June 24, 2022
Dear Frenchly Readers,
Summer is here and it’s as if a page has been turned. L’été: A word that is over almost before you’ve said it, yet somehow still invokes heat, languid nights and glasses of cold rosé.
The air up here in Maine is soft on my skin and fragrantly green and salty. The sun takes forever to go down and every evening feels like a party. On the night of the solstice, Dan and I took our kids after dark to a nearby field that we had to hike into. We carried flashlights. The older one scared the younger one about vampires. I whistled Chariots of Fire and then moved on to Van Morrison and my older son told me to cut it out and my younger one wanted to be carried by his Dad. But then, when the trees opened up and the sky above was a dark blue and there were fireflies everywhere in the tall grasses, it felt as if the world were full of only possibility. No longer afraid and in his element with the nighttime creatures, my little curly headed sprite ran ahead into the dark ahead of us, “oohing” and “aahing” at the beauty of the glowing field.
We walked for a long time, a luscious loop in the dark damp air, while nighttime buzzed around us: moths flew by on their soft mothy business and the daisies shone pearlescent in the darkness along our path. Gently, so gently, my kids let fireflies land on their hands and they observed their mating blinks and differing colors ranging from orange to bright green.
When we got home, they were both hungry, of course. It reminds me of that Greg Brown song, Canned Goods, where the kids go to the grandmother’s house and they’re out late in the dark playing and they are always hungry. That is my experience with my kids and their friends I am lucky enough to feed. That night, my boys were up late, almost until 11, eating platters of cheese and crackers and then olives and oatmeal with maple syrup, butter and milk, for dessert. Dan and I love these times, they feel almost stolen, out of a book, not real. We have to pinch ourselves. The world feels like it settles into something we can say is right.
This morning, I was reading a bit about Edith Wharton because I have packed her book, The Age of Innocence to take to France with me in July. She wrote it in France, in Pavillion Colombe, to the north of Paris, where she lived. Apparently she wrote it in a scant 7 months. While I was looking her up, I happened upon the Romanian French writer, Anna, Comtesse Mathieu de Noailles (15 November 1876 – 30 April 1933). She was a friend of Wharton’s and Jean Cocteau’s, also a lover of Colette’s and friendly with Proust, André Gide, and others. In 1906 her image was sculpted by Auguste Rodin; the model can be seen today in the Musée Rodin in Paris, and the finished marble bust is on display in New York’s Metropolitan Museum.
But what drew me to Noailles today was this poem of hers, below. To me, at this start of summer full of green smells, fresh strawberries, dips in rivers and lakes and oceans whenever we can, a poem like this makes it feel like I should not apologize for wanting to revel in every soft moment. I give it to you here for your first weekend of summer.
Par Anna de Noailles
Tout luit, tout bleuit, tout bruit,
Le jour est brûlant comme un fruit
Que le soleil fendille et cuit.
Chaque petite feuille est chaude
Et miroite dans l’air où rôde
Comme un parfum de reine-claude.
Du soleil comme de l’eau pleut
Sur tout le pays jaune et bleu
Qui grésille et oscille un peu.
Un infini plaisir de vivre
S’élance de la forêt ivre,
Des blés roses comme du cuivre.
By Anna de Noailles
Everything shines, turns blue, rustles,
The day is searing like a fruit
That the sun cracks and cooks.
Every little leaf is hot
And shimmers in the air where
A fragrance like plum* lingers.
The sun-like water rains down
On the whole land, yellow and blue
Sizzling and oscillating a little.
An infinite pleasure of living
Rushes forward from the drunken forest
Of pink wheat like copper.
*Specifically a greengage plum.
English translation by Lisa Yannucci
Cook, watch & read ce weekend (Cuisinier, Regarder et Lire):
Author and food writer, Kate Christensen, has given us a new Bouffe and this time it’s a strawberry clafoutis. Do you know what a clafoutis is? It’s like a hybrid of custard and cake and is made easily in one pan and comes out bubbling and velvety. I have my eye on some tart wild strawberries that have taken over one of my raised beds and are almost ready. Kate’s clafoutis looks mighty perfect for those berries to me –eaten outside with a nice cup of black tea on Sunday afternoon? (Check the piece out just to see her darling pups, Angus and Ruthie, here.)
Andrea Meyer made us a list of 15 French summertime films to stream—this list is so exciting, I was not sure I could wait until Friday night. She made some amazing selections, both old and new. Dreamy Alain Delon, even!!!!
To read this week: We have French bathing suits and 15 places to take the plunge all over France; a tribute to French cinema icon, Jean-Louis Trintignant, famously Brigitte Bardot’s co-star and lover; a 48 Hours in the small southern city of Toulouse; a short piece about traveling to France this summer and what to expect with flights, lost luggage, understaffed airlines and crowds. And, finally, we published two recipes this morning of Maine Acadian (Franco-American) cooking—a tarte au sucre and an Acadian take on a cassoulet (bread crumbs, parmesan, butter and liquid smoke anyone?), terrific for a rainy summer night with some fresh salad greens and a light vinaigrette. If you use this code, FRENCHLY15, and buy the cookbook this weekend, you will get over 30% off the book, a deal exclusively for Frenchly readers. BUT if you email me (are you still reading?), the first two of you to reach out will get a free copy mailed next week! (The book publishes officially this weekend!)
So, get your copy—it’s got recipes by Joanie Benoit, the marathon runner (whom I wrote about running not exactly with me in this piece in the Times a couple of years ago) and many other Maine names you may know, including my own. (As they say, “As Maine goes, so goes the nation…”)
Ok, I am comparing you all to a summer’s day this weekend and sending you good, warm, salt-sprayed vibes.
Bust of Anna de Noailles above (Shutterstock).
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