French Friday: The World Is Your Oyster

Wondering words from a wanderer, as migrants keep fleeing their native lands and pressing against borders and gates in the United States and many European countries.

 

Many moons ago I wandered tree-lined California streets with names I had never heard of, you, a baby propped up in her stroller, eyes wide open on this big new world.

“This is University Avenue,” I read. You giggled. “Here we are on Waverley Street and this is Ramona Circle. Middlefield Road takes us to the park.”

Your belly laugh encouraged me to practice and map this new town in my head, next to Paris metro lines that I knew like the back of my hand.

You adored the playground, even though you didn’t walk yet.

“La balançoire,” I said when I sat on the swing, you, tucked on my lap, the sky a promise above our heads.

“Le sable,” I told you, sand slipping between my fingers. Time stopped when we sat in the sandbox, together, with nothing to do but wander and wonder.

Were you as dizzy with dreams than I was when we slid down “le toboggan,” my arms wrapping your round waist, your laugh catching in your throat as the speed increased?

“Le tourniquet” was your favorite and mine too. The sun played peek-a-boo between the eucalyptuses, heady with a fragrance neither of us had ever smelled before. The merry-go-round continued its route, taking us round and round while never leaving our new corner of the world.

One morning, a squirrel darted in front of us.

“Oh!” you exclaimed, equally surprised and delighted.

“Un écureuil,” I said.

You giggled. To you, every word was a surprise and a delight.

You tried to repeat and your attempts made you laugh again.

One day, you would call “Squirrel! Squirrel!”

Another word filled with too many strange sounds for your mother to ever pronounce it the right way, but it would reassure her that you could: you would belong.

One day, I read this strange sentence: “The world is your oyster”.

I opened my dictionary.

In French, the expression means “le monde t’appartient”.

The world belongs to you.

And one day, you greeted passersby with a loud, cheerful, unmistakable “Hi” that they reciprocated with equal exuberance.

I sighed with relief.

You belonged.

A knot tied my throat.

Would you remember where you came from?

Maybe one day, I imagined,

you will wander and wonder through

foreign streets,

foreign smells,

foreign words,

a baby in the crook of your arm,

hoisted up on your shoulders.

And you will read out loud the names of the streets you wander through.

Words will bump against the roof or your mouth,

linger at the top of your tongue

trip on your lips.

Words that you won’t ever pronounce the right way will belong to your baby,

who maybe one day

will wander and wonder…

 

Because we are only wanderers who wonder in this oyster-world that belongs to us.

French Friday : Her Cupcakes and Mine

Wherever you live in the U.S., I bet there is a place nearby that carries French macarons. When I lived in France you could glance at them through the windows of fancy salons de thé, particulary in Paris. That was it.

Americans go gaga over macarons. And the French are crazy for cupcakes. Which didn’t exist in France until fairly recently.

As for me I baked my first batch of cupcakes for my oldest daughter’s birthday somewhere in the mid 1990s in California. Cupcakes are very popular with school-age kids. It makes sense due to their individual size and to the countless decorative possibilities. With kids away from home I no longer bake cupcakes, but I always explore dessert recipes. Especially when I have to use an ingredient that could go to waste. Which was the case with a huge container of strawberries on Wednesday. The weather was warm, so I decided to make a no-bake dessert with strawberries.

On Wednesday, my friend Katie Cross released her novel You’ll Never Know, the third book in The Health and Happiness Society series.

 

This cupcake makes me want to bake. And eat, too.

Rachel has lost weight. Lots of weight. For months now she follows a healthy diet, exercises regularly, and stays away from her beloved frosting-covered cupcakes. Rachel should be proud of her achievement and be content. After all, she’s healthier than ever and looks fantastic. But she may have shed pound after pound Rachel still sees the chubby girl she used to be whenever she glances at a mirror. Exercising has soon become an obsession. Now training for a marathon, Rachel ignores her best friend’s advice when she suggests slowing down. No way. Rachel must run this marathon. Her life depends on it. Only then will she be truly successful and happy. But when Rachel trips on the treadmill and badly injures her ankle, the marathon is soon out of the question. Rachel fights against her physician’s orders and still believes that she can make it in time for the run. For now, however, she’s unable to train and is losing herself.

In You’ll Never Know Katie Cross tackles the topic of women’s relationship with food, the quest for perfection and everlasting happiness with a set of relatable characters. Rachel’s mother is, as it is often the case, the reason behind her daughter’s unhealthy relationship with food. She’s a binge eater and even though she’s not instantly likeable, she still loves Rachel and will grow through the novel. Because she has her own reasons for hiding her broken heart behind bottomless bowls of cereals, loads of bacon, and super sized sodas.

Fortunately for Rachel she has her friends, the rocks that keep her sane when she feels lost. Each one of them has her own personal story and relationship with food and exercise too, but like the musketeers, the young women have each other’s back.

Rachel, on the other hand, has never trusted men and has preferred serial dating to the risk of an honest relationship. And when one young man she really liked stuck around she broke up. Was she afraid to be liked in return? This will change, though, when she meets an intriguing young musician who slowly becomes a friend.

At the heart of the story there is the bakery, the lovely Frosting Cottage, the place of temptations that Rachel wants to avoid at all costs, but can’t any longer when one of her friends offers her the chance to work there. Initially 100% against, Rachel finally accepts, now that she can’t train for the marathon and needs a job to stay away from her depressed and depressing mother. Now not only surrounded by delicious looking cupcakes she must also bake them. And frost them. Rachel’s living her worst nightmare. And yet, this is while working at the Frosting Cottage that she will start therapy – first against her will – and embark onto a real change journey that will bring back her early childhood and take her to the roots of her problems.

There is a lot to love in this novel. Being a French native I adore desserts and perhaps even more making them, so I particularly enjoyed the bakery setting and the baked goods’ yummy descriptions.

Whether sharing Rachel’s exact same life experiences or not, You’ll Never Know will resonate with any young or older woman dealing with the destructive power of self-hate and the illusion that the way you look affect your level of happiness.

In any life situation hope is never out of reach, even when it seems inaccessible. You’ll Never Know remains a positive novel, which tells of the power of female friendships, the importance of professional therapy, the necessity to forgive self and others, and the realization that happiness comes from within.

This is a novel by a woman for women. Best read with a cup of coffee or tea and a cupcake too.

Chance is you’ll want to buy one from the Frosting Cottage. They are the bomb. Too bad they are also fictional. So if you want a real summer cupcake, you may want to try mine.

 

Not as impressive, but cute, no?

Here’s the recipe.

Although a three-step recipe should be easy as a pie, I managed to mess up. I read 4 cups of strawberries and not 2 1/2. Which was great to use most of the strawberry container but a bad idea since the frozen yogurt would drown under. So I added a little bit of vanilla extract. Also, I didn’t have any snap cookies at home but some lemon thins. I figured that the recipe was already tweaking a typical cupcake recipe, so I went along my mistakes.

There was a consensus of opinion among my small home-based culinary judges.

Husband and wife agreed. Not bad these Strawberry Fro-Yo Cupcakes.

Now, here are the different places where you can find Katie’s novel You’ll Never Know. I hope you’ll give her a chance.

Amazon

Nook

Kobo

iBooks

 

BON APPETIT!

FRENCH FRIDAY: Thirteen French and American Habits. Treize Coutumes Françaises et Américaines.

On Tuesday I read a blog post that made me smile for several reasons:

1- It’s written by a blogger I had the chance to meet in person and she had not blogged since a while. So I was happy to read her again.

2- Born in Togo, she has lived in France for several years before moving to Canada. We share a common land and an immigration experience too.

3- Her post, about some Canadian Habits she hasn’t yet adopted after five years spent in Canada, matched the post I had just written for my weekly French Friday. In fact, two of the habits she described as still being foreign to her happened to be two of mine as well.

If you read French, I encourage you to pay a visit to Madame Gaou who started to blog, first from Toronto and now from Montreal. Si vous lisez le français, je vous encourage à lire le blog de Madame Gaou. Ses billets sont tour à tour drôles et émouvants. Toujours très personels et sincères.

Since I’ve lived in the United States for more than twenty-five years, many American habits are now mine. And yet, I remain a little bit French too. So here are Thirteen French and American habits I’ve either kept or not yet adopted. It felt natural to write this post in the two languages that I speak every single day. No need for Google translator today, my friends 🙂

 

I Don’t Wear PJs In Public

The first time I saw my neighbor walk her kids to the bus stop in her pajamas I thought something was wrong at her place. It appeared that more moms followed the same fashion. Sometimes they even drove in their nightly outfits to the convenience store, and not only early Saturday mornings. To be honest I envied their carefree self-confident attitude. My French upbringing tsked tsked in my head. So I’ve never worn PJs in public in the USA. Heck, I barely wear sneakers in the street 🙂

Je Ne Me Promène Pas En Pyjama En Public

La première fois que j’ai aperçu l’une de mes voisines accompagner ses enfants à l’arrêt de bus en pyjamas j’ai pensé qu’il y avait un problème chez eux. Mais rapidement j’ai remarqué que d’autres mamans suivaient la même mode. Parfois elles conduisaient au magasin du coin de la rue dans leurs pyjamas, et pas seulement tôt le samedi matin. Pour être franche j’ai envié leur attitude insouciante et décomplexée. Mon éducation française me rappelait à l’ordre. Donc je n’ai jamais porté de pyjamas en public aux USA. Pensez donc, je ne porte même pas de baskets dans la rue 🙂

I Don’t Bring My Own Wine To Restaurants

Maybe I’ve an edge. My husband is a wine connoisseur and has been seen going through the wine list before the menu. Choosing a glass of wine is part of our going out experience. We figure that if we trust a chef to create a menu we should also trust the sommelier to come up with a wine list. My husband has often made great finds while browsing through these lists and spoken with many sommeliers across the country.

Je N’apporte Pas Ma Bouteille De Vin Au Restau

Aux USA il est en effet possible d’apporter sa propre bouteille de vin dans certains établissements. Si vous avez vérifié et pouvez le faire vous paierez cependant un corkage fee, qui varie en moyenne entre $10 et $20. Mais le corkage fee peut monter à $75 et voire au-delà de $100 dans un restaurant haut de gamme. Choisir un verre de vin est un vrai bonheur pour mon mari qui lit toujours la carte des vins avant le menu. Si nous faisons confiance à un chef avec son menu pourquoi ne pas faire de même avec un sommelier ? De plus on peut faire de belles découvertes en explorant une carte de vins et entamer de bonnes discussions avec des sommeliers, comme nous le faisons partout aux U.S.

Drive-Thru? Thanks, But No Thanks

Years ago, witnessing my son’s efforts to make me a normal American mom I finally gave in and used the Starbucks’ drive-thru. And drove away without our order.

“MOM!”

“Oops.”

Fortunately no one was following me, so I backed up and offered an apologetical shrug to the puzzled barista.

Now, on a hot day, when I am with my grown-up kids I do an occasional drive-thru. Alone? Never.

I’m a terrace and not a drive-thru kind of girl.

Embed from Getty Images

Drive-Thru ? Merci, Mais Non Merci

Lorsque mon fils était au lycée et espérait me transformer en une véritable maman américaine, j’ai fini par accepter de commander nos cafés sans bouger de notre voiture. Et je suis partie sans attendre la commande.

« MAMAN ! »

« Zut ! »

Heureusement aucune voiture ne me suivait, donc j’ai fait marche arrière et offert un haussement d’épaule contrit au garçon qui n’y a rien compris.

Avec mes enfants et s’il fait super chaud j’accepte un occasionnel drive-thru. Seule ? Jamais.

Je suis faite pour les terraces, pas pour le drive-thru.

I Eat Three Times A Day

Early childhood education leaves it marks, like it or not. I grew up eating breakfast, lunch, an after school snack, and dinner. I brought up my kids under the same rules. Now I stick to three meals a day. I don’t snack unless I hike, and I don’t skip a meal unless I’m sick.

Je Mange Trois Repas Par Jour

L’education reçue pendant notre petite enfance laisse des traces, qu’on le veuille ou non. J’ai grandi sous la sainte trinité: petit déjeuner, déjeuner, diner. Et un goûter après l’école, bien sûr. J’ai élevé mes enfants de la même manière. Maintenant je m’en tiens à trois repas par jour. Je mange entre deux si je fais des randonnées. Je ne saute pas de repas à moins d’être malade.

No Ice Cubes, Please

In my early years in the States I witnessed many strange things. Most were not strange per se, just different from my French lifestyle. In France, ice cubes were only used on hottest summer days and never with wine. On both costs of the country, I saw women adding ice cubes to their Chardonnay. To make it last, one of them told me. I didn’t judge her, only noticed. As I had noticed the ice cubes added to water at the restaurant, even at the height of winter. Freezing-cold water won’t ever be my thing. I just filter my tap water and keep the pitcher in the fridge.

Pas de Glaçons, S’il Vous Plait

Au cours de mes premières années aux USA j’ai vu beaucoup de choses étonnantes. La plupart ne l’étaient que parce qu’elles étaient différentes de mon mode de vie français. En France, les glaçons étaient réservés aux étés chauds et on n’en ajoutait pas à son vin. Sur les deux côtes des U.S., j’ai vu des femmes ajouter des glaçons à leur vin blanc. Pour le faire durer, m’a dit l’une d’entre elles. Je ne l’ai pas jugée, j’ai seulement remarqué. Comme j’ai remarqué l’eau glacée servie dans les restaurants, y compris au cœur de l’hiver. Glaçons et eau glacée ne seront jamais mon truc. Je filtre l’eau du robinet et garde le pichet au frigo.

I Don’t Ask For a Doggie Bag

I try to order based on my appetite, so I can finish my plate. Occasionally my husband asked for a doggie bag when we took the kids to our favorite Chinese restaurant in San Francisco. There were still great leftovers that he gathered and gave to one of the homeless people we passed on our way to our car. Even though I have not made this American custom entirely mine, I applaud the fact that no food should go wasted. Seems hard to inforce in France where for so long not finishing a plate at a restaurant was considered stylish. I never followed this French custom, based on my upbringing. But the doggie bag custom is embraced by most people in the States.

Je Ne Demande Pas De Sac À Toutou

J’essaie de commander en fonction de mon appétit et de terminer mon assiette. De temps en temps quand nous allions dans notre restaurant chinois favori à San Francisco mon mari emballait les bons restes qu’il donnait à l’un ou l’une des sans abri sur notre chemin de retour vers notre voiture. Même si le doggie bag se traduit litéralement par sac à toutou, la plupart des américains emmènent le reste de leur assiette pour leur consommation personnelle. Si je ne pratique pas cette coutume j’applaudis l’effort anti-gaspillage. Je me souviens que finir son assiette dans un restaurant français n’était pas de très bon goût. La coutume américaine d’emporter ses restes chez soi est par contre suivie par beaucoup.

I Don’t Do Black Friday

When I landed in California for the first time I swore to try every American thing. But Black Friday could not be my thing. I was never a shop ‘till you drop kind of person back in France. And I quickly realized that I preferred cooking, baking, hosting Thanksgiving and eating the leftovers the day after rather than shopping. So I easily resisted the call of the deal. Still do. Sadly Black Friday is now a French thing too, even though Thanksgiving is not celebrated there.

Le Vendredi Noir N’Est Pas Pour Moi

Quand je suis arrivée en Californie je me suis promise d’essayer tout ce qui se faisait aux Etats Unis. Mais Black Friday ou Vendredi Noir n’est pas pour moi. Je n’ai jamais été une folle de shopping en France. Je préfère cuisiner, faire de la pâtisserie, recevoir le jour de Thansgiving, et manger les restes le lendemain au shopping frénétique, donc je résiste facilement à l’appel des affaires du siècle. Black Friday aux Etats Unis était récemment encore réservé au lendemain de Thansgiving, toujours célébré le quatrième jeudi du mois de novembre. Les soldes commencent tristement maintenant le jour de Thanksgiving. Tristement aussi l’Europe et la France s’y sont mises aussi, Thanksgiving ou pas.

I Eat Dinner Before 8:00 P.M.

Gone are the times when I didn’t like a six o’clock dinner invitation. Because of our children’s school schedule, however, we started to eat dinner sooner than in France. In fact, the reason why Americans eat dinner earlier than the French is easy to understand. Sunup and sunset are much earlier across the USA than they are in France. School and work schedule follow and mealtimes too.

Je Dine Avant 20 Heures

Fini l’époque où je n’aimais pas une invitation à diner à six heures du soir. À cause des horaires de classe de nos enfants nous avons commencé à diner plus tôt qu’en France. En fait, la raison pour laquelle les américains dinent plus tôt que les français est facile à comprendre si vous avez vécu aux U.S. ou simplement visité. Levers et couchers de soleil sont plus précoces qu’en France. Horaires d’école et de travail suivent et les heures de repas aussi, bien sûr.

I Carry a Travel Mug When I Shop

I always carry a thermos filled with water with me, since I want to limit the use of plastic bottles. I also take my coffee/tea mug if I leave home in the morning. I no longer leave them in my car but will sip from them when I shop and go on with my day. Customs remain personal choices. My husband has not made his this very American habit, even for his early morning commutes. Ordering coffee to go is also natural to me now, while it felt strange for many years.

A thoughtful Mother’s Day gift from my daughter. I LOVE this travel mug, which keeps water fresh, even when left in the sun.

Je Me Déplace Avec Mon Thermos

Je posséde different thermos que j’utilise tous les jours. Plus de bouteilles plastiques pour moi. Et je conduis, fais mes courses avec mon café ou thé si je ne l’ai pas fini avant de partir de chez moi ou simplement si j’en ai envie. Mon mari par contre n’a jamais adopté cette coutume très américaine même lors de ses trajets de travail matinaux. Commander mon café à emporter m’est maintenant naturel, alors que je ne l’ai pas fait pendant des années.

She also bought me this coffee/tea travel mug, which I use a LOT.

I Wear Baseball Hats

In France I used to wear berets and hats of all sorts, but no baseball hats. They simply didn’t exist when I lived there. Maybe because I’ve mosty lived under sunny climates, maybe because my husband was often offered baseball hats when he attended professional conventions and seminars, I discovered how practical baseball hats could be. I wear one almost every day and not as a fashion statement. First and foremost, I love baseball hats for sun protection and for the occasional bad hair day.

Je Porte Des Casquettes de Baseball

En France je portais des bérets et plein de chapeaux, mais pas de casquettes de baseball. Elles ne se faisaient pas du tout quand je vivais en France. Peut-être parce que j’ai beaucoup vécu sous des climats ensoleillés, peut-être parce que mon mari a reçu de nombreuses casquettes promotionnelles lors de conférences et séminaires, en tous cas j’ai adopté relativement tôt le port de la casquette de baseball. J’en porte une presque tous les jours, mais pas en accessoire de mode. C’est ma protection #1 contre le soleil et aussi mon alliée quand mes cheveux sont indisciplinés.

I Talk to Total Strangers

This is my most prefered American trait of character. Okay, sometimes some conversations carry TMI, but as much as I was initially uncomfortable when people I had never met talked to me, I miss these impromptu discussions when away from the States. More frequent in small towns and in the great outdoors, even in New York City and Los Angeles people still interact with each other in the U.S. And I do too.

Je Parle À De Parfaits Inconnus

Les conversations spontanées sont une véritable signature américaine. Parfois, je le reconnais, certaines personnes en abusent et vous déballent toute leur vie dans la queue au supermarché. Mais si ces échanges m’ont tout d’abord surprise et presque inquiétée après l’anonymat parisien, c’est ce qui me manque en premier quand je suis loin des États Unis. Même à New York et Los Angeles les gens parlent très facilement entre eux. Et je le fais aussi.

I Use Coupons

I had no idea what they were when I spotted them in the very thick Sunday paper (another surprise). Soon, though, I understood the value coupons offered. Years later, I still don’t clip as faithfully as many American customers do, but I collect coupons of interest and use them.

J’Utilise Les Coupons D’Achat

Je n’avais aucune idée de ce qu’étaient les coupons quand je les ai tout d’abord découverts dans le très épais journal du dimanche (la taille de ce journal hebdomadaire était aussi une autre surprise). J’ai rapidement compris, cependant, que ces coupons offraient des rabais sur toutes sortes de produits, beaucoup que je n’utilisais pas, mais parfois pour un gel douche que j’aimais ou bien encore un produit d’entretien nécessaire. Je ne découpe pas scrupuleusement les coupons comme beaucoup de consommateurs américains le font, mais je garde ceux qui m’intéressent. Particulièrement pour les utiliser dans les drugstores de quartier. Aux États Unis les pharmacies sont situées dans les drugstores, ces magasins qui vendent presque tout : produits d’hygiène corporelle et de ménage, médicaments sans prescription et vitamines, mais aussi petits gâteaux, bonbons, alcool, papeterie dont de gigantesques sélections de cartes pour souhaiter n’importe quel événement et célébrer n’importe quelle personne dans votre vie, et tant d’autres choses. Suffisament pour y utiliser tous ces coupons.

What follows is a perfect combo for the person I am now: a French American

No To Creamers, But Yes To Peanut Butter

When I arrived in California I had no clue what creamers were. These flavored or unflavored tiny containers intrigued me. So I tried. Once. I prefer my coffee black. To my recent knowledge creamers don’t exist in France. Peanut and also almond butter, though, live in my fridge. I discovered peanut butter over my first visit to New York City in 1986 and brought back a jar to Paris. Not too popular back then 🙂

Non Aux Succédanés De Crème, Mais Oui Au Beurre de Cacahuète

Lorsque je suis arrivée en Californie j’ai tout de suite remarqué ces petits pots parfumés à la vanille, au caramel, au mocha, et à tant d’autres parfums. En vente dans le rayon des produits laitiers, mais aussi en libre service dans les cafés, les restaurants, les hôtels, les stations services puisqu’on peut aussi y faire le plein en café, et bien sûr chez les copines quand on boit un café ensemble, je me suis laissée tenter. Je préfère le café noir. Beurre de cacahuète et maintenant d’amandes, en revanche, ont leur place dans mon frigo.

 

Whether you also make your home away from your native land, live somewhere between past and new habits or not, tell me…

Que vous fassiez votre vie dans votre pays natal ou pas, viviez entre anciennes habitudes and nouvelles coutumes, dites moi…

P.S. Et bien sûr Bonne Fête Nationale à mes lecteurs et lectrices qui vivent en France! Ici Bastille Day comme on appelle le 14 juillet, sera calme, mais nous penserons à notre pays et à ses habitants.

 

French Friday: A Voice that Gave me a Chance

People leave their mark in many different ways. Sometimes it’s a voice calling you to offer you a chance.

Years ago, when my family had settled in the California foothills, I looked for local writers and soon met women who would become critique partners and friends too. One of them, old enough to be my mother, had been a journalist and was a very skilled writer. One day, upon reading one of my short stories, written for adults, she told me it was a great fit for Valley Writers Read, a program aired on Valley Public Radio, NPR in Central California. Valley Writers Read showcased readings by local authors, both professionals and amateurs. There was an impressive array of authors and I was certain they would decline my story. However, I followed my mentor’s advice and when she found my latest draft ready, I submitted my manuscript.

Months later, my phone rang. When I picked up the call I heard an unknown, deep warm voice.

“I am Franz Weinschenk,” the man said. “The host of Valley Writers Read. I’m calling you to let you know that your story has been selected for the program.”

“Oh, thank you! Thank you! Thank you!”

“Thank you. Now, you’ll have to make arrangements with the studio to record your story.”

“Oh, no! I cannot do that. I mean…you know…my accent…would be distracting…no, really, I can’t read…”

“I could suggest someone who would read for you,” Mr. Weinschenk started. “But I think you’re making a mistake. It would make much more sense if you read your story yourself.”

He had a point since the main character was a French woman. So we made a deal: I would read  passages written from the French character’s point of view and someone else would read the narrative. This is what I wrote about my initial experience.

Over the following years, I drove down to Valley Public Radio three more times to record some of my stories. The second time, although I had already considered recording my own voice, Franz Weinschenk laughed and said he could not possibly find anyone to read my essay I Am an American. Thanks to the warm welcome at the recording studio, I came to look forward to the experience and didn’t even suggest a reader for my third story.

 

A longtime Valley educator, author, and radio host Franz Weinschenk has just passed away at the age of 92.

No longer in production, Valley Writers Read is still available through the radio’s archives. I could not find The Mug Quest, my first story, but I easily retrieved my two latest recordings.

Here is I Am an American, an essay about the meaning of becoming an American for a French-born woman.

Here is Welcome Home, a fiction story based in the California foothills.

Valley Writers Read gave me the chance to be in the company of well-known and award-winning authors such as Mark Arax, Davis Mas Masumoto, Bonnie Hearn Hill, or still my friend/mentor Flora Beach Burlingame. What an honor.

Meeting with the men and women at Valley Public Radio has been such a pleasant and enriching experience.

And Frantz Weinschenk’s unforgettable voice will always ring good luck to me.

 

If you have a little bit of time, whether you live in California or want to discover a different huge area of the Golden State, often so little known, I encourage you to listen to Max Arax reading from his book The King of California and his piece The Big Valley.  He’s the best journalist and writer when it comes to the valley. Also look for The Perfect Peach, David Mas Masumoto’s yummy family cookbook. Bonnie’s fast-pace writing guarantees page-turner stories and Flora’s novel, based on her great grandfather’s experience as he taught the freedmen in Texas is historically and humanly very enriching.

P.S. The photos that I chose to illustrate this post have been taken aboard Eagle 2, a sheriff helicopter, that my son and I were fortunate to ride once, in 2014. The chopper took us above sprawling Fresno and parts of the Madera county. This area of California produces most of the veggies, fruits, and nuts Americans find in their supermarkets. It is also the gateway to Yosemite, Kings Canyon, and Sequoia National Parks.

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