18 January 2010

A fine Sunday

When we have a day of fine weather, I should acknowledge it. The sun came out first thing yesterday morning and by mid-afternoon the temperature outside had reached 10ºC (50ºF). It felt right balmy.

For the first time in weeks, I was able to go out for a walk with the dog without needing to put on a hat and gloves. That meant I could take some pictures, and there was enough light for that activity too. You'll see a few of the photos just below, in this post.

Sunday afternoon in the vineyard
17 January 2010

In the evening, a long-running Sunday program called Vivement Dimanche, hosted by Michel Drucker on France 2 television, featured the British actor Hugh Grant as a guest. And guess what — Hugh Grant speaks French. He seemed to have no trouble understanding what the half-dozen French people on the show were talking about, and he answered questions in French without too much hesitation.

It always surprises me when people like that turn out to speak French well. Jody Foster does. And Sigourney Weaver. Kirk Douglas used to appear on French TV in French too. Jane Fonda, of course — she had a life in France and was married to the director Roger Vadim. Candace Bergen too — she was married to Louis Malle. I'm sure there are other French-speaking anglophone actors, but not many.

It's very wet out in the vineyard, with big puddles all over the place.

And now for something completely different: I just bought an airline ticket for a trip to the U.S. this spring. I dread the actual trip — the traveling part — which is very long but seems even longer with all the delays and slow-downs caused by security checks. And it's nerve-wracking these days even to think about getting on a transatlantic flight.

A walnut tree among the grapevines

My trip is especially long. Door-to-door it will take about 25 hours. I'll leave Saint-Aignan at 5:00 a.m. one morning to take the train to Paris and the RER out to CDG airport. Three planes later — two connections in two big airports — I'll arrive at my destination in North Carolina at midnight, if all goes well. Midnight on the U.S. East Coast is 6:00 a.m. the next morning in France. That's 25 hours in all.

But I'm looking forward to being there when I finally get there. It will be relaxing and fun — a complete dépaysement, or change of pace. I don't know if you realize it, but it's a different world over there. :^) My last trip was already a year ago. I'll come back re-energized and ready to start work in the vegetable garden. I'll be happy to be back in France.

The sun, setting behind the clouds, was spectacular.

More about endives: I made a salad yesterday with one Belgian endive, one apple, some toasted walnuts, and some cheese, in a vinaigrette dressing. The apple complemented the endive nicely, and the walnuts gave good taste and texture. The cheese filled it out. I had a blue cheese, a Fourme d'Ambert from the Auvergne, in my salad, and in his Walt put a non-blue cow's milk cheese, a Bethmale from the Pyrenees region.

Belgian endive, apple, walnuts, and blue cheese

As for chicory, of which escarole, curly endive, Belgian endive, and radicchio are examples, there are many names for all the different plants in different countries. Belgian endive and radicchio are the plants whose roots are dried and ground to make the chicory that is used as an additive in, or substitute for, coffee in Louisiana, France, and elsewhere. But Belgian endive itself is called "chicory" in the United Kingdom.

In the U.S., I remember when the salads we call curly endive and escarole used to be called "chicory" but I'm not sure if that name is used nowadays. These two chicories are a different species from Belgian endive and radicchio. In France, salads of scarole or frisée are often featured on restaurant and café menus and are always available in the markets and supermarkets. As salads, like Belgian endive they are good in vinaigrette with beets, garlic, walnuts, poached or hard-boiled eggs, or smoked bacon lardons.


  1. Gorgeous shots... Magnifique Ken!!! Have a great week...

  2. Hi Ken,
    I love an endive, walnut and cheese salad. Comté is another good cheese to use. Add sliced hard-boiled egg and you have a complete meal.
    About flying these days -- I'm probably going to the States in late summer or early fall. I already dread the whole security business and my husband clearly doesn't want to go. You can hardly take anything in your cabin baggage any more (Paul will not check his insulin and syringes for fear of lost luggage, phenomenon experienced enough to not want to have to deal with it again) and you have to pay for checking in baggage....

  3. I know what you mean about flying. All the romance and excitement has gone and been replaced by anxiety and aggravation. It's such a palava that I just want to get it all over as fast as possible even though the airlines are all still trying to sell it as an enjoyable experience.

  4. i am reading this drinking my NO coffee & chickory! I agree, i hate long trips.....planes r prob the worst, but i am no fan of long trips by car either......i have to deal with a new roof on my house in NC mountains but it's a 7 hr drive so booo....u have to stay long enough to make the horrid travel worthwhile... don't know what the cut off is but when i go to france i like to stay at least 2 weeks (well, i'd like to stay for months really)

  5. As Leesa said, gorgeous pictures. They're almost like what we call a "camaïeu" in French; that is a picture made of several different shades of the same color.

  6. chm, thanks for the new word :)

    Ken, your salad sounds and looks wonderful :)) mmmmmm, I do love a tasty, crisp salad with a wonderful vinaigrette!

    Does anyone have an already-converted (into Metric) Brownies recipe that is also already-tested as successful and delicious? I have a French friend who has asked me for a good Brownies recipe, but all of mine are in American measurements. I could convert myself, but I find that I haven't had much success doing conversions from French in the past, especially with flour (I once made a Moelleux that was hard as a rock *MDR*).


  7. Judy, you're welcome.

    Why don't you, as a belated Xmas or birthday present, send your friend a set of American cups and spoons measures along with your Brownies recipes? That way she won't have any problem with any kind of American recipes she might fancy doing.

  8. Francophone actors: three who've made films in French: Charlotte Rampling, Kristin Scott-Thomas and (of course) Jane Birkin, formerly Mme Serge Gainsbourg.

    Best of luck and bon voyage!

  9. chm, that's a good idea, but it would be lots easier to send her a recipe *MDR*. Plus, of course, we have leavening issues, as most US Brownies recipes will also call for baking powder, and will often use powdered chocolate, and I don't know that either of those is common in France. The pan size is crucial for Brownies, especially as it relates to amount of time to bake.

    I was surprised, too, to learn that Hugh Grant speaks French!


  10. Judy - you could have a look at this recipe by Linda Collister. It's in grams or ounces.
    I haven't made it myself BUT I have made lots of her other recipes and they all come out fine. Her books are wonderful.


    I hope the link works ok.

  11. Now then Ken, what's with the "it felt right balmy" then? Is thee goin t'narth'n lessins, milad? I'll gi t'foot o'our stairs!

    Nick (courtesy of Google Translate of course).

  12. Speaking of anglophone actors, Johnny Depp has an apartment in Paris.

  13. Judy, this is the brownie recipe I make. You can buy cocoa (cacao non sucré) and baking powder (levure chimique) at the supermarket here.

    Best Cocoa Brownies

    10 tablespoons (5 oz.) unsalted butter
    1¼ cups sugar
    ¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
    ¼ teaspoon salt
    ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
    2 cold large eggs
    ½ cup all-purpose flour
    ½ to ¾ cup walnut or pecan pieces (optional)

    Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 325°F. Line the bottom and sides of the baking pan with parchment paper or foil, leaving an overhang on two opposite sides.

    Combine the butter, sugar, cocoa, and salt in a medium heatproof bowl and set the bowl in a wide skillet of barely simmering water. Stir from time to time until the butter is melted and the mixture is smooth and hot enough that you want to remove your finger fairly quickly after dipping it in to test. Remove the bowl from the skillet and set aside briefly until the mixture is only warm, not hot.

    Stir in the vanilla with a wooden spoon. Add the eggs one at a time, stirring vigorously after each one. When the batter looks thick, shiny, and well blended, add the flour and stir until you cannot see it any longer, then beat vigorously for 40 strokes with the wooden spoon or a rubber spatula. Stir in the nuts, if using. Spread evenly in the lined pan.

    Bake until a toothpick plunged into the center emerges slightly moist with batter, 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool completely on a rack.

    Lift up the ends of the parchment or foil liner, and transfer the brownies to a cutting board. Cut into 16 or 25 squares.

    Chocolate note: Any unsweetened natural or Dutch-process cocoa powder works well here. Natural cocoa produces brownies with more flavor complexity and lots of tart, fruity notes. I think it's more exciting. Dutch-process cocoa results in a darker brownie with a mellower, old-fashioned chocolate pudding flavor, pleasantly reminiscent of childhood.

  14. Thanks so much Jean and Ken! My heavens... making Brownies from a box mix and adding a couple of eggs and some oil and water is certainly much easier than all of the recipes I've read today *MDR* (and they're always wonderful, too).


  15. woow nice shoots
    thanks for the Cocoa Brownies recipe

  16. Nick, using "right" as an adverbial intensifier is a feature of my North Carolina dialect. I still use it right often, even though I haven't lived there in years.

  17. Judy, I'm pretty sure you can buy packaged mixes for brownies in French supermarkets too. I haven't tried them though, so I don't know if they are any good. Is your friend looking for a recipe in French or in English? You know, you could send her two or three boxes of the mix you like (if I understood correctly that you use the mixes to make your brownies).

  18. Hi,
    I am from Louisiana, and never realized chicory came from the endive family.
    You can add William Hurt to the French speaking list(I saw him on tele here) as well as James Cameron's wife, Suzi Amis (from Oklahoma)-I have a friend who works with her and was here in Lerner visiting us after the AVATAR London premiere, she mentioned that Ms. Amis spoke french, but did not say Ms.Weaver spoke french too! Also, Ashley Judd is fluent. FUN stuff, thanks.I am struggling to learn, so I do so respect them.
    Most important thing for those long trips, travel safetly!


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