Sunday, November 25, 2012

Blog Stat Olympics

Ok, so here I sit doing my weekly homework (although my students always seem shocked that I, too, have homework).  I got bored so I decided to check the stats on the blog.  I am sometimes a little obsessed with them, I admit.  Here are the results for the week of November 18-25, 2012:

Gold medal:  United States with 322 readers

Silver medal:  France with 68 readers

Bronze medal:  Germany with 52 readers

The United Kingdom, Canada, Chili, Russia, Kuwait, Spain, and Australia are all in double digits.

The most read blog entry is always Ratatouille and La Bastille from July 14, 2010.  This week, it had 109 readers.

To celebrate, I think I will take a little break and make some hot chocolate.  It's chilly outside and I must have a bit of fortification before continuing with the homework, n'est-ce pas?

My quick-fix recipe:
Heat milk to simmering.  Drop in some of my 52% Nestlé Dessert stash of chocolate usually reserved to make mousse au chocolat, pots de crème or chocolate pudding.  Stir until the chocolate melts.  Use whatever you have in the cupboard or in your own secret stash.  Add marshmallows or whipped cream, if you wish.  Gulp Sip while still hot. 

If you are in the mood for something fancier or have someone to impress or if you've just finished watching the movie Chocolat with Juliette Binoche and Johnny Depp, try this recipe, from Joanne Harris, the author of Chocolat.  If you haven't seen this movie, rent it, but be sure to have the ingredients for this hot chocolate on hand because you are really going to want some when it's over.

Vianne's Spiced Hot Chocolate
from My French Kitchen by Joanne Harris and Fran Warde
Serves 2  (you and Johnny Depp, peut-être...)

1 2/3 c. milk
1/2 vanilla bean, cut in half lengthwise
1/2 cinnamon stick
1 hot red chile, halved and seeded
3 1/2 oz. bittersweet (70%) chocolate
Brown sugar to taste (optional)
Whipped cream, chocolate curls, cognac, or Amaretto, to serve

Place the milk in a saucepan, add the vanilla bean, cinnamon stick, and chile and gently bring it to a shivering simmer for 1 minute.  Grate the chocolate and whisk it in until it melts.  If you must, then add brown sugar, but try to do without it.  Take off the heat and allow it to infuse for 10 minutes, then remove the vanilla, cinnamon, and chile.  Return to the heat and bring gently back to a simmer.  Serve in mugs topped with whipped cream, chocolate curls, or a dash of cognac or Amaretto.

Bon appétit à tous!  Keep reading!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

From Spruce Pine to Paris

Last night I dreamed that I was on my way to Paris with a group of teachers.  The trip was very frustrating, though, because we kept getting sidetracked.  I just wanted to get to the City of Light- pronto.  The group was on a bus, however.  Not the recommended way to get to Paris from North Carolina, right?  And everyone else seemed to be enjoying the stopovers.  I was getting testy, shall we say, to say the least.  The final stopover was my hometown, Spruce Pine, North Carolina.

In Spruce Pine, on Upper Street, there is a footbridge that connects downtown to what used to be Harris Elementary School (I think it was also the high school my parents attended, but it is now a hotel, Pinebridge Inn).  It crosses the North Toe River.

(photo courtesy of

When I was in elementary school, our teachers would make us walk across the bridge.  It scared the living daylights out of me.  (That means I was terrified in Southern speak.)  I would dream about crossing that bridge for days before and after.  I was always afraid of falling through one of the cracks.  Maybe it was my fear of edges or my fear of water.   Probably a combination of the two.  I didn't learn to swim until I was 12 or 13 years old and I still have a very (un)healthy fear of deep water.  I used to have this recurring nightmare that I had a cute little white purse that my grandfather had given me and that I had dropped it into the river while on that bridge and it was gone forever.  I would watch it float away.
Last night, I dreamed I was on this bridge with the teacher group.  Some people were actually swimming in the river- ugh.  Most everyone was just sitting on the edge with their legs dangling over.  Some random teenager was pulling up boards and throwing them in the river.  I was very upset about this and asked him to stop.  I even threatened to call the police.  None of the other teachers were bothered about this.  They thought it was just typical teenage antics and were even laughing about it.  Pas moi.  I was probably worried about how on earth I was going to get back to the bus that was supposed to be taking us to Paris.  I finally sat down next to another teacher and expressed my dismay about the fact that we were not getting any closer to Paris by sitting on that bridge.  (I googled distances and found that it is 6794 kilometers, 4222 miles or 3668 nautical miles from Asheville- the closest airport to Spruce Pine- to Paris.)  This very nice man took my hand and in a very calm voice asked me to look past the mountains and tell him what I could see.  And you know what I saw?  I saw the Sacré Coeur, standing proudly on the highest point of Paris.

This nice man said "You see, it isn't very far from Spruce Pine to Paris.  You will be there soon."  And with that, I calmed down.  I knew he was right.  I wondered why I had never noticed that before.
The End.

Bon appétit to dreams and Happy Birthday to Son #1 who turns 25 (gasp!) at 1:08 pm today.  Je t'aime, mon fils.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

Google Doodle 2012 based on Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

Happy Thanksgiving to all! 

And to all a Bon Appétit!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Preparing for a Day of Thanksgiving

Every day should be a day of thanks, shouldn't it?  My day goes so much better if I wake up thinking of all that I am grateful for in my life.  An occasional pity party is normal and cleans out the tear ducts, but gratitude is better on a daily basis.  Let me count a few of my blessings... I live in a free country, in the most beautiful of all the 50 states.  I am very healthy.  The occasional ache, pain or cold gets me down but not for long.  I am surrounded by my loving family and friends.  People who make me laugh or hold my hand when I cry.  Even if I am not physically surrounded by them, I feel their presence and know that they love me.  I have a job that I still enjoy that allows me to indulge my passion for French and France.  I even get paid to travel to France with my students.  No, not an extra salary, but I am on the payroll while I am there!  In 2012, I got to use my well-loved passport and cross the Atlantic three times.  At this very moment, our two boys are under our roof, upstairs playing video games together.  That doesn't happen very often for us anymore.
Son #1 is about to turn 25.  How the heck did that happen?  We brought him home from the hospital on Thanksgiving Day.  A dear friend brought us dinner.  It was perhaps the best meal I've ever eaten!  Son #1 and I decided to play the lottery today.  He tends to be luckier than his mom so he did the buying and scratching, with a shiny 2012 penny, while I was measuring and stirring.

We didn't win $1000 a week for life or even $500, but we more than broke even so I guess it was a good day.  (We are holding what could be the winning Power Ball ticket that will be drawn tonight...I promise to continue to blog from my mas in Provence, dear readers.
I spent the morning in the kitchen mixing and baking.  We are off to the in-laws house early tomorrow morning and I am contributing pumpkin

and cranberry-orange breads.

Cranberries are just plain pretty.  Nice and round and red.

The spices for the pumpkin bread, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, and allspice, along with the "sugar in the raw" are such lovely shades of brown that I thought they were worthy of their own photo.

We were also asked to bring wine.  A Prosecco, a Côtes du Rhône, a Beaujolais Nouveau, and a Pinot Grigio are ready to go over the river (the Pamlico) and through the woods (lots of pine trees by the side of the highway).
My house smells like Thanksgiving.  At least the downstairs.  I can't vouch for the upstairs now that the boys are home...

My Sister Cindy's Pumpkin Bread
makes 3 loaves

4 c. all-purpose flour
3 c. sugar
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ginger
1/2 tsp. cloves
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. allspice
1 c. nuts (walnuts or pecans), optional
1 c. vegetable oil
2 c. pumpkin purée
1 c. cold water
4 eggs

Sift all dry ingredients together in a large bowl.  Make a well.  Set aside.
In a medium bowl, mix oil, pumpkin, and water together. Add to the dry ingredients.  Stir just until mixed.  Beat eggs one at a time and add to mixture.  Do not overmix.  Pour into greased loaf pans and bake 50-60 minutes at 350˚.

Cranberry-Orange Nut Bread
makes one loaf
from Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book, Special Edition, supporting the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation

2 c. all-purpose flour
1 c. sugar
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 beaten egg
1 cup milk (or substitute orange juice, if desired)
1/4 c. vegetable oil
2 tsp. finely shredded orange peel
1 c. coarsely chopped cranberries
3/4 cup toasted almonds slivers,  coarsely chopped

Grease the bottom and 1/2 inch up the sides of an 8x4x2-inch loaf pan; set aside.  In a large bowl, stir together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.  Add the orange peel and stir to coat.  Make a well in the center of flour mixture; set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine the egg, milk (or orange juice), and oil.  Add egg mixture all at once to the flour mixture.  Stir just until moistened (batter should be lumpy).  Fold in cranberries and almonds.  Spoon into prepared pan.

Bake in a 350˚ preheated oven 50-55 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted near center comes out clean.  Cool in pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes.  Remove from pan.  Cool completely on wire rack.

Bon appétit and Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Chocolate pudding memories

If you could go back in time and meet yourself at age 7 or 8, what would you say to you?  I got to thinking about that last night and then went to my trusty photo album and found this one.  I don't think that my mom caught us clean and dressed up very often.  We must have been going to church.  We lived in this house for about a year or so, I think.  We really were stair-step kids, weren't we?  Bless Mama Mildred's heart.
I guess I would tell me to keep working hard in school and hang in there.  It is all going to turn out great.  You are going to have some great teachers, people who love you and look out for you, go to college, learn to speak French, get your passport, travel, get married, have two beautiful children of your own, and have a pretty darned good life.  I would give myself permission to play more.  And worry less.  But I am smiling here so I guess I was happy.
Now, where does the chocolate pudding come into play?  Mama Mildred taught me how to make it from scratch at some point in my childhood and I would make it for the crew pictured above for breakfast.  According to Moo, the littlest one in the front, we called it Chocolate Gravy.  I made breakfast a lot of mornings, I think, since my mom worked shift work back in the day when there were actually factories in my hometown.  Last night, while watching college football games (the Vols lost-- again) on television, the Geico Gecko came on.  You know, the little green lizard with an Australian accent.

The talking gecko said something about pudding and the Ex-Ex said that pudding sure would taste good.  It doesn't take much more than that to get my mental checklist of ingredients going...  milk?  check   chocolate?  check   sugar?   check    So, I hopped up, googled chocolate pudding recipes, and got to measuring and whisking.  I found a delicious recipe at The Smitten Kitchen.  I cannot believe I haven't found this website before.
While whisking, I headed down memory lane and thought about that warm chocolate gravy.  Sorry Mama Mildred.  I needed a recipe this time.  And cocoa powder wasn't involved this time.  My stash of Nestlé dessert Noir from the July trip to France came in handy.  It is usually reserved for making mousse au chocolat, but it makes very good pudding, too.  Trust me.  I licked the bowl and spatula while it was still warm from the stove.

The Ex-Ex waited until it was cold, wished for some whipped cream which we didn't have on hand, but pronounced it very good.  He even ate some for breakfast this morning.

Chocolate Pudding
serves 6

1/4 c. cornstarch
1/2 c. sugar
1/8 tsp. salt
3 c. whole milk
6 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, coarsely chopped (the chocolate I used is 52% cacao)
1 tsp. vanilla extract

1.  Combine the cornstarch, sugar, and salt in the top of a double boiler.  Slowly whisk in the milk. scraping the bottom and sides with a heatproof spatula to incorporate the dry ingredients.  Place the pot over gently simmering water and stir occasionally, scraping the bottom and sides.  Use a whisk as necessary if lumps begin to form.  After 15-20 minutes, when the mixture begins to thicken and coats the back of a spoon, add the chocolate.  Continue stirring for 2-4 minutes, or until the pudding is smooth and thickened.  Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla.

2.  Strain if you have lumps (if you whisk in the milk slowly and well at the beginning your pudding should be lump-free!).  Pour or spoon the pudding into a serving bowl or individual serving dishes.

3.  Place plastic wrap on top of the pudding and gently smooth it on the surface to avoid having "skin" on the top.  Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to 3 days.

Bon appétit to the little kids we all used to be.

Friday, November 16, 2012

The Beaujolais Nouveau has arrivéed!

Yesterday was the Best Sister-in-law in the World's birthday.  Here we are in July in Arles standing at the very spot where Vincent painted my favorite painting, Starry Night Over the Rhône.   It lives in the Musée d'Orsay.

In addition to being her birthday, yesterday was also the 2012 release of Beaujolais Nouveau.  I got a report this morning from a certain Frenchie who went to La Place de l'Horloge in Avignon pour découvrir ce Côtes du Rhône Primeur.  Merely tasting?  Mais non!  Discovering this wine.  (I think my Frenchies take great delight in making me envious...)  Evidently they bought two glasses and a breathalyser, éthylotest, was involved.  (I have to ask about this... je ne comprends pas.) They then tasted a dozen or so of the different wines, bought a plate of goat cheese, une assiette de bons fromages de chèvres, to accompany their wine.  Yes, I am currently a lovely shade of green, due to envy.  I prefer sage green, as in this cute little number--

I have received notice from Wine Authorities that their Beaujolais Nouveau has arrivéed, too.  Last year, I fooled around and missed it.  I waited until the day before Thanksgiving.  Too late.  All gone.  Have to wait 'til next year.  Désolé, Sabbatical Chef.  So, this afternoon I shall go shopping.  And hopefully will be given a sip or two.  One must taste-test, n'est-ce pas?   It is a young wine, about six weeks old.  Meant to be drunk now.  It is made exclusively from Gamay grapes.  Practically no tannins.  Serve chilled just a bit.  I have found it goes quite well with Thanksgiving dinner.  Of course, the Frenchies do not celebrate Thanksgiving as they did not have Pilgrims, but it is a nice coincidence and I, for one, thank them.  Je vous remercie!

Bon appétit, BSILITW and Beaujolais Nouveau!

Sunday, November 11, 2012


On our annual trip to France, I always take the kiddies to Normandy to visit the D-Day beaches.  They study American history and spend quite a bit of time on WWII just prior to the March trip.  We take a day trip from Paris.  One of last year's girls took this photo.  If I had been giving out awards for the best photo, this one would have won.  The American cemetery is a very moving place.  It is so peaceful.  I mostly roam around, say a few prayers of thanks, and read the crosses.  As far as I know, I have no relatives buried here.  My dad was in the army in the mid-50's but didn't see active combat, my great uncle served but I don't know many details, my grandfather did not serve in WWII because he had polio as a child and was crippled (although I never thought of him that way), and one of my uncles served in Vietnam.  As an American, though, one can't help but be affected by what so many soldiers did and continue to do in the face of mortal danger.

It annoys me to no end when Americans say that the French do not like Americans.  I have never encountered that sentiment.

We found a little café across the street from Omaha Beach where we could have lunch.  The owners were very gracious even though it was off-season.  When The Best Guide in Paris (the world really) went in to ask the lady if she could accommodate us, she immediately got on the phone and told her husband to get himself there pronto to take our orders.  This is what greeted me immediately as I walked in.

The food was amazing, too.  Steaming mussels for me.

Accompanied by frites, bien sûr.

The only other patrons in the restaurant that day were also Americans.  A man and his two children.  We struck up a conversation after he overheard us talking and recognized the Southern accents.  He told us he lives in northern Virginia and is in the military.  I never like to be too nosy, so I didn't find out more than that.  Arles Lucy talked to him more than I did.  I was guessing Pentagon.  Arles Lucy ran into him later in the cemetery.  His family had been given an official tour and presented with American and French flags.  Lucy gave them to me for my classroom and my advisees and I say The Pledge of Allegiance each morning facing those flags.  Yes, we still do this at my school.  It is how we start each day.

Bon appétit to all those who serve and have served our country!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Victor Hugo and Les Misérables

This summer the girls and I paid a visit to Victor Hugo's home in Paris.

It is located at Place des Vosges and is free to visit.

According to my Michelin Paris Green Guide, which gives it one star, it was home to Hugo from 1832 to 1848 and was turned into a museum in 1903.  I'd been there a couple of times before, once with mon amie Mme M and once with the Ex-Ex when he came to visit Paris in November 2008.
Last January, I finally paid a visit to the Panthéon to visit his gravesite.  After he died in 1885, more than 2 million people joined his funeral procession from the Arc de Triomphe

to the Panthéon.

This is his final resting place where he shares space with Alexandre Dumas and Émile Zola.

My own personal relationship with Victor began in 1975-76 during my senior year of high school.  I took an independent reading English class and my teacher gave me a copy of Les Misérables.  I still have the book.

Was it a gift or did I borrow it and just not return it?

Je ne me souviens pas.  Absolutely cannot remember.  But I still have it and I am still in love with Jean Valjean.
A little background on M. Hugo first.  According to "my" book, published by Washington Square Press 1964 and translated by Charles E. Wilbur (price 75¢):  

Victor Hugo was a towering figure in nineteenth century literature who epitomized the French Romantic Movement.  His private life was as exuberant as his literary creations.  At twenty he married after a long courtship, but later in life was renowned for scandalous escapades.  In 1851 he was exiled for his passionate opposition to Napoleon III.  When he returned to Paris after the Empire fell during the Franco-Prussian War he was greeted as a hero and a prophet.

A few facts from my research--
  • His dad was a high-ranking officer in Napoléon's army until failing in Spain therefore his name is not inscribed on the Arc de Triomphe.
  • He did marry his childhood sweetheart, but not until after his mother's death since maman did not approve.  His youngest child, Adèle, is the subject of the movie The Story of Adèle H.
  • His second child, daughter Léopoldine, drowned along with her husband while Victor was with his mistress in the south of France.  Some say he never really recovered from this.  His poem, Demain, dès l'aube, written in 1847, is about visiting her grave.   In this poem, he says ...And when I arrive, I will put on your tomb, a bouquet of green holly and of flowering heather.
  • He was elected to the Académie Français in 1841 after three unsuccessful tries.
  • He was involved in politics for most of his life.
  • It is said that he was very selfish.  His wife, tired of bearing children and tired of his selfishness, turned to one of his friends for "comfort."
  • Hugo took Juliette Drouet, a young actress and prostitute, as his mistress, paying off her debts an forcing her to live in poverty, with him as the center of her universe.  It was Juliette who planned his escape from Paris to Belgium after he broke with the government of Louis Napoléon (Napoléon III) and spoke out against him.  He spent 17 years in exile in the Channel Islands, a productive, but, at times, dark period for him.  
  • He conducted seances in his home.
  • His most famous novels are Notre Dame de Paris, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and Les Misérables.  He also wrote many poems.
  • He wanted to write a novel about the social injustices of his time and set out to write Les Misérables, taking 17 years to complete it.
Personally, I am not convinced that his personal life was "exuberant."  Maybe more research is needed?  Graham Robb has written a biography of Hugo.  I am currently reading Robb's Parisians, An Adventure History of Paris, Picador, 2010.  Perhaps that will be next on my reading list.  I definitely think Hugo merits more of my attention.
He is well-quoted and many of his quotes are very uplifting, though.  Here are some of my favorites:

  • Forty is the old age of youth, fifty the youth of old age.
  • An intelligent hell would be better than a stupid paradise.
  • All the forces in the world are not so powerful as an idea whose time has come.
  • The greatest happiness of life is the conviction that we are loved; loved for ourselves, or rather, loved in spite of ourselves.
  • To love beauty is to see light.
  • Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent.
  • What a grand thing, to be loved! What a grander thing still, to love!
  • To die is nothing; but it is terrible not to have lived.

I saw Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical version Les Misérables on Broadway in either the late '80's or early '90's.  A non-musical movie version, starring Liam Neeson, came out in 1998.  On Christmas Day 2013, a new one is slated to open across the U.S.  It stars Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway, and Russell Crowe (perfect casting for Javert, n'est-ce pas?)
Well, since ultimately much of what is on this blog has to do with eating and drinking, I asked Google "What would Victor Hugo eat?"  According to Bradley Woodrum's blog, Victor, while in exile in the Channel Islands, would get up at dawn, eat two raw eggs, drink a cup of cold coffee and start writing.  Berk... sorry, but not in the cards for moi.  I like my eggs cooked just about anyway possible and my coffee really hot.  In a couple of other places, it is said that as a young person, Hugo would eat half an ox in one sitting and then fast for three days.  Hard to find half an ox at Harris Teeter these days.  Unrelated to food, according to Academic Cog, Victor would take all his clothes off and tell his valet to hide them so that he would be unable to go outside when he was supposed to be writing.  During the 1870 Prussian siege of Paris when food supplies were cut off, Hugo ate animals from the Paris zoo and said that he was reduced to "eating the unknown."  I have no recipes for zebra, that goodness.  I am hitting a brick wall here, so I think that I will just suggest that you follow the advice of girlsguidetoparis.  When you are in Paris, visit La Place des Vosges and have a drink at one of the nearby cafés.  The Marais is closeby.

Rue des Rosiers is a street filled with Jewish bakeries and falafel, a newly discovered food pleasure of mine.

There is a lovely article, The Sacred Heart of Victor Hugo, posted by Algis Valiunas if you are interested in reading more about Hugo and Les Misérables.

Makes about 20 balls


  • 1 cup dried chickpeas
  • 1/2 large onion, roughly chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2-1 teaspoon dried hot red pepper
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 4-6 tablespoons flour
  • Soybean or vegetable oil for frying
  • Chopped tomato for garnish
  • Diced onion for garnish
  • Diced green bell pepper for garnish
  • Tahina sauce
  • Pita bread

  • Preparation:

    1. Put the chickpeas in a large bowl and add enough cold water to cover them by at least 2 inches. Let soak overnight, then drain. Or use canned chickpeas, drained.
    2. Place the drained, uncooked chickpeas and the onions in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Add the parsley, cilantro, salt, hot pepper, garlic, and cumin. Process until blended but not pureed.
    3. Sprinkle in the baking powder and 4 tablespoons of the flour, and pulse. You want to add enough bulgur or flour so that the dough forms a small ball and no longer sticks to your hands. Turn into a bowl and refrigerate, covered, for several hours.
    4. Form the chickpea mixture into balls about the size of walnuts, or use a falafel scoop, available in Middle-Eastern markets.
    5. Heat 3 inches of oil to 375 degrees in a deep pot or wok and fry 1 ball to test. If it falls apart, add a little flour. Then fry about 6 balls at once for a few minutes on each side, or until golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Stuff half a pita with falafel balls, chopped tomatoes, onion, green pepper, and pickled turnips. Drizzle with tahina thinned with water.

    Sources for this blog:

    Bon appétit, Victor Hugo!  I hope you didn't catch a cold writing in the nude!

    Tuesday, November 6, 2012

    Are you a lover or a hater?

    I am a lover, not a hater.  I write about things I love.  This blog is evidence.  I love my friends.  I love this little café near Notre Dame where you are served a little bowl of chips

    to go with your house white apéritif.

    And where you can introduce these friends to escargots.  And they don't cost a fortune and taste unbelievably délicieux.

    Where a bowl of soupe à l'oignon is yours for the asking even if it is July and hot outside.

    Or une omelette-frites.

    Always served with a basket of fresh pain.

    And your dessert-loving friends can ooh and aah and they allow you to take a photo of this before digging in.  And no one thinks you are weird for taking that photo.  They know their food is art.

    And you can sit in this café for as long as your little heart desires.  You are actually encouraged to linger.
    I needed to take a little visual trip back to Paris.  Since this is election day in the US, tempers run high and you are more likely to hear why someone wouldn't vote for a candidate as opposed to why they would vote for another.  I heard of one group that calls themselves Christians Against Obama.  Why not Christians For Romney?  Aren't we supposed to love one another?  Especially Christians?
    One of the girlies sent me a link to an article entitle  38 Reasons to Love the French by Aram Kevorkian posted on, a website I love.  Kevorkian confesses to being a lover, too, not a hater.  And, well, anyone who loves the French and can come up with 38 reasons of his own outlining why he loves them, is a friend of mine.  Whether he wants to be or not.
    A few of his reasons that I really love are:

    1.    Paris has not yet been ruined by gratte-ciels.  (sky-skrapers)
    11.  The French hold their elections on Sundays and never close their bars.
    12.  The French take eating more seriously than religion.
    19.  Picasso lived in France and was allowed to remain a Spaniard as long as he paid taxes.
    22.  French trains run on time, when they're not on strike.
    24.  The French serve water without ice.
    25.  French politicians can finish a sentence.
    29.  The French do not use French dressing on their salads.
    30.  The French eat a lot of yogurt, but do not claim to have invented it.
    35.  La Seine, le Rhône, la Loire.
    36.  French women look dressed up even when wearing blue jeans and "Fruit of the Loom" t-shirts.
    38.  The French are tolerant of foreigners who love them.  La preuve (the proof):  they have put up with me for 40 years.  (I am older than 40, but that is how long my love affair with France has been going on.)

    I am introducing my 6th grade class to food vocabulary.  One of the words I ask them to learn is éclair. One poor jeune homme asked me today what an éclair is.  Well, he is only 11 years old after all.  And American.  We can't find them on any street corner malheureusement.  They checked out my blog (shhh... yes, this is how we use our iPads sometimes.  We love to Google in room 204) and they informed me that I have not posted an éclair recipe, so I promised I would do so today.  We are making crêpes tomorrow in class though, not éclairs.

    Make the pastry, fill them with whipped cream, pudding, or the crème anglaise, if you are feeling ambitious.  Spread the ganache on the top.

    Chou Pastry for Cream Puffs,  Éclairs or Profiteroles

    1 c. water
    1/2 c. butter
    1/4 tsp. salt
    1 c. sifted all-purpose flour
    4 large eggs

    Preheat oven to 400˚F.
    In medium saucepan, slowly bring to boil one cup of water with butter and salt.
    Remove from heat, beat in flour all at once with a wooden spoon.
    Return to low heat.  Continue beating until mixture forms ball and leaves side of pan.
    Remove from heat.  Beat in eggs, one at a time, beating hard after each addition until mixture is smooth.
    Continue beating until dough is shiny and satiny and breaks into strands.
    For cream puffs, drop by rounded teaspoonful on ungreased cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.
    For éclairs, drop by rounded teaspoonful three inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and spread each ball of dough into a four-inch strip.
    Bake 35-40 minutes or until golden brown.
    Let cool completely on wire rack.
    Slice off tops (lengthwise for éclairs), scoop out any filaments of soft dough.
    Fill with sweetened whipped cream or custard for cream puffs or éclairs or ice cream for profiteroles.  Glaze with melted chocolate, if desired.  Or sprinkle with powdered sugar.

    Chef Érick's Crème Anglaise
    (can be doubled)

    1 c. whole milk
    1 Tbsp. cornstarch
    2 egg yolks
    3 Tbsp. sugar
    1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

    Heat milk in double boiler.
    Place cornstarch in a separate bowl and whisk in the egg yolks.  When milk is hot, but not boiling, remove from heat and quickly whisk in cornstarch mixture.  Then quickly whisk in sugar and vanilla.  Return to heat, just long enough to warm all ingredients.  Cool in refrigerator until ready to use.

    Chocolate Ganache Filling
    2 oz. heavy cream
    4 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, chopped

    Combine cream and chocolate in a small bowl.  Heat in microwave in 30 second increments, stirring between intervals, until chocolate is melted.  Cool to room temperature.

    Bon appétit to lovers everywhere!