cherry blintzes with sparkling wine

After purchasing a bag of frozen cherries at Picard, I then went to my local Marks & Spencer (soon to close because of Brexit) and bought some cottage cheese. Of course I’m furious. Marks & Spencer is a part of my childhood and the rest of my growing up years. Talk about comfort food.

Marks & Spencer is closing 11 of its French stores because of problems supplying them with fresh and chilled foods since Brexit. “Supply chain complexities following the UK’s exit from the European Union now make it near impossible for us to serve fresh and chilled products to customers to the high standards they expect, resulting in an ongoing impact to the performance of our business.”

The less said about Brexit here the better.

So in honor of a visiting friend yesterday, I purchased a bottle of crémant (sparkling wine) and made cherry blintzes.

I had the idea of putting the cherry juice into the wine. You could also use kirsch. Many blintz recipes call for cream or ricotta cheese, but I like cottage cheese.

A dollop of sour cream, yogurt or crème fraîche would’ve been nice, but I didn’t have any.

it’s a wrap! the Arc de Triomphe receives the Christo treatment

Last Saturday was too beautiful to stay indoors, so I grabbed my camera and headed to the Champs-Elysées to check out the wrapped Arc de Triomphe that everyone’s talking about. It is indeed a triumph.

There was quite a crowd. As I walked around the monument it changed color with the light and angle.

Heading towards a metro station an hour later, I saw this poster below and gave a little shriek. Hooray! Vivian Maier, the famous but completely unknown photographer (until she died), is having an exhibition in Paris. The last time there was an exhibition in her name, it was in the south of France somewhere.

I’m excited. Her work is exciting. Plus, it’s in a museum in the Luxembourg Gardens that I’ve never visited before. (I’ve visited the Gardens, of course, but not the museum.) I’ll make a day of it. It’s not often that I find myself in that part of Paris …

Here’s the link to the museum with a brief description of Maier –

https://museeduluxembourg.fr/en/agenda/evenement/vivian-maier

the little newspaper that could – Dad’s paper

Not quite sixty years ago, my father created a small newspaper in the basement of our house. It was a trade paper, and it served the graphic arts and printing industry in Canada. He named it PrintAction. Although Dad died suddenly of a heart attack in the early 1990s, the name and the newspaper stuck. No longer in print version, it’s now digital and owned by a business media company.

I never log on to their website, there’s no reason for me to. But something compelled me to do so the other day. And there I found a tribute to PrintAction and its beginnings. It’s well written, but for some unknown reason the name of the founder and visionary isn’t mentioned. I left them a comment at the bottom of the article.

In my memoir I’ve written a lot about my parents. Why? Because they are the spine, the heartbeat and the scaffolding of my life story.

I was tied to my mother and father at a level deeper than that of a mere filial bond.  I loved and honored them. Urbane, witty and literary, they had drawn on their ingenuity and creative talents to build a successful life for themselves in their adopted country. From their hearts flowed goodness and love, and it was in the regenerative rays of that love that I basked and flourished.

 

Here’s a small excerpt from my memoir about my father:

Dad found his calling in Canada. The word ‘action’ characterized him aptly, and it was no accident that his newspaper — Canada’s leading authority on the printing and graphic arts industry — would be titled PrintAction.

Mornings, after he cooked our breakfast, packed our lunchboxes and got us off to school, he’d clatter down the stairs to the basement where his workspace — low-ceilinged, brightly-lit and neat as a pin — served as the offices and production area of his trade paper. Dominating the open space at the foot of the stairs was a large drafting table. Beside it stood a filing cabinet and further along a metal shelving unit. All sorts of paraphernalia sat on those shelves: brushes and pots of rubbery glue; T-squares, triangles and colored markers; Gaebel steel rulers and Rapidograph pens; ink bottles, pens, and Letraset sheets; a small magnifier called a printers’ loupe and a marble roller used to smooth glued columns of text onto stiff white paper called layout boards or dummies: they were tools of the trade for Dad, after-school playthings for me.

When he wasn’t on the telephone or typing copy, he was attending trade fairs and industry events, interviewing people, taking photographs, selling advertising space and visiting the plant where Linotype machines clacked loudly and an offset printing press churned out his publication.

Self-taught and self-directed, Dad loved the freedom of being his own boss and charting his own destiny. He was a principled, forward-thinking man; a creative visionary of sorts. There was something about his face that earned respect from his peers; wholly without artifice it was an honest face with candid eyes and a quiet determination.

John Alexander Young. Born in Northumberland County, England; died in Toronto.

 

I miss you, Dad.

Here’s the PrintAction article with my comment at the bottom:

60 years of print

the dinner was underwhelming

Well, that’s my opinion. I don’t know if my dining partner felt the same way. Last night we met up at Place de la Bastille and strolled leisurely up the rue des Tournelles to a restaurant we’d never been to before: Soon Grill. It’s Korean, and they purportedly specialize in barbecued meat. It was a gorgeous evening, weather-wise, and the rue des Tournelles, indeed the whole of the 3rd arrondissement, is a treasure trove of new discoveries and old finds, constantly renewing itself.

We got there at 7 pm – very early for dinner in France, but the place filled up pretty fast. Never having eaten Korean before, I didn’t really know what to expect. Bigger portions? Better quality meat? More food? I had difficulty eating with the chopsticks, not because they were chopsticks but because they were metal – brass, I think – and unwieldly. I ended up eating with my fingers.

I thought it was a bit theatrical (gimmicky), the grilling of the steak on a small electric grill built right into the table. A server came to cut up the meat and throw some mushrooms and onions onto the grill. Then she left. Was she coming back? Did we have to tend to the grilling of the meat ourselves? And why was there so much lettuce? Tiny brass bowls filled with unidentified foods and spices were scattered here and there. We had to ask what they were.

This couple came with their dog. I would have gladly given it the bits of my meat that were very tough. At least the wine was good. We drank a bourgueil from the Loire Valley.

At meal’s end I was starved. All I had eaten were a few tiny raviolis, some shrimp, some grisly meat and a whole lot of lettuce leaves. I ordered dessert and an espresso.

Et voilà. This is what we paid for the privilege.

We walked back to the party-like atmosphere of the Place de la Bastille, sat on the terrace of a bar and I ordered a G&T (gin and tonic). I would’ve gladly eaten a ham and cheese baguette sandwich had one been on offer.

a new art exhibition at the J-A museum in Paris

When I saw the advertisement on the side of a city bus, I went online and purchased my ticket straight away. I’m going next week. Where? To the Jacquemart-André museum to see the new BOTTICELLI show.

In December 2003 I went to Florence over Christmas (on a night train from Paris). The weather was gorgeous – cold and sunny – and there were very few tourists. I felt like I had the whole beautiful city to myself. Well, me and the Italians, or rather, the Florentines. One day I went to the famous Uffizi Gallery and climbed a massive stone staircase to the Botticelli Room. To my surprise, I found myself entirely alone in that room. Imagine standing three feet away from this masterpiece. I was transfixed. It was a magical moment.

Florentine artist Sandro Botticelli is credited for his contributions to the Italian Renaissance. Widely considered to be one of the most prolific painters of the 15th century, he’s known for his large-scale paintings of mythological subject matter, including Primavera, an allegorical celebration of spring.

This piece is one of the most important Early Renaissance works. Housed in Florence’s famed Uffizi Gallery, it continues to attract viewers with its classical symbolism, elaborate composition, and delicate attention to detail.

Botticelli painted Primavera around 1480 (1480!! That’s 523 years before I stood gazing at it in 2003!) after returning to Florence from Rome, where he was hired to create frescoes in the Sistine Chapel. During this time, he began to turn his attention away Roman Catholic iconography and towards scenes from Greek and Roman mythology.

I then moved on to his next masterpiece: The Birth of Venus.

Created in the late 15th century, this monumental painting has been admired and analyzed for centuries. Today, along with famous pieces like Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa and Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel ceiling, it is regarded as a key work of the Italian Renaissance.

The Birth of Venus shows the recently-born Venus, the Roman goddess associated with love and beauty. Standing nude in an enlarged scallop shell, she is flanked by three figures from Classical mythology: Zephyr, the god of wind; Chloris, Zephyr’s wife and a nymph associated with flowers; and Flora, the Greek goddess of spring. Together, Zephyr and Chloris push Venus toward the shore with their breath, while Flora waits to cover her with a cloak.

I remember feeling so moved by the sheer greatness of the artwork that surrounded me in that empty room, that I wept, so overcome with emotion I was.

I must return to Florence, I haven’t been back since 2003.

My friend, Lori, who lives in California sent me a comment saying I had experienced “Stendhal syndrome”. Huh? What’s that? I googled it.

Stendhal syndrome or Florence syndrome is a psychosomatic condition involving rapid heartbeat, fainting and confusion, allegedly occurring when individuals become exposed to objects, artworks, or phenomena of great beauty and antiquity.

Yup. That’s what happened to me.

Read this article below in The Guardian about a man who suffered a heart attack after looking at Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus!

https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/shortcuts/2018/dec/18/stendhal-syndrome-botticelli-the-birth-of-venus

la rentrée – return to school, work, routine

In France, the beginning of September is called “la rentrée” which means “return, re-entry”. It officially signifies the end of summer vacation and return to work and school. New clothes, new books and school supplies, new haircuts, new art exhibitions (more on that in my next blog post which I’m excited about.) I went to a new hairdresser the day before I returned to work and am pleased with the result.

Already, the presidential election campaign is gearing up (next year is election year.) For the first time, now that I have French citizenship, I’m able to vote! Three days ago, President Macron made a trip down to Marseilles declaring that he wasn’t there to make false promises, but rather a commitment to “project the country into the future” and invest 1.5 billion euros to the city for security, education and hospitals.

Gosh, that’s a lot of money. How come he completely ignored the problems in Marseilles up until now? Oh, right. Because next year is election year.

Let’s see, what else is happening. I’m still slogging away on my memoir (yes, slogging … writing is hard!) The good news is that I’ve reached the Epilogue. I’m an excruciatingly slow writer and I work only on weekends because I have a full-time job. When I told my 17 year old goddaughter last week that I’m still working on my book project, she puffed in protest. “Tata! Are you still working on that darn book? It’s been years! When will it be finished?!” Before the end of the year, I told her. This year.

Some authors are able to write very fast and this baffles me. During the Covid lockdown last year when the world stopped for three months, some of them wrote a book from start to finish during that time period. How is this possible? My problem is that I’m a slow thinker. I need to ponder and process a lot of ideas and info before coming to a just conclusion.

Speaking of authors, I totally respect and agree with Hilary Mantel, the double Booker prize winner, who said in an interview that she feels “ashamed” to be living in the nation that elected the current Conservative government, and that Boris Johnson “should not be in public life”. She opposed BREXIT and hopes to become an Irish citizen to “become European again”. She also questions the relevance of the Royal family. Article below in today’s The Guardian.

2:30 pm on a warm and breezy Saturday afternoon and I’m going to walk to my local library. Afterwards, I’ll do a spot of food shopping. A new butcher has opened up in my neighborhood and everyone is flocking. The quality of the meat is better than the other butchers, I noticed it straight away (and I’m not a big meat eater.) Tonight: Asian meatballs with a salad. I have a bottle of rosé chilling in the fridge. Stay tuned for my next blog post announcing a thrilling new art exhibition in Paris.

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2021/sep/04/hilary-mantel-i-am-ashamed-to-live-in-nation-that-elected-this-government