February 4, 2022
Dear Frenchly Readers,
As you may have already read, Président Emmanuel Macron is playing a big role, hopefully, in a de-escalation of the conflict between Ukraine and Russia, which looks like a conflict between Russia and the rest of the world, which really could mean a conflict between Russia and the U.S.
Macron, of course, is flashy, handsome, wily and smart. But to reduce his role, as this piece in the New York Times did, to an election play, seems short sighted to this reader.
Instead, it might be more accurate to consider France’s outrage at the botched submarine deal with the U.S. and Australia last fall, and, considering that, and countless other insults from U.S., the French President may feel, in the wake of Merkel’s retirement, like he really doesn’t have to be anyone’s lap Bichon anymore.
(But don’t just take it from me: As my 13-year-old son just informed me, “You’re a turd, Caitlin. You just don’t understand awesomeness.”) Touché!
That fact notwithstanding, as a Mainer, I remember when our own Senator George Mitchell brought peace in Northern Ireland (and won the Nobel Peace Prize for it)—one of the most productive contributions to ending fear and suffering in my lifetime. (Kenneth Branagh’s touching movie, Belfast, about his childhood during The Troubles is worth a watch!)
Macron’s place as a leader of Europe and in International Affairs is not to be underestimated. France has been here before, of course—starting in 2014, France was a part of the Normandy Format, which was created in an attempt to forge peace, along with Germany, between Ukraine and Russia. That he has sailed, Shackleton-like, into the troubled waters, is something we all should pay attention to. After all, we don’t have to think that hard about what an escalation of this conflict might portend.
Last week, just as the conflict was scaling up, I happened to watch a 2019 movie with Judi Dench called Red Joan while I was folding laundry. Based on a true story, the film is about an English physicist, and, eventually, spy for the KGB, Joan Redmond, who was a secretary with the British organization doing research on nuclear physics in order to build a bomb. After “the Yanks” make a nuclear bomb and drop it on Japan, she steals and gives the U.K. nuclear bomb research to Russia. She believed, she says, that if both sides have the bomb, both are less likely to use it. Watching that movie prompted me to look up nuclear test sites and their environmental fall-out. I found myself shocked by this disturbing list. France, as you might remember, has detonated its fair share in the South Pacific and in the Algerian Sahara. But the U.S. takes the cake.
There is a cynical hopelessness that comes over me when I see a list like that: My God, do we value the natural world so cheaply? We have so much to repair.
In other news, the Winter Olympics in Beijing opened this morning—and, as I write this, my boys are all downstairs hunkered around Peacock, streaming: 86 French athletes will compete. And starting this month, 6 Parisian museums will honor the designer Yves Saint Laurent’s art inspired designs—read about it here in Art News.
Cook, watch & read ce weekend (Cuisinier, Regarder et Lire):
I hope you all are working on reading our one book, one read, The Art of Losing, for our upcoming Zoom book club.
Speaking of Shackleton, here’s a great read for this weekend about a search which will commence this Saturday for Shackleton’s lost ship, a century later. And, speaking of mushroom clouds and the end of the world–consider these images from the Tonga volcano eruption.
On Frenchly this week, we have this very thrilling round up of French films at the Berlin film festival by our own awesomeness writer, Catherine Rickman; this delightful assortment of French (and Belgian) chocolates–it’s not too late to order in time for Valentine’s Day; an outline for four romantic trips you can pretty safely plan to a Francophone locale, despite Covid; a very funny and clever history of weird and exotic pets in France; and a piece about a young Parisian who left Paris during le confinement—apparently 20% of Parisians were part of an exodus from the City of Light. We are going to profile more of them on Frenchly.us in the coming months. But this young woman, Jenn, had some wonderfully insightful things to say about the pernicious effect of social media on us all and why her life needed to change. Come to Frenchly for these stories and more!
Last week I bought myself Priya Krishna’s cookbook Indian-ish and I am really excited about it—she makes everything seem so accessible and easy, and mouth-wateringly tempting.
And, I’ve been eyeing this Parisian Custard Tarte from Dorie Greenspan. If you make it let me know!
I leave you with this lovely video my friend and talented artist Amy Kustra sent me of Maya Angelou introducing her 2009 book, Letter to My Daughter, the other day. It’s two- and-a-half minutes that will make you feel supported and inspired today.
And this morning I read a moving story about segregated Black troops bringing Jazz to France in World War I, and how the French minds were totally blown by this incredible music. After the war, many black musicians and dancers came back to France, and settled in an area of Montmartre which became known as Black Montmartre. And from there the rest is history—so put on some Miles Davis (In a Silent Way) this weekend, cook up some Indian-ish veggie sloppy Joe’s, follow that with a slice of custard tarte and a glass of cognac, if you’re feeling really fancy, and watch the Olympics—for pleasure must still abound, within and without.
Take care, stay in touch.
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