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Photos and text, unless otherwise noted, Copyright 2003,2004,2005,2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
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Consider:

"It is better to be drunk with loss and to beat the ground, than to let the deeper things gradually escape."

- I. Compton-Burnett, letter to Francis King (1969)

"Cynical realism – it is the intelligent man’s best excuse for doing nothing in an intolerable situation."

- Aldous Huxley, "Time Must Have a Stop"







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Wednesday, 13 July 2005

Topic: World View

Our Man in Paris: Bastille Day (Eve)

Ric Erickson, editor of MetropoleParis, reports on the Bastille Day celebrations, which are traditionally the night before. At his site you would find this:
Big Scene, Bastille - this year Brazil's Minister of Culture, Gilberto Gil, is the star performer at this popular 'bal' to be held at the Bastille on the evening of Wednesday, 13. July. Expect a really big show here, perhaps all night long.
And his report from the scene? This came to Hollywood, Wednesday, July 13, 2005, at 4:35 PM Pacific Time - just after midnight on Bastille Day in Paris -
It was a warm night in Paris, summer living room temperature, and the mayor invited all of us to the Bastille for a bit of Brazilian fun. On arrival the band wasn't tuning up, it was playing. It kept on playing, ah, that Brazilian sound, sounding so much better live and amplified than – anywhere else. Hit of the evening, Brazil's minister of culture Gilberto Gil, after several evenings of rehearsals and a full day of diplo receptions - doing his hits and the crowd goes - bump, arms in the air, Latin boogie - and just after 10 pm there's the mayor, old Bertie with his pal Lula, and he does the interpreting and the crowd cheers whatever Lula says, including viva Francia y viva Brazilia!! They are going to be there all night, grooving. Class act for a change.
And here's a photo from on the scene:



















Over at Ric's site you'll find what else is on for Bastille Day -
Les Sapeurs - Pompiers - have a tradition of turning their firehalls into dancehalls for the Fête de la Bastille. The 'bals' will be held on the evenings of Wednesday, 13 July and Thursday, 14 July. At various locations in Paris and throughout France. These 'bals' are popular so you are advised to arrive early. Some feature live music, others have DJs. Initially held in 1937, the first 'bal' lasted until the afternoon of the next day, and everyone at it missed the Champs?Elys?es parade.

Mairie of the 3rd - in addition to the firemen some city halls stage Bastille Day fêtes too, such as this one to be held on Wednesday, 13 July, from 21:30 until 02:00. At Rue Eugène Spuller, Paris 3, this is also part of the Festival Soirs d'Eté program.

Bastille Day Parade - this always takes place on the whole Champs?Elysées, from Etoile to the Place de la Concorde. The parade begins at 10:00 and will last until about 11:30. This is a rain or shine affair, so be prepared. To be on Thursday, 14 July. The official viewing stand is usually set up at the Place de la Concorde. Paris 8. Métros - count on the Métro stops at Etoile, George V, Franklin Roosevelt, Clemenceau and Concorde being closed. Plan to arrive by foot or from the next nearest ones. This is also the day that Paris plays host to the military, so buy that sailor a drink!

Fireworks - fans will have their night on Thursday, 14. July, beginning about 22:30. The rockets will be fired off from the Trocadéro's gardens, so the best place to be is across the Seine on the Champ de Mars, with possibly 350,000 other Fête Nationale fans. Another good viewpoint is the Pont de Bir Hakeim, for early arrivals. The show usually lasts about 40 minutes, and is held rain or shine. Paris 7. Métros ? Alma-Marceau, Ecole Militaire, Bir Hakeim or La Motte-Picquet-Grenelle - also the RER 'C' line stops of Pont de l'Alma and Champ de Mars.
Got it?

Out here in Los Angeles, Leslie Brenner, married to a French person, says this in the Los Angeles Times food section:
Thursday is Bastille Day - or le 14 Juillet, as it's known in France. For me, that's cause to think about French food. And to bemoan the fact that my husband and son and I won't be going to France this summer as usual to visit my in-laws, who are obsessed with the stuff.
And then she reminisces about the French language -
Their love for food is equal only to their love for slang, and French slang, to an amazing degree, is food related.

Spend some time speaking French with French people, and you'll hear things like "Regardez ce quart de Brie" - meaning "look at that quarter-wheel of Brie." That's a favorite phrase of my husband, and it refers not to cheese but to someone with a huge nose. (And in southwest France, where my in-laws live, there's no shortage of those.)

If my mother-in-law remarks that her niece is pedaling in the sauerkraut (elle pédale dans la choucroute), that means she doesn't understand diddly squat.

And if your rear end is surrounded by noodles (le cul bordé de nouilles), that means you're extremely lucky.

Lately, missing France and reflecting on how deeply the French obsession with food is embedded in the language, I was prompted to compile a list of these expressions. Some are predictable, like "bon comme du bon pain" (good like good bread) or "maigre comme un haricot" (skinny as a string bean); "faire du blé" (to make money) is close to the English "earn some dough."

Others are much more colorful.
And she lists her favorites:
Some serious sorrel (de l'oseille): Plenty of money.

I could eat a parish priest rubbed with garlic (Je pourrais manger un curé frotté d'ail): I could eat a horse.

Oh, mashed potatoes! (Oh purée!): Darn it!

I can eat my soup on your head (Je peux manger ma soupe sur ta tête): I'm a head taller than you.

Zucchini (courgette): Head.

Coffeepot (cafetière): Head.

She's working from her coffeepot (Elle travaille de la cafetière): She's a bit out of it.

Worry about your own onions (Occupe-toi de tes oignons): Mind your own business.

Onions (oignons): Buttocks.

Make fried marlin eyes (Faire des yeux de merlans frits): Make goo-goo eyes.

Your rear end is surrounded by noodles (Tu as le cul bordé de nouilles): You're extremely lucky.

Go ahead, tall unhooker of sausages! (Va donc, grand dépendeur d'andouilles!): Go ahead, you big lug! (The guy who unhooks the andouilles from the ceiling must be very tall and not very smart.)

You're turning my blood into blood sausage (Tu me fais tourner le sang en boudin): You're worrying me.

To have two eggs on the plate (avoir deux oeufs sur le plat): To be flat-chested.

She has the banana (Elle a la banane): She's got a big smile.

That puts the butter in the spinach (?a met du beurre dans les épinards): That's icing on the cake.

You want the butter and the money of the butter (Tu veux le beurre et l'argent du beurre): You can't have your cake and eat it too.

He's sugaring his strawberries (Il sucre les fraises): He's old and senile, one foot in the grave.

Fall in the apples (tomber dans les pommes): To faint.

To be a cooking oil (être une huile): To be high-ranked, a big cheese.

Land a peach (mettre une pêche): Punch someone in the face.

Ears like cauliflowers (des oreilles en chou-fleur): Big ears.

Make some salads (faire des salades): Tell tales out of school.

A veal (un veau): A sluggish car.

Push on the mushroom (Appuie sur le champignon): Step on the gas.

Make a total cheese (en faire tout un fromage): Make a big deal out of something.

She pedals in the sauerkraut (Elle pédale dans la choucroute): She doesn't understand diddly squat.

A noodle (une nouille): An idiot.

Right in the pear (en pleine poire): Right in the face.

Make the leek (faire le poireau/poireauter): Wait impatiently for someone.

Send the sauce (envoyez la sauce): Make an effort.

He has some brioche (Il a de la brioche): He has a potbelly.

She has the heart of an artichoke, she has an artichoke heart (Elle a le coeur d'artichaut): She's sentimental.

A big asparagus (grande asperge): A tall person.

Spitting in the soup (cracher dans la soupe): Being overly critical or ungrateful.

Send a chestnut (envoyer un marron): Punch someone in the face.

That's turning to vinegar (?a tourne au vinaigre): The situation's out of hand/going badly.

He's not in his plate (Il n'est pas dans son assiette): He's not himself.

The carrots are cooked (Les carottes sont cuites): It's too late to do anything about it.

The end of the string beans (la fin des haricots): The biggest deal possible, in a catastrophic way.
And so on and so forth.

Happy Bastille Day.

If you want to see what the Bastille Day Parade in Paris was like, TF1 has pictures - Le défilé du 14 juillet en images - and if you click on the video tab you can watch the event.

Reader reactions to the Los Angeles Times item on French sayings? From our expatriate friend in Paris, or is it Belgium?
I've only consciously heard a few of these, but they aren't really in popular usage. You tend to hear them from older people in the country.

My personal favorite is « Il n'ai inventé pas la fil qui couper la beurre ? » - "He didn't invent the wire that cuts butter!" - i.e. he isn't that smart.

As for Bastille Day, I won't be celebrating it as I've become a royalist. Let the monarchs do with the little froggies what they will. Perhaps that will whip them into shape and sweep away the post socialist malaise, non?
Our columnist Bob Patterson recalls, as do well all, the term of endearment - calling someone your little chou chou - little cabbage (or Brussels spout). And that prompts this from our French-Canadian friend in London (Ontario) -
My folks used that one once in a while. (And on the subject of cabbage, there's that 8mm film of me and my sister at about age four, kneeling on the floor and looking like chickens... actually we were singing a kids song about planting cabbage with your nose!) Animals were popular terms of endearment... my father also called me a young wolf, a young veal and a muskrat... jeune loup, jeune veau and rat musque.

But my favorite food-related saying that my dad used if one was getting out of control or overly mad or excited was « Tu ferais mieux de mettre un peu d'eau dans ton vin » - You'd best put a little water in your wine...

And if you didn't, you might end up "eating a slap"... manger une claque.
As for eating a slap, as it were, note these also from Bastille Day:

France Sees Bastille Day Car-Burning, Violence (AFP)
Chirac Combative In Key Bastille Day Address (AFP)
Sarkozy ridicules Chirac's 'pointless' Bastille Day speech (The Independent UK)
Eat French Food, Live Longer, Says Chirac (AFP)

And of course, Ric Erickson, editor of MetropoleParis, had his regular Thursday Club Metropole meeting on Bastille Day, on the Right Bank, with some notes on the event.





























The oddest news on Bastille Day from Paris, via AFP? Do You Speak Harry Potter? Book Craze Has French Kids Reading English - which speaks volumes to the decline of France.


__

FOOTNOTE ON FRENCH RESTAURANTS IN LOS ANGELES:

Also from the Los Angeles Times see this:
Bastide's Ludovic Lefebvre is among the chefs sneaking soda pop and popcorn into the dining room. Just look at the poulard on his summer menu.

The plumped chicken is marinated in Pepsi for about 48 hours, then braised. How American is that? Very, says the Burgundy-born chef. "In America, I always see people eating chicken and drinking Coke," he says.

"I love using popcorn too," adds Lefebvre, who pairs the poulard with a mixture of fresh corn, polenta, popcorn and salted butter.

A couple of other carbonated dishes pop up at the Melrose Place restaurant, both made with orange-flavored Nehi soda. Order the poached lobster with udon noodles and, tableside, a waiter will spritz the lobster with a blend of Nehi, sake and fresh orange juice. For dessert, a touch of mad soda science: Lefebvre freezes Nehi with liquid nitrogen to make a creamy topping for a hot chocolate souffl?.

Also fizzing things up is pastry chef Tim Butler of Providence, the stylish new seafood place on Melrose Avenue. He freezes Brandenburg ginger ale to make a granité (the French version of granita) and pairs it with diced elephant heart plums or pluots as a palate cleanser between the cheese and dessert courses.

Over at Beechwood in Venice, chef Brooke Williamson's into carbonation chemistry. She uses Coke to marinate the skirt steak and to braise the short ribs featured on the bar menu.

"It tenderizes the meat," she says, and "breaks down the fibrous tissue that makes the meat tough. Also, it adds a nice, sweet, caramelizing flavor. It's used a lot in Korean barbecue marinades. That's where I learned it."

When Williamson's not pouring Coke, she's popping corn for garnish. She adorns a peanut butter truffle tart with homemade Cracker Jack and tops puréed corn soup with popcorn.

A few blocks away at Joe's, soft-shell crab is enrobed in coarsely ground popcorn and tempura batter before hitting the deep fryer. The popcorn, says chef-owner Joe Miller, "adds a little extra so it's really puffy."

Customers "may not know it's popcorn," he says. "But it would definitely stick out as 'What is that?' "

But for those of you who prefer popcorn simply buttered and salted, and your soda straight up, see you at the movies.
Whatever.

Posted by Alan at 18:57 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Thursday, 14 July 2005 19:22 PDT home

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