hard time with the American Entrées which are my French appetizers), Desserts, To Keep. Others more cryptic: To Try, Maybe When I Have Time, Too Complicated, and To Test.

No, To Try and To Test are not the same. My To Try recipes are really no brainers. I just need to try them. My To Test recipes, on the other hand, own equal potential for success or failure.

When my daughters are home they always tell me that it feels good to be back in a house that is spotless and tidy. But they always wonder how I can find anything in my messy Manila Recipe Folders. It’s true that I’m not someone who leaves her clothes on the floor or dirty dishes in the sink for two days. But to be organized is not the purpose of my Manila Recipe Folders.

Messy? Absolutely? Useless? If I consider that I’ve really used about a fourth of these recipes, probably. Should I get rid of them? Are you kidding me? These recipes are precious. They are part of my catastrophe emergency gear. I admit that the Too Complicated one should go. Maybe. It’s like a pair of pants or a T-shirt you’ve not worn in years. You know you should give them away. But you keep them. Just in case.

You could also argue that Google would be much easier than these magazines and newspapers clipping tradition, which is so 20th century.

First, my collection of recipes started in the 20th century, in the very early 1990s to be precise, still years before the Internet was a click away from us. Second, when I browsed through the magazines and newspapers I had no idea what recipe I would find. More importantly, my gathering of recipes was (is) much more than clipped recipes.

I am almost sure that millions of immigrants, in their first years in the United States, have similarly compiled recipes whose mysterious names evoke our new, even more mysterious land: Triple Fudge Brownies, Sloppy Joes, Red Velvet Cake, Deviled Eggs, Monkey Bread, Candied Yams, Casseroles…

Wow! What are these? Casseroles intrigued me since “casserole” means saucepan in French. Thanks to a magazine, I found out what an American casserole really was.

Not a casserole 🙂

My mass of unsorted recipes is the witness of my first steps in this country. Food and assimilation go hand in hand, I think. Eat what people eat and you’ll know a little bit more about them. When a foreign recipe became mine I was making this land mine too. Of course, anyone who has been through the experience remembers that the learning curve is rocky.

Once, I was invited for coffee at a friend of mine, a recent acquaintance really. Such invitations were very rare since I was recently arrived. Since French women never show up anywhere empty-handed, I brought a freshly baked batch of brownies.

“I never make my brownies from a mix,” said the hostess. “Always from scratch.”

I didn’t know what a mix was and had never heard the expression “from scratch.”

But I was fluent in tones of voice and facial expressions. My brownies didn’t cut it. I knew, though, that they were more than decent. My husband loved them. So I tried to explain that I had made them following Katherine Hepburn’s favorite brownie recipe. The actress had sounded to me American enough to have a legit opinion about brownies.

Later at home, I opened my dictionary and searched for “scratch” until I found the meaning of the expression “made from scratch.”

My brownies had been slightly burned, presented an irregular texture and small crevices. Yeah, 100% homemade.

I supposed that it was just hardfor this woman to imagine a French woman recently arrived to come up with a genuine brownie recipe.

To her credit it is true that American food was pretty much absent in France until I left. The first Parisian McDonald opened its doors in 1984, four years after the very first one in Strasbourg. A few American restaurants had opened, primarily in the Halles, in the very center of Paris. My American culinary knowledge was basic: hamburgers, Cobb salad, chili con carne, cheesecake, and yes, brownies served plain or à la mode.

When I arrived in California I already favored baking to cooking, so I was more interested by the desserts section when I browsed through magazines and newspapers. I mouth-watered when I scrolled down the list of ingredients. Some spices were new to me. Cinnamon was not a French favorite. Walking past a café that sold cinnamon buns or anything cinnamony felt so exotic! Even though I now bake with cardamom, ginger, pumpkin pie spice, matcha green tea powder, and other kinds of spices, cinnamon will always incarnate American baking. Smelling cinnamon away from the States is my Proust’s madeleine.

Back then in France, vanilla was mostly sold in sticks (gousses de vanille) or as ultra fine sugar flavored with vanilla and sold in mini pouches (sucre vanillé). I found vanilla extract much more practical, even though the sticks work better for some recipes.

At this time of the year, I return to my old, messy, stained Manila Recipe Folders. Will I spend an hour going through the To Test? Probably. Will I try one recipe? Maybe. More likely I’ll stick to a classic from the To Keep, one American recipe now a Holingue family heirloom.

Although, I’m thinking of arriving just a tad early when I go cut my hair next week. I’ll leaf through the forgotten pile of magazines while waiting for my hairstylist. Chance is I’ll discover a new recipe or a twist on a classic. Nowadays, people prefer their phones, so it’s okay to tear the page.

I’ll slip it into one or another of my Manila Recipe Folders. Which I keep disorganized in memory of my first American culinary discoveries.

From one recipe to another, I’ve walked quite a long road toward becoming an American.

Even though I’ve sometimes only scanned through them.

 

P.S. Like everyone else, I also search for online recipes. And print them.

P.S.#2 BTW, what I wrote about my Manila Recipe Folders is not 100% true.

I know exactly where is the recipe for Roger Toguchi’s Favorite Hawaiian Banana Bread – no idea who this guy is, but his banana bread recipe is the only one I’ve ever followed. I always find the one for the Blueberry Buckle.

And I will never lose Katherine Hepburn’s Brownie recipe.

From the very early 1990s

 

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