126,662 steps/ 55.1 miles

These New Balance cross trainers were made for walking…

shoes

And that’s just what they did. For six full days in Paris. Wednesday with Ghislaine (21,017 steps, 9.3 miles). It’s no wonder that I have a sore muscle (or something) around my left ankle. No blisters, though, I am happy to report. One sore toenail, but Tom at Posh Nails will fix that. TMI? Probably! I did use the métro sometimes. It was a bit frustrating that the Châtelet station is closed right now and that messed me up while trying to get to the Ritz to have a drink with friends in Bar Hemingway. It would have been faster to walk from my hotel, I think.

It’s a good thing I walked so much because I ate exceptionally well on this trip. Bertrand of My Private Paris made a couple of recommendations and I found a café on Rue Saint Dominique that I’ve wanted to try for a couple of years (it deserves its own blogpost). And ACIS treated us to two great meals, one being the apéritif dînatoire at the Pullman Hotel from the last post and the other, our farewell dinner at Lapérouse, on the Quai des Grands Augustins. Not a place I would go on my own ($$$$) but what a thrill.

From the Mercier champagne to begin–

To the coffee and little coconut and jellied fruit bites to end.

end

And in between?

Appetizers served on the ground floor of the restaurant, with champagne.

appetizer

I love the spoon. There were also gougères. And probably other delicious little bites. I always find myself talking too much to taste everything. Quelle surprise. I found Bill who shares my love of Van Gogh. Kristi and Angela and I had a great chat. Jeremy won for best tie (Starry Night). Scott and Cindy and I became fast friends and spent time together on the food tour and at Bar Hemingway, along with Kristi and Angela. Janel, my roommate. Luis from Texas (who shared his Angelina Mont Blanc with us at the hotel afterwards- yes, we ate more). Amber and Eric. Pamela and Phil. Kathy from Nebraska. Laurie and Sean. Jeannie, Morgan, Caroline Ann from ACIS U.S. offices. Claire, Isabelle, and Bouchara from the Paris office. Bertrand.

We were then ushered into a big room upstairs for dinner.

At first, my tablemates and I were a bit confused–

soup base

This was served in a rather large bowl. Hmmm. Some new fad in the starter courses, I wondered? But the handsome young man (pictured above first serving champagne) cautioned us to wait because the dish wasn’t finished. And sure enough, in just a few minutes, another waiter came to add to the bowl. Voilà! Velouté d’asperges. Cream of asparagus soup. Very, very good.

soup

The main course was duck. Le canard. I am very fond of duck.

duck

With sweet potato purée.

Dessert was a first for me. Soufflé. Oui, seriously. I’ve never eaten one nor tried to make one. Until this one. Caramel. Served with sorbet.

sorbet

Heavenly. Fluffy. Airy. Cloud bites of caramel air.

souffle

It was a lovely, delicious evening, as always with ACIS. They treat their teachers like royalty.

Some random photos. If you read about the history of this place, you may be a bit shocked but amused as well, I think. There are lots of little rooms and I wasn’t brave enough to poke my head into many of them. Rumor has it that George Clooney has been spotted here. I wouldn’t doubt it.

I really hope to find a tried and true recipe for soufflé. Cindy from California is, from what I heard on the trip, quite a baker, and has promised to send a recipe when she returns home. She and Scott extended their stay until Saturday. They are even luckier than I am.

Bon appétit! I hope that you enjoyed my eating adventure. I think that I need to get out a map of Paris and highlight as many streets as I can that I walked on. Before I forget and my ankle heals! And before the student adventure in March. Eat something good with someone you love! Or eat solo. Or make new friends! Be adventurous!

Entre les Bras update

An article written by Adam Nossiter for the New York Times partially republished in this morning’s Durham Herald-Sun immediately caught my attention. It is about French chef Jérôme Brochot, owner of Le France in Montceau-les-Mines, giving up his Michelin star.

This is practically unheard of. Those stars, however, drive up prices and bring a lot of pressure. It is very difficult and very expensive to maintain the stars and add more. Halfway through the article, Sébastien Bras’ name jumped out at me. My Sébastien Bras? I thought. Yes, indeed. Last fall, Sébastien, with his father Michel’s blessing, asked Michelin to remove his three stars. I googled and found this from the New York Times.

In 2013, I was asked to review a documentary film Entre les Bras (Step Up to the Plate is the English title), for The French Review, a publication of the American Association of Teachers of French. It is an excellent film. I actually know someone, a parent of one of my former students, who has eaten at Bras’ restaurant. That’s as close as I get in the grand scheme of degrees of separation to Michel and Sébastien. I did eventually send them a copy of the article and I received a very nice thank you note.

While googling Sébastien and Michel, I also found these videos of them preparing their signature dish Gargouillou.

After watching the film several times and reading all I could find about them in order to write my review, I felt as if I knew Michel and Sébastien. I got rather attached to them actually. I hope that Sébastien is happy and has found joy in cooking again. I still hope to visit Laguiole someday and meet les Bras. It’s on my to-do list.

Here’s my review of Entre les Bras. If you enjoy documentaries and food, this film is a great way to spend an hour and a half.

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Last year, I was asked to write about Entre les Bras for the French Review, the official publication of the American Association of Teachers of French (AATF).  The editor of the film section of the Review, Dr. Michèle Bissière, lives and teaches in North Carolina and is active in our chapter of the AATF.   She attended a presentation I made about my sabbatical or about cooking with my students.  Not sure which.  Anyway, she sent me a copy of the documentary, asked me to watch it, and write a review.  Wow.   Documentaries about French food and chefs are right up my alley after falling in love with Jacquy Pfeiffer in Kings of Pastry.  Durham, NC hosted the North American preview of the film as part of the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival  and I wrote a review about it for our local newspaper.  Jacquy and his wife were in the audience, no less.

I watched Entre les Bras (Step Up To The Plate is its English title) several times and set about writing and daydreaming about actually eating there.  I am not sure that dream will ever come true, but I started thinking about it again after recently reading Ann Mah’s book Mastering the Art of French Eating.  Journalist Ann actually went to the Aveyron départment of France and interviewed Sébastien Bras.  And Papa Michel came in while she was talking to his son.

I realized that I haven’t posted my review.  I had grand plans to send it to Michel and Sébastien after it was published last spring, but either common sense got the better of me or I’ve been too shy to do so.  Silly me.  I need to mail it off with a fan letter.  Pourquoi pas?

Read the review and if you are in the mood for beautiful views of la France profonde, cows, and a glimpse into the life of a Michelin star chef, rent the film.

The parents of one of my 8th grade students have actually been to the restaurant in Laguiole…  Sigh.

Lacoste, Paul, réal.  Entre les Bras (Step Up To The Plate).  Michel Bras, Sébastien Bras. Cinéma Guild, 2012.

I recently read the story of Bernard Loiseau, a chef who committed suicide in 2003 at the age of 52, after rumors that his restaurant might lose one of its three Michelin stars.  Remembering that tragic story and considering that we have elevated chefs to rock star status in the United States, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from a documentary about a three-star Michelin chef.  Would Michel Bras be a temperamental egomaniac?  Would he spend his time berating the wait staff in his restaurant or slamming pots and pans?   Or would he be riddled with self-doubt?  Or worse yet, would he have no confidence whatsoever in his son and heir-apparent, Sébastien, and belittle him?

Bras, père et fils, have a restaurant and hotel in Laguiole, in the Aveyron department in southern France, built on a hill with a breathtaking view of the valley below. Michel Bras is undoubtedly a perfectionist, as the viewer quickly finds out by watching him choose vegetables, herbs, and flowers for the restaurant.  His ties to the land where he has spent his entire life seem to be as deep as his family ties.  Michel is a slight, serious man, a runner, with round wire-rimmed glasses who looks more like a university professor than a chef.  He is, however, quite an entrepreneur and has built an empire based upon his expertise in the kitchen.

Food is the Bras family business.  Michel’s mother ran a restaurant and he followed her, taking over and earning Michelin stars.  He decided to build his current showpiece several years ago, secure in the knowledge that Sébastien would stay with him in the endeavor.  The premise of the movie is that Michel is ready to retire and hand over the reins to Séba, as he calls his son. I expected the movie to be mostly about Michel, but I found myself just as engrossed in the emotions of Sébastien and the idea of family duty.  There never seemed to be a question of what his life’s work would be. The photos of him at a very young age in a chef’s coat and toque made for him by his grandmother foreshadow his destiny. But is it easier to start from scratch as Michel did or to inherit an empire and try to stay on top?

Entre les Bras is divided into seasons, a fitting and logical setting for a movie about food and life.  The story comes full circle, in the course of a year, from spring to spring, watching four generations of family interact with one another around food.  Sébastien works on his own signature dishes, telling his own story, built on the time spent with his grandparents on their farm.  One touching scene shows Sébastien alone in the kitchen creating a dessert that he later calls his own chemin, or pathway, using elements from his childhood: bread (his dad), milk skin and chocolate (his mom), and blackberry jam and Laguiole cheese (his grandmother).  He seems truly at peace with the completion of this dish.  He must find his own way.  He knows this and his dad knows this.

The changing of the guard occurs as the viewer watches Michel take down his photos and mementos from the office bulletin board and put away his notebooks filled with recipes and drawings. Sébastien’s notebooks and a final scene of Alban, Sébastien’s son, cooking in the kitchen with his grandfather, wearing a miniature chef’s coat and toque, replace them.  Michel’s work isn’t finished yet.

From one of the first scenes, showing the plating of Michel Bras’ signature dish, Gargouillou, to the beauty of the Aubrac sunrises and sunsets, this is a stunningly beautiful and poignant story of the humans behind the creation of legendary food.

Resource:

www.bras.fr

Teresa Engebretsen

Durham Academy

Bon appétit, les Bras!

Searching for a recipe, I found Michel’s Coulant au chocolat. Have you ever eaten a molten lava cake aka fondant au chocolat aka moelleux au chocolat? Well, mon dieu bon dieu, I just discovered that Michel INVENTED it. I have attempted it several times, but mine never seems to coule… to flow. I even found a video produced by FR2, a French TV station, about French desserts that features Michel and his dessert. It’s in French and the photos are amazing. If you don’t like chocolate, don’t bother!

 

There are a lot of recipes out there for this amazing treat. Here’s the one I will try next. Maybe this afternoon? When I need a break from grading exams? Should La Table de Claire be on my Paris to-do list?  Well, malheureusement, that won’t be possible. It is fermé– permanently closed- now.

Fondant au chocolat recipe from La Table de Claire

From Complete France

With black-and-white floor tiles, a Formica bar, modern light fixtures and a sunny terrace, this is the little bistro everyone dreams of having around the corner. La Table de Claire in the 11th arrondissement made its name thanks to the ‘chef d’un soir’ nights, in which amateur chefs would take over the restaurant. Chef Claire Seban has moved on to other projects, but the current chef/owner, Lofti Sioud, continues to serve a spontaneous cuisine inspired 
by his travels and by seasonal produce. Because so many customers had a soft spot for Claire’s fondant au chocolat, it often appears on the menu.

Serves 8.

• 220g dark chocolate, the best you can afford

• 200g butter

• 100g white sugar

• 5 eggs

• 1 level tbsp flour

• A little butter for the mould

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C.

2. In a heavy saucepan, melt the dark chocolate and butter together over a low heat. Add the sugar and stir to dissolve. Let the mixture cool to lukewarm and add the eggs one by one. Finally, fold in the flour.

3. Pour the batter into eight buttered ring moulds placed on 
a baking sheet, or eight buttered shallow dishes (crème brûlée dishes would work well). Bake for eight minutes.

4. Serve warm or at room temperature with a scoop of vanilla or caramel ice cream.

Bon appétit, mes amis, near and far. As 2017 comes to a close, I wish you all happiness and good eatin’, surrounded by loved ones. I will be with my in-laws, celebrating my belle-mère’s birthday.

 

Therapy

runners

The BFF and I call our morning walks therapy sessions. And believe me, they are. We talk about just about anything and everything. This summer, we walked 3 miles every day that we could, usually beginning around 6:00 am. It gets hot and humid here in the North Carolina Piedmont and schvitzing (Yiddish for sweating- it sounds better to me) is not our favorite thing. The BFF is genetically predisposed to schvitz a lot. Now that the school year is well underway, unfortunately our sessions are limited to Saturday and Sunday mornings and the occasional day off. I go to school early, usually around 7:30 am, and she works late, usually until after 7:30 pm or later. I wish that I could say that I walk in the evenings every day by myself, but I do not. I cannot tell a lie. I walk around campus as much as I can during breaks and lunch usually to chase after a kiddo or track down a colleague, but once I get home, I get lazy and find a lot of other things I’d rather (or have to) do.

Today, I woke up to a cool, foggy, beautiful fall morning. My favorite. We walked on the American Tobacco Trail. According to Wikipedia–

The American Tobacco Trail (ATT) is a 22.6-mile (36.4 km) long Rails-to-Trails project located in the Research Triangle region of North Carolina, running along an abandoned railroad bed originally built for the American Tobacco Company in the 1970s. The route crosses through the City of DurhamDurham CountyChatham County, and Wake County. The ATT is part of the East Coast Greenway and is open to pedestrians, cyclists, equestrians (in non-urban sections) and other non-motorized users.

bridge

We walk on a section that crosses over I-40 and this bridge takes us from one side to the other.  Pretty cool, huh?

Following in the tradition of the Parisian Locks of Love, a few folks have attached one here.

Probably not a great tradition to start. But there are only 4-5 of them now.

Squirrels are the most common critter we see on this trail. (Copperheads prevail on the Duke Trail…) Today there was a cardinal, our state bird, waiting for us. I have loved cardinals for as long as I can remember. I am not sure why, but that doesn’t even matter. I just know that it makes me very happy to see one.

cardinal

According to the BFF, seeing a cardinal means that someone who has passed on has come to bring you a message. I had never heard that before so I paid a visit to my friend Google for some info about bird superstitions.

From The Cardinal Experience:

small Red Birds – When you see a red bird in winter, you will prosper in spring. When you hear a Cardinal sing, your sadness will soon be lifted. When a red bird shows up, help is on the way.

According to California Psychics

Messages from Spirit can come in many forms, but the red cardinal has long been held as the most notable spiritual messenger. The male cardinals are certainly hard to ignore with their striking red feathers and melodic yet almost “pay-attention-to-me” chirps. And when they come to you almost insistently trying to gain your attention, it’s likely you’re receiving a message from Spirit.

When deceased loved ones want you to know that they’re around, one way they might do that is to send messengers from the animal kingdom: small, brightly-colored bugs, birds and butterflies are not an uncommon choice. Things with wings tend to get our attention, and if you allow yourself to get tuned in, you might even feel who has sent them to you in hopes you’ll receive their message—even if that message is a simple acknowledgement that your loved ones are always around. And if you’re pondering something and asking the Universe for guidance, seeing a cardinal or the like is telling you that you’re being heard and guidance is being offered.

I am not a particularly superstitious person. Spiritual, yes. I think that the Native Americans were way more in tune with nature than we are these days and times. I am fascinated by their beliefs. I really like the thought that this beautiful bird might be someone from my past who has come to visit me.

I’ve seen some photographs of cardinals in the snow that take my breath away. I found this one on Fan Pop, but couldn’t find out who took it.

Cardinals-image-cardinals-36122736-900-675

Or how about this pair from Dreams Time?

cardinals-snow-20034195

Maybe this winter I will even find some of my own to photograph. Who knows?

Thank you for the therapy sessions, BFF. You are indeed the best.

I am still on a pumpkin spice kick. While driving back from the grocery store yesterday, I thought “What about pumpkin spice sugar cookies?” I googled, settled on a recipe, took the butter out of the refrigerator to soften, the egg to get to room temperature and pulled Mildred the Mixer out of her hiding place.

pumpkin

unbaked

stack

cookies2

I got help from Wine and Glue. I read her heartfelt post about the loss of her son. Maybe Elliot will come back to visit her in the form of a cardinal?

I decided to name mine Snickerdoodles after a friend said they reminded him of his mom’s cookies.

Pumpkin Spice Snickerdoodles

makes 4 dozen (I used a small scoop to measure them out)

2-1/2 cups all purpose flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp pumpkin pie spice (plus more for rolling- about 1/2 tsp)

1/2 tsp cinnamon (plus another 1/2 tsp for rolling)

1-1/4 cups granulated sugar (plus about 1/2 cup more for rolling)

14 Tbsp softened unsalted butter

 

2 tsp pure vanilla extract

1 egg yolk, at room temperature

3/4 cup 100% pure pumpkin puree

  1. Whisk the flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon together in a medium-sized bowl. Set aside.
  2. Using an electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
  3. Add the egg yolk, then the vanilla, and finally the pumpkin until well combined.
  4. In two batches, add in the flour mixture. Mix on low speed, just until combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and paddle/beaters.
  5. Refrigerate the cookie dough for at least 20 minutes.
  6. Preheat oven to 350˚F.
  7. Roll the dough into one-inch sized balls (or whatever size you want your cookies to be). Roll in sugar-cinnamon mixture. Place on parchment-lined baking sheets and press down slightly with the bottom of a glass. If the dough gets sticky, dip the bottom of the glass in the sugar mixture. Space the cookies about two inches apart.
  8. Bake for 14 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the baking.
  9. Let cool on the pan for a few minutes before moving to a cooling rack. (Sample a warm one!)

Bon appétit! Happy Delicious Fall! Bake something yummy for those you love. Get outside for some nature therapy, with or without your BFF.

Dear Google Paris

images-1

Dear Google Paris,

First, allow me to tell you how much I love you. Well, not necessarily your Paris office since I have not yet visited, but Google. As I say often, I must have been dumber than dirt before you came into my life 19 short years ago. I even made googler into a regular  -er verb in my French classes. I am pretty sure many other French teachers have followed my lead, but I was first.

googler:  to google

je google         nous googlons

tu googles       vous googlez

il google         ils googlent

elle google     elles googlent

Impératif:  Google ce mot pour trouver la définition, Avery.

Page et Isabelle, googlez les dates de Paris Fashion Week 2018, s’il vous plaît.

Googlons et trouvons une vidéo des Jeux Olympiques 2024.

Passé composé:  Hier soir, j’ai googlé des photos du bureau parisien de Google.

Futur: Et je googlerai tous les jours de ma vie.

Conditionnel: Je googlerais Justin Timberlake si mon ordinateur marchait.

And on and on and on.

Second, I have applied for a job with you in the past. I even had some of my 8th grade students write letters of recommendations for me. Oui. I have at least two former students who work for Google here in the U.S. They could put in a good word for me, as could their siblings and parents.

I really want to live in Paris. That’s on my bucket list. Hmmmm. Wonder how you say that in French?  Oui, j’ai googlé, bien sûr–

ma liste de choses à faire avant de mourir

I have visited your beautiful city many times since my first trip in 1978. I take 8th graders every March during our school spring break. If I am lucky, I go one other time  for a few days during the course of a year. That’s not the same as living there, n’est-ce pas? I lived in Arles for a total of eight months in 2007-2008. That’s been almost 10 years.  Far too long.

You are probably wondering just what job I would like to have. I have a proposal for you:  Snack Coordinator. Just hear me out, d’accord? I know that France is the pastry capital of the world. Éclairs, macarons, tartes au citron, pain au chocolat, croissants, etc. I would not even attempt those. Why on Earth would I when they can be found on every street corner? I would stock your snack room with American delicacies (dare I say Southern American?). Chocolate chip and sugar cookies. Red Velvet, vanilla, and chocolate cupcakes. Cheesecake. Brownies (I have an amazing Nutella recipe). Pumpkin spice muffins. Lavender, cherry vanilla, and blueberry scones. Banana bread. Vanilla Wafer Cake. Pound cake (easily my favorite). Apple, coconut cream, pumpkin, and pecan bourbon pie. Rice Krispie Treats. I am confident that this would make the Google Paris snack room unique in the City of Light and make your employees happy. And you know what happens when your employees are happy. They work harder and are more productive. Right? I have seen some very sad attempts at brownies and chocolate chip cookies in Paris and Arles.

And last but certainly not least… my qualifications. I have been baking for as long as I can remember. My earliest childhood memories involve sitting in my Grandma Bell’s kitchen as she made her famous coconut cake and banana fritters. My Granny Gillespie, who lived on the farm made an amazing 7-layer cake– thin layers of vanilla cake with homemade applesauce in between each layer. She and I also went blackberry picking so that she could make cobbler for us (kind of what my French friends call “crumble”). Warm from the oven, served with vanilla ice cream. Oh là là. Quelle joie. While living in France in 2007-08, on sabbatical from my teaching job, I worked with a chef in Arles, in his 5-room B&B, chambres d’hôte. He and his wife offered cooking stages, with visits to beekeepers, goat cheese makers, bakers, winemakers, chocolatiers, markets, olive oil producers, and lavender fields as well as local historical sites. We made picnics for the guests to enjoy under the shade of a tree or on the grounds of a winery. The guests, Chef Érick and I gathered in the kitchen every evening to prepare our evening meal using ingredients purchased at the market and accompanied with local wines. I also took care of reservations, cleaned rooms (I love to brag that I can clean toilets in French), washed clothes, hanging them out the upstairs window to dry (including all of those sheets and towels), and washed dishes without the benefit of a dishwasher. I was l’Assistante américaine, the translator in the kitchen. Let’s just say that I will never forget what une louche is… Chef Érick asked me for one my first night in the kitchen and I didn’t have a clue.  Oh, and I can already speak French and can even tutor in either French or English, if needed.

This blog is the result of my sabbatical. Just before the end of the school year after I was awarded my sabbatical, one of my 8th grade students help me set up the blog as a way to let my friends at home know what I was up to and to chronicle my time living in France. This young man now works for Google in San Francisco. Reference available upon request!

So, in closing, dear Google Paris, I hope that you will consider my offer to work for you. I do need to finish out the school year, making me available in mid-June 2018. I will be in Paris for 10 days in March with a group of students. I will gladly stop by for a face-to-face meeting/interview and can even bring some 8th graders along as references. They have all sampled my baking. I could, of course, even bake something up for you, if you wish. Perhaps you need some visual evidence of my prowess in the kitchen? Voici des photos:

Cakes:

Cookies:

Muffins:

Pies:

Cupcakes:

Scones:

I hope you enjoyed the random sampling of goodies. Mildred the Mixer and I stay busy. And covered in flour and sugar.

I even have my own chef’s coat… a gift after a Sabbatical Chef dinner at a friend’s house.

me

Today’s recipe is an old Southern favorite–

VWCake

I am sharing it with my colleagues tomorrow. It could be you, googleurs français

Mama Mildred’s Vanilla Wafer Cake

with help from Spicy Southern Kitchen

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened

1-1/2 cups  granulated sugar

6 eggs, room temperature

1 (11-ounce) box vanilla wafers, crushed

1/2 cup buttermilk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon rum or rum flavoring

1 (7-ounce) package (about 2-2/3 cups) sweetened shredded coconut

1 cup finely chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350˚F.

Butter and flour a bundt or tube pan.

 

Cream the butter and sugar with an electric mixer. Add eggs one at a time.

 

 

Mix in vanilla wafer crumbs and milk, alternating but beginning and ending with the crushed cookies. Add rum and vanilla and mix.

 

 Stir in coconut and pecans.

 

Place in oven and bake for 60-70 minutes or until cake tests done with a toothpick.

 

Allow to cool in pan for 15-20 minutes. Turn onto a plate. If necessary, run a knife around the edges of the pan to loosen the cake before inverting it.
Thank you for your time, Google Paris.
Trois bisous,
The Sabbatical Chef
Bon appétit to all! Happy Monday and have a lovely week. Be the change you want to see in the world. Wake up grateful for what you have and make a list. Tell your family and friends that you love them. 

Paris by proxy

joanie on her pony

Joanie on her pony

Jeanne d’Arc, 1874, Emmanuel Frémiet, 4 rue des Pyramides, Paris 01

Okay, so I am not really sure that I am using “by proxy” properly, even though I looked it up on-line at Urban Dictionary.

by proxy:  the ability to do or be something without actually physically doing it. “John was invited to the party, and since I’m his best friend I was invited by proxy” “Sarah lives with a smoker so when they watch tv together she smokes by proxy”  -by Ballet Queen June 01, 2005

One of my buddies is in Paris this week. At this very moment, she is eating foie gras and sipping Bordeaux. (I know this because I texted her for an update. I just cannot help myself.) I guess I could have called this post Paris Vicariously, n’est-ce pas? Am I jealous? Envious? Of course I am. I haven’t been there since March. Six long months. But who is counting, right? I am, however, thrilled that she is there. We have been to France together several times and she is an excellent traveling companion… meaning we laugh at the same things, we both love art museums, getting lost, eating in places with great views, and sipping wine and/or champagne and watching people.

She may very well kill me for what I am going to post next, but I have to do it. It is just too funny not to. I will ask forgiveness when she returns. Here is the first text I received, the day she arrived:

First off. On our flight here there was THE MOST GORGEOUS FRENCHMAN!!!!!! sitting in our row. Pleasant with manners and looks that I cannot describe… cut jawline, thick gorgeous hair, leather coat and well he looked good:) you’ll love this… he had a glass of milk and put on the shades for the evening. No meals. I said they are bad, aren’t they and he laughed and said oui!! He is from Lyon. Oh to be young again and free spirited. We can always admire from afar. We went to the Passage St. André des Arts. Saw your Tennessee hangout and ate dinner in one of the restaurants. We are trying to map out as many as we can. Rodin is tomorrow!! We are staying on Rue Saint Sulpice. Pierre is our host… another helpful and friendly skinny good looking Frenchman. So far the most fun was people watching at our café at lunch. Miss you mon amie. I have done a bang up job of using my French:) they always answer in English… does not deter me:) Bisous

pacman

The day she sent this, I showed a ZAZ video, Sous le ciel de Paris, to my 7th graders and talked to them about street art which has helped me to appreciate.

I could watch this over and over– oh, wait, I HAVE watched this over and over.

Next text, a bust by Camille Claudel from the Rodin Museum.

camille claudel

What a talented, tragic woman. There was a movie made about her life in 1988. I found this blurb-

When renowned French sculptor Auguste Rodin (Gérard Depardieu) notices the raw sculpting talent of the beautiful and precocious Camille Claudel (Isabelle Adjani), the two artists begin a scandalous love affair. Camille becomes Auguste’s muse and assistant, sacrificing her own work to contribute to his sculptures. However, when her work goes unrecognized and she desires attention of her own, Camille is left alone and gradually spirals into mental illness.

Then two photos from her visit to Les Invalides. The first is of the Cathedral St. Louis des Invalides.

st louis des invalides

The flags are from Napoléon’s campaigns. From the Musée de l’Armée’s website:

The cornice of the Veteran’s Chapel is decorated with some hundred trophies taken from the enemy, throughout the history of the French armies, from 1805 to the 19th century. Bearing witness to age-old traditions, these trophies were hung on the vault of Notre Dame Cathedral up until the French Revolution. Those which escaped destruction were transferred to the Hôtel des Invalides from 1793. The Hôtel des Invalides was then entrusted with the mission of keeping French emblems and trophies. Nearly 1,500 of these trophies were burnt in the courtyard in 1814 by the Governor of the Hôtel des Invalides to prevent them from failing into enemy hands.

It is one of the only, if not the only, church where the French flag is on display. Separation of Church and State is taken seriously here.

Next came Napoléon’s tomb — “he had a rather large ego”

napoleon

I found this information on the Napoléon.org website:

Visitors enter the crypt via a staircase. This leads to a heavy bronze door (forged from cannons taken at Austerlitz) flanked by two statues. Above the lintel is the following inscription (an extract from Napoleon’s will): “I wish my ashes to rest on the banks of the Seine among the people of France whom I so much loved“.
The sarcophagus was put up on a green granite pedestal and contains a nest of six coffins: one made of soft iron, another of mahogany, two others of lead, one of ebony and finally the last one of oak. Napoleon is dressed in his Colonel’s uniform (of the cavalry of the Guard) which bears his sash of the Légion d’Honneur. His hat rests on his legs.

I have paid my respects to the Emperor several times. And heard some interesting stories from some of the guides we’ve had… I will leave it at that. But one is about a missing body part when his body was exhumed to be sent back to France for burial. This part was supposedly bought by an American urologist and has been kept on display. That’s all I know.

One of my friend’s goals on this trip is to visit as many of the beautiful passageways of Paris as possible.

Here is the Galerie Vivienne-

Galerie Vivienne

It is located at 4, rue des Petits Champs, Paris 02.

I thanked her for this photo and she came back with:

De rien!! Most of the good ones are on my Canon camera. Will show when home. I have taken some on my phone just for you. Had a wonderful French lesson with a taxi driver… too much fun. We have walked over four miles or so each day. Hubby has a cold, but has hung in there so after walking all over yesterday and walking to the Rodin and Invalides he was ready for a taxi. Lucky me!!! We have met some wonderful people and some Frenchies that are not so tolerant of my attempts at speaking their language. Pas problème:)!! Give me six months and my taxi driver and I would be good to go.

Before she left for Paris, she checked the weather and it looked as if it was going to rain quite a bit. So I asked– Raining much?

No!! We have had a bit of rain off and on. Mostly good weather!!! Just pulled out the umbrellas and kept walking. It is 64 and cloudy and feels great:)

This is from the woman who was THRILLED that it snowed one March while we were in Paris. Of course, we had just read one of Laura Florand’s romance novels about a gorgeous French pastry chef (or was he a chocolatier?) who has a snowball fight with his equally gorgeous American girlfriend on the Ile Saint Louis, but I digress.

yo snow-SNOW

Next text-

Hubby walks 10 feet behind me looking at his google map. He directs and I lead:)!! Crazy, I know, but it works for me:) I love Paris!! Headed to Père Lachaise maybe tomorrow. Mapped out all the folks I want to pay my respects to.

kir royale

And to go along with this photo of her kir royale, she texted:

You have taught me well, my friend. Where to go, what to drink and how to enjoy it all.      Je t’aime.

That is the highest praise I could receive.

Next week, another friend will make his first trip to France, spending time in Normandy and in Paris. I’ve shared my Paris Cheat Sheet with him, but I am sure that he will not be sending me texts. I am not even sure that he has a smartphone! That’s okay.

I have no recipes for foie gras, but I have photos. I eat it as often as possible when I am in France. These are from January 2013.

foie gras 2foie gras

This particular amie is very fond of mousse au chocolat. In a text responding to my wish that she eat and drink good things for me, she said-

Definitely taking care of that. Rosé twice a day! It’s chocolate that I have neglected. Remedy tomorrow.

In her honor, I will repost my favorite recipe for mousse. For its origins, read this post.

La mousse au chocolat de Fanny

6 eggs
70 g (1/3 cup) granulated sugar
200 g dark chocolate (use the best you can find/afford– the Nestle’s she uses is dark 52% chocolate; European chocolate is just plain better than our stuff unless you go high end; they have higher standards for theirs)
pinch of salt

Melt the chocolate in a double boiler.  Do not let it get too hot.  Stir it with a metal spoon, not a wooden one.  Take it off the heat as soon as it is almost melted and continue stirring until completely melted.

Separate the egg whites and yellows.
Beat the whites, with a pinch of salt, until stiff peaks form.

Mix the yellows and the sugar.
Then add the melted chocolate.

Delicately add the whites, about 1/4 at a time.  Fold them in very gently.

Refrigerate it for at least 2 hours before serving.

finished product

Bon appétit! Bon voyage! Bonne journée! Bonne soirée! Bon courage! Bonne chance! May my friends continue to travel and enjoy all the sights, sounds, tastes and inevitable adventures that come with traveling.

 

 

Bleu Part Deux

As I was driving home from the mountains today, I realized that I left off some bleu/blue things that I love. (I could blame it on Moo and Mama Mildred for distracting me, I guess.)

Do you ever have the blues? In France, the saying is avoir le cafard– to have the cockroach. Where on earth does that come from, I wonder? It is depressing, even more so than having the blues. Google to the rescue.  According to Laura Lawless, writer of one of my go-to websites for French grammar help, Lawless French, poet Charles Baudelaire introduced the expression into the language through his work Les Fleurs du Mal.

avoir-le-cafard

Bluegrass music. My favorite is Balsam Range. Childhood Friend came over from Asheville for the Mitchel High School Homecoming football game Friday night. He brought me a Balsam Range CD that I didn’t have, Marching Home. When I opened up the CD case, I discovered that it is autographed by Marc Pruitt, the band’s banjo player. I am not sure that I deserve that… Merci, mon ami.

Sister Moo showed me a video of  Balsam Range’s Buddy Melton and his friend, songwriter Milan Miller. I want to make sure that Son #1 sees this one now that he is a daddy to an adorable little girl, just as Buddy is. I love listening to Buddy talk- the Appalachian mountain accent is very special to me.

The Blues. B.B. King and Taj Mahal. I saw B.B. King perform back in the day in Blowing Rock in a bar called PB Scott’s.  What an experience. Almost a religious one. My introduction to the blues.

Can you stand another video? B.B. King and Eric Clapton. This song makes me happy. What’s not to love about two handsome men riding in a Cadillac convertible singing? The song obviously makes them happy, too, since they are smiling and laughing quite a bit in the video.

And Taj Mahal. I’ve seen him once and I will be in the audience again October 4. TajMo’- The Taj Mahal and Keb’Mo’ Band. Click on the link if you are interested in listening to a PBS interview from July 2017. Taj has played in Paris. I saw a poster in the métro and I am pretty sure I shrieked.

thetajmahal2016_120x150

His sister, Carole Fredericks, lived in Paris and was quite famous for her beautiful voice. Her home bears this plaque.

carole plaque

His sister, Connie, is a friend and she too can sing. I’ve been lucky enough to hear her on a perfect summer evening chez O.

Connie singing

How about a Blue Ridge sunrise?

sunrise

sunrise 2

Pretty pretty, isn’t it?

Blueberries. I will borrow a recipe from an earlier blog post. Mama Mildred found a photo of a blueberry lemon pound cake and it made me think of one I’ve made in the past. But with lime. Served on one of my blue Fiestaware plates.

bleuberry cake

Blueberry Lime Cream Cheese Pound Cake

Yield: 1 Loaf Cake
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature
4 oz cream cheese, room temperature (do not use whipped or low-fat)
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons lime zest
1 cup fresh blueberries
Cream cheese frosting:
4 oz cream cheese, room temperature (once again, not whipped or low-fat)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

 

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter a 9 x 5 loaf pan. Line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper and butter the parchment paper as well. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
In stand mixer, beat together cream cheese, butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, throughly mixing each time. Add vanilla extract and lime zest, mixing until combined.
Pour flour mixture over the batter mixture. Using a large rubber spatula, gently fold in the flour until it’s completely mixed in and there are no pockets of dry flour. Lastly, gently fold in the blueberries.
Transfer batter to prepared baking loaf pan. Bake for 55-65 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let sit until cool, at least 30 minutes and then remove from pan.
In a stand mixer or large bowl, cream butter and cream cheese until smooth. Add confectioners’ sugar and beat on low speed until combined, then on high until frosting is smooth. Beat in vanilla extract.
Carefully frost on top of the cooled poundcake and store in fridge until ready to serve.
Bon appétit! Take the time to look at sunrises and to listen to good music. It’s good for your soul. So is delicious pound cake. “Life’s too short to say no to cake.” I have no idea who said it, but I agree.

Blue

 

clean water

Meet Lightening. My advisory mascot. An African Spotted Water Frog. Oui, une grenouille africaine. One of the girlies brought him in to share with the rest of us.

While out and about, roaming around in one of my favorite thrift shops, Pennies for Change, I found a treasure.

blue nude

I am a fan of Henri Matisse and his Blue Nudes are beautiful. I found this on a website called Paradis while looking for “my” nude:

The Blue Nudes refer to a series of cut-outs by Henri Matisse. Completed in 1952, they represent seated female nudes, and are among Matisse’s final body of works. Blue Nude IV, the first of the four, took a notebook of studies and two weeks work of cutting and arranging before it satisfied him. The pose he finally arrived at for all four works—intertwining legs and an arm stretching behind the neck—was his favorite. The posture is similar to a number of seated nudes from the first half of the 1920s, and ultimately derives from the reposed figures of Le bonheur de vivre.

The Blue Nudes also reflect Matisse’s earlier sculptures. Despite the flatness of paper, they are sculptural in their tangible, relief-like quality, as well as the sense of volume created by the overlapping. Blue Nude I in particular can be compared with sculptures like La Serpentine of 1909.

The color blue signified distance and volume to Matisse. Frustrated in his attempts to successfully marry dominant and contrasting tones, the artist was moved to use solid slabs of single color early in his career, a technique that became known as Fauvism. The painted gouache cut-outs that comprise the Blue Nudes were inspired by Matisse’s collection of African sculpture and a visit that he made to Tahiti in 1930. It took another twenty years and a period of incapacity after an operation before Matisse synthesized these influences into this seminal series.

“Mine” is the bottom left in the series.

static1.squarespace.png

I am spending the weekend in the Blue Ridge Mountains visiting my family. Great Nephew J and I decided to cruise around the Blue Ridge Parkway this afternoon. He took me to his favorite spot, Chestola Overlook.

mountains

blue skies

Table Rock

trees

Lovely views. These mountains will always be my home. The Cevennes are the closest to the Appalachians that I have found in France. I took these two photos in 2008 when Chef Érick and I went to visit his friends Richard and Nadine at their beautiful home built into the side of a mountain. This is the view from their patio.

france mtns france mtns 2

Thank you, Great Nephew J. For organizing my phone apps, for helping me with my photos, for cruising around the mountains with me and showing me where you spent a lot of time playing when you were a mere young’un and for enthusiastically eating and photographing the cake I made.

jared

Keep taking photos, working hard in school, and having fun. I am very proud of you.

Today’s recipe came to me from an 8th grade girlie. She wanted to make a cake for her advisor to celebrate the opening of Ms. S’s play. (I work with some seriously talented people.) Ms. S asked for a Funfetti Cake. Girlie doesn’t bake from a mix. Scratch only for her. A girl after my own heart. She has even started a binder of her favorite cake recipes. Thanks to Sally’s Baking Addiction and Girlie for the recipe!

Here is a photo from Sally’s blog. She made it in one 9-inch pan.

blog cake

Girlie’s cake was amazing. Dense and very vanilla-y.  She doubled the recipe and made two 9-inch layers.

pages cake

I decided to make it for Mama Mildred and Moo. (Favorite Niece, I hope they save some for you…) I doubled the recipe also. I used a 13 x 9 pan. I didn’t account for the doubled recipe and I didn’t have enough sprinkles for the batter.

my cake

But lots of them for the top!

sprinkles

Yum.

Homemade Funfetti Cake

Ingredients:

Cake

  • 1 and 2/3 cup (210g) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick or 115 g) unsalted butter, melted
  • 3/4 cup (150g) granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup (50g) packed light brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup (60g) yogurt  (plain or vanilla; or greek yogurt; or sour cream-I used Oui vanilla flavored)
  • 3/4 cup (180ml) milk (cow’s milk; or soy milk; or almond milk)
  • 1 Tablespoon (15ml) vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup (90g) sprinkles (not nonpareils)

Vanilla Buttercream

  • 1 cup (2 sticks or 230g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 3-4 cups (360-480g) powdered (confectioners’) sugar
  • 1/4 cup (60ml) heavy cream (see note above about substituting milk or half-and-half)
  • 2 and 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Spray a 9-inch springform or baking pan (round or square) generously with nonstick spray. Set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside. Melt butter in the microwave in a microwave safe bowl or on the stove top. Whisk in the sugars vigorously getting out any brown sugar lumps – mixture will be gritty. Whisk in egg, yogurt, milk, and vanilla extract until combined. Slowly mix in dry ingredients until no lumps remain. Batter will be thick. Slowly stir in sprinkles, but do not over mix because the sprinkles will bleed their color. Do this at the last minute.
  3. Pour batter into prepared cake pan. This cake takes around 33-37 minutes to bake. What I suggest is to bake it for 20 minutes, then cover loosely with aluminum foil (loosely to avoid the top from sticking to the foil) and continue baking for 13-17 more minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool.
  4. To make the frosting, beat softened butter on medium speed with an electric or stand mixer. Beat for 3 minutes until smooth and creamy. Add powdered sugar, cream, and vanilla extract with the mixer running. Increase to high speed and beat for 3 minutes. Add more powdered sugar if frosting is too thin or more cream if mixture is too thick. Add 1/4 teaspoon (or more) if frosting is too sweet. Frost cooled cake as desired and top with sprinkles. There may be leftover frosting depending how much you wish to use.
  5. Cake stays fresh covered at room temperature or in the refrigerator for 5 days.

 

Bon appétit, my mountain family. Thanks for letting me hang out for a couple of days. You can take the girl out of the mountains, but you can’t take the mountains out of the girl.

 

 

 

If God’s not a Tar Heel fan…

sky

then why is the sky Carolina Blue?

That’s a question I’ve heard most of my life. Actually, I am pretty sure that God has a lot on his plate right about now… hurricanes, earthquakes, terrorists, people who feel so alone that they don’t know what to do or who to turn to. Who wins a Saturday afternoon college football game isn’t high on his list of worries, in my humble opinion. Probably not there at all. He might be keeping an eye on those young men off the field, trying to give them some guidance about keeping out of trouble, though.

But, back to Carolina Blue. Son #2, GF and I went to see UNC play Louisville yesterday.

game1

An absolutely perfect day. I now know who Lamar Jackson is- the defending Heisman trophy winner and the quarterback for the Cardinals. He had a record day yesterday, if you care about those things. I love college football. Particularly, the Tennessee Vols and the Duke Blue Devils. You can add the Appalachian State University Mountaineers and the Nebraska Cornhuskers to the list as well. A colleague gave us the tickets and a parking pass. The Ex-Ex couldn’t go because he was working. (He watched the second half on TV.) So, sorry for not really caring who won. I cried when the marching band played The Star-Spangled Banner. I am a sap that way.

SSB

Halftime was exciting.  Mo came to see me, trekking across the stadium from her seat to  mine.

mo

She’s a die hard Tar Heel fan (along with the BFF, my Favorite Niece, Andy P, who also came to find me, and the colleague who gave us the tickets). Check out the necklace!

The big deal at halftime was the presentation of the 2017 NCAA Championship Rings to the UNC Men’s basketball team. James Worthy, of the 1981-82 championship team, presented head coach Roy Williams with his ring.

roy and james

basketball team

I am a James Worthy fan as well as a fan of Roy Williams. That 1982 championship was legendary coach Dean Smith‘s first and Roy was an assistant coach then. Roy is one of my hometown boys. He lived in Spruce Pine for a while as a little boy. He is a few years older than me, so we didn’t live there at the same time, but that’s okay. It still counts.

It was a fun afternoon. Carolina didn’t end up winning. But what a day to be alive and outside. Eating hot dogs, people-watching, cheering for great plays made by both teams. A real slice of American life. And a few hours respite from worrying about Hurricane Irma and her path of destruction. That’s why Son #2 and GF (along with the way too cute and lovable Couper and his sidekick Charlie) were here.

couper and charlie

They left Charleston, not knowing if Irma was headed that way or not. GF hails from Texas so she knows football. She was a cheerleader for UT-San Antonio. I hope she was impressed with the Carolina cheerleaders. She has already heard of the Louisville squad.

Yesterday was also JC’s birthday! Duke won just for her, I am pretty sure. We went over to her house for a cook-out. I was in charge of dessert. She loves chocolate so I decided that little chocolate cakes would be a good way to go. I just happened to have three bars of European dark chocolate in the pantry.  A gift from Pretend Daughter #2. I made them in a muffin tin and wasn’t happy that they didn’t come out easily. So much for presentation. But they tasted good, with a little whipped cream on the side. Pas mal du tout.

choc cakes

Natalie’s Melting Chocolate Cakes

makes 12

200 g (7oz/ scant 3/4 c.) butter, cubed

200 g (7 oz/ 1 1/3 c. dark (bittersweet) chocolate (minimum 70% cocoa solids), broken into pieces

200 g (7 oz/scant 3/4 c) castor sugar (superfine sugar)

4 eggs

1 tsp plain all-purpose flour

Preheat oven to 180˚C (350 F˚/gas mark 4).

Place the butter and chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water and stir until the chocolate has melted.  Transfer to a large mixing bowl with the sugar, stir with a wooden spoon and leave to cool a little while.

Add the eggs to the chocolate mixture, one at a time, stirring well after each addition. Finally, stir in the flour and mix well.

Pour the cake batter into 12 mini-loaf pans (or buttered muffin tins) and bake for 12-15 minutes until the centers are set but still a little wobbly.  Turn the oven off but leave the cakes inside for another 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

You can store these covered, in the fridge, for up to 2-3 days.  Take out 30 minutes before serving.

Bon appétit et bisous! I hope that Hurricane Irma loses steam and there is minimum damage and no loss of life in Florida. Be safe. Stay dry. Hug your loved ones.

Cooking for me

heart pasta

I love cooking for me. I don’t have to worry about what I like (basically everything edible) or dislike (basically not much). I can take leftover stuff and turn it into something pretty good most of the time. And I don’t care how many dishes I dirty because I don’t mind cleaning up. I had a late lunch today. I cleaned out my closet, took donations to Goodwill, bought school supplies for a 7th grade project (of course, the first place I stopped had 8 tri-fold boards and I needed 9), stopped in at the grocery store and stopped to get the last board (almost double the price at Michael’s compared to Walmart, shoppers). I had a Michael’s coupon but chose to use it on the cutest cookie cutters in the whole world.

cookie cutters

They are, aren’t they? They even come with a template to help me decorate. I will need all the artistic help I can get. Trust me.

When I got home from the errands, I decided to bake Pumpkin Spice Cake Bars from a recipe that one of my former students posted this morning on FB. Heather is a chef and currently teaches at the Cornell University School of Hotel Administration. While the cake was baking, I realized that I had not eaten lunch. My mind went to pasta– a cute bag of heart-shaped pasta (a gift from globe-trotting Pretend Daughter #2) in the cupboard, half a jar of Newman’s Common Good Organic Tomato Basil pasta sauce in the refrigerator along with some leftover caramelized zucchini I made yesterday. Sprinkle a little grated Parmesan on top et voilà. A couple of slices of my home made baguette and   À table, madame! 

pasta dish

The Ex-Ex would want to know “Where’s the meat?” but he’s not here. Just moi. I will let him sample the cake when he gets home. And there will be meat for dinner.

The cake is out of the oven, cooling, waiting for the cream cheese frosting. Smells pretty good in here. As you can tell, I am on a pumpkin spice roll right now.  Might just last until Thanksgiving. On ne sait jamais.

pumpkin spice cake

Pumpkin Cake Bars

recipe from Cross E Ranch in Salt Lake City, Utah

Cake:
1c Vegetable Oil (I used 1/2 c. applesauce and 1/2 c. oil)
2c Sugar (I cut it down to 1-1/2 c. sugar)
4 Eggs
1-15oz can plain pumpkin
2c Flour
2t Baking Powder
1t Baking Soda
½tsp Salt
2tsp Cinnamon
½tsp Ginger and nutmeg
¼tsp Cloves

Mix dry ingredient and wet ingredients separately and then mix together. Pour into 12”x17” buttered and floured cookie sheet.
Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes.

Cream Cheese Frosting:
1 8oz Package of Cream Cheese
1/2c Softened Butter
4c+ Powdered Sugar
4tsp Milk
1t sp Vanilla

Beat together, frost cool cake.

Bon appétit, tout le monde. Be good to yourself. Take care of yourself as well as you take care of everyone else. Eat good food, even when you are alone. Bake something so your house will smell good. Bonne Rentrée to all my Frenchies whose first day of school was today.

I miss Mayberry

Okay, if you are a Rascal Flatts fan then you know I stole borrowed the title of one of their songs. I don’t think they will get upset when they read today’s blogpost. I think they will be honored. I have been in a bit of a blue mood the past few days. I’ve recently read Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult and The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls. (more about those book in a later post- they deserve their own) I’ve been very bothered by the news that the CEO of Blue Cross Blue Shield of NC earned $3.5 million in compensation in 2016. I am trying not worry too much about things that I cannot control. Really I am. Therefore, I am going to a happy place and taking you along for the ride.

The Ex-Ex and I decided to take a couple of days to explore Mount Airy, the town that inspired the Andy Griffith Show’s fictional town of Mayberry. I read an article about hiking at Pilot Mountain (or Mount Pilot in TV-land) and we thought that sounded like fun. It was amazing.

pilot mtn

You can’t hike all the way to the top- that’s for climbers.  But you can hike all around the base.

We did it early in the morning before the 90˚F+ temperature set in.

Back to Mayberry.  As a young’un, I thought that the Andy Griffith Show was only shown in North Carolina.  This was back in the days of three TV stations, television programming signed off after the 11:00 news and the national anthem played, and a TV set was a real piece of furniture.

old tv

And shows were in black and white.  Yep, that’s how old I am.  I now know that New Yorkers, Nebraskans and Delawareans were also watching. I wonder what they thought of us in North Carolinians. Not that I care, truthfully. Sheriff Andy Taylor, played by Mr. Griffith, always taught a lesson, mostly to son Opie, played by Ron Howard, and to his deputy, Barney Fife, played by Don Knotts. All in a 30 minute time slot. Add in a few other characters:

  • Aunt Bea, who showed up in the first episode to help take care of Andy and Opie. There was never much mention of Opie’s ma, except to say that she had died.
  • Floyd, the ditzy barber (I saw this t-shirt at a wine festival)

pink floyd

  • Otis Campbell, the lovable town drunk who would just lock himself in his cell after he got loaded

otis' cell

  • Howard Sprague, the county clerk, a mama’s boy

hsprague

  • Gomer, a gas station attendant with an amazing singing voice (Grandma Christine loved him and had fantasy lunches with him) who later went on to have his own show after he joined the Marines
  • Goober, Gomer’s cousin who also worked at Wally’s
  • Miss Crump, a school teacher who later married Andy
  • Thelma Lou, Barney’s main squeeze (she is still alive and was signing autographs the day we were at the Andy Griffith Museum- we didn’t want to wait in line or pay to get one but later saw a lady who had an autograph on her pink purse)

andyhelenbarneythelmalou

  • The Darlins, a musical family of hillbillies who periodically came to town, usually bringing moonshine with them as I recall

darlin truck

  • Ernest T. Bass, a wiry little hillbilly who had a penchant for throwing rocks and climbing trees (I have a second cousin who reminds me of Ernest T)

ernestt brick

There were others, but these are the ones I remember the most.

Andy Griffith lived in Mount Airy until he left to attend the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. You can even rent out his family home and spend the night there.

andy's house.jpg

At his recently renovated museum, I learned that he was a teacher at Goldsboro High School for a few years.  Who knew? Not me. Quite a few of his personal belongings were donated to the museum.  His guitar-

andy'sguitar

Some evenings after supper, Sheriff Taylor would sit on the porch and play.

There are also quite a few things from the set of the show. The doors to the courthouse/jail-

courthouse doors

Barney’s sidecar-

sidecar

The one artifact that I found especially touching is the white suit that Andy Griffith wore for his part in Brad Paisley’s video for the song Waitin’ on a Woman. The video was filmed in 2008, on the Outer Banks of North Carolina where Andy spent his final years.

waitingonawoman

Paisley’s 2012 interview with the Los Angeles Times tells the story of how it came about. Andy passed away four years after the video was made.  I double dog dare you not to shed at least one tear watching it.  Rest in peace, Mr. Griffiths.

While we were in Mayberry Mount Airy, we had breakfast at Snappy Lunch, made famous in the TV show.  It is the only real place in Mount Airy mentioned on the show.

snappy sign

According to the fellow sharing the lunch counter with us at Snappy, a local, Snappy was delivering lunches to the local high school, which was just up the street back in the day, for years before the school got a cafeteria.  It is quite famous for its pork chop sandwich, which Our State magazine has written about, even suggesting it should be our State Sandwich.

ourstate

So, I had one for breakfast.

I didn’t expect to be wowed. Just a fried boneless pork chop, with slaw, a tomato slice, chili and mustard on a regular old hamburger bun, right? I loved every bite.  Truly.  I would go back just to have another one.  And I vote YES!  A young guy stands in the window and cooks the pork chops for all the passers-by to watch. Snappy keeps short hours, opening around 6:00 am and closing around 2:00 pm, it isn’t open on Sundays and it isn’t very big. It has two rooms for eaters, the front room filled mostly with locals (and us at the counter) and tourists in the room to the side, it seemed. The Pork Chop Sandwich costs $4.20. I got a bag of chips with mine- no fries that day.

snappywindow

I love the Appalachian State hat! Go Mountaineers!

I found a blog, Happy Hodgepodge Home, with a recipe for the sandwich.  Try it if you would like. I don’t think I am going to try it myself.  I want the memory of the sandwich to be unsullied by my own feeble attempts at reproducing it. If you try it, let me know how it turns out.  Might be best to have it with a Cheerwine, a drink concocted in Salisbury, NC in 1917. (I’ve seen advertisements for a Krispy Kreme Cheerwine doughnut, but I haven’t had one. Yet.) I did find a recipe for a Cheerwine Pound Cake in an article in Our State.  This might be worth a try! Who doesn’t love pound cake?

Cheerwine Pound Cake

Makes one 10-inch cake

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup vegetable shortening, at room temperature
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 5 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup Cheerwine soft drink
  • 1 teaspoon lemon extract
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • Red food coloring gel, as desired (optional)
  • Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

1. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Grease and lightly flour a 10-inch, light-colored metal tube (angel food) pan, tapping out any excess flour. (A dark metal or heavy Bundt pan will make the crust too dark and thick and will interfere with the baking time.)

2. Beat the butter, shortening, and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer set to high speed until the mixture is light and fluffy, 5 to 7 minutes.

3. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.

4. Whisk together the flour and salt in another large bowl. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture in thirds, alternating with half of the Cheerwine, beating only until the batter is smooth after each addition. Quickly beat in the lemon and almond extract.

5. If you want the cake to have a deep pink color that suggests Cheerwine, tint the batter with the gel. Start with a little and work up to the desired shade, keeping in mind that a large amount of food coloring can make the cake taste bitter.

6. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan. Gently tap the pan on the counter to remove air bubbles. Bake until a tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, 1 hour 15 minutes to 1 hour 30 minutes.

7. Cool the cake in the pan set on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Turn out the cake onto the rack and let cool to room temperature. Dust with confectioners’ sugar, if you wish.

Maybe you could make a drizzled sort of icing with confectioners’ sugar and Cheerwine? Just thinking here.  Haven’t tried it.

biscuitsandgravy

Bon appétit to all!  If you’ve never been to Mount Airy or Pilot Mountain, go!  I bet it is beautiful in the fall, when the leaves change color.  Be ready for a charming small town and very nice Southern folk.  But before you go, watch a few episodes of The Andy Griffith Show.  Goober says Hey! If you are lucky and it’s a Saturday morning, maybe these guys will be sitting around playing some old songs.

menplaying music