Sunday, December 9, 2012

The mysteries of Blogging

You may have noticed that within a "post" on this blog the typeface goes from large to small and the lines are separated by a variety of odd spaces.  Alas, I have little control over it. 

 I have spent precious minutes, maybe hours, trying to figure out why and how to prevent this happening...but to no avail.  As an artist it does make me a little "nuts".  But I have finally just accepted it as the artistic whim of the Google blogging fairy and am trying to ignore it. 

 As blogging goes along and technology takes-over-the-world, we find out also that Google can't just store these images for free.  Yes, in the future I could reduce the size of my pictures" pixel-wise" but then if I increased the photo to size "large", I would lose some of the quality. 

 We have to count ourselves lucky that Wikipedia and Google are offering a service and just pay up and enjoy it while we still have the wits to figure it out at all. 

 So alright, Google fairy, I'll let you put your wand in.... but if any of you have any suggestions about these mysteries, feel free to enlighten me.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Printmaking: Chine Colle´

Chine colle´using a map of Lyon as a backing sheet

  Here in Nice,  I have been following a printmaking course for some years, where despite the few hours afforded us each week at the municipal art school, I have learned how to do basic printmaking.  From time to time I would like to report on what printmaking is all about.  I will not put these posts in the order I learned them as there are far better sources for that.   I will start off with one of my favorite techniques: Chine-colle´. 

Chine-collé  meaning literally "China pasted" translates from the French as "pasted tissue". The original tissue papers came to Europe from the China, Japan and India . 

It is one of the techniques of printmaking which marries two processes together and can be impressive if done well.   Almost any zinc or copper plate (plaque) that has already been engraved with acid (eau forte) or dry point techniques can be used as well as carved linoleum or wood blocks. 

The way I have learned to use the technique is to provide a background color or pattern behind the image that is different from the original backing sheet ( Rives or Arches paper). 

To achieve the results you see in my photos below:

1. I first ink the plate in black, in this case both of these are zinc plates which were first etched with the "sugar lift" method and an acid bath. 

2.  Next, a thinner piece of paper (be it newspaper, japanese paper, or specially colorfast tissue paper) is trimmed to size and then dampened with a spray bottle and placed between 2 pieces of newspaper to blot.  Some papers expand more than others when they are dampened so it means testing to get the trimming accurate. 

3. After 5 minutes of resting, a wheat (or rice) paste is brushed on the dampened backing sheet.  You must be sure that the design goes on the reverse side face up or your print will not succeed as you wished.  ( I have ruined several prints already by putting them on backwards... oy!). 

4.  The plate is then run through the printing press.  It is the pressure of the press that transfers the ink to the thin paper which will then adhere to the thicker printing paper. 

To make the special paste the gluten must be separated from the rest of the substance of wheat flour.   When heated, the gluten forms a ball in your hand which can be lifted away.   This leaves the starch which is heated with distilled water and then passed through a sieve to form the paste.  This ancient method of paste making is the most revered by artists and bookbinders although modern glues are now used by some printmakers.  

With printmaking each step must be executed accurately or the total is spoiled.  This isn't so in painting.  Sometimes it's the "mistakes" in a painting that make it interesting and possible for the artist to take a new turn. 

 That is much less the case in printmaking.  I can say with the discipline of printmaking,  I am slowly learning patience.   It comes, however, at a price of time and money. 

 If you spoil a chine colle´ in the final stage,  at least 30 minutes of time are gone, not to mention the design sheet, which may have taken 30 minutes or more to create.   Or if you found a unique image in the newspaper you probably do not have another of the same.  The backing paper is quite pricey too, always a regret to throw away.  
(Rives 280 gr/m2 paper is usually about 6 euros a sheet, meaning 2 euros a print with the size I work with.)

Chine colle´may take years to perfect but it breathes new life into any of one's old plaques with the added satisfaction that each of these prints will be unique.  
Yves Klein inspired acid etched plate with newspaper used under the print

Found image from an ad in the newspaper again

In this case I took a photo of one of my canvases and printed it on Japanese paper .  Since the ink was not permanent I was able to achieve this cloudy affect with the chine colle´. 

Example of the original print homage to Klein print with red ink 
Second example of sugar lift print on Rives paper, without chine colle´ in black ink. 

Same print with japanese paper behind the print , color saturation reinforced with watercolors after printing.  I used less black ink to reveal the variation of the plate.

Monday, December 3, 2012

C'est Pas Classique

Vadim Repin, C'est Pas Classique
Last night I went along to the closing concert of "C'est Pas Classique", the oh-so-poplar-music festival held every year  in Nice.... wherein so many quirky and excellent musical offerings are performed free of charge over three or four days.  

The only drawback, of course, is this same popularity.    The rain discouraged me for the first several days of the festival,  but I was determined to join some pals to wait in line for the final concert in the vast "Apollon" hall. 

We were especially excited to be hearing the Siberian violinist, Vadim Repin, who is reputed to be one of the greatest violinists of our century.  

He was to be accompanied by the L'Orchestre Regional de Cannes PACA conducted by Philippe Bender for the final concert.  This is an orchestra with many accolades, an orchestra well respected in Europe. 

Let me tell you the little story of our adventure .  It's in the details.

We met up from three different quarters by bus and tram to descend upon the Acropolis which boasts a very large auditorium of 2500 seats.  

The idea was that the concert was to start at 20h00 (8pm) but to insure a decent seat in the front or middle of the Apollon Theatre we needed to be in line by 18h15.  We were indeed, and to make the wait more palatable we procured a square meter of space and plopped ourselves down.    

I have alluded in former posts about an entrenched attitude about the "way we do it" in France.  I recently told about trying to order a double coffee.  There is a slowly changing mind set, that there is one right way to do things and that is the way "we have always done it".   The "sotto voce" implication being that there is no other way.  

Now with a "whip lash" problem, I have found that standing or sitting in one position too long provokes unwelcome twinges so I didn't want to sit on the floor just to be contrary. I just didn't think that I could stand that long.

But within a few minutes of sitting down on the floor in the queue there was a woman behind us covering my friends head with her coat, moving uncomfortably close to us and fuming.  

  One of my friends pointed out that the coat was covering my friend's head and "La chère madame" pulled back her full force to release her complaint.  ..."We were being ridiculous, taking the place of 10 people."  ( Obviously, even if we were, we could not take ten seats in the auditorium so she would still get in.)   My friend politely asked her to have some respect for others .  

At the former outburst,  another French lady sat right down on the floor and began to chat with us.  We all procured glasses of wine from the nearby snack vendor and I pulled out a bag of vegetable chips and shared it around.  Then other French people began to chat with us and the angry lady was eclipsed by an elderly man fainting just nearby. 

My new French friend brought the paramedic and my  American friend brought water from the stand nearby.  It was eagerly given to her as we all pooled our energies to clear a space for the man to breathe.    I loved seeing our little international group responding so quickly.   Then the line began to move.

I have to say our seats were rather high up but excellent.  At least we weren't in the highest balcony called "paradise" which is not recommended for a good experience.  ( Take a look at the comments to see the program of the evening)

 During the concert I went from vague bliss to concentration.  I watched the bare arm of a young violinist and saw how her wrist was turned just so.  I observed the percussionist go from castanets to base drum to snare in the blink of an eye.  

I swooned over the oboe solos.  I puzzled over the removal of the score by a journeyman before the conductor emerged.   This taking away and putting back of the podium with a score on it happened three or four times.   I think it is a point of pride when the conductor conducts from memory.  Otherwise I couldn't fathom this ceremony.  

The Russian violinist, Vadim Repin,  is indeed extraordinary.  He played for over an hour without a score.  He played with delicious sensitivity and panache.  He put his "impetuous" personality into it while still respecting the pieces as they were laid down.  Here's an excerpt from the site of C'est pas Classique:

"Vadim Repin impressionne son public international par sa virtuosité, son expressivité inépuisable, son jeu d’une incroyable variété de timbres et sa technique magistrale. Cette technique parfaite, ce tempérament fougueux et la poésie de ses interprétations, caractérisent cet artiste hors du commun.
Vadim Repin impresses international audiences with his virtuosity,  inexhaustible expressiveness, his playing of an incredible variety of tones and masterly technique.  This perfect technique,  his fiery temperament and the poetry of his interpretations characterize this extraordinary artist."

For those of us who have practiced violin, Vadim showed off his actual violin language to great affect with a short ditty seducing the other strings into a pizzicato serenade advancing into the most amazing violin gymnastics I had ever seen.    All this was done to the tune of  the old German folk song and children's game: " My hat it has three corners"...  This piece of frivolity was of course just the encore piece but it was fun.

 I felt transported as only good music can transport.  Was I really stoned on two glasses of white wine or is it so crucial for our "ame" to hear classical music well rendered.   I think the latter.  I once had a class from an excommunicated priest.   We discovered in the class that there are certain vibrations that resonate with the human psyche and body.  Studies have shown that the Latin mass and most classical musical pieces fall into this category. 

Even now I feel like my writing is taking on an old fashioned
tenor,  as if there are some kinds of settings that require more respect than others.  The concert hall must be one of them.       

Was it worth the long wait with 2500 other patient 
music enthusiasts,   Definitely, it was.... but international connection and friendship made it even more delectable. 

Friday, November 30, 2012

George' Documentary Film -for Duncan Phillips.

I am sending this tribute of George Harrison to the friends and family of Duncan Phillips born Dec. 7, 1982... who died tragically last Tuesday November 27, 2012.   I can not forget my sweet and tormented days among you all, when we stormed "the boards" in San Francisco, Duncan just a lad.   We weep and still we know that Duncan is "safe" now.  Rest in Peace my young red headed "little man".

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Fifty + Years ago....a day in my life

When I was a teenager I belonged to a vibrant community Congregationalist church whose minister was inspired and inspiring.    I remember him well and the various guest speakers he invited to our church. 

 One of these and the most revered was Dr. Martin Luther King who came to our modest church to preach both sermons and spend time with the family of our pastor,  Fred Doty.   On that day, January 15, 1961,  Dr. King also spoke at the nearby Canoga Park High School which was the rival to my Taft High.   It was his birthday. 
It all came about because Fred ( we were pretty informal in that church) had stayed up all night reading King's Stride Toward Freedom, The Montgomery Bus Boycott Story and was so moved by it that he immediately made a call to Dr. King to thank him and extend an invitation to come to the San Fernando Valley.  

 As it turned out the visit could not be accomplished until the following year but Dr. King did come and spoke to not just our church but a near capacity audience from our community.  
At the time I knew that he was a great man because of the dialogue at home and the way we had been brought up all of our lives, but I did not know what was to follow with integration in America or how Dr. King's life would tragically end only 7 years later. 

 I realize now that I was to meet one of the great visionaries of the previous century, a kind and committed man whose hand I got to grasp that day.  

The speech that Dr. King delivered to the community was called "The Future of Integration".     Here is the article from Canoga Park High School  

The Speech can not be found on You Tube but is archived and can be accessed from the bottom of the article.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Dr. David Aouizerat/ Chirurgien, Dentiste

My French Dentist, Dr David Aouizerat

Well I can't say I like going to the dentist,  but it's gotten a whole lot better since I came to Nice.   It is a pleasure to walk in the door at 19 Rue Gubernatis  (Telephone: 04-93-37-07-37) to see Dr. David Aouizerat and his able assistant, Laura Farina.  

Laura Farina
  About six months ago I was advised to have gum surgery and I took the punt that Dr. David was my man.    I was a little leery because I had had this same surgery in Nice a few years earlier for the same fee, but the results had not been successful.  

With Dr. Aouizerat, I felt immediately that I was in good hands and agreed to go ahead.   He explained his new procedure using my own blood to nourish the tissue ( much thicker tissue taken from the roof of the mouth) before transplanting it.   He showed me what he would do and how he would do it.     And now I can say that this time the surgery was a success and the tissue will continue to grow to cover that "long in the tooth" problem that some of us are prone to.    

Always one for prevention, Dr David first gives a thorough lesson on care which includes, picks, oxygenated water , floss etc etc.  I have never had such a clean and sparkling mouth as I do now. 

I also love going to the "cabinet" because he has devotedly renovated an art nouveau apartment and with great taste.  It boasts a tulip frieze around the ceiling that you can stare out while you sit gaping in the chair and graceful stained glass windows from the former era.

But now the lab is twenty- first century to the nth degree.  Dr. David relies heavily on his Mac and the up to the minute technology.  He can show you every tooth on the screen in front of you, the before and after pictures on his i-phone, and he can see every conceivable angle of a tooth while he is working on it.     

Dr David in the office

And we can thank the gods for the new x-ray equipment that scans your mouth without the horrible cotton pads that used to make me gag.  And for a single tooth x-ray , there is the easily accommodated cardboard casing which you hold in place for a second.  Good dentistry is all a lot more comfortable than even a few years ago. 

X ray scanner

As an experienced surgeon , Dr. David is prepared for all dental needs and has a room built capable of being hermetically sealed for implanting teeth.  There is a special air filter and  flooring conceived to prevent any dust .  The room opens with an automatic gate so he need not touch it while entering with sterilized gloves and clothing.  The lighting and air filter are like those in a hospital, all to keep the room sterile.  

 And this extra room is where you can "patienter" to have your teeth whitened which is the fashion these days for all of us coffee and wine drinkers.  The French don't go in for "refrigerator" white like the Americans, but your "bouche" can look a lot better when the treatment is finished.  

Implantation room

The doctor at ease.

 Dr David 
I could give you stories of other patients who are impressed by his  competence with root canals or about his ability to sculpt inlays like a fine jeweler but I say you should go and see for yourself how talented a man he is.  

And it doesn't hurt that he has a sense of humor and looks vaguely like a young James Caan either.  

James Caan in his early days

Monday, November 5, 2012

French coffee bars and cafes

Cafe de Flore, Paris
Let's talk about French cafes and coffee bars.

I have to say that in general coffee bars in Nice took me some getting used to.   One doesn't find the same warm ambiance or the same quality of coffee even(Malongo excepted) that one finds in Paris, Seattle or Milan and we are one of the largest French cities.     

Grand Cafe de Lyon, Nice

 And those iconic Parisian cafes which we see featured in all the old films.... have all but disappeared since I have lived here.  
Le Grand Cafe de Lyon on Jean Medecin is the only Parisian style cafe left in Nice and the high price for a cup includes the privilege of sitting along the tramway to "people watch".

  The rest of the ourdoor coffee house on Jean Medecin have been replaced in the last couple of years by grotty little snack bars with picnic chairs and sad looking baguette sandwiches and sodas.

No, the cafes that are here are hardly along the lines of  Les Deux Magot or Cafe Flore or other "Parisien" landmarks,  but a few of them do have character.  

 My favorite coffee bar with charm is off the Zone Piéton on rue Massenet and was started by Italians.   Even here there is a big tv wide screen with it's incessant MTV offering.   (What... do merchants think...that we will perish if we are allowed to think our own thoughts.)  But the coffee is fine and it is a quiet enough place to read or chat with a friend and the waiters are attentive.  

Many restaurants have a nice quiet time to have a cup of coffee between meal serving times , but the most frequented coffee bars are located in a square where one can watch the world go by.  Usually for the establishment to afford the space,  lunch or other offerings are on the "carte".

The background music is often a deterrent for me in the Nicois coffee bar.  Virgin Records is unreliable if you don't want acid rock or Mongolian folk songs with your java even though they have a nice eating area on the top floor.   For music stores I prefer the bar in FNAC in Nice as they have a more bookish atmosphere and you are less likely to have raucous music to contend with.  ( There are even free public toilets there which is a rare find. )  

  I am not unduly fond of Seattle's Starbucks but the chain has some attractions that other American cafes have followed: American coffee houses have the coziness factor which means comfortable chairs; a warm welcoming, non smoking atmosphere;  subtle but decent music ;  and no wide screen on the wall.  It helps that friendly young people serve the coffee as well.

The thing that stands out for me about local coffee bars in Nice is that they are not conducive to lingering.  One feels very exposed as opposed to enclosed.  

   What you will get here in France are cafe tables a few inches from one another and variations of the straight backed chair.   If you don't like ambient smoke,  better to go inside with the wide-screen.   There will be no armchair to loll in while you log onto wifi.    There will be no feeling of privacy for a conversation.

But if you are immersed in the culture over here, you wouldn’t even like American coffee bars.  Many of them would feel too soft, too personal, and way too commercial.  

 And if you want to enjoy a cigarette alone, to pause over a cup of coffee and watch the square ,  French cafes are perfect.  They have an old world authenticity to them.

 It's "horses for courses".

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Half and Half

  Having just come back from Seattle where coffee is king and everyone knows the name and life story of his local barista,  I acquired the habit of going some mornings for coffee with my sister.   At Vita's place I ordered an "Americana" coffee:  a  "grande" composed of two shots of espresso.   (Americans have adapted the Italian names for coffee drinks thanks to Starbucks, a company started in Seattle. ) 

 In my case,  one shot of coffee I ordered was decaffeinated and one was real.    Here is what happened when I tried the same thing the other day in Nice.

For good coffee,  I vote Malongo,  a Niçois success story. 
 I vote for Malongo as the best brand in France, an excellent coffee with a water processed de-caf on offer.  

Since the Malongo coffee bar in Nice is right next to the Notre Dame Cathedral , my friend Roge and I decided to stop and have a cuppa.

And it is here that we encountered another example of the famous "can't do"  attitude which is cultural difference number 117.   

Here is the conversation I had ( in french, of course)  with the server .

"Can you bring me a shot of decaf and a shot of real coffee together as one ?"

 Server: "Let me understand,  he wants a coffee and you want a decaf?"

"No, I want two shots but in the same cup?  Half and Half, one decaffeinated and one real coffee.  He wants a cappuccino.

(Look of stupification from the server... slow shaking of the head, hand over the mouth. )

"No,  it's simple I want two shots but in one cup with some room for cream."

FRench man leaning over from another table: " It's easy .  It's done all of the time elsewhere. You simply put two "dossettes" into one cup. "

Server:  (With a doubtful look)  Well, I will go and ask.  Server walks away.

I turn to the stranger and say:   Can't one do this in France?  What's the problem.?   It's possible , right?  

 French Stranger:  " Yes, of course it's possible but you must have a willingness ( bonne volonté)! ( he laughs) The French have difficulty with this.   But it is not difficult just have to want to . " ( shrugs and shakes his head.) 

Well, our two coffees came according to our order and they were a whopping 9 euros.  Roge kindly left her a "tenner".  

On the way out the waitress smiled happily like a child who has taken her first step.   

  Me:  " Now you will remember me for next time , right? "
Server:   Ah oui, madame.  

But still , Malongo is a great coffee.  

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Squish Squash

 So Halloween has gone and I had no tricker treaters last eve.  I had promised three neighborhood kids who came last year that I would be prepared this time, but the rain probably got in their way and they didn't show up. 

 Luckily for the French celebration of Toussaint which is November 1st, Halloween "trick or treating" has not taken hold in France.   I say " luckily" because the day of Toussaint has long been held as a day to honor the ancestors and to visit the graveyard with the family.  I think any family celebration is a good thing and not to be undermined by the silly commercialism of Halloween.

 Since we have been in Nice though, Halloween decorations are appearing more and more in shop windows and there are more children's costume parties being held then ever before.  It seems to be sneaking up on the French.

The idea of Halloween puts me in mind of Jack-o-Lanterns and pumpkin.     Here in France we don't have all of the same varieties of squash as we have in America.  Over here we have the Potiron or Fairytale pumpkin but not our familiar carving pumpkin.

French Potiron 

 The French name of this squash is "Musquee de Provence." This FRench version of pumpkin is the one we think of for Cinderella's carriage.  Each rib makes a deep convolution and it is easy to cut in slices. 
The Fairytale Potiron is thick, tender, and the deep orange flesh is very flavored, sweet and firm.    To cultivate, it is  a 115 to 125 day pumpkin that takes a long time to turn it's cheddar color.   Its coach-like shape and color make it fine for decorating but not so fine for Jack-o-lantern carving.  
The potiron is usually used for baking but I use it by cutting it into chunks and steaming it and mixing it with a cooked yam to get a better texture.   It makes a great winter side dish.
Here are some pics I took in Eugene, Oregon while visiting with my family 

American Halloween Pumpkin Squash

Carnival Squash

Buttercup squash

Turban Squash

Corn on the cob

And then there is corn on the cob, an American tradition almost never found in French markets.  And when it is found, it is not "fresh picked" still in the husks.  What a shame that the vendors don't realize how much enjoyment is lost when the kernels are exposed.  If it isn't fresh picked that day , its too old.  Any American can tell you that. 

Ornamental Gourds

Ornamental gourds are just that, not edible but pretty in all their variation.  Middle class Americans are fond of decorating their houses or even their porches with Autumn bounty.  We did it even before Martha Stewart came around.  Don't ask me why except that we can't help it. Everything is just so gorgeous at this time of year.

Thistle Down Farms near Eugene Oregon

Friends of Thistledown

Another resident of Thistledown

"Romancing The Wind" - Ray Bethell

My friends have been urging me back to the keyboard after a long absence of not posting. I have been in America and am now back and getting back into the swing of things.

 To start off I want to introduce you to Ray Bethell from Vancouver and his particular form of balletic excellence.    What pleases me is that there is a Ray Bethell and a there was a Delibes and there will be many other originals to inspire us.

And thanks to Bruce Bethany who has sent me so many good ideas for postings.  I have no good excuses now not to get back at it.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Andy Goldsworthy... land artist

For those of you who have never seen the work of British native, Andy Goldsworthy you are in for an insightful glimpse of an artist's mind.
  His documentary, Rivers and Tides is on in 9 parts and you can get a very good idea of what he does so masterfully and why he is one of the most prominent non-American practitioners of Land Art.

Long appreciated by the French, Goldsworthy is continuing his efforts in the area of Haut Provence, in fact in our own back yard at Digne-les-Bains, which has fast become a city noted for  patronage of artists. 

My friend Bruce Bethany spotted this article from the Financial Times which gives you a good idea of the installations and what the project will entail.

Apparently, Goldsworthy is extending his work of the "Sentinelles"  the giant pine cones started ten years ago and linking them to an elliptical 90 mile hiking trail which one can enjoy over stages.   Along the way he is restoring  abandoned buildings and ruined chapels as way stations of art he calls "Refuges".   With these new additions to the project, there is now more Andy Goldsworthy art in the Alpes Maritimes region of France than anywhere else in the world.

The most romantic way to go from Nice to Dignes Les Bains is by le train des Pignes , a small one track train that runs from Place de Liberation  in Nice through several mountain towns and terminating at Digne .  The only problem with this method is that by the time the train stops at all the villages along the way you have little time to enjoy Digne before the last train takes you back.   

And I can say as an aside, that just sitting in the Notre Dame du Bourg Cathedral(secondary cathedral of Digne) is worth a trip.  You will need to set aside some time to sit and meditate in this favorite of mine. 

 I have already convinced Jeanne that she needs a trip up to see what Digne has in store for art lover's.   After a visit to the town , we will plan our hikes into Goldsworthy's world.   And this time I will take my hiking boots.  

Monday, September 10, 2012

La Cavaleta

Last night was a fete on the beach with a few friends to enjoy the end of summer and to see the sunset.

  The good thing about a beach picnic is that kids are welcome and have lots of room to play;  you can stay for as long or as little as you like; and you can bring just a few items to make it a successful evening.   Everyone brings a little food and a little tipple and a blanket to sit on and you're off and running.  

You can tell I was having fun when I didn't take out my camera even though I had schlepped it along.  ... so this sunset shot is one I took in Biarritz some years back.   Never waste a good sunset, I say.  

A great idea if you don't have a car and don't feel like walking, is to take a bicycle rickshaw. 
 In this case Monsieur and I found a charming young man asleep in his eco-cab and he took us back three kilometers to the bottom of our street for only 12 euros total ....1,50 euros le km/pers.+ 3 euros de prize en charge.  (What I understand this to mean is that there is a 3 euro charge for his insurance).

  At the end of the ride he said that he knew we were Americans because he can't understand British English when it is spoken!  Ha ... good thing we weren't telling any secrets.    

He calls his service La Cavaleta: 06 20 41 03 38 and he will come pick you up if you call ahead..... which we may do before he fades away with the warm weather.   Come to think of it, I think la Cavaleta is a summer thing... like picnics on the beach.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Apostrophe's Hell

  My friend Annie, newly arrived in Nice,  is learning French for the first time.  We were talking about it today.   Most people think that the "new" language is the hard one. 
 French is tricky for English speakers because of the "masculine and feminine" version of  every noun, adjective etc.  But English is no "picnic". 
  Here is a photo of a guy who never understood the apostrophe...along with a few other things in life.....

My thank's to my cousin , Iris , who sent this bit along.  

                                                                                           Photo by Sarah Anne Edwards
So many people to hate, so little time.
If there's an apostrophe hell this has to be it. If you see this guy with his banner,  ask him, "Why do you ♥ the apostrophe so much? Repent and believe in grammar."
 But there are times when an apostrophe has its place.  Today's English expression "crow's feet"  answers the question: Whose what?  
The feet of the crow, that's who's feet.  The "what" is the feet, of course. 
Rest assured there's no hell, grammar or otherwise. (You don't need to pay for the overuse of apostrophes in another life). Overall, the universe's apostrophe store stays in balance. It seems our linguistic world was intelligently designed .......for every gratuitous apostrophe there's an instance where it's omitted.
 Here then is the term of the day that Iris sent me..... for those learning English.  

crow's feet

(KROHZ feet) 

noun: Wrinkles in the skin around the outer corners of the eyes.

From their supposed resemblance to a crow's feet. Earliest documented use: around 1374.

"He stares at himself in the mirror, the curls now grey, the crow's feet deepening like grooves worked into wood."
C.B. Forrest; The Devil's Dust; Dundurn; 2012.

Ah, good taste, what a dreadful thing! Taste is the enemy of creativeness. -Pablo Picasso, painter and sculptor (1881-1973)  

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Mulet gris et Salicornes

 Going up to our vast outdoor market at Place Liberation in Nice is always a treasure hunt.  Among the more than 100 stands are several fish stalls, one of them specializing only in shellfish and related seafood delicacies.  With our  houseguests, Phoebe and David back from Italy, we went to Place Liberation early in the morning, searching for the best and the freshest to bring back for a Sunday of culinary feasting.

For lunch we chose a huge quantity of smallish mussels known as bouchots mussels named after their growing technique :bouchots ropes, on which the mussels grow tied in a spiral on the pilings and planted at sea .   Mesh netting prevents the mussels from escaping or falling away. This method needs an extended tidal zone and I have only seen it being used on the Ile de Re but is probably used extensively along the Atlantic coast.

                                                                                        photo eat like a

We decided to have mussels for our lunch, thoroughly cleaned and then steamed in a glass of wine.  With some butter, garlic., olive oil and parsley, the liquid from the mussels made a fine broth for mopping with a crusty baguette ......or in my case, eating with a spoon.    Monsieur had had a pot of borlotti beans bubbling on the stove for a few days and he added, baby tomatoes, sage, basil, oil, garlic, vinegar  to make a rich soup which we served as a second course.    We enjoyed a bottle of Meursault  Blagny with lunch.  And for dessert..... green figs so ripe that the "honey" ran from their burst skins.  

But wait , I am not finished.  After a siesta, reading, knitting, and hours of a chat fest, we were at it again....with a "dead" fresh , giant gray mullet that Pheobe had spotted at the second fish stand.  He was a "beaut" and even more "intéressant" as he cost only ten euros, cleaned and ready.    An equivalent sized "loup" sea bass would have been about thirty five euros!!

Here "he" is roasted with parsley and lemon tucked into his cavity and bathed in olive oil.   The fish took about 15 minutes at number 6 oven temperature ( 350F ) in an oven preheated for 15 minutes or so.  A mullet is a robust "hunter" fish and his flesh clings at the spine.  It is really an impressive backbone that can't be easily sliced to remove the head.  When most of the fish is done there is usually a stubborn bit near the spine that is not quite done.  But the rest of the flesh is flaky and tender.   Mullet is an easy fish to deal with.  ...few bones other than a few large ones that are easy to spot.

Here is our grey mullet before it was baked on a bed of foil on a  "cookie" sheet.    To go with our fish we decided on simple boiled potatoes garnished with olive oil, salt and pepper and a big helping each of Salicornes . We don't see "salicornes" very often as they grow around marshes and not in the Mediterranean.  Again, I first tasted them in the Ile de Re off the Atlantic coast of France.

Salicornia europaea is a kind of succulent algae, highly edible, either cooked or tossed with vinaigrette as a salad.   In England it is one of several plants known as samphire ; the term believed to be a corruption of the French name, herbe de Saint-Pierre,  "St. Peter's Herb."

Samphire is often cooked, either steamed, sautéed or microwaved and coated in butter or olive oil as we did.   Due to its high salt content, no salt is added and it must be washed thoroughly first to remove any sand that may be clinging.

 After cooking, the Salicorne is the bright green color of seaweed, and the flavor and texture are a bit like young spinach stems or asparagus.  Samphire is often used to accompany fish or seafood dishes.

  It was wonderful with the gray mullet that came out perfectly roasted after about 15 minutes in the #6 oven.   We served the fish only with slices of lemon, no sauce necessary.

 So engrossed were we, that we hardly spoke as we took the first bites of our dinner.   It was one of the best meals of the year and that is going some.

   We should all indulge in the abundance of the sea that we can find in our areas. Certainly those of us in Nice have no excuses not to.    In the future it may not be so affordable or caught wild as this fish was.  The freshness makes such a difference that you can convert any non fish-eater to a new way of life.

For dessert, a taste of both apple and "tartes citron" from the patisserie called Delices d'Or on Avenue de Gambetta. 

 On the pastry box it says "Le gourmandises n'est pas un vilain défaut." "Greediness in not an unpleasant defect"