The Saturday shot #8: stranded

Since I am stranded (yet again) in the US I hesitated with the right picture to illustrate my weekend.
I thought of these tshirts stating 'Houston we have a problem' which are sold all around me, but I settled on this one. instead. It may be the hope to get these reluctant flights under my boot, or the unspoken yet unsuppressible desire to crush the airlines which are preventing me to see my son and wife.


The Saturday Shot #7: looking back

It is this time of the year again. Journalists, politics, random people reflect on their annual achievements as we get close to the end of December. That is why I felt this picture would be a great analogy for my weekly "Saturday Shot" blog post.

"I love mirrors. They let one pass through the surface of things."
Claude Chabrol (1930-2010)

And whilst I am at it, here is a short selection of the too many pictures I took this year. Another way to look back, beyond a mirror, is to look at it through the prism of a camera roll. Enjoy.


Rhyme time, happy time?

Exploring the ward

"Wandering the ward", picture from my photofolio on Flickr. More here.

Happiness is a warm gun.

I once wrote an article about France's renewed passion for melancholy. Centuries after Baudelaire started to praise Spleen as an Ideal, sadness was the new high again in the Hexagon. Ironically, I entitled that blog post Shinny Happy People as I dessicated the influence of that low mood across poetry, art, advertising and music.

Personally, even if my passport states that I am French, I am proud to say that I am everything but melancholic. On the contrary, I am quite a positive guy... And even more since a little one joined the family. However a baby also implies responsibilities. Soon enough you have to provide him with some sort of education and the question is whether, as a French immigrant, you want to introduce your heir to the local or French education.

Because of the above-mentioned trend back home, we were tempted to blend in the indigenous customs and to go for a more positive attitude... Yet that was before we started listening properly to the rhymes that were sung all around him.

Happily ever after.

You would assume that children stories are all rosy and happy, but if you listen carefully it is not that obvious. Let me take a few example to illustrate my assertion. Do you know the "
ring around the roses" song? Well, it is nothing but the story of how plague wiped off large parts of the London population who after coughing they "all fell down", dead... Not very positive. One off you may object, but that is not the case. Let me expand with another very famous nursery rhyme.

The English version reads: "Row, row, row your boat, gently down the stream. Merrily, merrily, life is but a dream". Note how the story concludes on a realistic letdown: "life is but a dream", meaning, boy enjoy it for now, but beware of the rapids that will shake your skiff soon enough.

The same song in French reads: "Petit bateau, p'tit bateau descend la rivière. Petit bateau, p'tit bateau ira jusqu'à la mer". This would translate into "little boat, l'ttle boat goes down river. Little boat, l'ttle boat will reach the sea". Interestingly no anticlimax in the French version which on the contrary delivers a more positive conclusion to this analogy. In the end, life is a blossoming achievement: you reach the sea and its endless possibilities.

But maybe it is simply me... I may have been contaminated by the French Sadness Syndrome and consequently start to see evil everywhere. So tell me which is your favourite rhyme, and what is its positive message conveyed by these apparently fatuous lyrics. I am keen to learn and in turn teach my son. After all, as George Santayana (1863-1952) coined it once, "Knowledge of what is possible is the beginning of happiness."

To read further:

Seasonal delight

Heaven or Hell's kitchen?

Every December it is the same. At this time of year, mountains come to town. Christmas villages are popping up around the city, with their lot of freshly cut Christmas trees, sweet flavours of mulled wine, marzipan and other sugary treats...

Wandering through these stalls activate what
Proust once called it's Madeleine Syndrome. I wrote already about that topic, when the scents of the Christmas trees brought me instantaneously back in the forest of my childhood. But this time, the stimulus was of a different nature. I walked past a stall that was selling earthy food from back home, in particular Tariflette. This dish is simply divine as I wrote about it a few years back. And like Eve and Adam, I could not resist the temptation.

Divine recipe.

Back at my place, I pulled out a couple pans, a bag of potatoes, a few more ingredients... and 25 minutes later , voila! A delight ready to be swallowed... Really worth any spoonful. The potatoes literally melts in your mouth, with double cream elevating the flavours of cured ham and onions, whilst the melted cheese strengthena the whole experience... OK, I know that at this stage, you are already salivating. Like Pavlovian subjects, you are already envying me, so let me fulfill your newly discovered dream, and share with you the recipe of this Alpine delight (as reported by the not-so-alpine Waitrose, yet with my own twist as those weirdoes started to tweak the real thing):

Serves: 4 to 6 (but let's face it, more likely 4 than 6

50g unsalted butter, softened
175g bacon or pancetta, cut into 1cm lardons
1 onion, sliced
1kg waxy potatoes, such as Cara, peeled and sliced to a 3mm thickness
Salt and freshly ground pepper
250g Reblochon cheese, cubed
568ml carton double cream

1.Preheat the oven to 150°C/gas 2. With half the butter, grease a shallow baking dish, about 25 x 30cm.
2.Heat a frying pan over a medium-high heat. Add the bacon. Sauté for about 5 minutes until crisp and brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper.
3.Pour off all but 1 tbsp of the bacon fat. Return the pan to the heat and add the sliced onions. Sauté for about 5 minutes. Season.
4.Layer half the potato slices and add salt and pepper (remember the bacon brings already quite some salt). Sprinkle with the bacon and onion. Put the rest of potatoes on top, and add the rest of onions and bacon. Pour enough cream over the top to just cover the potatoes - you may not need it all. Dot with the remaining butter.
5.Bake for about 1¼ hours, or until the potatoes are tender. Slice your cheese in two, lay it on top of your potatoes crust upwards, and return to the oven until brown and bubbling (about 15 minutes). Remove from the oven, cover with foil and leave for 10-15 minutes before serving (if you can resist).

SadlyI have no left-overs from my latest cooking to extend the pleasure beyond reason... But trust me, it was worth it. Enjoy, and take care.

To read further:


The Saturday Shot #6: buns

To accompany this week's Saturday Shot which is a topical/typical seasonal pastry that was brought home by a French Friend from Alsace, I looked for a topical/typical quote. Bon appetit:

"Christmas? Christmas means dinner, dinner means death! Death means carnage... Christmas means carnage!" Ferdinand the Duck in 'Babe' (1995)