Pamela Druckerman irritates me

I’ve had enough of this woman’s fluff. Everytime she writes a piece in The New York Times she irritates a lot of people because of her myopic unworldliness. She’s an ingénue. The only reason I’m writing this post is because the comments section of her March 25th piece (which I’ve just read) is closed.  It’s entitled Je Suis Sick of This.  That title is about as puerile and petulant as the titles of her books.  She might be a seasoned book author with such highbrow titles as French Children Don’t Throw Food and Bébé Day by Day to her name, but I’m a seasoned Parisian with over 25 years of living in Paris under my belt. An ordinary resident, I also work in an ordinary office with ordinary people. I don’t have a cushy stay-at-home writing job with a New York Times expense account. 

The following comment of hers, which provoked me to write this post, is erroneous and reveals her naïveté – “Salah Abdeslam, who helped orchestrate the terrorist attacks on Paris, managed to slip out of the country afterward. Four months later, he was found hiding in Molenbeek, the Brussels neighborhood where he grew up. That’s one of the hardest facts to reconcile: these are Europeans attacking their own homelands.”

Europeans attacking their own homelands?? Seriously? The terrorists in question, Madame Druckerman, are about as European as Cherokees. Their homeland, or to use the word in a certain Arab dialect: their bled, is in North Africa. Not France. Not Belgium. But Morocco, Algeria or Tunisia, otherwise called the North African Maghreb. (the Arabic word, ‘maghreb’ means ‘where the sun sets’ because of its westerly direction.) I’ll bet Ms. D didn’t know that. Note: the true translation of bled is ‘village’. Someone who comes from that village is called a blédard. 

The terrorists in question are Muslim Arabs who speak Arabic. (WARNING – do not misconstrue this sentence to believe that all Muslim Arabs who speak Arabic are terrorists.)  They were either born in Europe, or came to Europe as children, or later on as adults, but one thing is sure: their parents are from North Africa, and strong connections remain not only to the region, but to the culture, language and religion. As is common with immigrants the world over, the parents bring their customs with them to their host country. Sure, the children are socialized and receive a European education outside of the home, but inside the home some of them (NOT ALL) might as well be back in the bled. Many of the parents are illiterate. I know what I’m talking about, I’ve been in these homes; I’ve had friends and colleagues from these homes. (And I’ve been received with generous hospitality and kindness, my intention is not to denigrate.)


Here are your “Europeans” – Residents at a market in Molenbeek, a heavily immigrant district of Brussels. Photo credit Daniel Berehulak for The New York Times. 


Example – a few months ago, I asked a work colleague of mine the following question – “Do you feel French or Moroccan?”  (a small group of us, during lunch in the staff cafeteria, were having a discussion about identity.)  Here’s what she replied – “Muslim.”

Huh? We all stared at her. “But Muslim is a religion, not a nationality,” we replied. “You were born in France, you were schooled in France, you have a European passport.”  In fact, she’s an immigrant success story. Her mother and father emigrated to France from Morocco in the 1970s and, thanks to French schools….and to her own diligence, of course, she became a lawyer.

She has lived in Paris her entire life. But she doesn’t feel French. She doesn’t feel European. She feels Muslim. Now why would that be??

And that’s the question I always ask myself – where do people’s loyalties lie?  We see that Salah Abdeslam’s loyalty does not lie with Belgium or Europe!

Later on, I imagined someone asking me the same question. “Juliet, do you feel Canadian or French?”  I cannot imagine in a million years replying “Anglican (or Christian).”

This reader’s comment to Druckerman’s piece sums it up – “Interesting the comment that these are Europeans….no, I don’t think so. Birth isn’t enough to make you a European.  If you consistently and resolutely refuse to assimilate and remain committed to your anti-European beliefs, then you are not a European. You are someone who lives in Europe enjoying all the freedoms your own beliefs would never allow, but you harbor a hate that manifests itself in violence.” 

The headline of Druckerman’s piece, Je suis sick of this (she’s referring to the recent terrorist attacks in Europe) seems puerile and self-indulgent in view of the gravity of the situation. She’s sick of this? How does she think the victims feel?? They’re dead, maimed or psychologically damaged!

For an edifying read, and some truly serious journalism, have a look at the article below taken from The Guardian newspaper. The author, Mark Townsend, provides unusual insight into the radicalisation of young men – From Brighton to the battlefield. It depicts a sad, sad life of violence.


lemon madeleines


On this Easter Sunday in Paris, I’ve just made a batch of lemon madeleines which have an unusual ingredient in them: olive oil.  There’s not a gram of butter in this recipe, nor have I used white flower…sorry, that’s flour.  I also cut down on the granulated sugar.  A madeleine pan is required because madeleine molds are very shallow and give the little cakes the signature ribbed effect.  But if you must improvise (until you run out and buy your madeleine pan), then I suppose you could use a muffin tin and only fill up the cases a third of the way.  But then they wouldn’t be madeleines; they’d be mini-muffins pretending to be madeleines.


Here’s the recipe which uses metric units –

3 eggs, 200 grams of white granulated sugar (I used 170 grams), 3 lemons and 10 cl (or 100 ml) of olive oil.
250 grams of white flour (I used whole-wheat flour which is why these madeleines are brown. You could use all-white flour or mix half and half), half a small sachet of yeast (levure chimique) or 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder.

Preheat oven to 150°C.
Whisk the eggs with the sugar in a bowl.
Finely grate an entire lemon (washed).
Into the bowl add 10 cl of lemon juice, the grated lemon zest, and the olive oil. Add the flour, the yeast or baking powder and blend well.

Grease a madeleine tin with olive or sunflower oil (or butter) and fill each case with the batter.  Slide into a heated oven for 12-15 minutes being careful not to overcook otherwise they’ll be dry and hard.  When the bottoms start to look faintly browned, they’re done. 

Delicious with tea, cider, sparkling white dessert wine.  Or coffee.

Variations – in the past, I’ve made pistachio madeleines which were divine.  Also almond honey and almond lemon.


Easter weekend

Joyeuses Pâques!…for those who celebrate it.

I ran outside on this 3-day Easter weekend and took these photos at the pâtisserie at the end of my street.  Easter is the occasion for chocolatiers to bring out the big ones: the beautifully decorated, hand-made chocolate eggs.  That’s the milk, dark and white Easter chocolate collection, enjoyed by children and adults alike. These three people look utterly entranced as they stand before the altar of chocolate:

Easter March 30, 2013 034Easter March 30, 2013 035Easter March 30, 2013 036Easter March 30, 2013 039Easter March 30, 2013 051

Back to my flat on this cool, overcast March day to savor 3 days off work, make coffee, eat a chocolate Easter egg, and admire these lovely delicate flowers called renoncule, in English ranunculus. Next weekend I’m off to New York.

Easter March 30, 2013 013

an afternoon of shopping (and eating) in the Marais…

Below you’ll find a few of my favourite addresses in the lower half of the Marais district.

Yesterday was one of those perfect winter days…cold, sunny and dry…and I had half a day off work.  So at 12:30 pm I walked away from the skyscrapered skyline of La Défense business district, jumped on the Metro and headed straight to the Marais, getting off at Saint Paul metro station.

My intention was to spend a relaxing hour or two in the Maison Européenne de la Photographie, one of my favourite centers for photographic art, but a long line snaked around the building.  “What are people lining up for?” I asked a man.

“The Bettina Rheims exhibition.” he replied.  As much as I would have loved to view the exhibition, I didn’t want to stand in line, so I left with the plan to return another day.  Inspired by Diane Arbus and Helmut Newton, Rheims is a French photographer known for her provocative portraits of famous women.

Next on my To Do list was lunch.  But where?  Spoiled for choice, I stood in a patch of sunlight and contemplated my options.  Mexican at La Perla?  A full French meal at Le Coude Fou bistro?  A plate of salmon – gravlax, tartare, Scottish smoked and sashimi – at Autour du Saumon?  I decided on street food so I could stay outdoors and enjoy the sunshine.  Walking up the rue Vieille du Temple on my way to Chez Marianne for a take-out falafel sandwich, a shop sign on my right caught my eye.  Pozzetto.  I knew that name.  It was the Italian place that sold the divine hot chocolate and gelati on the rue du Roi du Sicile.  But this was a new and sleek Pozzetto located at 16, rue Vieille du Temple.  Pushing open the door and stepping inside, I was greeted by one of my most favourite sounds – the steam and hiss of a real espresso machine. 

Buon giorno!” said a smiling man from behind the counter.  “Buon giorno!” I replied.  I could feel myself being pulled in to the sounds and smells of my favourite country, Italy.  Operation seduction, as the French say.  They serve food in this shop whereas the other shop serves only ice creams and hot chocolate.  I perused the menu and decided on a cold-cut sandwich.  “The mortadella is good,” suggested the man behind the counter.

I decided on bresaola which he served on a plate with a small bread roll called a rosetta. And because it was cold outside, I ordered a cup of cioccolato caldo, irresistible not-too-sweet hot chocolate that’s so thick it’s almost like pudding.  As I ate, I spied a plate of Italian pastries sitting on the counter.  I recognized one of them from my visit to Naples last year.  Pointing to it, I asked him what it was called.  Sfogliatelle, he replied, sing-songing the word.  Sfo-lya-tell-eh. It’s a flaky clam-shaped shell filled with a custardy-mixture of ricotta, semolina, candied citrus and cinnamon.  I’ll have one, I said.

On my way out, I purchased a hunk of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, direct from Parma, and ordered a double espresso to go.  For everything I paid 23 euros.

The street running parallel to the rue Vieille du Temple is the rue du Bourg Tibourg.  This is where Mariage Frères is located (as well as the authentic French bisto, Le Coude Fou, that I recommend.)  Serious tea lovers, upon arrival or departing, should genuflect in reverence because this is truly a Parisian tea temple.  Even if you don’t like tea, step across the threshold and just gaze around you.  Wooden walls have deep shelves filled with large black canisters.  Inside those metal canisters are hundreds of different types of tea leaves.  A lot of smelling goes on here.  Inquire about a particular tea and the salesperson will take down a canister, remove the lid, and hold the canister towards you.  Stick your head inside and deeply inhale the magnificent fragrance.

My current favourite is Marco Polo, a fruity and flowery black tea that I find very refreshing, especially around 4 o’clock in the afternoon.  Here’s how they describe it – Fragrances of Chinese and Tibetan flowers lend it a unique taste.  Its extraordinary bouquet makes Marco Polo the most legendary of flavoured teas

They also sell tea pots, tea cups, mugs, canisters, gingerbread and other items.  There’s also a small in-house restaurant that’s always crowded (and expensive.)

Back on the rue Vieille du Temple at the corner of rue des Francs Bourgeois is Fragonard Parfumerie.  The perfect place for inexpensive gifts (hand and body creams, perfumes and eaux de toilette, candles, soaps and shower gels, etc.)  I always pick up several transparent glycerine soaps with a floral scent that cost only 5 euros apiece.  They make perfect gifts, stocking stuffers, and I take one with me when travelling. 


Mariana, my Brazilian work colleague, told me about Natura Brasil cosmetics and hair and skin products.  Responsible for the environmental impact of their activities, Natura Brasil is now recognised as the second most committed business to sustainable development in the world. They have two boutiques in Paris.  I went to the one located at 35 rue Sainte Croix de la Bretonnerie and bought shampoo and conditioner enriched with murumuru butter, known for its restorative and nourishing benefits.  Native from Amazonia, the murumuru palm tree has a rich pulp that that contains extraordinary regenerating properties for hair.   I also bought a tube of non-greasy hand cream containing maracujá (passion fruit) oïl rich in Omega 6 and a bottle of toner containing horse chestnut extract and Vitamin E.  All of their products have a fresh, fruity fragrance and I love their eco-friendly packaging.  However, the products are not 100% natural and chemical-free.  I’ll be doing a post in the near future on natural skin products such as Weleda, Dr. Hauschka, REN and other names.


My last stop was at a small boutique that sells fabrics, jewellery, rugs and clothes from India.  The prices are the lowest I’ve ever seen.  I purchased a huge scarf in hand-printed batik cotton for only 20 euros (whose colours remind me of Delft porcelain) and an ankle-length skirt in Indian cotton (49 euros) that you can twist and throw in a suitcase.  The boutique is called Bada Bunta, the Frenchman who owns it is adorable, and the address is 18 rue de Jouy We chatted for a long time.  He’s passionate about India, he learned Hindi and travels to India twice a year on buying trips.


I hadn’t planned on doing any shopping at all…but, once a shopper always a shopper, I guess.  In exactly 3 weeks I’ll be in New York City doing more of the same.    Maison Européenne de la Photographie


lies, lies and more lies…


Last week, The New York Times ran several articles on Hillary Clinton’s bewildering involvement in Libya. They were right to do so because probing, unanswered questions remain on the subject. Here are photos of Hillary Clinton in Libya in 2011. Despite the fact that she’s posing with gangsters and militia men capable of ripping your heart out with a bayonet, she’s smiling. She looks pleased with herself as she and her new friends flash the V for Victory sign with their fingers. What was she doing there? And why would an American woman, or any self-respecting woman for that matter, be cohorting with people like these … in Libya of all places?  These photos are chilling


Based on lies and yielding the same tragic consequences, the U.S.-led intervention in Libya resembled the Iraq intervention eight years earlier: they had no business being there. Here she is smiling again. They’re all smiling, even the young man who is missing a leg.  These images are called photo ops.  Effective propaganda for some.  But really, who do they think they’re kidding?


The lies used to justify military intervention and oust Muammar Gaddafi are as follows 

  • a humanitarian effort to stop the imminent slaughter of civilians in Benghazi,
  • the Libyan leader was planning genocidal attacks against his domestic enemies,
  • the Libyan regime might have stockpiles of chemical weapons.

Those weren’t the real reasons.  Far from it. 

A few reasons the U.S. administration, spearheaded by Hawkish Hillary, made the decision to oust Gaddafi were this –

  • Gaddafi wanted to nationalize Libyan oil and sell it in non-US dollar transactions,
  • the U.S. did not tolerate Gaddafi’s anti-imperialist stance and his support for Pan-Africanism,
  • Gaddafi advocated a new “Gold Standard,” replacing dollars (and the euro) with gold dinars. The quantity of Libyan gold and silver was valued at more than $7 billion,
  • in order to maintain dollar hegemony as the world’s reserve currency, Washington was determined to prevent this from happening,
  • the gold standard was intended to establish a pan-African currency based on the Libyan dinar. This plan was designed to provide the Francophone African Countries with an alternative to the French franc (CFA). French intelligence officers discovered the plan shortly after the current rebellion began. This was one of the factors that influenced President Nicolas Sarkozy’s decision to commit France to the attack on Libya.

The biggest fear was that Libya might lead North Africa into a high degree of economic independence with a new pan-African currency.

So the U.S. (and its allies) blew up Libya, leaving another national wreck, fueling Islamic extremism, and dispersing weapons region-wide. It also opened the floodgates to thousands of migrants heading to Europe on small boats, hundreds drowning along the way.

“We came, we saw, he died,” Clinton laughed as she heard of Gaddafi’s death, (a brutal, savage and sadistic death, possibly perpetrated by those same men she’s seen posing with above.)

She also said this – “We will support a process of democratizing that respects the rule of law, that respects the rights of women and minorities and young people, that creates independent institutions like a free press and an independent judiciary.” Ah yes, the famous “we’re here to establish democracy in the Middle East” fallacy, the biggest untruth of all. 

All lies. A more apt description would be “We came, we deposed a dictator who guaranteed stability in the region, we bombed hundreds of innocent civilians, we walked away and left an enormous vacuum behind us.” Today Libya is a failed state (run by hundreds of private militias) and a terrorist haven. Hillary Rodham Clinton, so-called progressive feminist, paved the way for hundreds of women and young girls to be abducted, tortured and raped by armed rebel militias during the uprising.  Not a legacy to be proud of.

Is it any surprise that American Foreign Policy is so hated and mistrusted abroad?

Clinton also promised that the U.S. would provide $40 million to help Libya secure and destroy dangerous stockpiles of weapons. Wrong. Libya fell in 2011 and by 2012 undercover operations were funnelling weapons from Benghazi, Libya to rebels in Syria.  Because the break-up of Syria was next on the Western Neoconservative agenda.

Last year I wrote a blog post entitled Huddled masses yearning to breathe free:

How ironic that the tempest-tossed are washing up on the shores of Europe.

Three years ago the United States and its European allies initiated a bombing campaign that destroyed the regime of Moammar Kadhafi in Libya.  When Kadhafi died, someone said “Do you know what’s been killed?  The entire SAHEL.”  The SAHEL is a zone in Africa that stretches west to east from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea.  It comprises a dozen countries including central Mali, South Sudan, northern Eritrea, northern Nigeria, southern Mauritania, etc.

Since Kadhafi’s overthrow, the Libyan state has ceased to exist and the SAHEL region, bereft of its longstanding chief patron, is dangerously destabilized.  According to Amnesty International, “Armed groups and militias are running amok throughout Libya, launching indiscriminate attacks on civilian areas and committing widespread abuses.”

Now that lawlessness and a long, unpatrolled Libyan coastline has made life easy for smugglers (whereas under Kadhafi’s regime this was not the case), the majority of migrants are flooding in from the SAHEL region of Africa and the Middle East.  For would-be migrants, Libya is now the main transportation hub and a gigantic funnel to Europe.

The human disasters that flow from Western meddling and military interventions in North Africa, the Sub-Saharan region and the Middle East – let’s not even mention Iraq – is a tragedy of Shakespearean proportions.  Many on the receiving end are showing up, displaced and desperate, on the West’s doorstep.