May 20, 2022
Dear Frenchly Readers,
On Wednesday night, I caught one of the first opening shows of the new Downton Abbey movie, A New Era. Knowing that part of the movie takes place in the South of France, I felt I had to report back to you, my dear readers, by the official opening day which is *today, in case you might go check it out this weekend.
My older son was my companion (as we’ve just finished watching all 6 seasons of the show together and also the first movie). In line, in front of us, was a crowd of women I’ve known not well at various points and places in my life, whose names I didn’t all remember. I found myself noticing how much older and worn they all looked. And then the line from the folksinger, Greg Brown’s song, “Spring Wind,” came into my head: “My friends are getting older/ So I guess I must be, too…”
I tell you that story because, as soon as the movie began, I saw on screen what Covid has wreaked: The entire cast looked puffier, heavier, more tired, older, more ragged. That is, save for Hugh Bonneville, who was considerably trimmer as Lord Grantham and had, unfortunately, been given, it looked like, a hair piece that was not quite the right color and was rather more fly-away than it should have been; it was perhaps the same hair and makeup artist who also decided to make Bonneville up with so much tan foundation and eyeliner that he looked a bit more like Lawrence of Arabia than the fusty, grumpy, lovable and just-so-English Lord Grantham we’ve all become used to. Allan Leech, on the other hand, looked amazing—trim and strong, his Irish blue eyes shining.
But in the end, there was something so comforting about seeing our old Downton friends on screen and seeing that most of them, too, like all of us in line for the movie, had not come through Covid unchanged and unscathed.
Now, on to the movie: Without giving anything away, I can tell you the movie borrows heavily and, unabashedly, from the classic, Singing in the Rain, replete with the storylines of silent movies being replaced by “talkies” and an unpleasant blond actress with an odious voice.
The French part: Ok, so one of my favorite actors (hailing from Belgium), whom I first came to know in that amazing and terrifying show, Le Bureau de Legends, Jonathan Zaccaï, plays a Frenchman who owns the house on the Riviera where the Downton Crawleys descend. Even in a small part, he gives a nuanced performance that has emotion roiling below the surface. Of course, the English can’t help themselves but poke fun at the French: As the boat steers the Crawleys across the channel, the camera lingers longingly on the Dover cliffs and then Carson barfs. Carson remarks, when in France (and still wearing his heavy tweeds and sweating like a pig), “They’re very French, the French.” And, later, he says, “You won’t believe what those people eat!” Cora comments to her husband about his dyed-in-the-wool Englishness, “You are the least French person I know! You don’t even like garlic!” And, a Black American Jazz band, perhaps imported from Paris for the occasion, has been hired to perform for a party —to the French this is just l’habitude. The Crawleys find it all very exotic.
But the movie, in the end, belongs to an unlikely hero: Kevin Doyle, who plays the nervous footman, Molesley, not only saves the movie within the movie, but saves the entire thing from being milky mush. His funny, physical and just plain brilliant acting shines. There is one scene, in particular, when he acts out what should happen at the end of the movie within the movie that is worth your ticket alone.
Cook, watch & read ce weekend (Cuisinier, Regarder et Lire):
We have a new “Bouffe” today from Kate Christensen and she is sharing, especially for Frenchly readers, her recipe for tian, a roasted vegetable dish that hails from Provence. It is here. My gosh, that looks good! A perfect meal for the cool and rainy spring weekend I am looking forward to up here in Maine. Since my older son will be in a production of Romeo and Juliet this weekend, a tian ready on the sideboard for when we come home, with some nice baguette and goat cheese, sounds like the perfect souper for a late night…
And…speaking of bread: The best baguette in NYC has been decided! At French Morning’s event this week, winners were tasted and announced. I know you’ve been waiting with bated breath. So, this article here, in French, will both test your French language skills and also satisfy your curiosity. Next week, we’ll have it translated in time for the Wednesday newsletter.
Also, both Kate Christensen, of Bouffe fame, and I, have essays in a new book called Breaking Bread that is being published next Tuesday. It features lots of very famous American writers like Rick Russo, Richard Ford, Lily King and Susan Minot all writing about food. Debra Spark, also a contributor here on Frenchly, is one of two ingenious and imaginative co-editors on the book. The book will benefit an organization called Blue Angel, which is combatting food insecurity with fresh, locally grown food. My essay is about the trials and tribulations of teaching my kids French through French cooking when they were being homeschooled by Dan and me during the pandemic. (And…my recipe for a Covid kitchen croque monsieuris in the book—which was really exciting for me!) If you pre-order the book from your local bookseller or Amazon, here, you will get the book by Tuesday, the release day.
And, in more food news (our plate, in this case, runneth over!), I also have a recipe I developed for gluten-free pizza crust being published next month in a cookbook called The Maine Community Cookbook, Volume 2. I have been working on my gluten-free recipes since our family first stopped eating gluten in 2013. I love baking boules and cakes and tartes and biscuits. I love sharing what I’ve learned with friends. In addition to the one contributed by yours truly, there are over 200 amazing recipes from all over my great state of Maine throughout the book–famous chefs as well as grandmas who know how to make delicious morsels and want to share their recipes and keep Maine culture and traditions alive. You’ll find dumplings and beignets and pies and chowders and seafood and everything in between.
If you pre-order the book between now and June 1st, the publishers are offering a great special exclusively for YOU, my Le Weekend readers—32% off. Just enter the code, FRENCHLY15 when you go to their website, here. And, next week, we at Frenchly are going to publish 2 of the French/Acadian recipes that are in the book. Keep your eyes peeled for those!
One last plus to buying either book: 2$ of every sale of the Maine Community Cookbook will go to fighting food insecurity in Maine and a portion of all Breaking Bread proceeds will do the same, through the aforementioned Blue Angel.
But don’t stop there. The Maine nepotism continues: The editor of the Maine Community Cookbook,Margaret Hathaway, the author of many books, including The Year of the Goat: 40, 000 Miles and the Quest for the Perfect Cheese, also has an essay in Breaking Bread. Three more crossover writers are Deborah Joy Corey–Debra Spark’s co-editor on Breaking Bread–and the two grandes dames of Maine food writing, Nancy Harmon Jenkins and Sandy Oliver.
Now, dear to my heart (in two ways), is this wonderful article I published today by one of my most lovely writers, Philip Ruskin. Philip is just such an enthusiastic, warm, smart, generous person. I smile when I see his name in my inbox. He has written us a remarkable piece about honey in France—about the role honey and bees have played in French culture and, also, how apiculturists are setting up their hives on National Monuments as part of a national plan to encourage beekeeping and safeguard regional honey production. I loved editing this piece in particular because, back in 2013, I traveled with German beekeepers and met a wonderful, committed French beekeeper, Olivier Belval. I went on to write about bees and beekeeping and a European push to eliminate agricultural chemicals in order to save pollinators in my book, Modified.
Finally, if you haven’t read any of our new articles this week, please read Jana Misho’s fun piece about going to an attic sale in Montmartre (with links for other attic sales in Paris)—I went to 3 yard sales last weekend and loved it; Andrea’s super popular and well-curated list of ten French films to stream right now for free; Catherine’s article about LUMA Arles, a contemporary art museum designed by Frank Gehry and in the town where Van Gogh painted “Starry Night”; a list of 7 French wine bars you can find from Seattle to Portland, Maine and this very funny review of the new Omar Sy cop flick by Andrea Meyer.
Ok, now THAT is a full plate. Wow. I can’t believe how much we have going on at Frenchly!
Talk to me—I love hearing from you. Thank you for those of you who write with notes of assent and dissent alike, thank you for telling me about the mistakes I make and quibbling with my word choice—believe it or not, you all make me a better writer
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