Le Weekend, 1/21/22: Algeria, Escaping Le Confinement & a Bodega in Brooklyn 🇫🇷



January 21, 2022



Dear Frenchly Readers,

This morning I stood at the huge paper map of the world we have affixed to our dining room wall and I tracked a journey with my finger from Paris, south through Dijon, to Marseille and then out over the Mediterranean ocean, past Mallorca where my mother lived in her teens, and on to the coast of Algeria. I took in the enormity of that country and absorbed how little I know.

But I am learning. As I read The Art of Losing by Alice Zeniter, like with any great work of art, this country–Algeria– that, in my American ignorance, I know so little about, is coming into focus. I am trying to comprehend the lives of indigenous Algerians as well as those of the pied-noirs. And also the ongoing aftermath of Algerian War of Independence, which ended in 1962.

Then, this morning, my Uncle Jay, sent me this article about a 1962 movie called The Olive Trees, which came out in Paris at the end of that war, just after a massacre of hundreds of Algerian protesters in Paris. It is coming (back) to theatres today.

Now, I hope all of you have picked up a copy of The Art of  Losing for our Frenchly One Book, One ReadZoom book club, which I am trying to organize with speakers for late February or March—stay tuned as scheduling may change. Please get your copy if you haven’t already, ideally from a bookseller near you!

In the meantime, I want to spotlight this great read from the novelist Peter Nichols that we published this morning on Frenchly. It’s about about his illicit excursions out of Paris during le confinement. It is such a clever and humble piece, and so clearly expresses the desperation one person can feel when confined–and also what it’s like to break the rules, when you know you shouldn’t.

In other news, in our family we have recovered from what might have been fake Covid last week and are girding ourselves for real Covid any day now. How about you? How is the virus affecting your life? This piece about an unvaxxed Czech folk singer made me shudder last night. She caught Covid deliberately and died.

France, in the meantime, has set a timeline for Covid restrictions, and lions are getting the virus, sometimes testing positive for seven weeks, another window into how we humans  are affecting the animal world (the effect of Covid on minks is here.) In our house, despite temperatures well below zero lately, we are keeping the windows cracked in a room where our cat, Hemingway, sleeps most of the day. Because he takes a medication that strips away his immune system, we are told by our amazing vet that he might be more vulnerable to Covid. We would be lost without him! And here’s a piece about how to reuse your KN95s and N95s and another about the effectiveness of vaccines.

What to cook, read & watch ce weekend:

Reading The Art of Losing has reminded me that I need to re-read Albert Camus’ L’Etranger. It’s been a long time and as I immerse myself in Algeria, I am reminded of L’Etranger, which is about a French settler, Meursault, in Algeria who shoots and kills a man (who never has a name, only “The Arab”) on a beach in Algiers. The Coen Brothers’ film, The Man Who Wasn’t There, was an allusion to this book.

Ok, so it’s January and if you’re in a slump as you recover from Covid or wait for Covid, this video of the Times food writer Priya Krishna visiting a sandwich king at a bodega in Brooklyn, New York, will put a smile on your face. I loved this guy and his customers immediately and his incredible dignity while making the most inventive and tasty and huge sandwiches totally charmed me. This is 13 minutes of your day that you will not regret.

In other pleasant news, there’s this great piece about a superhero in Senegal, replete with a cape, who is trying to clean up plastic!

And…speaking of sandwiches, my husband makes a version of this French bread pizza at least once a week for our kids’ lunchboxes. Right now, in January, the squishy, tangy, saucy, cheesey, crisp edges of the whole thing seem to be hitting the spot. I think the Times was spying on us!

Last Monday, I got the privilege of writing for Frenchly. (Other than these Le Weekends, I often only immerse myself in editing!)  But I was able to steal a little time and pen this piece about a mysterious sermon that the Reverend MLK Jr., gave at the American Church in Paris in 1965 …a sermon which seems to have been lost. If you or anyone you know has any information on it, I’d love to hear!

In other news, we have a tribute to the late actor Gaspard Ulliel who tragically died on Wednesday after hitting his unhelmeted head in skiing accident; we have this terrific round up of podcasts about Paris in both French and English—the one that tracks the lives of murder victims in the 80s is amazing. We found out from French Morning this week that James McAvoy will play Cyrano at BAM this Spring; and on Frenchly we’ve got a profile of a woman who started back-country skiing in the Alps during the pandemic; another piece about local hang-out hot springs in France, on the border with Spain; a guide for going gluten-free in France; French movies at Sundance starting this weekend; and a piece about Eric Zemmour,the right-wing politician who spews off racist slurs, and more! 

This weekend I am going to try this Ghanaian chicken stew from Food 52, and I’m making an olive oil cakeà la Melissa Clark (who is no stranger in France, FYI). I’m also going to dive into this terrific piece about the writer (and fellow Maine resident) Lois Lowry from The New Yorker—I’ve been saving it!

I leave you with this song my good friend Selina sent me yesterday—it’s called “Mary,” by Patty Griffin. Selina says it’s about how Mary–in any way you imagine her, be she the one from the Bible, the one in Michelangelo’s Pietà, or an animal spirit that keeps you safe– is always at our backs. For me,  this song right now is about the incredible load we mothers carry, and how many pieces we’ve had to keep together these last two years. Both Selina and I said we cried when we listened it.  I’d love to hear what you think it’s about?

Have a great weekend—and get in touch.

À bientôt,


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