two Saturday night lockdown movies

I can’t think of anything better to do on a lockdown Saturday night than to watch a great movie. Kiss Me Deadly, based on the crime novel by Mickey Spillane and featuring Cloris Leachman in her film debut is what I’ll be watching tonight. Leachman died four days ago at the age of 94.

The opening scene alone is worth watching: a barefooted blonde in a trench coat running down a deserted highway at night against the sound of great music. This is film noir at its best. Made in 1955.

Note: for a few seconds, while the opening credits run, the sound cuts off, but comes back on again. Link below.

But if crime isn’t your cup of tea, then I recommend another great film: Rod Serling’s Patterns from 1956 and starring Van Heflin. It has over a million hits on YouTube.

Why do I love these old films? Because they’re time capsules, bearing witness to history and serving as reminders of a forgotten age.

(189) Kiss Me Deadly – HD Film Noir From The Vault – YouTube

Patterns (1956) ROD SERLING

(189) Patterns (1956) ROD SERLING – YouTube

The effects of Brexit. Marks and Spencer shops now empty in Paris.

I know, I know. There are far more pressing issues in the world than my little round jar of Marmite, my favorite crunchy peanut butter, my licorice allsorts or my milk chocolate digestive biscuits to eat with my morning coffee or afternoon tea. But in my small world Marks and Spencer, or Marks and Sparks as my English mother used to call it, plays a significant food role. It saddens me to go there and see nothing but near-empty shelves. And they’re getting emptier and emptier! Yesterday I grabbed one of the last tins of baked bins standing, a bottle of Worcestershire sauce and a bag of gluten-free tortilla chips.

photo LP/Delphine Goldsztejn

A view shows empty shelves at a Marks & Spencer food store in Paris, France January 5, 2021. The sign reads “Due to new UK/EU import legislation, we’re sorry some of your favourites might be missing. We’re working hard to get them back soon.” REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes

So, this is one of the many wonders of Brexit, is it? What did those hideous Leave voters promise Brexit to be once it was rammed through at the last minute by the blustering Bojo (Boris Johnson)? The sunny uplands? No, the sunlit uplands of a golden age! A bright new dawn!

From The GuardianFor all the triumphalist claims of the Brexiters, the sunny uplands they told us to expect are no more than another cold, dark, wet winter’s day.

The Brexit deal itself is nothing but thin gruel. It will make it much harder for Britain to sell services to EU countries, where we were once advantaged. Britons will lose their right to freely travel, work and settle in other European countries. British exports will for the first time in decades face checks on their origins and compliance with EU regulations.

After nearly half a century of closer integration with the European economy, Britain is now locked into needlessly throwing up new barriers to trade with our closest neighbours. As the past few days has shown, the ports can quickly descend into chaos. Even if implementation of the deal is smooth – a big if – it will prove costly to the UK economy. That means fewer good jobs, lower incomes and higher prices.

Another example is a commercial cheesemaker in Cheshire who has been left with a £250,000 Brexit hole in his business as a direct result of the UK’s departure from the EU on 1 January. He says he had hoped to take part in the “sunny uplands” promised by the government post-Brexit but has instead seen the viability of his online retail come to a “dead stop”.

“It’s as if someone forgot to negotiate this part of the deal, they forgot that there needed to be an exemption or allowance for the direct consumer sales.”

To save his business he will now switch a £1m investment he was planning to make in a new distribution centre in Cheshire, England to the European Union, with the loss of 20 jobs and tax revenue to the UK.

“I’m now going to invest in France, provide French employment, and contribute to the EU tax system,” says the cheesemaker, “Which was pretty much going against the whole reason that we were meant to be leaving.”

In yesterday’s LE MONDE – After Brexit, British citizen status in Europe is equivalent to that of the Chinese tourist. (Ouch!) The most dramatic consequence of Brexit is the loss of European citizenship for the British. On December 31, 2020, sixty-seven million British nationals lost the right to settle and work in the EU and in other countries. Likewise, EU citizens have lost these rights in UK territories. This is the greatest loss of rights that we can ever remember.

So getting back to my Marmite and licorice allsorts, which was the origin of this whole story, here’s a really good video I found of the M&S stores in Paris back in 2013. Now those were sunny days!

(186) Marks & Spencer Paris – YouTube

pajama party!

It was a freezing cold night when I headed over to my friend’s apartment at 5 pm on Saturday. We were going to celebrate my recent acquisition of French citizenship with – what else? – a bottle of French champagne followed by a simple home-cooked meal.

France is currently under curfew and so, fearing that I’d turn into a pumpkin if I was to be found outdoors at the strike of 6 pm, I rushed across town and made it to his apartment just minutes before the fated hour. Here’s what a main Parisian boulevard looked like at 7 pm on a Saturday night: completely empty, shops and restaurants shuttered.

We started with shrimp-stuffed lemon and then roasted cod and tapenade. French cheese and bread followed. All accompanied with an Alsatian red wine. My friend had wanted to select a wine from a different region, but the wine merchant said – Oh, non, non, monsieur ! You cannot drink that with codfish.

For dessert we had a small chocolate confection from pastry chef, Cyril Lignac.

And gifts! In honor of my new French citizenship.

A perfumed candle from Diptyque and thin vanilla waffles from the Maison Méert, a Lille family institution dating from 1849. Delicious with coffee or afternoon tea. Miam ! Merci encore !

I’m French!

I acquired French citizenship! Ha ha. Je suis française. In fact, I’ve been French for two months now and didn’t even know it. Two days ago I found the belated letter in my mailbox –

What was my reaction as I stood in the lobby of my apartment building, letter in hand? Surprising calm. I’ve lived here for such a long time, have worked 95 per cent of that time, and forked out A LOT in taxes …so I have paid my dues. But it was a funny feeling all the same.

Je suis française,” I said out loud as I pushed open the lobby door and headed off to work, a spring in my step. I’ve never uttered those words before.

I told my boss and some of my colleagues. Everyone congratulated me, it was a novel experience.

“So, now you have dual nationality!” exclaimed a colleague.

“Well, triple, actually,” I replied. (Canadian, British and now French.)

I’ve decided not to be critical of the French anymore because (a) I’m one of them now, and (b) I feel privileged and, well, grateful. Thank you, France. Merci.

If my parents were alive, I think they’d be astonished and then tickled pink.

This all started because of BREXIT and that dreadful man, Boris Johnson. It was terrible. British nationals suddenly found themselves stripped of their European citizenship. It was a rude jolt. Imagine being European your whole life – or for decades, as was my case – and then waking up one morning to find that you’re no longer European. What’s worse is that we British nationals living outside of the U.K. were denied the right to vote. I don’t find that very democratic.

I had to get that status back, which is why I applied for French citizenship. The process was arduous, costly and took two years from beginning to end. But totally worth it.

Here’s the post I wrote in September 2019, weeks before my interview at the Préfecture de Police to obtain French citizenship. It’s about the beauty (and necessity) of being bilingual.

the beauty of bilingualism | Juliet in Paris

dinner for one, New Year’s Eve belated

My intent was to prepare a simple but delicious supper for myself on New Year’s Eve. But that didn’t happen. By 8 pm I was lying on my bed watching Alfred Hitchcock’s Dial M for Murder on my DVD player, and by 10:30 I was fast asleep. Things don’t always go according to plan. I guess I zonked out because of the four days I had spent with the kids. There was also an adorable but rambunctious cat that I babysat (catsat?). So I made my dinner on the eve of January 1st instead.

Leaving the office at 4 pm on Thursday, I raced to my local fish merchant who sells the freshest and most beautiful fish and shellfish. I knew it’d be crowded. And it was. A long queue of people all wanting their fresh oysters, shellfish, scallops, smoked salmon and fresh fish for their December 31st meal. So I left because no one was practicing social distancing and I don’t like standing in a queue. I managed to find everything I needed at my trusty local MONOPRIX: 4 fresh scallops (coquilles St Jacques), parsnips with which to make a purée and baby spinach to make a salad with sliced beetroot, orange and crumbled goat’s cheese. The day before I had bought a bottle of crémant (fizzy white wine), also called poor man’s champagne – delicious, especially if topped up with blackcurrant liqueur to make a cocktail called kir.

Oh, at another market I bought a lot of plump black Greek olives with which to make a fig tapenade. Warning: addictive! The sweetness of the dried figs cuts through the saltiness of the olives. Very easy to make and a perfect hors d’oeuvre to serve with the crémant or champagne. Actually, what was time-consuming was hand-pitting the olives which is why I like listening to the radio and podcasts while I cook. Throw into a mixer and add a teaspoon of Dijon mustard, a few capers, one garlic clove, lemon juice, the cut up dried figs, a splash of olive oil and water. Whizz and serve on very good crackers.

Most French people eat foie gras on December 31st, but I don’t like it. Literally meaning “fatty liver” the process is to ram a pipe down the throats of male ducks and geese twice a day and pump grain and fat into them to fatten up their livers. Barbaric.

I added a potato to the parsnip purée because I thought the taste might be too parsnippy without it. Cauliflower could also work. Peel, chop and boil in milk then purée. I used a hand-held potato masher. Add salt, pepper, a knob of butter and a hint of nutmeg.

I asked the Monoprix fishmonger how long I should cook the scallops. I had read many Anglo recipes that all said 2 to 3 minutes on each side. My French fishmonger said “30 seconds on each side, no longer.”

“Not 2 to 3 minutes?” I said. He looked at me in horror and said “Absolument pas, ma chère dame. Si vous voulez savoir la vérité, je mange mes coquilles st jacques crues !” Translation: Absolutely not, my dear lady. If you want to know the truth, I eat my scallops raw!

Now it was my turn to look surprised. Raw? Sort of like sushi, I guess. Here are the scallops, so fresh they were literally scraped off the shell. I rinsed them under cold water, dried them thoroughly, heated a skillet until very hot, threw in some butter and when the butter began to foam and turn brown I gently put in the scallops, not touching one another, and just seared them. Salt and pepper, not much; lemon juice if you want or why not a splash of white wine or champagne. 30 seconds each side (60 seconds each side, if you want), and Bob’s your uncle. Forget the fancy sauces. If all your ingredients are super fresh, au naturel is best. The danger of overcooking scallops is they become tough, and that would be a shame.

There are so many beautiful French white wines that you could serve with this: Sancerre, Chablis, Vouvray, a Pouilly-Fumé from the Loire or a Pouilly-Fuissé from Burgundy. I finished off my bottle of crémant. Salad, cheese to follow and a light dessert would have been nice, but I forgot to make the salad and didn’t have any cheese or dessert.

I love cooking. I started young, around 11 years old, maybe younger, encouraged by my mother who cooked a lot and made her own bread and everything else. From our kitchen came a lot of love, warmth and nourishment in all forms.

I wish you a happy, healthy New Year.