Differences

Differences

Basically, when it comes down to it, people around the world are pretty much the same. When it comes to cultural things, this is where I see many differences. Just hearing what the French think about Americans, as in our food and cooking, makes me realize how much is going on in the background of our thinking with all of our assumptions and theirs. At one time, before so much travel and television, many Europeans must have thought that all of us road horses and carried six shooters. I know my own husband is fascinated that I am part Cherokee Indian even though I tell him that just about anyone from Texas has this distinction. It really isn’t that rare there. Face it, we are all a big mixture of races anymore. I’m sort of fascinated that one of Maurice’s relatives, several decades ago, was a gypsy and if I tied a scarf around Maurice’s head and placed a crystal ball in front of him, he could play a gypsy in a movie.
There are some cultural things in France that always come to light-the French love of Jerry Lewis, for what ever reason. There is also an old French movie, filmed in the 70’s, I think, called The Grand Blue. It even has an American actress in it. I found a CD from the movie track in Maurice’s car once and he talked about how great the movie was and how fantastic the movie was. I put the CD on in the car as I drove on a long trip and almost went comatose from it. It was nice at first but it never changed. It was something with which you could watch the fish in your aquarium, sort of drifting and dreaming like a slow moving fish amongst the waving seaweed. Finally, a few years later, the movie was on TV. I sat down with interest to watch it. What can I say besides, “Snore” ? It was about scuba diving and some guy with an obsession with going realy deep in the ocean and finally he goes too deep, and as his American girlfriend is at the top of the water in a boat sobbing, he sort of drifts off (rather like me) and drowns. I just didn’t get it. Why was this considered so great in France?
I recently saw another French movie, another old one, called A Man and A Woman. It has a great theme song which I can always hum but, again, I didn’t get it. The woman in it couldn’t commit to this race car driver or something like that. I know there are Americans out there who love foreign movies. I like a few of them, such as Amelie and Crouching Tiger, Sleeping Dragon, and many English films. It makes me think I am not of a superior mind, one of those intellects with deep understanding of the deep meanings in obscure films. There is nothing I can do about it, though. Maybe it is because I watched so many years of American TV, not to mention movies. I’m not ashamed to admit that I loved The Sound of Music. Call me a low life. At my age, I’m only going to watch what pleases me.

My Favorite French Recipes


A great window in some little village in Provence

I continue to find that most French people don’t consider Americans to be good cooks. I recently had some French people at my house for the week-end and asked them why this was. While they were scarfing down my bar-b-que and mashed potatoes, they told me that they thought this was because so many Americans ate out at restaurants, and especially fast food places, rather than cook at home. Of course, most Americans that I know, myself included, cook and eat 95% of their meals at home. Eating out is a treat for me, not a daily occurrence. Even when I worked in the States, I took my own food or a frozen meal for lunch. Anyway, I was thinking about what they said and got to thinking that the person who said Americans eat out too much has never once, in the 4 years that I’ve known her, ever cooked a meal for me. Any time we have eaten at her house, it has been take-out food, always good, but all she did was reheat it. I think it is the way of the civilized world now. When there is good food you can buy, when you work full time and you are hungry or having guests, sometimes the easiest way is the best.
A really good way to cook green beans is the recipe below. The fresh basil makes them taste fabulous to me. Before, I had always cooked canned green beans with some bacon and onions and garlic salt. In fact, to this day, my children don’t like fresh green beans, but prefer the soggier canned kind.

Green Beans With Tomatoes (Haricots Verts a la Provencale)

1 pound ripe tomatoes
1 Tb olive oil
1 shallot, finely chopped
1/2 pound green beans, trimmed and cut into 2 or 3 pieces
2 Tbsp chopped fresh basil
salt and pepper

Peel and seed tomatoes and chop coarsely.
Heat the oil in a heavy saucepan over medium heat, add shallot
and garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes until just softened.
Add the chopped tomatoes and continue cooking for about 10 minutes until
the liquid has evaporated and the tomatoes are soft, stirring often. Season
with salt and pepper.
Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil and add the beans and cook until
desired tenderness. Drain, stir into tomatoe mixture, then add basil. The basil makes
this especially good.

A Foggy Morning

We had a whole day of rain on Saturday, unusual and much needed. Of course, this brings to mind all that the people of the South are going through with the hurricane. I can’t imagine such destruction and my thought and prayers go out to them. Back to my happy and blessed life-I vow to enjoy every moment-I love it when I wake up and I can see fog in the valley below. The valley is called, in the old Provencal language, the Valley of Water and I think this is why there is often fog when the weather is right. I jumped in my car and quickly went to my favorite little valley to see if I could get any photos. I should have left earlier as as soon as the sun comes up, the fog disapaites. I enjoyed the experience, none the less.


A little fog can be seen in this photo.


I especially love this cross beside a vineyard, probably put there in memorial to those who died in the wars that so heavily touched the people here.


No fog, but a sign that autumn is almost here with this field of what I call pumpkins. It is a type of squash that tastes similar to pumpkin. I use it to make a really good soup. You can buy a whole one in the markets or just a wedge, which is nice when you are cooking for two. One of these days I may try it making a pumpkin pie.

Ile sur Sorgue

Another beautiful, and popular, village is Ile sur Sorgue. It is a village where the Sorgue River splits in two and then circles it. Full of narrow streets, charming squares and canals with water wheels, it is a little Venice of Provence and best known for its antique market every Sunday. I’ve never been able to find anything affordable there, but it is fun to look.


One of the water wheels on the river.


I love this sign on a cafe there.


Ile sur Sorgue has a fabulous church. Much of it is painted this wonderful blue color. These golden angels are flying on the back wall of the church.


Some more angels sitting on either side of an arch.

Pernes des Fountains

Near Ile Sur Sorgue is an interesting little town with 35 Fountains. You can pick up a map at the information center that shows you a walking route. It takes 2 hours to see them all. We just found a few and, as it was so hot, made it a short stop. There is a very interesting gate to the city here as well, centuries old.


I especially liked this little angel fountain.


The mistral, that Provencal wind that can be very irritating, joined us on our travels and did some interesting things to the clouds over Pernes.

Carpentras


We had to make a quick trip into Carpentras, an interesting little town. There is an ancient 14th century gate left from the past and, right behind the church, almost touching it, is an old Roman arch almost worn smooth. I found these autumn-looking plants for sale there which I wish I had bought.


This door knock with the head of a friendly dog appealed to me.


Here is the beautiful church there, a real mix of styles.