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 !

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. The government is pumping billions into the economy in an attempt to keep everything afloat.

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.

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.