Gospel Dream at the American Cathedral in Paris, France
As violence spread across France, voices soared high above Paris. Last night, fires burned from the banlieu to Belgium while voices that could only have come from heaven above shook the American Cathedral to its very foundation, all coming together to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina.
In response to the hurricanes and the profound desire to help, American not-for-profit groups in Paris joined together to present a "Southern Musical Review" of Gospel, Jazz, Soul and other music from the region. From the Dixieland marching band to the angelic voice of Parisian opera star Adèle Belmont to the earth shaking Gospel Dream, 22,000 euros in ticket sales and donations were raised to provide relief directly to the hurricane victims!
Parisian opera star Adèle Belmont
Just as the US hurricanes threw open the doors on our profound racial divide, France has been experiencing its own racial storm, ignited by a neglected, ostracized, disenfranchised strata of the population that decided to be heard – loud and clear. Unemployment is rampant and even the educated can’t find work because of social prejudices. This also clearly illustrates one of the reasons (besides those pesky, elusive WMD) that Chirac wouldn’t join the US in the war against Iraq.
Some articles that outline the situation much more clearly than I ever could are listed below. Thank you for your kind emails of concern. I don’t have a TV and after seeing what is shown on US “news”, I highly recommend it! ________________________________________
CLICHY-SOUS-BOIS, France, Nov. 6 - In life, they were uncelebrated. In death, Zyed Benna, 17, and Bouna Traore, 15, have inspired more than 10 days of riots that have spread from housing projects in the suburbs of Paris to cities and towns across France....
PARIS, Monday, Nov. 7 - Rioters fired shotguns at the police in a working-class suburb of Paris on Sunday, wounding 10 officers as the country's fast-spreading urban unrest escalated dangerously. Just hours earlier, President Jacques Chirac called an emergency meeting of top security officials and promised increased police pressure to confront the violence...
PARIS, Nov. 7 - The civil unrest sweeping France spread to nearly every major city in the country by Monday, claiming its first death, and even touched two cities elsewhere in Europe as the French government sought to reassure a jittery nation that it can quickly bring the escalating situation under control....
Or Church and Charcuterie as the case may be..... Not only do the French make the most incredible pâtés, they fête (celebrate) the very people that do so! This could also be titled "Only in France" but what a wonderful tradition my friend Alisa introduced me to that is celebrated throughout France for centuries in honor of the oft-neglected charcutier or sausage maker!
On Sunday, November 20th at 5:00pm (17h) St Éustache Church will host the Charcutiers Mass. The Souvenir de la Charcuterie Française (France Sausage-makers Guild) commemorates its members every year with a magnificent service at l’Eglise Saint-Eustache, the largest Gothic-style church in Paris. It is coincidentally (or maybe not) located next to Les Halles, at the foot of rue Montorgueuil, the heart of Paris’ food tradition.
The world famous Saint-Eustache Choir will perform Gounod’s Ave Maria and other religious musical masterpieces. The Mass will be followed by a reception; a buffet of traditional French charcuterie (cold cuts) prepared by the Charcuterie School apprentices accompanied by French wine.
A little prayer, a little pâté? Life is good! Some French wine? Even better!
Say “Bonjour” to my petit potimarron, a small squash that is a cross between a potiron (pumpkin) and a marron (chestnut). And they taste like, well.....a cross between a potiron and a marron. Go figure. You can roast it, puree it, steam it, or just carve it up for a mini-jack-o-lantern which is what I ended up doing. The seeds, which I have every intention of roasting, will no doubt sit in my fridge until they say "Bonjour" to me when I open the door.
Halloween is a holiday barely acknowledged by adults here in France. While children are embracing this Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), in no small part due to EuroDisney plastering half the city with posters advertising Halloween Night at Euro Disney, France has traditionally celebrated Toussaints or All Saints Day. It is tradition to visit the cemeteries and leave flowers on the graves. Someone asked me where exactly Toussaints (tous = all; saints = saints) came from and I am embarrassed to say I didn’t have a very good answer, so after a quick spin around Google, I was quite enlightened.
It seems this Halloween tradition hails back 2000+ years to an early Celtic holiday at the beginning of the winter season, October 31st. “...Spirits of the dead were believed to roam freely and on the day known as "The Day of the Dead," living relatives would help their dead loved ones complete a safe journey to the afterlife. People would paint or carve scary faces on gourds and turnips and disguise themselves in outlandish costumes to scare away the evil spirits that were also thought to be wandering the earth that night. The Catholic Church, angered by these pagan practices, sought to eliminate them by declaring a new festival of religious observance called All Saint's Day ("Toussaint"), a day in which every saint would be honored...”
A much more uplifting holiday if you ask moi, and one that could have avoided the spawning of Freddie Kruger and his 10 sequels of horror. Happy Halloween and BOO!
Ever other Sunday, my friends Kendall & Bob from Ohio have a big pot luck dinner party and anyone and everyone is welcome. The day before each dinner I would ask Kendall what I could bring and she would inevitably reply “Whatever you feel like…you’re the chef, you should know!” which made me want to tug on her flowing blond locks and yell “I am not a chef, just tell me what to make! Don't make me think!”
So after some not so subtle suggestions on my part, these dinners now have themes. Careful what you wish for…..last weeks’ was Mexican. Ay caramba, what am I going to make? I am a disgrace to my home state and my profession as I can’t make a mole sauce to save my life, that and the fact that I would kill for a Chevy’s fajita right about now. But seeing as I am in Paris and Chevy’s is not, I will have to make do.
I have been begging my friend Jackie to teach me her mother’s mole recipe but that hasn’t happened yet. I did however remembered reading about a chocolate chili cake here so i thought i would give that a go. It is basically the standard recipe for flourless chocolate cake with some chili powder thrown in and even I, the most pastry-inept person alive, can swing that with minimal trepidation.
I trekked around town buying the chocolate, eggs, chili powder (that took 4 stores to find! last stop was a little greek traiteur at the end of rue Mouffetard) and silicon baking sheets. Just as I was about to hunker down in the kitchen I received a texto from my friend Samantha who was also going to the dinner. It read: Question: If I covered chocolate cup cakes with dark chocolate then sprinkled with flecks of chili would that work?
AAAK! She read my mind! The one Mexcian thing I could make and she went and stole my thunder. Now what am I going to do!? I spied my ice cream machine paddle drying on the dish rack and I thought “Pourquoi pas (why not)?” Chocolate chili ice cream!
So I tucked into my crème anglaise recipe, melted the chocolate, added a few tablespoons of hot chili powder, added it to the ice cream machine and let’er rip! I had about a cup of ice cream mix left over so I went ahead and made the chocolate chili cake recipe anyways and added the ice cream mixture to the cake batter! I added a few extra teaspoons of flour to the mix to compensate for the additional cream, threw it in the oven and prayed to the chocolate chili gods.
Sam used real chilies on her mini-cakes (pictured above left) and yowza, they were hot, delicious but hot, and she used just a tiny sprinkling of peppers. My little bites surprisingly turned out ok, especially considering it was more science experiment than cuisine. They were very moist with a very subtle layering of chili flavor that came in at the end of the palate. Same for the ice cream, very creamy with a smooth understated pepper that kicks in at the end. Pas mal (not bad) as they say here, because as I’ve mentioned, they, not all but most, would rather die than pay a complement... So here are both the recipes...Feliz Cocinar!
“We’re having an Epiphany dinner.” “You’re going to Tiffany’s for dinner?” “No, an EPIPHANY dinner!” “Do they have Tiffany’s in Paris?” “No, an E-PI-PHA-NY DIN-NER!” “That’s so cool! I didn’t know you could have dinner at Tiffany’s?!” “Never mind! I’ll send you an email…”
That is how my conversation went with my friend back in San Francisco the other day as I walked down rue Mouffetard garning many stares and glares. I don’t know what I did before cell phones and have become so dependent on them (like email & internet), that when they don't work I am near incapacitated (more so than usual). I guess that says more about me than the technology. Bad cell phone reception is one of my (many) pet peeves—have you tried having a conversation while driving down Hwy 280 in the Bay Area? How is it that there is no cell phone coverage in an area that is home to 90% of the world’s technology??? No wonder the bubble burst! Sorry, you got me started, back to Epiphany…
Here is the email I sent my friend in San Francisco after our above mentioned conversation. Imagine her disappointment upon realizing that she couldn’t have dinner at Tiffany’s…I won’t print what she wrote back!
There are so many wonderful traditions and customs I have learned since landing on the southern shores of France eight months ago and Epiphany is one of them. Having been raised Catholic, I vaguely remember it was a “Holy Day of Obligation” which I guess means your ‘obligated’ to go to church… something inherently wrong in that concept to begin with but anyways… As you know, my parents were C&E Catholics, Christmas & Easter Catholics—Christmas and Easter being the only time they set foot into a church other than my First Communion and Confirmation, so I didn’t have a firm grasp of all the rules of the church… and regardless of the fact that we went to Catholic schools… I never associated Epiphany with a special celebration, must less a lovely, flaky, buttery, almondy cake.
To ensure that I didn’t incur the wrath of my pastor by publishing some garish mis-information, I did a quick google search, and as it turns out it is a good thing I did, but please correct me if I am wrong anywhere along here. Epiphany celebrates the 3 Wise Men (or Magi) arriving in Bethlehem to bring gifts to baby Jesus. (I thought they arrived in Dec 25th!) Epiphany is also known as the Three Kings’ Day…makes sense so far. These Wise Men brought gold, frankincense and myrrh as gifts. Gold, I’d be psyched about, but frankincense and myrrh is nothing more than incense made from resin or tree sap mixed with spices. Good think Jesus was a baby and didn’t know any different! If I were Mary, I’d be rather annoyed. This is after all the Messiah, the Savior of the World! Now this is where Tiffany's would have come in handy as something in a little blue box with a snow white ribbon would have been much more appropriate...but I digress…
My google search also turned up a Christian web site that states: “Epiphany is the climax of the Christmas Season and the Twelve Days of Christmas, which are counted from December 25th until January 5th.”
Two things popped into my atrophying brain: 1—I am surprised that, given the outcome of our recent presidential election and subsequent (and ongoing, unfortunately) efforts to mingle church and state, a Christian site would use the word “climax”. Perhaps “culmination” would have been more apropos? I’m sure once someone points this out to said site, it will be removed expeditiously. Where are those red state people when you need them? and 2— Forgive my abject stupidity (see above mentioned C&E parents, Catholic school and atrophying brain) but…..that is where the 12 Days of Christmas comes from?! Did you know this? And to think that all this time I thought it was just a cute Christmas carol… Oy vey! I am certainly going to hear about this when I get back…
Another wonderful aspect to this Epiphany, not Tiffany, tradition and the main reason it is such a BIG DEAL in France is the Galette des Rois, or Cake of the Kings. On a French cooking site it was translated as the Twelfth Night Cake. I am learning so much, I love it! When you buy them in a store they come with a gold paper crown, like the kind they used to give out at Burger King. I know I am dating myself again… and YES, I have eaten at Burger King. I have usually regretted it afterwards, but I have eaten there, however not since reading Fast Food Nation, thank you Eric Schlosser! Sorry, back to the Galette des Rois…
It is a flat, round “cake” made from puff pastry (pâte feuilletée ~ pat foi-TAY) and filled with almond paste or frangipane (FRON-ji-pan), kind of like an almond croissant, but I am sure that is considered blasphemy here. Carefully placed inside the frangipane is a little trinket, or "fève" (fava bean) as my roommate Pierre informed me that that was the first trinket used, and whomever gets the trinket in their slice of galette is the designated king or queen for the day and allowed to select their own queen or king.
I am living in Paris but had to read about it in the New York Times (I really must improve my French!) that there is an intense competition here for Paris’ best galette. François Vacavant, from Pain et Passion (Bread & Passion) bakery, took home the coveted prize after finishing 19th last year. I’ll have to stop by there after the crowds subside as last years’ winner said his business doubled after he won. Another little tidbit I gleaned was that people for some odd reason collect these little trinkets and one person, a former train conductor, actually admitting to having over 60,000! My my... I am at a loss for words...for once...so on that note, Happy Epiphany, not Tiffany!
Galette des Rois
1 lb (approx 500 g) puff pastry divided in half (or...buy 2 rolls of pre-made puff pastry dough!) ½ lb (approx 250 g) frangipane 1 egg + 1 tablespoon water 1 trinket or “fève” 1 gold paper crown
1. Preheat oven to 350ºF /175ºC /#5
2. roll out half of the puff pastry into a circle, or simply unroll pre-made puff pastry dough.
I know I am a disgrace to my profession but if you want to spend 2 days making puff pastry, knock yourself out. I am all about ease and fun while cooking so it’s pre-made puff pastry dough for me!
3. spread frangipane on dough leaving about 1 to 1-1/2 inches around the border.
once again, if you want to make frangipane from scratch knock yourself out…
4. roll out second half of the puff pastry into a circle (same size as the first), or simply unroll second pre-made puff pastry dough.
5. lay it on top of the dough with frangipane. trim the edges to make it even and as circular as possible (not necessary if you bought the pre-made dough!) and press down on the sides around the border to seal.
6. whisk the egg and water and brush on top of the pastry.
7. bake until golden brown. check the bottom (with a spatula, gently lift up from the edge) and if it’s not cooked and the top is getting too dark simply lay a sheet of foil loosely over the cake and continue to cook until done. Let it cool before serving.
8. place crown on head of person who finds trinket. select king or queen.
or... you can skip step 1. through 7. and buy one complete with crown, like we did! :-)
By the way, "Patisserie Pur Beurre" at the bottom of the box means 'pure butter pastry'. You don't see that too often in the US! God, I love this country!
American Cathedral Plans Concert for Benefit of Tsunami Sufferers
In response to the horror of the ever-mounting death toll in South Asia, the American Cathedral of the Holy Trinity in Paris will present a performance of the Mozart Requiem on Sunday, January 16 at 5 p.m. The soloists will be Andrea ROSE ROUSSEAUX, soprano; Louise CALLINAN, mezzo-soprano; Hervé LAMY, tenor; and Reuben THOMAS, bass.
Members of the Cathedral Choir, the Paris Choral Society, and the choirs of other English-speaking churches in Paris, will sing this moving work, accompanied by the Paris Choral Society Orchestra. Also on the program is Adagio for Strings by Nigel Keay, a short elegiac work inspired by Indonesian gamelan music.
Edward Tipton, Cathedral Organist-Choirmaster and Paris Choral Society Music Director, suggests that participating in the concert will provide a powerful and personal way to express solidarity with the people of coastal South Asia, both for the musicians and for the audience. ALL proceeds will go to Episcopal Relief and Development/South Asia Fund.
Although tickets are priced at only 30 euros (15 euros, students), additional contributions will be encouraged. Tickets will be available at the door (so please plan on arriving AT LEAST 30 minutes early) and at FNAC and Virgin Records.
The concert is being organized in cooperation with the Paris Choral Society and Les Arts George V (LAGV) the Cathedral’s not-for-profit arts association. Checks can be made payable to LAGV with the initials ERD noted on the memo line. Those unable to attend the concert may still contribute to the cause by sending checks, made out as above, to LAGV, c/o the American Cathedral, 23 avenue George V, 75008 Paris, France.