I want to take a minute to respond to all the comments I got this week, especially on the occasion of my birthday. Thank you all for the good wishes. Here goes:
DG, yes, there is life and more life after 50. Fifty seems very young to me now, given that Walt and some of my best friends haven't yet hit that milestone. I remember I didn't much like turning 50, but that was nine years ago and the negative feeling had more to do with my work situation at the time and not with the actual number.
Melinda, good for you, with prospects of a move to France. Best wishes to your daughter and new soson-in-law. I still find myself thinking that you are the Melinda B. that I had as a student when I taught French at San Francisco City College back around 1990. But you aren't, are you?
Claudia, happy everything to you too. You are one of my most faithful readers, and also a fairly new one. Isn't the Internet fantastic? It's so much better than TV, where the experience is passive. On the Internet forums and blogs, we can really participate, not just watch.
CHM, when you and I became friends in 1983, you were a lot younger than I am now. Sometimes I think you are a lot younger than I am now too! I've aged but you haven't, even though you are probably le doyen here. I'm looking forward to seeing you in May or June. And no, I'm not stopping the blog!
The Beav, I hope to get to Montréal at least once more in my life. But on my limited budget, given the worthless American dollar, it won't be right away. Keep those comments coming.
Louise, is the restaurant you mention Le Petit Nice in Marseille? I saw the chef on a TV show last night. He just won his third Michelin star. Chipping in would cost you all a lot, because there would have to be a travel allowance (train and hotel) in addition to the restaurant tab. Nice thought, though. And you are right: my story about leaving California for France just ended in the middle of the drive across the U.S. I need to pick up that thread again one day soon.
Chrissou, looking forward to seeing you in April or May. Tell Tony he' should come too. Is he cycling across the country again this year? Or up some mountain? Can you imagine we have been friends now for more than 15 years? Who knows where the time goes...
Elena, thanks for the wishes and the nice words. I appreciate your taking the time to leave a comment.
Mary, I wish you could come over to France. It was fun seeing Gabby in 2006 (was it already 2 years ago?). You are right, the first 59 birthdays haven't been bad at all. When we first met and I worked daily with CHM and Gabby, I was a veritable stripling: not even 35 years old yet. Unbelievable!
Donna, I hope you make (or made) and enjoy (or enjoyed) the borscht. You have the advantage of being able to get fresh beets easily out there in California. I think using raw beets would make a difference.
Loulou, I enjoy your blog and your food. You are right about weather being a major topic of conversation out here in the French countryside. It's great having a photo record, even if it is incomplete, to be able to go back and remember what the weather was at the same time a year, two, or five years ago.
PJ, thanks for all your comments and information. Callie says « ouah ouah ! »
Ginny (aka Anonymous), xoxo to you too. I would love to have the recipe for the Lithuanian beet soup. Is it served cold? Sounds good — beet salad is one of my favorites, so I'm sure I'd like beet soup. When we met and worked together, I had just turned 40. And it's true that a whole new phase of my life began then, in software. Without people like you to work with, I don't think I would have lasted 15 years in that business.
Claude, we haven't known each other very long, but you've been a personage in my life since the mid-1970s at least. Will you be in Paris in late May/early June? I might be coming to the city then. We could go on a long walk, no? I'll bring my camera.
Bob F., you win the longevity award. We must have first met in about 1971, when I arrived in Champaign-Urbana. Or shortly after that — maybe you were in France then. That's not quite 40 years ago. I can't believe we haven't seen each other in 30 years — I'll never forget your and Norma's wedding. Best to her, of course. Can you believe I finally met Claude because of blogging after all those years? And that I realized she was the Claude you and HW always used to talk about, but whose path never crossed mine?
AOB, wow, it is really nice to be back in touch with you after 20 years! Walt is thrilled, I know. The last time we saw each other, I wasn't even 40 yet, and when we first were friends in 1981-82, I was very wet behind the ears. My friend CHM, who will be in Paris this summer, lives just a stone's throw from where you lived back then, and I'm in that neighborhood frequently. Walt and I have always talked about you when we go to that part of town. Now your ears will really be burning.
Dan M., I'm so glad you had a good trip to Paris. Maybe your next trip will bring you to the Loire Valley.
Isabella, keep blogging in Naples. Florida, that is. I might have told you that a very good friend of mine lives there, so you never know when I might show up for a visit.
Karen, enjoy your trip to Paris. I wish you weather as nice and warm in early April as we have had for the past few Aprils.
Anonymous who made bagels, I'm glad the pictures were helpful and hope the bagels were delicious. Walt made another batch yesterday and we're going to have some for lunch today with fresh local goat cheese, some roasted home-grown red peppers from our freezer, and maybe some jambon cru from the farmers' market in Saint-Aignan, where I will be headed after my walk with the dog... right now.
Susan (and Ray), when are you coming back to France? Yes, looking back a few days, you were right, I did have the birthday blues. The sinking dollar was one contributing factor. We get poorer and poorer. But what the heck. Expenses are low, life is good, and maybe we will have a good garden this year so our grocery bills will go down.
Anonymous (in Virginia I think), thanks for your kind comment. You are so lucky to have Evelyn as a friend, as am I. It's nice to know you are there reading.
Evelyn, xoxo to you, and grosses bises too. Thanks for the birthday wishes. You and Lew need to get busy planning that next trip to France. When will it be? Maybe I'll see you in Alabama again before then. I'm thinking of going to spend next year's birthday in North Carolina.
Susan and Simon, I went back and looked. If the thorns on blackthorn are needle-like projections an inch or more long, then that's it. They are not like the thorns on roses or blackberries, that's for sure. I don't know if I will make slow gin but I might make sloe confiture. And no, I haven't seen any cowslips yet. Only primroses, cyclamens, and some dandelions, plus some varieties of other small flowers I can't identify.
OK, off into the vines with Callie and then to the market in town for goat cheese.