the best banana bread

What’s great about this BB is that it’s super light. I made it tonight after work because tomorrow – for one day only, thank goodness – the temperature will shoot up to 39°C (102°F) and I won’t want to turn the oven on.

Up until now, we’ve been blessed with the most gorgeous weather: warm and sunny with a constant cool breeze.

I reduced the amount of sugar, using half a cup instead of three-quarters. I also used olive oil instead of butter. The chopped walnuts are optional, but make a nice addition. If you don’t have a proper bread tin, make muffins in a muffin tin. That’s what I did.


3 very ripe medium bananas ( 270 gm) ¾ cup dark brown sugar, 90 gm 2 Tbsp. honey , apple butter or maple syrup(25 ml) 2 eggs ½ cup melted butter or extra virgin olive oil ( not too spicy) (125 ml) 1 tsp. vanilla extract ( 5ml) 1 1/3 cup unbleached all purpose flour (325 ml) 1 tsp. baking powder (5 ml) ½ tsp. baking soda (2 ml) ½ tsp. salt (2 ml) 2 tsp. ground cinnamon (10 ml) Chopped walnuts, optional Freshly grated nutmeg, to taste Preheat oven to 350 F In a large bowl, mash bananas, leaving them chunky with brown sugar, eggs, honey, oil or melted butter and vanilla. Sift dry ingredients into a bowl and add to banana mixture, blending with masher again just until flour is absorbed . Add chopped walnuts, if desired . Makes 3 small loaves 3 ¼ x 6“ each 2“ deep Bake 350 F for 20 – 25 minutes until tester comes out dry and tops are springy.

Here’s Christine, the author of this recipe. I think she lives in France. She used super-ripe bananas, I used just ordinary ones.

pesto presto, a simple summertime salad, and chilled rosé

I was about to dig into this salad an hour ago when I said “Dang! That’s one beautiful looking plate …” and I photographed it before eating.

It’s important to use quality ingredients: the best olive oil, the best mozza, the best summer tomatoes, sea salt, etc. This salad takes only 5 minutes to make.

Fresh basil is in abundance during the summer. I buy a plant because it lasts longer and I can pick off the leaves when I need them. Rinse them, pat them dry on paper towels and just tear them and throw onto the salad.

So what to do with fresh basil? Why, make pesto, of course! This too takes only 5 minutes. You need a small food chopper or a mortar and pestle. Here’s my Moulinex hachoir that I use all the time, it cost me 45 euros.

I didn’t make enough, I should have doubled or tripled this. What’s great about making your own is you can make it extra garlicky, use parmesan or pecorino (or both) and walnuts instead of pine nuts. I’ve never been a fan of pine nuts.

Here’s what I had for dinner yesterday; simple and tasty on a summery Saturday night. I sprinkled on more grated parmesan cheese. If you can, buy a chunk of real parmesan or pecorino and hand grate it.

Dang, that wine was good. Wines from the Loire Valley are my favorite.

For the pesto recipe, click on this link below called ‘Two Pesto Variations’ that I posted in May 2018. Bon appétit !

AOC’s epic speech, and what many men don’t know

I was blown away by Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortezs recent speech excoriating Republican representative of Florida, Ted Yoho, after he had verbally assaulted her on the steps of the U.S. Capital. It’s in all the European papers: on the front page of Le Monde (her searing words translated into French), The Guardian and elsewhere. It blows me away that some mature men need to be (publicly) scolded by a 30 year old, as if they were recalcitrant children.

And did you hear Yoho’s feeble apology? After denying that he accosted AOC, he went on to say “I cannot apologize for my passion or for loving my God, my family and my country.” Huh?

Here’s what a lot of men don’t know: women of all ages experience harassment and incivilities from men all the time, mostly from complete strangers as we go about our business in our daily lives. As AOC said – “this is nothing new”. But why don’t men know about it? Because we don’t mention it. Why bother? It’s so widespread and commonplace, most of us prefer to just carry on and put the hurtful words behind us (and not take it personally.)

As I sit here at my kitchen table editing my soon-to-be-published memoir, it seemed fitting to print an excerpt, here on my blog, of my first assault at the age of 18, my first physical assault, that is. As for verbal assaults, sexual innuendos, pestering and wolf whistles, all that started at around the age of 13.

To be frank, I wasn’t even going to put this in my book, I stuck it in at the last minute. I had viewed this type of behavior as so ordinary, it hadn’t occurred to me that it might be noteworthy or interesting. But since the MeToo movement and the unfurling of thousands and thousands of sexual misconduct stories, I figured “What the heck, I’ll throw my story onto the heap.”

But I want MEN to read this blog post (as well as women.) I want them to know what goes on in the daily lives of their daughters, sisters, wives, aunts, mothers, etc. Please pass this post on to men who you know and love. MEN (good men, not the creepy kind): we need you to step in, stand up and speak out. We need your support!

I was eighteen and seeking a summer job. My mother told me that her best friend, Anne, who ran her own public relations agency, had a client who was hiring for the summer season.

“What does this client do?” I asked.

“It’s a husband and wife team who own a lakeside resort in Algonquin Park.”

Two hundred miles north of Toronto, Algonquin Park is a vast swathe of pristine forest, lakes and rivers dotted with campsites, cabins and inns. The husband and wife, according to Anne, were upstanding members of the Toronto community and well-known in the hotel and lodging industry. She set up a meeting. A few days later I made my way to their house, not far from ours, and knocked on the door. The man who opened it – beefy and silver-haired with bushy eyebrows – looked to be in his mid-sixties. He introduced himself as the resort owner.

“Come in, come in,” he said, ushering me inside and guiding me down the hallway with a hand on my shoulder. “My wife is up at the lodge, opening it for the season. I was just making coffee, would you like some?”

It happened fast, one minute we were sitting on the couch chatting, the next second he lunged at me. With sheer brute force he shoved me backwards onto the couch, slithered on top of me and pinned me down. Then he groped my body all over while trying to kiss me. I guess I weighed around 100 pounds compared to his undoubtedly 200 plus. Utterly repulsed by the grotesque thing on top of me – minutes ago a cordial man, now a grunting beast – and all the while struggling and yelling at him to get off, I somehow managed, in a surge of adrenalin-fuelled superhuman strength, to push him off of me and onto the floor. Then I ran out of there.

“How did the meeting go, dear?” my mother asked when I got home.

“OK,” I said, grabbing a bag of jellybeans and heading to the living room to flop onto the sofa, cuddle with the cat and watch The Mary Tyler Moore Show on TV.

I had just been violated, but it didn’t occur to me to tell anyone. For weeks afterward, I’d have bruises all over my body. I was confused and conflicted, and didn’t have a word to articulate what had just happened to me. The word is ‘assault.’

There was a muteness back then, and little awareness. We had never had a conversation about rape or harassment or how to react in the face of physical male aggression. There was no handbook or instruction manual, so we had to deal with things as best we could on our own. I was too naive to understand that I had been preyed upon, and did not know the words that are common parlance today: abuse. domination. molestation. sexual violence. impunity. victim shaming.

The summer before, on a night train down to Marseilles, I was stretched across four seats in an unoccupied compartment, sleeping. I was on my way to Aix-en-Provence to learn French at the summer school there. In the middle of the night, as the train clacked and rumbled through shuttered towns and across dark swathes of countryside, I awoke to find a well-dressed man sitting upright on the seat directly across from me. He must have crept into the compartment while I was sleeping. In the semidarkness I discerned some jerky movements going on. It took me a few seconds to comprehend his actions: while watching me stretched out and sleeping, he was pleasuring himself. Enraged, I sat bolt upright and screamed at him to get out. If he didn’t, I threatened, I’d pull the emergency alarm. He fled the compartment. I was seventeen years old. I never told my parents.

I never told them either about the tree-men, the Arabs who gathered at dusk in the olive trees that ringed the women’s residence hall on the Aix-en-Provence university campus. It was the oddest, most unforgettable sight. Climbing the tree trunks like monkeys, they’d perch on the higher boughs, intent on spying on us before we lowered the shutters at nightfall. My roommate was an older girl from Illinois. One evening we stood stock-still in the half-light of our room, watching them through the window.

“But what on earth are they doing?” I said, my voice betraying the naivety of my teenage self.

“They come to look at us,” she said.

“Us? You and me?”

“All of us. All of the women in this building.”

The next night we were startled by screams coming from the communal bathroom at the end of the corridor. All the women on my floor, myself included, tore down the hall to find one of us wrapped in a large towel and standing outside a shower stall. She was semi-hysterical, her hair sopping wet and still shampooed. Blobs of lather fell onto her shuddering shoulders.

“What happened?” we cried in one voice, instinctively forming a protective circle around her.

She had been taking a shower, she told us, when one of the Arab men strolled in.

“Just like that?”

“Just like that,” she said, shaking with fright.

“And what did he do?”

“He stood outside the shower door and watched me through the glass.”

But what was equally revolting was the reaction of the French administrators who laughed in our faces. A group of us marched over to the main office to complain, not only about the presence of the men on the premises, but the overall absence of security. We feel unprotected, we told them. They just laughed, or rather sneered, as if we were the foreign intrusion, and not the tree-men.

So why did I never mention these transgressions to my parents? Why did I, and most women back then, keep quiet?

Because it was the 1970s, and that’s what it was like back then.

Because it was becoming clear to me that the life of a female is full of peril, the peril being predatory men. And navigating such a life was like crossing a grassy field studded with land mines.

Because I loved my mother and father, and didn’t want to upset them.

Because I intuited that women have a price to pay, just for being women.

Because it was a given, the way of the world. Pestering, molestation, assault, as if our bodies were public property; a violation so trivialized and normalized back then (joked about, even) that it wasn’t worth mentioning. And so we dealt with it alone, while protecting both the perpetrator and our parents.



Here’s yesterday’s front page of Le Monde. If you scroll down, you’ll hear a portion of AOC’s speech with French subtitles. This is important because male chauvinism, abusive behavior towards women and anti-feminism is rife in France. French people need to hear this. Only recently, President Macron nominated a man to be Minister of the Interior. His name is Gérald Darmanin and he’s been accused of rape. But Macron protects him and, prior to any investigation, goes so far as portraying him as the victim.



Paris by night (with the kids)

The weather here is perfection: blue sky, abundant sunshine, cool breeze and not too hot. Last night the kids and I went out at 9:30 pm to the amusement park in the Tuileries Gardens. To get there, we strolled down the rue de Rivoli from Place de la Concorde in the gathering dusk. Note the darkening colors of the sky from lilac blue tinged with orange to midnight blue.

This is the giant ferris wheel called La Grande Roue. From the top, you can see all of Paris.

Empty. Because of COVID-19, very few tourists. No Americans. All businesses in the tourist and hospitality industry are suffering. Our very capable government is pumping billions into the economy in an attempt to keep everything afloat. I have complete confidence in President Macron’s exceptional measures and policies.

Here’s the west wing of the Louvre which overlooks the Tuileries Gardens. Tuileries comes from the word, tuile, which means ’tile’. Since the 13th century and before Queen Catherine de Medici moved into the Louvre palace in 1559, the area had been occupied by tile-making factories.

We left the amusement park at around 11:30 and strolled up the rue de Rivoli towards the Place de la Concorde. It was a perfect warm midsummer night. I loved this illuminated tuk-tuk.

We had every intention of jumping on the metro at Concorde but, as I said, the night was beautiful, so we decided to walk to the Champs-Elysées. I also wanted to show my young companions where I used to work. Taking the road called rue du Boissy d’Anglas which runs off the Place de la Concorde and alongside the Hôtel Crillon on one side and the American Embassy on the other, I took them to number 9 which is where I used to work in an international boutique law firm.

“I met and made a lot of friends here,” I told them, referring to my Swedish friend and 4 British friends. But no French friends. I have very few.

Then we strolled back to the Place de la Concorde and the American Embassy (cops everywhere, so we felt safe) and headed west along the avenue Gabriel. Suddenly it got very dark and the street lights were dim. On our left was a dark leafy park, on our right policeman with rifles standing guard in sentry boxes. Rows of paddy wagons with Gendarmerie emblazoned on the side were lined along the avenue Gabriel. Why? Because we were passing the back garden of the Elysee: the offices and apartments of the President. The kids were impressed.

“You mean President Macron lives here?!?” they said. Yes, I said before explaining that the Elysee Palace is the official residence and workplace of the President of the French Republic. I don’t know why the road was so dark, but it was. Of course our every move was scrutinized, but I suppose that a woman out walking with two kids didn’t seem threatening. Although one might wonder why we were out so late …

We came out onto avenue Matignon which leads to the Champs-Elysees. Normally, even at midnight, the Champs-Elysees is filled with tourists during the summer months, the height of the tourist season. This is what it looked like:

We ended up here, eating delicious burgers out on the terrace. Then we jumped on the metro at George V. Twenty minutes later we were home by 1:15 am.

the French Riviera

One year ago, before the word ‘Coronavirus’ became part of our daily vocabulary, I was sunbathing on the beach in Nice. I had just completed an 11-day train trip around Italy, and the French Riviera, or the Côte d’Azur as it’s called here, was the last stop on my journey. The entire trip, from beginning to end, was heavenly.

If, while lying on one of those lounge chairs with the Mediterranean Sea lapping gently at my feet, someone had said to me – “Within less than a year, the world will be ravaged by a life-threatening virus and hundreds of thousands will die”, I would have set down my glass of Prosecco, stared disbelievingly at that person and said “What?

The beach in Nice is pebble, not sand. There are public and private beaches. One of my favorites is the Neptune private beach. You can rent a lounge chair (called a transat) for the day or half a day. 22 euros for the loungers in the first row (closest to the water), 18 euros for the other rows. The private beaches have restaurants, showers and lockers. If you wish, the plagiste (beach boy) will bring your food and drink directly to your lounge chair, or you can eat in the restaurant area (grilled fish, salads, pasta, grilled meats and chilled wines).

A truly hedonistic experience.



The atmospheric Old Town in Nice

This is a speciality of Nice called pissaladière, a pizza pie topped with caramelized onions, anchovies and olives. Yummy! Served warm, it’s delicious. Even yummier washed down with a glass of chilled rosé wine.


Another specialty is socca, a flatbread made from chick pea flour. Super easy to make. Non gluten, it has only 3 ingredients: water, chick pea flour and olive oil.


The Old Town of Nice is a feel-good kind of place. A district to wander in, eat street food, sit in the sun and have a meal accompanied with the local pink wine. In the large square, markets are held daily. There’s bustle, restaurants and shops here.

The last time I was in Nice was around fifteen years ago. Back then, there was a wonderful candy store, called a confiserie, located on the avenue Jean Médecin, the main boulevard running down the center of town. It was an old-fashioned candy store that sold regional specialties, and I remember a kindly, elderly lady served me. All my favorite sweets were in that shop: nougat, calissons, marzipan, all kinds of chocolates and candied fruits. The lady put my purchases into a gorgeous pink paper bag with the name Mimosa printed on it in gold letters. It all seemed like a dream. On this trip, a decade and a half later, I was 99% certain that the shop no longer existed. Nice has been completely modernized by its ambitious, “forward-thinking” mayor, and the consequence is that many of the small speciality shops have been replaced by chain stores like Zara, H&M, Starfucks, I mean, Starbucks, etc. It’s very sad.

So I was strolling down the avenue Jean Médecin imagining where that shop used to be when – lo and behold – there it was, right in front of me, completely unchanged. I stopped dead in my tracks, blinked, then ran into the place. I chatted excitedly to the saleswoman inside (almost greeting her like a long, lost friend); she said it was a family business and they were one of the last specialty sweet shops standing in the region.

These are candied fruits. Delicious.

I purchased my favorite candied mandarin oranges, calissons, and egg-shaped praline chocolates (dyed blue to look like robin’s eggs).

It’s a small shop wedged in between larger stores on either side, with the original marble floor and glass and marble shelves. If you go to Nice, please visit this shop and buy their delicious products. The candied mandarins are divine, and if you haven’t tasted calissons, you’re missing out on a treat.

Calissons are a traditional French candy consisting of a pale yellow paste of candied melons, oranges and ground almonds topped with a thin layer of hard white icing. They have a texture similar to marzipan, but with a fruitier, distinctly melon-like flavour. Calissons are almond-shaped and typically about two inches in length. Calissons are traditionally associated with the town of Aix-en-Provence; consequently, most of the world supply of calissons is still made in the Provence region.

CONFISERIE MIMOSA – 27 avenue Jean Médecin, NICE

Another institution in Nice is Le Grand Café de Lyon, a beautiful Belle Epoque restaurant-café located at 33 avenue Jean Médecin.

I stayed in an excellent, modestly-priced hotel called Ibis Styles Nice Centre Gare located at 3 avenue Durante. Request a room overlooking the inner courtyard. A full buffet breakfast is included in the price of the room, one of the best buffet breakfasts I’ve ever had.

People in the south of France love pizzerias. I ate in two excellent pizza-pasta joints: Pizza Cresci on the bustling pedestrian street, rue Massena, at number 34 and further along at number 37 rue de France, La Trattoria. Both have outside terraces. The pizza is excellent as is the service.

For those of you who haven’t seen my photos and blog posts of my excellent trip to Italy last June (Rome, Lecce and Polignano a Mare in the Puglia region, and Bologna), here’s the link here:

it rained in Lille

“Take off your flip-flops and climb up barefoot,” I said to my 8-year old godson as he began his ascent up the “arraignée” (the spider). I do not know what it’s called in English.

Mais non,” he protested mildly, “J’aime bien mes claquettes.”

No, I like my claquettes, he replied, which is what flip-flops are called here.

“Well, you’re not wearing your claquettes on the streets of Paris, that’s for sure.” I said. “Why not?”
“Because Parisian boys wear proper shoes,” I said. “Or sturdy sandals.”

He and his big sister are coming for 4 or 5 days during the third week of July. Like last summer, their father will put them on the train in Lille and I’ll pick them up at the other end in Paris. It’s an hour’s trip. Just up the road from where I live there’s a lovely Aquatic Center complete with sundeck, several pools, slides and stuff. I imagine we’ll spend a lot of time there. Like everyone else, they’ve been in lockdown for months, poor things. Kids shouldn’t have to be deprived of fun, movement and the freedom to run and play outside, is my opinion.

Neither he nor his sister are big walkers. Last summer we walked a very short distance from the grocery store back to my apartment. “Are we there yet?” So, I guess bus and metro travel will prevail. I don’t own a car.

It rained all day Saturday in Lille. Life is quasi-normal with the exception of facemasks: EVERYONE WEARS THEM, no one complains that its a violation of our civil liberties. Au contraire, it’s a significant protective measure for everyone. Social distancing is practiced: only a certain number of people allowed in a shop. I have two white cotton masks that I actually like (provided by the mayor). Every night I handwash one of them then hang it up to dry over the bathtub. Oddly, I like this ritual, don’t ask me why.

The park re-opened on June 2nd after its Covid closure. I missed its lawn and magnificent chestnut trees.

And that’s about it, really. The weather is beautifully cool here; hope it lasts.


thank gawd someone has finally written a book on this subject

Unfortunately, it wasn’t me.

Sitting at my office desk this morning drinking strong black espresso, eating a highly-calorific chocolate brioche and reading The Guardian online, I yelped then choked on a chocolate chip while reading this excellent article entitled “The thin white lie: challenging the French women stereotype”.

Finally! Boy, this has been a long time coming. There’s only one problem: the book is written by an American and it’s in English. It needs to be translated into French. Don’t tell us the problem, tell them.

Who is “them”, anyway? It’s all explained in the book.

The seductive Parisienne has become a symbol of national identity and inspired countless books – but some writers are speaking out against a harmful, exclusive myth.


Written by Lindsey Tramuta who lives in Paris and hails from Philadelphia, the book in question is titled “The New Parisienne: The Women and Ideas Shaping Paris”.

It counterpoints numerous books that have perpetrated the ridiculous ‘perfect Parisienne’ myth, specifically Mireille Giuliano’s best-selling ‘French women don’t get fat‘ and ‘French women don’t get facelifts‘. Way back in January 2014, while stuffing my face with a caramel chocolate bar, I wrote a blog post challenging Giuliano.

Here are someone’s eloquent words on the topic of Mireille Guiliano –

She has become a very wealthy woman by peddling a whole series of these dubious, aspirational books, which promote the myth of the ultra-chic, ultra-slim French woman, and the general superiority of all-things-Gallic. The members’ forum of her French Women Don’t Get Fat website is very revealing. It’s peopled by a brigade of (largely) North American women who imagine that all their emotional problems will be solved if only they can save up for the longed-for trip to Paris!! It’s all rather pathetic, and shame on Ms Guiliano for exploiting this.


Here’s The Guardian article. On the heels of the #MeToo movement, it and Tramuta’s book is totally zeitgeist.