July 8, 2022
Dear Frenchly Readers,
Marie Antoinette is famously remembered as having said, “Let them eat cake.” Or maybe it was, “Let them eat brioche” when her people, as the story goes, had no bread. But she, apparently, never said either. What she did say, during a period of bread shortages in 1775 was, “It is quite certain that in seeing the people who treat us so well despite their own misfortune, we are more obliged than ever to work hard for their happiness. The King seems to understand this truth.”
By early 1793, however, her husband, The King, was executed, no matter what he understood. And then, by October of that year, so was she. The Revolution was nearing its bloody end by the time her head rolled. Bastille Day, which the French actually call “le quatorze Juillet” or “The 14th of July” is a holiday that celebrates the Fête de la Fédération, first held on July 14th,1790. Many people assume that the holiday commemorates the storming of the Bastille, which also happened on July 14th, only in 1789. But, officially, the holiday is a celebration of the Fête de la Fédération first, then the newly-formed Republic and that fateful day in the Bastille, second.
Frenchly’s Charlinda Banks, writes about “5 Things You Didn’t Know About Bastille Day” and in it she tells a story that I found really funny about how the King had no idea all hell was breaking loose. He was a little, um, just, like, “duh?” about the severity of the situation.
As I was reading, in my mind, I reimagined the scene where the King realizes that things are getting dicey sorta like this: King Louis XVI, played by Lupin superstar and one of my favorite actors in the world, Omar Sy, wakes up slightly hungover from a night of carousing. He’s like 35 at this point and he’s got a touch of gout in his right toe from all that brioche or cake he emotionally ate last night during his bender. When he finally drags his achy body downstairs, the Duke (who is played by the oh-so-hot and talented Jonathan Bailey, from Bridgerton) is pacing around and waiting for the King to finally have his café so that he can comprehend the bad news. The King, like most of us, is just downright stupid without coffee in the morning. And the pain in his foot is making things worse. Finally, the Duke explodes—he cannot wait any longer for this annoying king to wake up!—and tells him about the storming of the Bastille prison and how the prisoners are set free and the King, with a pained and still groggy expression on his face goes, “Wait, what? The people are revolting?” And the Duke says, “No dude. This is full-on Revolution.” Maybe Salt-n-Pepa plays then as the soundtrack with “Whatta man, whatta man, whatta mighty good man…”
Ok, I am dreaming here and writing a screenplay. Forgive me. (Writers!)
Back to cakes: I think I told you all that one day I’d tell you my cake theory of life. Here it is: I love cakes. Not so much to eat, although that can be nice, but I like having them on the sideboard or in le frigo for my kids or a neighbor or a friend who stops by to have a slice with a nice glass of cold milk or a cup of tea in the afternoon. Even better late at night when you can’t sleep. There is a scene in Quiz Show, one of my favorite movies in the world, when the impossibly young Ralph Fiennes, as Charlie Van Doren, arrives at his parents’ house in the country late at night and drinks from a bottle of cold milk while eating a piece of chocolate cake his mother has made. His father, played by Paul Scofield, comes downstairs, awoken by his son’s arrival. Ok, you can actually Google this scene and it’s called the “cake scene.” But in case you don’t, here’s what happens: Mark Van Doren, the father, shares the son’s cake. There is a moment of tenderness between them as they eat, father and son. And then, just when you think Charlie will tell his father his problems with the quiz show, he loses his gumption. And instead, Charlie says, “You know, I just had the strongest memory. Coming home from school, going to the fridge. Ice cold bottle of milk, big piece of chocolate cake. Just the simplicity of it. I can’t think of anything that will make me feel that happy again.” And his dad says, “Not till you have a son.” (These days the script would read: child.)
I like my kids, or, honestly, anyone visiting, to feel that. There is just something so comforting and simple about cakes, something homey. You just know that whomever made that cake took some effort; it’s a considered kindness.
Cook, watch & read ce weekend (Cuisinier, Regarder et Lire):
READ: Ok so we have a new Rue du Soleil column by Karen Karbo. This one is so good. And it’s all about Karen’s dog, so dog lovers, animal lovers, get ready! You will laugh and you may even shed a tear or two, as I did. And wait till you see the pictures of her pooch! I won’t’ say any more as I just can’t spoil even a second of it, but make yourself a glass of cold viognier or du lait, sit down in a nice chair, open a window, put your feet up and take a read. Maybe with a piece of cake, too.
There’s more on Frenchly.us—some affordable French wines for Bastille Day or just summer in general; a trip to Chantilly; a list of summer reads; and French goings on about the US that are (mostly) all about Bastille Day.
WATCH: And we have a review of a new movie dropping on Netflix today! A new writer for us, Rebecca Leffler, who is based in Paris, writes about this modern take on the famous 1782 novel by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos, Les Liaisons Dangereuses. I remember reading it in college and my mind was blown open by the concept of the epistolary novel. Amazing. Loved it. This new version sets that letter writing into the formats of texting and social media and it takes place in the southern border town of Biarritz.
Also, we have this new piece by Andrea Meyer about the wonderful actress, Juliette Binoche. She’s got two new movies opening in the US today. I don’t know about you, but I adore Juliette Binoche. Andrea’s article literally vibrates.
COOK: Now, if you like my cake idea but have tons of berries on hand and want to do something berry-licious instead, our vagabonding writer, Catherine Rickman, has gathered some French berry recipes for summer. They are easy, they are fun and I think they all merit the stamp of a “considered kindness.”
Ok, that’s it. Enjoy beautiful July and all it has to offer. I’ll see you next week for one last Le Weekend before I take a break for 3 weeks for some good old fashioned vacances. And then, I’ll be back in August with lots to tell you about la France.
And come to Frenchly.us for more!
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