Strange Animals


So who has seen a Dormouse?  Or a Hedgehog?

I guess I thought of them as extinct or fanciful creatures.  Turns out they both live in Europe but not the United States.

Remember Spiny Norman the giant hedgehog in Monty Python’s Flying Circus?  You would expect MPFC to use weird imaginary creatures.

But then a year ago a former French teacher of mine in Tours posted on FB something about a hedgehog in her back yard.  Huh?  Like did she see a Unicorn too?

As for dormice, I do remember the Jefferson Airplane….  Remember what the dormouse said, Feed your head.  But I am not quite sure the meaning of that lyric or even if it is true because the dormouse in Alice in Wonderland appeared to be mostly asleep.  At least from my online research.  It’s been years since I read it.

And for some reason, I equate dormouse with The Night Before Christmas.  But it was written by an American (which one seems to be in doubt) and how would he have seen a dormouse?  The line is actually Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouseClearly dormouse would have messed up the meter.

With thanks to Wikipedia:

hedgehogHEDGEHOG: A hedgehog is any of the spiny mammals of the subfamily Erinaceinae, in the order Eulipotyphla. There are seventeen species of hedgehog in five genera, found through parts of Europe, Asia, and Africa, and in New Zealand by introduction.

dormouseDORMOUSE: The dormouse is a rodent of the family Gliridae. Dormice are mostly found in Europe, although some live in Africa and Asia. They are particularly known for their long periods of hibernation.  And I guess they are said to resemble squirrels…

What brought this on?  I had tea in the Marais this afternoon.  I usually avoid this quartier of Paris.  It’s a favorite with American tourists.  You will find the Picasso Museum here and  Musee Carnavalet and Musee Cognac-Jay.  And numerous chic-chic boutiques.  Several very old buildings (half timber in fact). And a great tea shoppe.

Le Loir dans la Theiere.  The Dormouse in the Teacup.    Quite eclectic.  Reminds me of a place I used to frequent in Haight Asbury in the 80’s.  But much better food – typical awesome French tarte avec champignons, poultry et curry.  Followed by a delish carrot cake.  (Funny, you can tell it’s the Marais – they used the French word or the mushrooms and the chicken and curry were English).

I left the house without a jacket today.  Every day this week I wore a light jacket or a blazer.  And after an hour or two, I was carrying it on my arm.  Today the forecast was for showers but still temps of 71 – 73.

Today, when I am without outerwear, after two hours it started to rain and got very chilly.  Fortunately we were in the tea shop during the worst of it.  And fortunately we were in the Marais.   While in the restaurant we heard an INCREDIBLY LOUD thunderclap!  But across Paris at Parc Monceau, closer to where I live, the thunder was accompanied by (or the other way round…) lightning.  Which actually struck 10 kids and an adult who were having a party.  Some seriously.  Wow.

Tomorrow is La Fete De La Mere here.  So happy Mother’s Day to anyone who qualifies (even for animals!).

Bon Appetit!

Bon Appetit!  We all know those words – and if we don’t associate them with France, we associate them with Julia Child – who is French Cuisine to most Americans.

The French don’t know Julia Child.  And even film-mad French haven’t seen the movie Julie and Julia.

At this point in the blog, dear reader you ask, “Why would she write about Julia Child – she who continues to deny any interest in cooking?”  Great question.  I think I am being sucked into gourmet-land bit by bit.  Or bite by bite.  Truly, I have had the most amazing meals here in tiny places that don’t shriek haute cuisine.  As I pointed out to a friend last year whose taste runs to simple dives, French don’t have dives.  At least not in Paris.  Maybe Marseilles… but I don’t think I would feel too safe in those.

An intriguing conversation began around the simple term bon appetite!  I was told that the French don’t use that expression.  But in restaurants, I hear it all the time.  So I began an investigation and asked all the French I know.  And, mais oui, but of course, all the answers were different.  How can I get a handle on French culture when everyone is so dang independent!?!

Some said they say it at home when having people over for dinner.  Never said to the family… okay, well, rarely said.  One said it was a question of social level.  He tried to explain the nuances – they would have been hard enough to comprehend in English! But it was the French portion of the conversation so I got lost.  I gathered that the higher the class, the elite, the rarer it was said.  It might be said TO them by waiters or a chef- but they would never deign to say it to their guests.  It was mal-eleve….  Accents missing – not a French keyboard. But basically not well brought up.  One was telling me how it wasn’t used when the waiter brought our plats (yes, plat not plate – the main course) and said “Bon appetite!”  And she couldn’t use an argument that he thought we were American because clearly she is French and she did the ordering… and he didn’t hear my accent.  Others said it was just for Americans.  Shrug.  I give up.

However, at the soufflé place I had a great rapport with the waiter who wanted to speak English but let me speak French.  After he said, “Bon appetite,” he asked me – “what do you say in the States?”  I replied – “Bon Appetit!”  “No no ,” he said, “what do you say in the US?”  “Bon appetite!”  He finally believed me.  And thought it extremely strange.

And I mused on that for a while.  Why did we start Bon Appetit in the US?  My belief is it’s all because of Julia!  Mastering the Art of French Cooking!  Here’s where I draw the line with my leaning towards cooking…  I will not spend that much time on any recipe!

And maybe I don’t have to.  An American friend and I walked through Aligre Marche the other day and spotted fabulous artichokes!  She said she didn’t know how to get to the heart.  Well, I am a connoisseur of artichokes, living near Castroville, artichoke capitol of the world!  So I offered to show her.  Sunday I showed up with two great chokes.  She provided the boiling water.  And I proceeded to prepare and cut.  I guess she didn’t quite trust me, because she had read Julia on artichokes before I arrived.  “Julia said…”  “Julia does that…”  at my every move.  Apparently Julia also wanted cheesecloth to put over the cooking chokes to prevent discoloration.  Nope, not me.  I guess I am not bothered by discoloration – I just thought that’s the way cooked artichokes looked.


And I knew how to do it all without Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

So back to Bon Appetit!  Not one of my friends ever heard of Julia Child.  I have given a few a link to a video of her on Youtube.  I probably shouldn’t be surprised, but I am.  She is greatly responsible for introducing us to French cooking.  She was an icon – Dan Akyrod on Saturday Night Live as Julia is priceless.

All news to the French.

So tonight at the table, raise your glass of wine and say, “Bon Appetit!”