October 1, 2021
Dear Frenchly Readers,
This week on the coast of Maine, where I live in an early 19th century house on a salt marsh, the nights have grown chillier. Fall is here and it makes me nostalgique.
And so, with that in mind, I asked my dear friend, Lorin Kalisky, who owns and runs his family’s bakery, The Upper Crust, in Davis California, to write me an essay about mastering a special kind of baguette, called a sarmentine, that is native to the Bordeaux region of France, where his wife’s family is from. I think you will enjoy it. I know I did.
Reading his prose, it got me remembering that October in 1992 when I left my parents and home in Maine and moved to Paris for a year “abroad” before I matriculated to Brown. I was just eighteen and I appeared at Charles de Gaulle airport with only a suitcase in my hand and a backpack on my back. I lived for a bit with a host family outside of Paris and ventured into the city on the train, looking for an apartment and nannying jobs. Back then, it was normal, someone had told me, to affix a little note with your name and phone number on a board at The American Church. I had done so—naively writing, “American female college student looking for an apartment to rent or share.”
One evening, a young American man, with a degree from Boston University, called. He said, “You know, I saw your notice. And I wanted to call and tell you that I don’t think it’s particularly safe, you putting yourself out there like that. Someone might take advantage.”
From there, we began talking and, it turned out, he was from Davis, California, and was also looking for an apartment. Before the end of the call, we had decided to forge ahead together in our apartment search, despite my misgivings about living with another American. Soon we found a beautiful apartment, serendipitously on the Avenue du Maine, in the 14th arrondissement. It had tall louvered doors off of every room that stepped onto tiny balconies overlooking the busy avenue below. We would need to find a third roommate eventually, but it was perfect.
Lorin and I lived there for a year. We had parties, studied French, I took classes at the Sorbonne and he got a job at Paris City Magazine. Lorin will tell you that I never did any dishes (my husband, Dan will roll his eyes and say, “Some things never change”) but that I did master les crêpes.
Fast forward many years later and Lorin and I have stayed friends as we both got married and had kids and I wrote books and he did jobs in journalism and tech and, eventually, took over and reinvented his parents’ old bakery.
Ours is the story of an enduring friendship, one that always comes back to laughter. When my life seems unsteady, he is a friend I know I can call, even if we haven’t spoken in two years. We fall right back into our old banter that’s a combination of franglais and old stories and jokes, our current and past lives intermingling like the smells of wood smoke and baking bread in the cold fall air.
What I am watching ce weekend :
I am definitely going to watch more of the uber-bingeable (but not exactly relaxing) TV show, Le Bureau, which is about the DGSE, the French equivalent of the CIA. It’s based on real stories from former spies and is inspired by contemporary events in the Middle East. The acting is amazing—especially the lead, Mathieu Kassovitz, who is so natural on screen, he knocks your socks off. I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to get to it. I will have to pace myself, though, as its unsettling.
On Sunday, my friend and playwright Bess Welden is premiering a reading of a new play of hers called Madeleines, about a family recipe for madeleines and its significance inside a Jewish family. It is being streamed virtually by Colby College here.
What my younger, 6-year-old, son wants to watch ce weekend (if I give him screen time):
What I am listening to :
I’m hoping to get in a good long run in this weekend. Maybe even with my twelve-year-old son, who is now running cross-country, and running twice as fast a mile as I run. There’s nothing as moving as seeing your child burst from the woods, running for themselves and running for their team.
Because I’ve been thinking about and talking about running a lot in my house lately, I asked my new podcast reviewer, Anne Fleur, to kick off her tenure with me this week with a roundup of the best running podcasts in French. She even rates them according to difficulty for a non-native French speaker. Check out her piece here. I hope you’ll slip into some old running shoes you’ve stashed in the back of your closet and choose one of these awesome podcasts so that you can apprendre as you run.
What to do if you are in New York :
If you’re in New York City this weekend, and the pandemic isn’t keeping you in, you might consider a brunch of crêpes traditionnelles at the French vegan bistrot in the West Village, called Délice & Sarrasin, reviewed very favorably here in The New Yorker this week. Afterward, perhaps a long amble uptown to catch an afternoon film at the second weekend of the New York Film Festival, which boasts 20 French films this year. Frenchly has picked six for you to consider, here. And if you’re still up for more, Le Bal Français returns this year on Saturday night at the Brooklyn Monarch. Click here for tickets and here to learn more about the history of this fun event and its founders.
What I am reading :
For a long read in English about the state of the world, this amazing story about a girl named Dasani growing up in poverty in New York City is a must read; and this crushing story about extinctions is a call to arms for all of us.
Visit Frenchly this weekend on Instagram and share your photos of France or French food. Maybe you made some absolutely gorgeous French toast last weekend or will make some crêpes this weekend? If so, we want you to share them with us here and here and here.
That’s it. Have a good weekend.