March 10, 2023
Dear Frenchly Readers,
I have a joke with an old friend about how much I hate March and she hates November. For her, it’s the way the light closes in in November and it gets so austere. I hate the gray of March and the mud and the melting snow to reveal dog poop and trash and just our general messiness on the planet. But in recent years, something has shifted for me. I think it might be, unfortunately, come to think of it, global warming, which has given us, up here in Maine, a March with less sleet and freezing rain and more sun-filled days. Yes, we still have the melting snow, the mud, the brown detritus of winter, the human trash suddenly exposed on the sides of the road in stark rebuke of our bad habits. But we also have more sun. Though a sunnier March means less water, eventually, as the extra snow and rain of March help carry us through the summer, it also means that the promise of spring feels that much closer.
One of the things I now love the most about this time of year is running in the invigorating, wet, cold, melty mess. My younger son loves to bike in this, coming in covered with the muddy spray thrown up as far as his helmet by the wheels of his bike. My older one comes in from a run in just a cut off t-shirt, mud splattered, arms cold to the touch.
I love seeing that one brave daffodil peek its head up, snow and mud be damned. Let it shine, let it shine. It has its own little light.
And another thing I like about March is making a New England boiled dinner with a corned beef we corn, or salt, ourselves. I get a brisket from a local farm every year and submerge it in water and salt, sugar and spices in my fridge. I use smoked paprika, extra bay leaves and I find that a cinnamon stick is important. After it’s marinated for a week or ten days, Dan does the work of chopping up all the carrots, potatoes rutabaga and onions and boiling it all on Saint Patrick’s Day. I have found a way to make a gluten-free Irish Soda bread (with currants and caraway, thank you very much.) We usually start the day with our children hunting for leprechauns in homemade leprechaun traps, constructed out of shoe boxes that have been painted green and placed around our property the evening before. They’ve never caught an actual leprechaun, but those silly, little green-clad guys do seem to drop some gold one-dollar coins in their desperate attempts to get out of the rainbow filled, yet still sadistic, little traps. Given that it’s March, it’s freezing cold when the kids go out there to place the traps in the gloaming on the 16th and then retrieve the gold the next morning. As you might imagine, as my older son has gotten wiser and snarkier, he finds it amusing to leave his traps in very inopportune places. In our family, it is yours truly who is out there at 11 PM, slipping and sliding down the snowy bank to get to a trap dangling from a massive oak tree. One year, I went careening down the ice into a rose bush and then had to crawl up our bank on my hands and knees. I was imagining my then-twelve year old in his bed, probably in hysterics as he knew what hell he was putting me through. Oh youth. So much fun to stick it your old mom.
So maybe I don’t hate March that much after all.
À cuisiner, regarder et lire çe weekend:
I had the incredible pleasure today to interview the legendary, uber-charming and smart French director, Dominik Moll, and the screenwriter, Gilles Marchand, his friend and collaborator, who have made a new movie together called The Night of the 12th. On the face of it, this movie is about the terrifying murder of a young woman. But it’s really a movie about misogyny, with no neat or tidy answers. Andrea Meyer wrote about the movie in her Le Ciné that covered the New York French Film Festival, Rendezvous with French Cinema. I will include that below. The Night of the 12th opens at Rendezvous tonight. When the larger theatrical release is set, Andrea and I will publish a longer piece from the interview that we will co-write.
Andrea also wrote this week’s terrific list of 5 French language movies about children, including an Oscar contender for Best International Feature. Like all of her pieces, this one is smart, sensitive, and makes you eager to watch them all.
If you’re looking for French crime shows, as one reader who wrote to me was, Cat Rickman just finished this list for you. Check it out, below.
And, we have a new Bouffe by Kate Christensen today! She made her own Chicken fricassée recipe, inspired by years of reading French recipes and the indomitable Martha. It’s the perfect meal for March, she wrote me this morning, “The beauty of it is that it’s good for the change of seasons, because it’s light and hearty at the same time. I would absolutely eat it on a stormy March night.”
Ok, from the department of odd, but maybe also enlightening (?), here is a Rachel Aviv article in The New Yorker about a woman, named Agnes, who lives with both her ex-husband and new husband. At one point in the article, Aviv describes her subject this way: “Sometimes it seemed to Agnes that the universe had been prearranged for her benefit. If she and Arnold were taking a walk together and she craved a croissant, a bakery would suddenly appear.” It wasn’t just her name that made me think of the play and movie, Agnes of God. But also her belief in a kind of self-righteous divine intervention that is peculiar to only herself.
Or maybe you’d rather read about Pauline Bonaparte, sister to the despot, and bold in her own way.
Speaking of croissants. I told you on Wednesday I’d tell you how to make gluten-free croissants. The best recipe I’ve found is this one, from Let Them Eat Gluten Free Cake. It is time consuming, so make sure you read it through first. But so worth it!
My publisher is giving away more advance copies of my new novel, Pete and Alice in Maine. You can win one on Goodreads, here.
That’s it. Happy March. We’re getting there,
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Bouffe by Kate Christensen