If you find languages interesting, have I got a treat for you! There is an excellent language learning series by Michel Thomas that is great listening!
I began with Start French. I always wanted to learn a little French, but it was offered during music class at my high school, so I could only choose one. I chose music and took an afternoon Spanish class for my foreign language. I’ve always found French to be a challenging accent to get, and reading the words on a page just didn’t work for me.
Enter Michel Thomas and his method.
When I popped his CD into my car, suddenly my commutes and errands turned into listening in on fun little conversations. He introduces basic words and phrases in a way that builds successively on one another, feels natural, and is a little easier to remember than trying to memorize nouns and conjugate verbs. He also relates the French word to the root of the English word, helping form connections in your brain to both words and their shared meaning.
After some time, I began talking with the recorded Thomas and enjoying being able to speak un peu de francais. I couldn’t help but share my discovery with family members and friends. My Dad wanted to try Start German. He has been listening to it before bed each night and greets the day with a guten Morgen!
This series is also currently available to check out in Irish, Italian, and Spanish. Also coming soon…Norwegian!
I have been following Mimi Thorisson’s blog for over two years now, and although it is changing and she is moving on to a website with future endeavors alongside her husband, I’m always excited to go back to it and find recipes and inspiration for travel. That said, her latest cookbook, French Country Cooking, published in 2016 and new to our shelves at Davenport Public Library this past autumn, are just as inspiring and wonderful to read. The exquisite photos taken by Oddur Thorisson, Mimi’s husband, inspire one to daydream to the shores and lands of another place……to France, the Médoc region with world class wines and local markets provisioning its patrons with fresh produce, seafood and meats of the current season.
One will enjoy the mostly easy to follow recipes…I say mostly, in that some of the ingredients might be hard to come by in the states unless you’re in a big city or on the east or west coasts or you can always order hard to find items online.
The recipe we tried, pg. 194, Pork Shoulder Grilled over Grapevine Branches turned out wonderfully. We have a small grill which worked just fine versus Mimi’s open fireplace grill. The recipe is straight forward and easy to follow. If you don’t have grapevine branches, try some type of fruit tree dried wood to add to the fire such as dried apple, apricot, or pear dried tree branches to add flavor to the smoke from the fire.
Ingredients: 1 1/2 lb Pork Shoulder cut into 4 slices; Fine Sea Salt & Freshly Ground Pepper; 1 Tbsp. Unsalted Butter; 2 Garlic Cloves.
- Prepare medium-hot fire in a grill. Add dried grapevine branches, if desired to increase the smoky flavor.
- Season the meat with salt and pepper. Grill the pork until browned, golden, and cooked through, about 7 minutes on each side.
- Just before serving, spread the butter over the pork and scatter the sliced garlic on top.
Try one of the main courses over the holidays or for fun for New Years! The desserts are always a fun way to start if you have never tried French cuisine. I’m looking forward to trying Mimi’s Pomegranate meringues recipe for the new year.
Bon appétit! Happy eating!
So, how was your April in Paris? Nothing can compare with the real thing, but I hope it was good!
Shockingly, my month did not go as planned and I didn’t manage to finish any books set in Paris. However, books about Paris are always on my list and I will always be reading about the loveliest city, so I don’t feel like I’m missing out. Also, there are no Library Police.
I did squeeze in a movie though – Coco before Chanel (yes, it’s in French!) starring Audrey Tautou. It’s about Coco Chanel’s early life and the experiences that helped shaped both her artistic vision and her life choices. As shown in the movie (and I believe it is accurate), Coco was not an easy person. She was opinionated and bold (at a time when women were encouraged to be quiet and decorative), and demanded her own way – which sometimes seemed to shift without warning. She is also largely responsible for cutting women out of restrictive corsets and creating clothes that are elegant, timeless and comfortable with clean lines and little fuss. In addition, she created and directed her own company in a world run by men and she set her own course unapologetically.
Sadly, there is very little about Paris in the movie until the end (Coco grew up in the French countryside, left in an orphanage by her father along with her sister after their mother died) and only a little is shown about her growing business and fashion influence. I would have like to seen more about that and also seen something about her life in Paris during World War II – she took a German lover during the Occupation and there has been speculation that she collaborated with the Nazis. She is a complex, enigmatic figure (French history seems to have lots of them!) and I’d like to learn more about her.
Now it’s your turn – what did you read/watch/listen to this month and what did you think of it?
Are you someone who enjoys art? Or maybe you are one of those who feels like you don’t know much about art, but would be interested to learn more if your interest was piqued in just the right way. Consider yourself piqued.
I think you may enjoy taking a vicarious walk through one of the world’s most famous museums. Notwithstanding the hour of the day (past museum hours? no problem!) or the number of miles between you right now and the Louvre in Paris, you can do just that by reading the book Cruising Through the Louvre by David Prudhomme.
The book is a vehicle that, while telling a brief but entertaining story about human behavior in relation to art in graphic novel form, highlights just some of the 70,000 works of art in the Louvre. You can even catch your glimpse of them without having to pay admission (library cards are free, after all!) or navigate through any of the 8.8 million annual visitors. Although, if you like people-watching that may be the best part of all. Fortunately, Prudhomme recognizes that and manages to create characters arguably as interesting as the works of art they visit.
Sound like a good deal? Then I implore you to check this book out! When you read it please tell me what you think of the ending. It has a strange twist that I think lends itself to multiple interpretations.
With her groundbreaking bestseller Around My French Table , Dorie Greenspan changed the way we view French food. Now, in Baking Chez Moi , she explores the fascinating world of French desserts, bringing together a charmingly uncomplicated mix of contemporary recipes, including original creations based on traditional and regional specialties, and drawing on seasonal ingredients, market visits, and her travels throughout the country. Like the surprisingly easy chocolate loaf cake speckled with cubes of dark chocolate that have been melted, salted, and frozen, which she adapted from a French chef’s recipe, or the boozy, slow-roasted pineapple, a five-ingredient cinch that she got from her hairdresser, these recipes show the French knack for elegant simplicity. In fact, many are so radically easy that they defy our preconceptions: crackle-topped cream puffs, which are all the rage in Paris; custardy apple squares from Normandy; and an unbaked confection of corn flakes, dried cherries, almonds, and coconut that nearly every French woman knows.
Whether it’s classic lemon-glazed madeleines, a silky caramel tart, or “Les Whoopie Pies,” Dorie puts her own creative spin on each dish, guiding us with the friendly, reassuring directions that have won her legions of ardent fans. (description from publisher)
And you may be wondering how to commemorate this joyeux July 14th. As all foodies know, no one takes more delight in their cuisine than the French. Why not check out Joanne Harris’ Chocolat? (in book or dvd format), a fable about the magical quality of chocolate. The film version is a sensual celebration of all forms of chocolate (and Johnny Depp).
A paperback copy of A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle was my constant companion on a trip through the Northeast, and became a scrapbook of sorts (stuffed with pamphlets, snack wrapper bookmarks and smeared with chocolate ice cream eaten in downtown Bar Harbor). Mayle loves his food so much, it’s impossible to feel guilty if you eat while reading his book. The deep and abiding love of food and drink formed a bond with his Provencal neighbors – though their actions were often perplexing to him.
From Paris to the Moon is a more cerebral collection of essays, about a year in which Adam Gopnik moves from New York to Paris to immerse his family in the French language and way of life. He dissects cafe culture and the “crisis in French cuisine,” among many other things; what could be dry is instead a personal and fascinating insider’s view of an American in Paris.