Le Weekend, 2/3/23: How to Save Wild Birds in a Freeze, Love Stories & Flageolet Beans 🇫🇷

A small bird sitting on a branch


February 03, 2023

Dear Frenchly Readers,

My iPhone tells me that in my beloved Lyon it was sunny today and in the 50s. Down in Collioure it was sunny and in the 60s.

But where I live in Maine, it’s going to get very cold this weekend, starting tonight. The thermometer is likely to read around 20 below (Fahrenheit) tonight, but with the wind, which is also coming, it will be more like 60 below in some parts of Maine and the Northeast. This presents a huge risk to people who are homeless, people who might lose power, people who can’t pay for enough fuel, and on down the food chain until we reach trees that might not be able to survive cold weather and wind and could split, fall, die.

It’s so hard not to feel helpless. Take your pick of crises, and one can feel entirely impotent.

The author of Braiding Sweetgrass, Robin Wall Kimmerer, says in The New York Times this week, that you don’t have to keep being a part of the problem. She says, “People feel a kind of longing for a belonging to the natural world…It’s related to, I think, some of the dead ends that we have created for ourselves that don’t have a lot of meaning.” To read this short, important interview about what you can do, it’s here.

Also, I offer this: You can help your wild birds survive cold temperatures over this weekend: Many of them are not biologically equipped to handle such temperatures and wind; they are at risk of freezing to death. If you can, scatter high fat sunflower seeds under the trees where they can drop down and eat safely out of the wind and under cover from hawks. Hang seeded or fortified suet in trees, or in another area that’s less windy, like behind a shed. Make a windbreak with an old Christmas tree or a few pieces of wood leaning up against a shed, and scatter food underneath. Repeat at the end of the day and tomorrow throughout the day.

Now, for the fun stuff: Starting this week, Frenchly is celebrating life, love and hope by gathering your stories for our first, and, so far, only, “30 Word French Love Story Contest.” Already, we have some wonderful entries. Here are 4 to share today (I will share next week, too):

“After 57 years, still pining after my French pen-pal, the guy I started writing to when I was 13. We never married each other, much to our huge regret!” —Elise

“Cycling day trips in France, picnics on the Normandy beaches with mon amour,
Brie, baguettes, vin rouge in the lavender fields, all of it forever has mon coeur!”—Jane

“I fell in love with an amazing, organic roasted chicken in Nice. It was and still is the best chicken I have ever eaten. It was roasted with Provence herbs.”  —Bianca

“There was something about her eyes. They were hungry, yes, but wary. She moved slowly across the hotel’s patio, seeking my hand to reach out, tempting her with food. Cats!” —Sharon

And I have some really good news: Not only is my publisher Harper Collins, willing to part with 5 copies of the advance reader copies of my upcoming novel, Pete and Alice in Maine (not out until 7/4, so you will be waaaay ahead of the curve and are getting a limited, unique, though uncorrected, version of the novel)  for 5 winners, but our friends at agnès b. have also gotten in touch and are going to throw in this lovely heart shaped bracelet for the first place winner. 

I can’t wait to hear your stories about falling in love with a piece of Tomme or a French fry or a French guy….so send your most ridiculous, your most funny, your saddest stories ever and we will collect them and publish and reward the top 5.

À cuisiner, regarder et lire çe weekend:

Ok, so it’s gonna be cold in a lot of places this weekend, and I’ve included some extra reading and recipes, below, for staying put:

There is a terrific article, below, by Anne-Fleur Andrle about a French band called Kids Return, started by two guys who have been friends since middle school. They sing in English, but Anne-Fleur interviewed them in French and then took three months working on this terrific piece in English for us. This kind of editing experience and the resultant work from it is why I love my job.

I also love my job when I get to edit my regular regulars. Below, Andrea, Keith and Debra have new stories. Check ’em out:

We have a new movie reviewed by Andrea Meyer today in Le CinĂ© starring Laure Calamy from Call My Agent! She plays a single mother who works as a chambermaid in a big hotel and can’t get to work during a transit strike. Gritty and real, it’s the antithesis to the dreamy and hackneyed Paris that’s all beauty and chocolate and berets….this is a real person story, done well.

Also, we have a book review in the Bouquin from novelist, Debra Spark. Was this guy the cruelest Nazi of all? (Is such a thing possible?)

And the NBA has a French extraterrestrial coming their way…Since Blinken isn’t going to China now because of that Chinese balloon we found in our air space, maybe he’ll be investigating while sitting court side this weekend. Keith Van Sickle wrote about basketball for us this week.

Dan is downstairs right now cooking up onions for the insanely cold weather tonight because we are going to make novelist and Frenchly’s Bouffe writer, Kate Christensen’s, “Best Onion Soup in France”  for dinner tonight. I can smell the onions gently softening….

Another great recipe that I love for cold weather is this one, from the NY Times, for flageolet beans gratin. I love those beans—they are French and small and green colored and my brother gave a bag of them to me one year for Christmas (Rancho Gordo) and they were an excellent gift. Picked in France before full maturity and dried in the shade to keep their green color, they are creamy and delicate, unlike any bean I’ve ever tasted. The French often use them in cassoulet. I used turkey bacon in our recipe (we don’t eat pork)  but if you are vegan or vegetarian you could use mushrooms or sundried tomatoes.

Now, if I don’t lose power and can do it, I am making a cake this weekend. February is cake month, IMHO, and I love having a cake on my sideboard, as I have mentioned before in my cake theory of life. Chocolate seems the ticket to me. I am interested in this chocolate layer cake from Dorie Greenspan, here, though it’s no one’s birthday in my house, thank heavens. You all know how much I love Dorie, stellar American baker, woman, person who lives part-time in Paris. I will make mine gluten free and lately I’ve been experimenting with apple cider vinegar and baking soda instead of baking powder—works wonders for texture and flavor at a ratio of 1:2 (1 is the soda, 2 is the vinegar.) I do love to use this trick, especially with les crêpes. 

One more cooking idea: I am also crazy about Emily Nunn’s Department of Salad Substack. If you’re not freezing your cul off this weekend, then maybe a Crunchy Winter Rainbow Dance Party Salad? We all like crazy salads with our meat.

Have a good (and hopefully not-too-chilly) one! Feed your birds,

Ă€ bientĂ´t,


Catch up with me on Frenchly’s Instagram, here.

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Music in Your Head by Anne-Fleur Andrle


Le Ciné by Andrea Meyer


Bouquin by Debra Spark


Calling Blinken!


Bouffe by Kate Christensen


Not Crappy CrĂŞpes


Love in France and Win!


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