Le Weekend, 8/18/23: A Frenchified Aperol Spritz, Transatlantic and Only Murders….??

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August 11, 2023

Dear Frenchly Readers,

A little over a month ago, I was at a birthday party for my dear friend Craig, in Brooklyn, and I had an Aperol Spritz for the first time in my life. For the uninitiated, this is a cocktail made with an orange-colored and bitter (rhubarb is an ingredient) Italian apéritif called Aperol, which is then mixed with chilled Prosecco, a splash of soda water (or I like to use blood orange Orangina) and garnished with a slice of orange or lemon. Ok, maybe I had something like it in my younger days when vagabonding in Italy, but I remember Campari, not Aperol, and I remember trying to be cool and actually like Campari,  even though it was dreadful. I certainly don’t remember anything as refreshing and delicious as an Aperol Spritz.

I came back from New York and told my co-editor, Cat Rickman, about this drink. And she was all like, “Oh my God, you’re just now coming to the Aperol thing, like ten years late?” A lot of our conversations go like this. It makes me laugh. I love it. So I asked Cat, “Ok, clearly I’m a dud on cocktails, can you build me a French bar?” She said sure with a little more enthusiasm than I felt necessary, like I was a fun fixer-upper she’d found in a prehistoric junk-yard. And so we began a conversation about what to stock, how to use it, what cocktails you can have on hand, and why wouldn’t you just buy wine or beer or cider, something someone else has already made for you and is that much easier to procure? The result is our conversation and primer we just published a few moments ago called, Le French Bar. It’s fun, informative and will get you mixing up French drinks before you can say “zut alors!”

*Just to make myself feel better, I will tell you that I bumped into a similarly ancient (barely middle-aged) friend from high school the other day. He told me about a recent trip he and his wife had taken to go hiking in the Dolomites. And that he was crazy about Aperol Spritzes now and making them at home…”Ah-ha,” I said. And then innocently, “Did you know about those before you went?” “Nope.”

Ok, don’t just take it from me. Read our piece because Cat, knowing I love The Spritz, has taken it and turned it on its head and Frenchified it. So, now, I can be very à la mode, and drink this totally wonderful and new Frenchy fresh thing and get all the pleasure of a Spritz, without cheating on France with Italy.

Another party I am a bit late to: The Netflix show, Transatlantic, which Cat reviewed when it dropped on Netflix back in April. LOVE it. My older son, who has been consuming a steady diet of World War II books: All the Light We Cannot See (coming to Netflix on Nov. 2nd of this year….with no French people playing French people); The Book Thief and, now, The Nightingale, is watching it with me. Transatlantic is based on real historical events, takes place in Marseille (mostly) and on the southern French/Spanish border, when in 1940, America was half-heartedly trying to get celebrated Jewish intellectuals and artists out of France. It’s in English, German, French and Spanish. It’s terrific and makes you think about how that war forever shaped and reshaped not just Europe, but the world. The actor who plays Walter Benjamin made me think about Benjamin and his legacy. And so I searched for this quote of his this morning:

“This is how one pictures the angel of history. His face is turned toward the past. Where we perceive a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe which keeps piling wreckage upon wreckage and hurls it in front of his feet. The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed. But a storm is blowing in from Paradise; it has got caught in his wings with such violence that the angel can no longer close them. This storm irresistibly propels him into the future to which his back is turned, while the pile of debris before him grows skyward. This storm is what we call progress.” 

You can also watch Laurie Anderson sing it, here. 

Now this is not at all French, but my big son and I also started Only Murders in the Building, Season Three. We were laughing so hard we had to hit pause and rewind…several times. If you watch it, just savor the “acting elephant in the room.”

Believe me, it’s taken something to write about Spritzes and TV in the midst of the Maui fires and the climate disaster, and everything else that’s going on that feels just terrible. It’s not like I don’t know those things are happening and I wish I could offer something other than horror, something that might be useful, helpful. Like most of you, I am in shock. And pain. All I can offer at times like this is a pause from the news and some joy. Is that progress? You tell me.

Also, this brilliant Op-Ed in The New York Times this week about language and being Asian in Paris. Some of the best writing I have read in a long time.

And this curious and sad story, also in The New York Times, about a kids’ French bookstore in New York City with a dog problem. I bring it up as a bookend to my writing above about the war. The German shepherds, the French woman who seems to have stepped out of time, the entire thing almost could have happened in a movie, or, perhaps, a TV show. Maybe Transatlantic. Or Only Murders in the Building.

Speaking of murders, I am deep into The Marriage Portrait by the brilliant Maggie OFarrell. There is nothing this writer cannot do, IMHO. The way she imagines 16th century Italy is amazing. If you haven’t read Hamnet yet, do. The Marriage Portrait is so richly written you can read it slowly, in little bits, like nibbling a sweet French Madeleine with some Italian coffee on a patio.

If you want to make your own Madeleines, try this gluten free/almond flour recipe for a Proustian moment. They are made with with orange and brown butter (muffin tins will suffice) and savor their tangy sweetness. Dan made some for us this morning.

Have a good weekend. Come say ‘hi’ to me on Instagram or my website or write to me by hitting reply. I always love hearing from you.

À bientôt,

Caitlin.

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