Today Pierre of French Moments joins me to talk about Christmas in Paris and the difference between Christmas in the North East of France and the rest of the country.
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Today Annie suggests perfect gifts for the Francophile: gifts for cooks, gifts for travelers, gifts for movie lovers, gifts for kids, gifts for men, gifts for sports enthusiasts, and gifts for the host or hostess. We’re going to get spoiled again!
If you liked this episode, you’ll probably also like episode 45 Christmas Markets in France.
Cheese Marker Set: they look like thought bubbles, nice round things with a poking end, they are made of slate and come with some chalk so you can write the name of the cheeses you are serving. Now THAT would come in handy even if you already have a well-appointed kitchen!
Cheese Slicer: If you’re going to make raclette or serve a cheese platter it is best if you slice your cheese at the last minute so it doesn’t dry out. Slicing cheese is not very fun when you don’t have the right implement! So I finally broke down and bought one and I love it! This one is by Oxo Good Grips and it comes with a replacement wire.
Cheese Board with Lid: I have to admit I’m not a big fan of cheese boards because I have beautiful plates and they do just fine. But one thing that would be nice is a serving board with a dome or glass bell because cheese is best served at room temperature but it gets stinky if you leave it out, not to mention how it will attract flies. There aren’t a lot of good choices for such items in the US, but I found a good one for you. Talk about how you should get one in France next time you visit, ask for a “cloche à fromage” or “cave à fromage”. Explain that it fits right in the fridge. Or talk about the artisanal one I found at a market with a retractable mesh top.
Le Creuset Dutch Oven: Mine is probably a hundred years old and it’s still as good as new. It doesn’t chip or stain or rust, it is perfect. Expensive, but perfect. I use it like a crock pot on low heat to make all sorts of stews. But you can also use it on high heat to make your stir-fry. And in the summer if you put it in the freezer for a few hours, it’ll keep your food cool if you place it in a shady spot on the terrace. Very versatile.
Pressure Cooker: I use the pressure cooker so much it actually lives on my induction stove-top most of the time. I have that Clipso pressure cooker that they sell on Amazon.com and it’s really good. You cannot make a pot-au-feu without it. I make couscous in the pressure cooker too. I use it to cook beans. You can make a tough roast tender in a pressure cooker. Brown it in some oil, then cover the piece of meat completely with hot water, close the lid, cook under pressure for 40 to 50 minutes (depending on the size of the meat) and it’ll be tender! I use it to make Pork Carnitas (although the Le Creuset pot is also great for that). It cooks fast and it is great.
Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child: this book is 40 years old and still as good today as they ever were. Julia Child understood the way regular French people cook. It doesn’t take a culinary degree, it takes good observation and common sense.
Herbes de Provence: inexpensive and absolutely necessary if you are going to cook anything French!
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Moules Dish: you don’t need this to make good moules marinières or moules à la crême, but it helps make it look real!
Crêpes Pan: this is one where you NEED the special pan because if you don’t and use an every-day frying pan your crêpes will stick.
Fondue Set: you don’t need the electric fondue set, but it will keep the temperature better than something with a small flame underneath. You can use it to make Fondue Bourguignone with beef (serve with ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, and sauce Bourguignone if you can find it, but don’t worry if you can’t, it’s not that good, honesty!)
You can also make Cheese Fondue aka Fondue Savoyarde which requires a mix of cheeses if you want to be proper about it (you can buy them at iGourmet or at fastfondue) but really any grated cheese that melts well will do, next time I’m in the US I want to try it with Grated Swiss and Mexican Queso, with a bit of white wine.
Crême Brûlée: to make this magical dessert you will need a kitchen torch and some ramequins. Don’t go cheap on the torch, but look for the ramequins that will fit your needs. I like ramequins that stack, some like big, some like small, some like shallow, some like deeper, it’s too personal for me to recommend a ramequin!
Provence Tablecloth: They are usually yellow and blue, have sunflowers or olives on them.
Throw Pillows: It says on the cover “Paris Is Always A Good Idea” which is a quote by Audrey Hepburn. When I lived in America (I said France on the show, I meant America) I liked a little touch of France in my home, I really didn’t want the whole thing to look like a cliché of Provence.
French Flash Cards for Kids: some people do great things with flash cards, but if you’re going to use those, one of you must be good at French!
Radio Pomme d’Api: if you want your children to learn French, surround them with French sounds. This is a good way to do it for free and they choose some really fun songs. Sometimes I listen just to get a big smile on my face!
Le Petit Prince Bilingual: this is a classic, if you haven’t read it, you must, right now!
Stade Toulousain Rugby Ball: I’m from Toulouse, I love rugby!
Les boules de pétanque: great game, can be played seriously and competitively or leisurely on a sunny day.
For Cyclists: Tour de France DVD from the year Lance Armstrong retired under great scrutiny that turned out to be warranted.
Power Strip: this power strip is light and compact, and it does NOT have surge protection which is what you want. American surge protector strip will trip the general at our house in France, we don’t know why, but it works every time. So if you bring some other power strip, make sure it doesn’t have surge protection or it’ll be useless.
Traveler’s Choice Suitcases: this is a 3-piece set, but you can get them individually.
Microfiber Travel Towel: this towel is great and you cannot do better for the price. It won’t take up half of your carry-on and it works well. OK, I like extra heavy cotton hotel towels better, but this will do the trick and it dries fast.
Moleskin Notebook: so you can write down what you do every day on your trip, because after a while it all becomes a blur. Notebooks make a great gift for someone who is planning for a trip, it means all the things they can look forward to.
Ticket Stub Organizer: this is great for travelers and people who like to collect small mementos that will mean a lot to them in a few months or years. Looking at old tickets stubs or menus or business cards is a great way to journal your life and interests.
Movies for the Francophile: this is my list of favorite French movies.
Books for the Francophile: this is a list of some of my favorite French books.
To Learn French: Pimsler has been really good for me, but I wasn’t trying to learn French but Spanish. If you have 20 minutes each day you can dedicate to oral learning, you’ll love it.
You are planning to take your significant other out to a very nice restaurant in Paris. Possibly at the Tour d’Argent or maybe the Jules Vernes on the Eiffel Tower, but are table manners in France any different from they are in North America? What do you need to know? Elyse and Annie explain and Elyse also tells us that the French used to be rough around the edges at the table until Catherine de Medici showed us how it’s done.
2:30 Elyse’s thoughts on the attacks of November 13, 2015. The French are not going to be defeated or surrender even though these events have given us much to worry about. Advice for people coming to visit France soon after a terror attack.
14:20 Long stem wine glasses were invented to be able to avoid getting poisoned because servants never touched anywhere near where the liquid was, they kept their hands on the stem. For the longest time poison was the best way to kill an enemy.
16:20 Listener question on Parks and Gardens in Toulouse: what is the difference between a park and a garden? A garden is a found within a park.
20:00 Why is there a special fork and knife for fish? What do they look like? The fish knife looks a little bit like a butter knife, but since the French don’t serve butter with their bread, that’s not what it’s for. French soup spoons are very large, almost the size of a serving spoon.
25:00 The Venetians developed the technology to make glass on a large-scale and glass became popular starting with them
Why do French people say when “Tchin-Tchin” when they clink glasses? Once people realized that it was possible to avoid getting poisoned by holding their glass by the stem, someone decided to be even more sure that the drink was safe it would be good to clink glasses and spill some of your drink into the other person’s cup. If everyone does that, it shows that nobody has tampered with the drink.
30:00 Americans use very large wine glasses every day, but French people use smaller glasses and never fill them to barely more than half.
33:00 Fancy flatware in France includes forks for escargot, fish fork and knife, and many other things that more people would not know what to do with.
35:30 Catherine de Medici introduced Italian utensils in France, to the great dismay of French people who mostly ate with a knife and spoon and used dried old bread as a plate. Today you may order a “tartine” at a restaurant which is a whole meal on a large slice of bread. Catherine de Medici introduced the fork to France and it was not well received at first, especially by the clergy who thought it was evil and made men effeminate!
43:30 In the 1800s table manners went over the top and French people started to use five or six forks, 5 different knives, five glasses to go along with their meals and you had to know what to use when. That is not the case any more, at a four star restaurant they will bring you whatever utensil goes along with your meal at the right time.
47:00 You start with Apéritif, which may take one hour. Then you get your Entrée which does not mean the same thing as it does in the US. In France the Entrée is the appetizer (you enter into the meal). Then you get your main meal, and for every part of the meal you get different wines to go with. There are also traditional different drinks served to men and women. There may be a salad served at the end of the meal along with the cheese, but that is not done any more now. Mostly you will get a cheese dish served with bread, not crackers. Then you get dessert. The whole process may take four hours because we take pauses between meals. It is strange how small water glasses are in France.
58:00 When you sit down in a French restaurants, they will not normally bring you ice water or bread or anything until they bring you the food you’ve ordered. Things are changing a little bit, but not everywhere. French Style Service means that they bring you the dish, show you the dish, then cut it up for you, then bring you a little bit and bring you some more if you want more. It is really awkward for most people and it is unusual unless you’re at an expensive and probably starred restaurant. In France we used to use knife rests, but they are unusual any more.
1:00:00 In France most people hold their fork with the left hand, cut with the right hand and eat with the left hand. In America most people in formal situations cut with their dominant hand, then put down the knife, then switch the side of utensils and eat with their fork in their dominant hand. French people keep their hands above the table at all times and they can use bread to scoop food onto their spoon or fork. Most restaurants will not give you a bread plate, you can set your bread next to your plate. French people always eat their dessert with a spoon and not a fork.
1:11:11 French Tip of Week and listener question. How to express sadness in French about the terror attacks in Paris: C’est terrible ce qui s’est passé à Paris, j’epsère que vous n’avez pas été touché” (what happened in Paris was terrible, I hope you were not affected) or C’est afligeant ce qui s’est passé à Paris (I am saddened by what happened in Paris) or “C’est triste ce qui s’est passé à Paris” (what happened in Paris is very sad).
New terror attacks in France have been making the headlines for over a week and have shocked the world. It is important to try to make sense of what happened with the attacks of Nov 13th, 2015 and put it in the context of French culture and history. Guest Patrick Béja comes on the show to share his experiences as a news commentator and a resident of Paris. Patrick is the host of a news commentary show in English as well as two French language podcasts on Tech news and Gaming news. He comes on the show today to help Annie make sense of terror attacks in France.
Most Requested Book Following the Attacks: Hemmingway’s A Moveable Feast
Attacks on the Stade de France where security did its job and did not let the attackers in. Then attacks on a café and a restaurant near the Canal Saint Martin. Then attack on the Bataclan where most of the victims died. There are some important differences between the attacks on Charlie Hebdo that took place in January 2015 and the attacks of November 2015. In the first, the victims were journalists who took risks by steering controversy. But in the second it was regular people who were targeted. It is also the first time we’ve had suicide bombers in France. The state of emergency was declared right away and has been prolonged for 3 months by a vote of the French parliament.
While the state of emergency is in effect in France “perquisitions” (searches) can be performed with out a search warrant. Police can decide without the approval of a prosecutor when it is time to intervene. Searches can also happen any time of the day whereas outside of the state of emergency searches have to happen between 6 AM and 9 PM.
Public cameras and internet surveillance laws will be updated in response to these attacks. On the other hand curtailment of the freedom of the press, which was part of the state of emergency law in France as it was written many decades ago, has been removed from the state of emergency package in France.
It is very likely that the number of surveillance cameras in France will increase, not so much to prevent crime but rather to make it easier to have evidence to convict perpetrators.
Most French people are in agreement with these measures because they going to be in effect for a limited time. French President François Hollande is also trying to modify the Constitution so that suspects can be assigned to residence easily even outside of the state of emergency and their internet access limited or at least scrutinized. Making decisions motivated by urgency (and possibly fear as well) is not generally a good idea and it is important to consider what happens when those decisions are applied to too many people. Also how do you decide who is worthy of extra scrutiny? How do you stop scrutinizing people if it was all a mistake?
A “fiche S” in France is kept about persons who are suspected of being a security risk and police is supposed to keep a close eye on them. There are 10,000 people on that list. Not all 10,000 will be detained in residence, which ones should and shouldn’t? There will almost certainly also be people on whom there is a “fiche S” who should be locked up and weren’t and commit terrible acts. It’s impossible to prevent such problems at times.
How will Patrick’s life in Paris change as a result? Probably not at all. The people of Paris have a desire to change nothing. Parisians do not want to change their way of life and it is very likely that within a few days, things will get back to normal. What may force us to change things are possible changes in technology such as secure messaging, cryptography, backdoor access to software, etc. It may be difficult to convince French people that requiring back doors is a bad idea.
10% of bookings in Paris were cancelled and another 30% were rescheduled which was to be expected. If Annie had made a reservation to go to Paris this week she might have postponed it too because increased police presence and site closings are a hassle. The likelihood of being caught in a terror attack is so small, but the inconvenience is real. It is important to realize that the aim of these attacks is to frighten us and it is better to go on despite our natural fears.
In English you’ve heard of the term “lay clergy” which means a person who is not a trained theologian who still participates in religious life. In France “laïcité” has a very different meaning. It is the person who is without theology period. The person you can trust to not bow to the priest because of their fear of damnation. French culture has this ingrained idea that one must protect one’s self against the power of church. That fear has now morphed into a fear of Muslims rather than Catholicism, but it comes from the same place.
Patrick feels that it’s very difficult for people who are not French to understand the complicated relationship that French people have with all religion. In the US any criticism of religion is a big problem. In France it is not like that generally speaking. French people have the attitude that everyone can do whatever they want as far as religion is concerned, but don’t bother the rest of us with it. Most of the time things go very smoothly with that attitude.
Growing up in France in the 70s, Muslim girls did not cover their hair in school for instance. Annie feels that the law of 2004 made things worse because you see a lot more Muslim women covering up in France today than you ever did. And they cover more too!
Patrick feels like it’s a big mistake to condemn Islam over these isolated events. These attacks stem from a small number of Muslims who practice a particular brand of Islam that is not common. But it would also be a mistake to ignore the fact that there are some Muslims in France that preach a very extreme and violent type of Islam in the heart of France. This particular brand of violent Islam is also very opposed to the whole idea of secularism that France is so attached to. Wearing a head scarf is not an issue, what we have a problem with is what we call “ostentatoire” signs of religions such as a full burka.
As French people should we be accepting of that in the name of religious tolerance or should we be against it because it changes our culture and way of life? If you are attached to the rights of women, you have to care about these questions. It got to the point in Paris (where they specifically hired bus drivers from immigrant families in the hopes to deflate tensions) a few dozen bus drivers refused to drive a bus that had been driven by a woman. There was also the case of a woman who delivered her baby early, the nurse midwife the couple had selected couldn’t be there, so the male doctor at the small rural hospital took care of her. After the baby was born the woman’s husband punched him in the face because he was not happy that another man had touched his wife. We should not overstate the prevalence of these incidents, but they happen in France.
France is a very liberal country compared to the US, and the law of 2004 may have been a reaction to too much leeway being given to religious practices that we find strange and uncomfortable. It’s easy for anyone to see that punching a doctor in the face is wrong, but this manifests in much subtler ways. For instance, should schools provide pork-free meals or is that giving in to religious dictates? What about separating boys and girls in school? What about unisex buses? Where should France draw the line?
Annie thinks schools must accommodate children’s needs by offering a vegetarian meal which would satisfy Jews, Muslims and vegetarian too. This is particularly true because in France you can’t send your kids to school with a lunch you made at home. What if the kid has a medical issue? Patrick objects that in the case of a medical issue the school needs to make an exception, but should it make an exception in the case of religion. Annie thinks they should, Patrick isn’t sure. This has become an issue because we’re OK with religion as long as you don’t make a big deal out of it, and asking for religious exception is too much.
We don’t trust religion in France because it bases your decisions on fundamentals that cannot be questioned. Everyone who lives in France is supposed to stand for the Republic and the ideals that go along with it. That works in principle, but in reality a lot of people are left out, especially those who happen to have typical Algerian names. France attracted a lot of immigrants from North Africa in the 50s and housed them in large complexes at the periphery of large cities. Those places have become ghettos that are almost 100% segregated. And now you have second and third generation children of those immigrants from the 50s who live in segregated housing and are disenfranchised. They are less integrated into French life than their parents and grandparents.
French people have the idea that when you come to France you must leave your religion and your culture at the door. Immigrants who accept that integrate well, but it’s a lot to ask. On the other hand if you accept that immigrants come with their differences and you want to accommodate them, where do you draw the line? Do you have public pools only for women and children? Do you have days when only women and children can go to the library?
Liberal-minded people want to be accommodating, especially in the aftermath of an attack such as the one we just had, but how far do you take your desire for better integration and acceptance? How much is too much to ask for a host country?
On this matter Patrick and Annie don’t remember exactly what the law said, Annie says it was a mistake to ask for removal of religious signs (it would have been better to ban face coverings on security grounds), Patrick says that people would have seen through that and that it was couched in terms of security also. Here’s what the law actually says:
« Art. L. 141-5-1. – Dans les écoles, les collèges et les lycées publics, le port de signes ou tenues par lesquels les élèves manifestent ostensiblement une appartenance religieuse est interdit.
Le règlement intérieur rappelle que la mise en oeuvre d’une procédure disciplinaire est précédée d’un dialogue avec l’élève.
In Elementary Schools, Junior Schools, and public High Schools, the wearing of symbols or clothing by which students conspicuously indicate their religious belief is prohibited. According to the rules of procedure, disciplinary action will not be taken until a dialog has been established with the student.
French legislators went directly to the issue of religion because that’s where French people think you draw the line. A person’s religion should have no impact on others. And yet, we are seeing more Kosher Restaurants, grocery stores, same with Halal and it can rub some French people the wrong way. These manifestations of difference go against the idea that we are all children of the Republic.
On the tech side, Patrick fears that bad decisions will be made pertaining to cryptography and back-doors. Recently the US government has decided that requiring back-doors is not effective. It appears that the perpetrators of the terrorist attack in Paris used non-encrypted text messages.
Patrick hopes that France will send the message loud and clear that we’re not going to take this from groups of extreme religious fanatics while at the same time sending the message that Islam is a part of France just like any other religion. He also hopes that we’ll be more accepting of people named Mohamed or Abdoul be just as French as we are. That some guys named Charles is dark-skinned, etc. But at the same time it has to be extremely clear that you cannot come to France and preach in a French Mosque that music is a tool of the devil and has to be disallowed.
We both hope that we’ll be more accepting of the great majority of Muslims who don’t want to hurt us while at the same time coming down like a ton of bricks on the few who do. French people should learn not to push their buttons and they should learn not to push ours. We know for sure that terrorists want to divide us and we need to make sure that we don’t do that.
On today’s Join Us in France, the 10 things you didn’t know about France, even if you’ve visited before. From restaurant etiquette to beach attire, French people behave in surprising ways sometimes. Why are there dogs everywhere? Why are children allowed to take the metro by themselves? Why do restaurants close on Sundays? French customs and culture help explain many of the things you will experience when you visit France as you will see in this episode.
Today is the first episode in a group of episodes that I am calling France on the Cheap where I explain some of the things you can do to save some money while in France.
Why is it important that you understand bus transportation if you never take the bus at home? Let me give you four reasons:
In this episode I also explain how buses to other European countries work, and list some of the companies you may consider. There is a lot of competition in this area because the bus is a vibrant mode of transportation in Europe.
How do you find out if a place where you want to go to is on a regional bus line? Since every department does it a little bit differently, you’ll need to search. Search for the following terms: bus régional and the name of the department you want to know about. How do you know what department you’re in? Here’s the map of French departments!
Driving in major French cities is not conducive to a relaxing vacation. If you need to rent a car, definitely park it at your hotel and either walk or use public transportation. There is a big cultural difference between France and North America when it comes to cars. French people who choose not to own a car or use a car are not strange in any way. Buses are popular and not seedy at all.
“j’ai besoin d’aide”, I need help. At the end of the show I also play a clip from a person who has a very strong South Western accent, so strong that it’s unusual.
To Prepare for Your Trip: Daytrips France