Tag Archives: Society

Frenchie and the Marriage Proposal

6 Jul

It happened in a tiny park centrally located in Boston’s South End.

It happened in their park.

Their secret reference to the first memories of a date gone well.

Maybe eight benches. A small statue. Flowers. Eleven friends…

… and a soon-to-be fiancé waving around a loving excited heart.

Love must be in the air.

Nothing wrong when a summer starts on such a beautiful note.

First, friends got married. Now, friends get engaged.

And all eleven of us were privy to witness our friend “M.” propose to our friend “K.”

A secret proposal – in their park.

The master plan was hatched. The wheels in motion.

It needed to be a surprise for “K.”

I was in charge of hiding and bringing the suit.

And invaded with excitement I was. Coveting the endearing proposal that was about to take form in front of our very eyes.

Like a white canvas. An invisible painter coloring the scene as the surprise unfolded.

But a bit nervous too.

Nervous feelings seasoned with a certain undefinable voyeuristic ingredient – an ingredient paired with swirling spikes of the mind of having the impression to invade someone’s privacy.

How often do you get to see someone propose and open their most intimate hidden world to others around?

And while we were watching them, those feelings dispelled immediately.

The ominous skies and promise of rain showers gave way to a clear late afternoon amorous sky.

The park was ours. The few people who happened to be around at first were long gone.

And as the answer to the proposal resonated through our group – a charming of course!, the Champagne corks popped in unison and the congratulatory cheers spread through the wind.

The happy couple kissed and hugged. And they shone a happy light on all of us.

I felt lucky. Lucky to be there.

But also lucky to live in Massachusetts where two of my friends, who just happened to be two men, can decide to get engaged in a park – their park – surrounded by friends and no one to tell them otherwise.

And as we all reflected and realized what we had just witnessed – a first for all of us – we probably may not know right away how this seemingly significant day for “K. and M.” will have a far from insignificant effect on some of us in the future.

So we drank in the park.

We drank a lot of Champagne. We celebrated before going to dinner.

A celebration of love – our friends’ love for each other.

A celebration of friendship and what it means to be there for someone when he needs it the most and asks to be surrounded for the most important day of his life.

And while this engagement should truly be regarded as any other engagements occurring daily in our world, it still pains me to say that it was also a celebration for gay marriage and the promise of a tomorrow when same-sex couples won’t need to celebrate the fact that they finally have the same rights as anyone else.

A new road is only rolling out ahead of them.

Bon voyage à tous les deux !

This financier recipe is for them.

I toyed with it for several months now. Never happy with the results.

Too moist. Too cakey.

Too spicy. Not enough.

I was thinking of posting it for Father’s Day. Financiers are my dad’s favorites.

Or maybe for my birthday post. But the recipe just wasn’t ready.

Now it is. And it fits right in with a marriage proposal.

Chocolate as the unequivocal symbol of love and care.

Spicy! – how relationships should be.

And since the word financiers remains a tough word to pronounce for some of my American entourage becoming a distorted fiancés, all the more reasons to eat orange-flavored spicy chocolate fiancés when celebrating an engagement!

Orange-Flavored Spicy Chocolate Financiers

makes 14 financiers

5 Tbsp (70 g) of butter – melted

5 Tbsp of unsweetened cocoa powder

2 Tbsp of sweet white rice flour

1/2 cup (100 g) of blonde cane sugar

1 teaspoon of ground ancho chile

1/4 teaspoon of Cayenne pepper

1/2 teaspoon of ground cloves

3/4 cup (93 g) of whole walnuts – ground

a pinch of sea salt

1 organic orange – finely zested

4 egg whites

1-2 drops of orange extract/flavor

optional: powdered sugar for dusting

Preheat the oven to 375 °F (190 °C).

Prepare a mini-muffin pan with cooking spray.

In a small saucepan, melt the butter and set aside to cool.

In a medium bowl, sift and mix the cocoa powder, the flour, the sugar and the spices. Combine.

In a food processor, finely ground the walnuts. Fold with the flour mixture.

Add a pinch of sea salt and the orange zest. Mix delicately and make sure the orange zest does not clump.

Beat the egg whites with 1 or 2 drops of orange extract with a fork until combined and lightly foamy.

Pour the egg whites over the flour mixture and stir.

Pour the melted butter and stir delicately until it is all absorbed.

Divide the batter in the mini-muffin pan and bake in the oven for 16-17 minutes or until a toothpick comes out dry.

If you prefer to make bigger financiers in a regular muffin size pan, bake them for 20 minutes.

Remove the financiers from the pan right away and let them cool on a rack or a cutting board.

Dust with powdered sugar – optional.

Frenchie and le Goûter

30 Sep

This post marks and celebrates today the 1 year anniversary of Frenchie and the Yankee. Thank you to all of the readers!

It probably won’t come as a surprise if I tell you that American and French meal times are drastically different when it comes to dinner.

Yet, I still feel puzzled and completely surprised when I receive an invitation for dinner – or supper – requesting guests to show up between 4:30 and 5:00pm.

Most of the time by 4:00pm I am about to enjoy a light goûter and dinner is probably the last thing I have on my mind.

Explaining the concept and the idea behind le goûter to Americans can prove as difficult as explaining that the French eat dinner around 8:00 pm.

If ever in doubt when traveling, just ask What time are the News on TV? and you will have your answer for when people prepare and eat dinner.

French News are on at 8:00 pm. American News are on between 5:00 or 6:00 pm depending on the area. It really isn’t complicated.

So what is a goûter?

It’s simply a snack. A light meal. It allows kids to eat a little something between lunch and dinner – meaning between noon and 8:00 pm.

We call it le quatre heures in French – in other words, the 4:00 pm snack.

The Larousse Cuisine recently provided some background information with their own goûter piece by saying:

“It was once a real meal, usually eaten cold and made up of cakes, cheeses, fruits and wine. It was gradually phased out during the 18th century when meal times changed.”

In the 20th century, goûter was probably the best part of the day for kids of all ages! Even for my grandparents, seventy years ago, who all remembered their slice of bread with butter and shaved baking chocolate on top.

“Sometimes we had a chocolate bar of our own and an apple. But not always. Shaving the chocolate with a knife or a grater would allow for everyone to have a little bit of it on their bread and butter. It depended on the meal tickets we received.

And do not forget that I was 7 at the beginning of WWII and 13 at the end – it was the prime goûter age for a kid. We could only have water at that time. But les jour de fêtes (aka Sundays) we would sometimes make French toasts.”

Growing up it was the sweet treat that symbolized the end of the school day.

Running towards the school gate to go meet mum or dad. Heavy school bag but happy heart.

Hopefully they picked up a pain au chocolat at the boulangerie so goûter-time can start right in the street while savoring the chocolaty prized baked good on the way home.

Sitting around the kitchen table on a wooden chair with a firm thick pillow under the butt to raise the chin level from under the plate, delicious options are gathered from the fridge and the cabinets.

A piece of baguette, butter and jam. A classic!

And it just so happens we found mirabelle-plum jam at the farmers’ market last Sunday – an end-of-summer treat.

Milk, juice and water? Hot chocolate? Take your pick.

Teisseire fruit syrup bottles with colorful caps make their appearance too. Pink for grenadine, green for mint and purple for cassis.

Decisions, decisions. You can only pick one option.

Tu n’auras plus faim après… And where are the straws by the way?

A small chocolate bar with 4 little squares. And just one bar. Not two.

Dinner is coming up in 4 hours. 

A bit of smooth salty butter inside a piece of baguette, four squares in the center – it’s a home-made pain au chocolat with a crunch!

Prends un laitage aussi ! How could I forget? A meal wouldn’t be a meal without a dairy product… and seasonal fruits – bien sûr!

A tiny strip of Gruyère or a slice of Camembert – not my favorite for a goûter.

Maybe hide it under the plate?

But goûter is not just for kids. Adults can also enjoy a light snack in the middle of the day with a cup of espresso and a piece of chocolate.

It’s like a treat you can’t talk about – a habit you keep hidden. Yes, le goûter has become a sort of It-Which-Must-Not-Be-Named.

We’re not children anymore, we don’t eat goûter!

Yet, a pastry and a coffee will always put a smile on someone’s face and sweeten the end of the day.

Call it a coffee break. Or allow yourself to call it a goûter. We’re all des grands enfants after all.

Thank you to Annie and Yves Noiseau for the pictures of the little guys.

Frenchie and le Marché

14 Jul

In honor of le 14 juillet – Bastille Day in English – a post about France and something very French would be in order for today.

Markets! French markets that is. And not all markets either. Food markets. They’re my favorite. Not that I don’t like the other markets – flowers, flea, antiques, rare books. Au contraire! But the important tradition of the French food markets is anchored very deep in the culture and they are such a unique experience.

Seen from the U.S., they make France… well, so French!

If you missed the market on Wednesday mornings, or Fridays, there is always one somewhere in town on Sunday mornings.

Sunday mornings don’t all start with a trip to the market. No, they start with a grasse matinée – yes, sleeping in is a “fat morning”! Another idiom. To this day, I am still unsure if it’s supposed to mean that after 8:00 am you’ll magically gain weight from staying in bed, salivating about 2 or 3 crispy butter croissants.

In any case, once the nutritious coffee-baguette-jam-butter-croissant breakfast is over, with 3 wicker baskets around the arm, the call for the marché is heard loud and clear like a first crusade. And all roads lead to the market.

Just follow the French – they know where to go. And they all walk in the same direction too.

The discreet hubbub of le marché already surrounds me even though I am still walking towards it. Entangled voices of shoppers are intertwined with louder voices promoting a cheaper kilo of shiny red tomatoes and a dozen fresh farm eggs.

The melodic church bells are ringing – it’s 10:00 am. It’s always better to go earlier rather than later. By noon, markets become overly crowded and not as enjoyable to navigate through.

The place smells of everything and anything. Floating scents of garlic, curly parsley, ripe peaches, moldy Roquefort and greasy spit-roasted chicken as I walk past the different farmers. My nostrils are filled with appetizing flavors – it feels like having a fancy 4-course meal by just walking aimlessly and smelling the air.

I want to look at the prices first, let’s walk around. I never buy right on the spot. I want to see what each farmer has to offer and the quality of the food.

Le fromager is whistling as he cuts through a colossal round wheel of holey Gruyère cheese. Et avec ceci, Madame? This lady is not having anything else but I already eyed a big chunk of yellow cantal, which I think would royally pair with this light fruity red wine I still have at home.

The rustle of the thin plastic bags carrying food whispers throughout the market. It’s a sign people are buying. Baskets are full.

Oh, des fraises des bois! It’s not often that you see wild strawberries on the market – strawberries of the forest as we call them. So small, sweet, brightly red and deliciously strong. They’ll be perfect for strawberry tartlets with a lemony cream in the center. They’re expensive though. C’est une folie!

The French always “complain” about splurging and love to say out loud that it’s “crazy”. But they secretly love it nonetheless.

It’s a whole process for them – first, acknowledge the price, then announce the word “une folie” out loud, and finally, appear to find some comfort: ok, just for once – yes, pour une fois. Let’s get the strawberries! <shoulder shrug>

Le boucher has a great rôtisserie oven next to his booth-truck. Un poulet, s’il vous plaît, Monsieur. The skin of this slow turning chicken looks so crispy, I will make a meal out of it. Eggs, we need eggs! I know where to get them.

I prefer not to give my money away to the big farmers in their fancy food trucks. No, I buy from my favorite adorable 78 year-old grandpa in the corner there… next to La Poste and the Café Bar Tabac. He does not have much with him – eggs, some tomatoes, cherries, plums and green beans. I always buy a dozen from him. His wife Léonne is not here today, I hope everything is ok.

She’s taking care of Jolie, my best egg-layer. Something happened. I think the fox scared her last night. You’re not buying Jolie’s eggs today. These were laid by Picorette.

As he’s searching inside his rusty metal coin box to break my 20 €, the noises of loose change hitting the box with other coins echo sounds of empty cardboard fruit crates being tossed on the side.

The church bells are ringing again. This time it’s noon! Where did 11:00 go? And I did not have time to make it to the fish and seafood booths. They’re my favorite too.

Do we buy something to eat here or just go home? In all honesty, I want my crispy chicken now. The green beans with parsley and a bit of butter will be just enough. We’ll cook them in the pressure cooker – so much faster and they’ll be crisp, just how I like them. We’ll make a plum tart too.

The wild strawberry tartlets will be for tonight then. For dessert. Une folie!

Farmers already actively packed up and left.

Some abandoned wooden and cardboard crates stayed behind.

Hissing water sprays are cleaning the market ground.

Lively homes now sparkle with colorful fresh veggies and fruits.

We’ll go back next Sunday, c’est sûr!

Joyeux 14 juillet!

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