I read in the Times this week that a new trove of Hemingway’s writing was just found in a bar. The works were packed into cardboard boxes and ammo storage containers, writes the Times, “surviving hurricanes and floods.” Famous for his years living in the moveable feast of Paris, for his drinking and many wives, for his macho writing about Spain and, my favorite book of his, For Whom the Bell Tolls, what struck me reading this article were his musings, even from a young age, on his struggles with depression, his interest in death and suicide, his haunting descriptions of his son’s wounds that were “plenty bad” from being a POW during WW2, all penned in his journals. And many of the photos were new to me, too. The article allowed me to connect with the complicated genius of the man, along with his sometimes insufferable qualities, and to have empathy in a more nuanced way for his evident struggles. It made me think that this line of his, “It was necessary to get exercise, to be tired in the body,” may tell us why, despite his devastating depressions, he lived as long as he did, until he took his own life when he was 62; that exercise saved him, at least for a while.
Some of you who know a little about me know that I love to run. In particular, I like to run in winter. I wrote this piece a few years ago for the New York Times about running in sleet and wind (thunder, lighting, wind or in rain, that is when I run in pain!). I also really like to run in the fall, when the leaves are falling and everything has that damp tannic smell. I can’t run for a few weeks here while my sloshy brain recovers from my run-in with that white pine last week. But I can watch my children run, which gives me incredible joy.
My younger child, almost 8, is one of the fastest people I know. He loves soccer and, last night, I sat bundled at his practice, after I had moved my chair around to each patch of evening sun I could find, until the sun disappeared for good, and, shivering, watched him steam ahead of the other kids, recover the ball, get to the goal and then hesitate, because, like, where was everyone? My older son, who is 13, won his first cross country race on Wednesday night. That was exciting. Not exactly surprising because he’s also very fast, very determined and really thinks through the strategy of any given situation. I won’t forget walking across the road right about the time I thought the kids should be shooting out of the woods, and saying out loud, “Oh my God, here he comes.” And there he came, orange shoes flashing in the light, crazy clouds behind him, rain clearing to beams of sunlight, like we were in some movie shot by Roger Deakins. But what was better than his winning, was watching his arms shoot up in the air when he crossed the finish line in such pure and lovely joy and then, immediately, he turned and hugged his friend who had finished two seconds behind him. And then he congratulated the next wave of kids coming across the line until he went and stood at the sideline clapping for everyone, no matter what team they were on. Though good sportsmanship and empathy and kindness are values Dan and I have certainly tried to instill in our kids, we can’t take any credit for his behavior on Wednesday. He didn’t do it because it was right. He did it because he felt it. You really can’t teach that. Kids know it intuitively, I believe. What they get taught, often, is that the winning is the thing. It’s not—it’s the journey over the wobbly road, with the leaves flying in the wind, the charge down the soccer pitch, the wet grass making your sneakers shiny. It’s the ground under your feet, the cool air, your body working hard, and the joy and connection you get and can give back once you cross that line, shoot for that goal, having given it your all, whatever your “it” is.
It was E.M. Forester, after all, who wrote, in Howard’s End, “only connect.” Finding ways and times and places to take the extra second to connect with the cashier at the grocery store, the UPS person delivering our Amazon package, the person baking our bread, these moments matter and can change a day, even a life, sometimes. It can make both you and the person whom you’ve connected with, however briefly, feel seen, heard, validated, a part of something. There is tragedy and fear in so many directions we look these days. So, lately, I have been repeating like a mantra, “only connect, only connect, only connect.” It matters.
Speaking of connection, SO many of you wrote to me about my accident! You are all so so kind and thoughtful. It really mattered to me to hear from you, to be in this together. Thank you. For those of you who won Lucy By the Sea, it’s going out! Check your mailboxes next week.
And this week, I have a cookbook to giveaway!!! It’s called Bricks in a Pebble Sauce and is written by one of our Frenchly readers, Francine Chough, and it’s full of simple French home cooking. Francine is traveling around France right now and on her way to Lascaux! But when she gets back, in three weeks, she is going to send out ONE book to the first person to correctly email me with the answer to this question: What serious food shortage is France facing right now?
For those of you who don’t get to me in time, here’s her simple and lovely Bananas Flambées recipe, for all to enjoy:
This is a favorite of my husband, Jean. When bananas are over ripened, we do not make banana bread, we make Bananes flambées! We use any kind of alcohol or liquor that we have around to flambé them. You could slice the bananas any way you would like.
1 to 2 tablespoons of butter
3 to 4 bananas, peeled, cut in half and then lengthwise
1 tablespoon of brown sugar
1 tablespoon of Grand Marnier, Cognac, rum, or other liquor with at least 40% alcohol
Matches or lighter
In a frying pan, melt butter on medium heat. When it is sizzling, place the cut bananas and sprinkle with sugar.
When they start to caramelize, pour the alcohol and, when warm, light a match and bring it close to the dish so it lights up. Swirl the pan around to burn off all the alcohol.
Serve as is or with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream!
Do not use the kitchen fan when you flambé.
If you’d like to order Francine’s book, here it is on Amazon. It’s full of stories and recipes and it’s JUST CHARMING. And here’s a video of her making a Salade Niçoise. I love the idea of sharing our readers’ books, movies, songs—email me them, and let’s try to find a way to share in our community. Only connect.
Cook, watch, listen & read ce weekend (Cuisiner, regarder, écouter et lire):
Ok, cook whatever you want this weekend (I made an awesome pumpkin nut upside-down cake yesterday, it’s here—from Better Homes & Gardens) but a cocktail, which will go with just about everything fall, called the maple apple sour, is one of several that Catherine Rickman wrote about in her cocktail tour of France this week and I suggest you make that. Honestly, they all look amazing. (I am also CRAZY about Mirabelle plums so the “plum mule” sounds terrific, too. And, speaking of Hemingway, one of the drinks she listed was created by the man himself—named after his book, Death in the Afternoon.) I will try those once my head is a little less ditzy.
Maybe you will make a cassoulet this weekend? If so, you might be interested in this piece about a new book called, Cassoulet Confessions, by Sylvie Bigar. I translated the French Morning piece written by my colleague, Elizabeth Guédel, this morning.
And Le Monde, as many of you might already know, is in English now. Which is terrific, because now we can get the news with a French/European slant at an incredibly high standard – just like the old days, when we used to read the International Herald Tribune.
This article about Jean-Paul Belmondo made me want to watch Breathless this weekend. Though it will be all about the Bake Off tonight, Sunday will be my Breathless night.