Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Fantastic French Fromages, Part I

       
Annato seeds from the achiote tree that gave mimolette its bright orange color.
          Every day, for lunch -- never dinner -- my tray features a tiny plate with a morsel of cheese. The portion is perfect, not too frustratingly small and not too calorifically large.

          As you no doubt know, France produces some 400 difference cheeses categorized into eight distinct families (more on this tomorrow) and within the 400 there are different nuances on the theme which makes me think of the difficult decisions I'm required to make in front of a shelf of chèvre varieties at our fromagerie.

          Each meal, except breakfast of course which is always the same, is accompanied by a small menu. Somehow this adds to the pleasure. I can read what I am about to eat. I've saved all of the menus for the sole purpose of telling you about what is on offer in rehab. The cheeses may be the most exciting. I think the fromage series will be three parts because I don't believe I've had the same cheese twice.

          I've chosen six cow's milk cheeses today, all delicious and many if not all familiar to you, except perhaps the one that is made industrially. It's really unexpectedly good like many prepared products can be.

          Les Fromages:


Emmenthal: It originated in Switzerland, but the French make their own.


Camembert:  What's to say really? One of my absolute favorites. I like it a little "ripe" while MRFLIF likes it less strong.


Brie de Meaux: The best of the best in my opinion and I'm certainly not alone. It has just enough salt in it.  Other types of brie are available, but those from Meaux are the winner. (Feel free to disagree.)


Coulommiers: Creamy, creamy, creamy and often referred to as "brie's little sister." It's a lovely cheese.


Mimolette: It looks like a cantaloupe and has a fascinating history. Apparently during the 17th century the French were taken with the taste of Edam, but at the behest of the Sun King, Louis XIV, and his finance minister, Jean-Baptiste Colbert, it was decided that France should create its equivalent -- but different -- fromage. Part of the difference included the color of the cheese. By adding the natural colorant, annato, from the seeds of a tropical tree, mimolette became a bright orange and singularly different from Edam.



Fromage aux noix de Dordogne:  This is an industrialized spreadable cheese as you can see from the packaging. It's nutty, creamy and good even though it may be a travesty in the real world of fromage. I rather doubt it makes it into the official count.  Children probably love it.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

La Politesse, C'est Naturel

       
The subject of politesse fascinates me. I plan on finding this book.
          My question: If as the new poster in the hall outside our physical therapy room declares that being polite is natural, why is it necessary to have a poster?

          I asked (discreetly) around the establishment and the only consistent answer I found was something equivalent to "you'd be surprised."

         Since everyone here, without exception in my experience, is beyond polite and exceptionally kind I assume the message is not directed at the personnel. It must be for us, the patients.

         Apparently it is.

         Unless customs have changed in my absence, in the United States one is not required by politesse to walk into the waiting room of a doctor's or an attorney's office, a shop, a bakery or any other public place where there might be a collection of strangers waiting for their turn for something and say "hello" to the group. We just sort of slink in, find a seat or our place in line and maybe offer a tepid smile. End of story.

        Not in  France.

        We must say a sweeping "bonjour madame" and "bonjour monsieur" before we sit down or stand to wait with the others. A smile is not necessarily de rigueur.

         As is no doubt the case in every country in the world "please" and "thank you" are part of the social drill.

Isn't it interesting that a similar book for children in English would probably be entitled:  "Please and Thank  You" which we tell our children as a mantra: They are the magic words. You see here the importance of "bonjour" in France.
         The new poster features cartoon characters: a nurse holding a sign that says, bienvenue; a handyman with the message SVP (if you please) written on the bib of his overalls; and an adolescent holding a basketball that says merci. Then, if we don't get the message, the final line says: "C'est important pour vous; c'est important pour nous." It's important for you, it's important for us.

          I should ask My-Reason-For-Living-In-France what he thinks about the message. Meanwhile I cannot help but wonder if adults need lessons in politesse. Then I reason, they probably do or the poster wouldn't be there.
     

Monday, July 21, 2014

La Pêche Parfaite

       
Saturn or donut peaches.
         So many of you are far more sophisticated than I am in the cuisine, I often wonder if you think I don't get out much. I preface this confession of mine because perhaps I am one of the few people on this earth who just discovered Saturn or "donut" peaches.

          I've often seen them at my favorite market, but was never tempted to buy them because my focus has always been on the classic peach, both white and yellow, and nectarines. Truth be told, I thought they were some sort of aberration. I never asked for clarification. What a fool.

          Ever since I've been in rehab and found them on my luncheon tray, they are my new obsession. The minute I'm sprung from here, Friday morning, I'm heading to the market to buy a kilo of donut peaches.

When I mentioned in my physical therapy class that I thought these peaches were wonderful,  one woman said, "You should taste them in tarts or just peel them, cut in large chunks and sauté with butter and a little sugar."
          If, like me, you are not familiar with them they are perfectly divine.  The fruit (I hate using the word "flesh" when describing fruits and vegetables) is white, sweet, juicy and some aficionados say with a "slight taste of almond." I have yet to detect the almonds.

         Must run. Did my physical therapy this morning, plus the balneotherapy, now I'm off to my "gym" class.        

Friday, July 18, 2014

The Psychology of Cosmetics

       
Thought for the day. . .
         Yesterday was one of those best intentions (to write a post) that didn't quite work out as planned. I had an appointment in Paris with the surgeon who operated on my knee. No, I promise I'm not going to blah on about that. All is well.

           I really like my doctor and from the moment we met we tended to veer off of medical related conversations. Sort of.

          He asked me what I did and then became interested in my thoughts on not only French women, but also beauty, taking care of one's self and the psychological benefits of both. When I was in the clinic he would come into my room at the end of the day to check on me and that's when our conversations about health, as in mental heath, became part of our routine.

          He is absolutely convinced that a couple of days after an operation, when it's feasible, that women would feel better if they applied a little make-up and men would get the same boost out of shaving.


          "I believe it would in some subtle way help their recovery," he said. The obstacle to that end he realizes is finding someone to transmit his message: "Who can suggest the idea and how?" He continues to think about it he told me yesterday.

          Now, let's take this subject and bring it home to us. With little extrapolation, we're talking about perking up our morale. That means, as always, making the slightest effort every day to "arrange ourselves." Ten minutes of primping and choosing something pleasing and flattering to wear for the day will, without exception, change the way we feel and act throughout the day.



         I've experimented. It's not as if I couldn't walk from my bed to my computer in my pyjamas and write this blog. Truth be told I have done just that, but not for years. I'm not sure, but I think I write better when I look better. Maybe not, but that's irrelevant. I feel better. I'm getting dressed to go to work, it sets a framework for the day.

         Oh, yes, I don't wear sweats to work although I do wear T-shirts.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Does Routine A Habit Make?

       

         Have you read those studies that tell us that a habit can be changed if we apply ourselves to the task for one month? I would imagine it works both ways, one could acquire a bad habit in the same time.

         The reason I'm wondering about routines and habits is because I'm hoping (hoping, hoping, hoping) that the time I've been spending in rehab -- it's pretty much non-stop routine except for the mostly delicious meals -- will, once I walk out the door, translate into a new enlightened lifestyle.

         Let me tell you about my typical day in what my daughter refers to as my medispa:

The pills in my pill box.
1.) 5:30-ish someone slips into my room and places my daily dose of pills in one of those long boxes that divide the times of day. Then the spectre leaves and slams the door. (More about the pills further down.)*
The compote might be apple, it might be pear.
2.) 8 a.m. sharp, breakfast is delivered. Since my meeting with the dietician mine consists of dry biscuits (which I really like), two little pats of butter, about a tablespoon of jam, a yogurt and sometimes a ramekin of either an apple or pear compote.

3.) 8:45 the tray is removed with all sorts of good wishes for a perfect day.

4.) 8: 55 the first fresh, and covered, pitcher of spring water is delivered with a glass.

5.) 9-ish, shower.

6.) 9:10  I struggle with my support hose -- they're really hard to pull on -- and then throw on a t-shirt and yoga or jogging pants and bright blue ballerinas. (I have to wear loose-fitting pants so Stephanie, my physical therapist, can give my knee a little massage and see how we're progressing.)

My can't live without Shu Uemura eyelash curler.
7.) 9:20 a little dab of cream, curled eyelashes, mascara and lip gloss.

8.) 9:30 physical therapy begins with weights, pulleys, balls, elastics and walking on a rubberized "path" protected by parallel bars and featuring strategically placed obstacles.

As someone pointed out, this is Nirvana.
9.) 11:15 balneotherapy. Ten minutes before we head to our rooms for lunch, the pool comes alive with water jets at various levels so that we can massage everything from our feet to our shoulders. It's heaven.

10.) 12 lunch is served.

I always have verveine tea after lunch.
11.) 1 p.m. coffee or tea is served.

12.) 1:10 a new pitcher of water is delivered.

13.) 1:40 gym, which consists mainly of balance exercises, walking, leg lifts -- nothing too challenging.


14.) 2:20 "musculation" -- translation: rooms with equipment. Herein I work on a stationary bicycle then move to a leg press machine and after that one of those machines -- I don't know what they're called -- to do arm presses.

15.) 3:20 a "brushing" appointment. (Of course this is not every day, I just slipped it in to tell you that there is an on-site coiffeuse twice a week.)


16.) 4  is snack time which includes the following possibilities: orange juice, tea, coffee, cake, yogurt, sometimes applesauce and on occasion, like today, ice cream.

17.) 4:15 fresh water arrives.

18.) 6 dinner is served.

19.) 7 the dinner tray is removed and once again we are wished a pleasant evening.

20.) 8:30 the first ice pack for my knee is delivered.


21.) 9 the final pitcher of water arrives.

22.) Between 9:30 & 10 someone knocks, enters and asks if all is well and if I need anything. I get another ice pack and we say goodnight. End of story. End of day.

The ice packs are wrapped in pretty light blue pillowcases so that they don't burn the skin.
        As you can imagine, my concern is: Can I keep up with the routine?  I'm wondering whether if there is a will there really is a way.  I'm hoping all those studies were correct. I fear the equation of one month + routine = new habit is missing an essential element: discipline. Argh. . .

*The philosophy behind the medication, which is an over-the-counter paracetamol, and has been since I arrived here, is that we decide if we need it. Most of the time I don't. Sleeping pills were on offer, but I stopped taking them before I left the clinic.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

MRFLIF Weighs In On Intentions

       
Just about everything is open for interpretation.  I say someone spilled some  wine.
        If you slide on down to last Sunday (just below) you may remember we were in a serious discussion about what actually transpired when a "grandmotherly" woman handed a toy back to an infant in the arms of her mother and said, "Merci beaucoup."

        Your reactions were fascinating. One of you even suggested, which hadn't occurred to me, to ask My-Reason-For-Living-In-France (MRFLIF) what he thought about the exchange.

        As is his wont, he often sees situations completely differently from the way I do even if we are both present to witness an event. Since what transpired was hearsay for both of us, we were left to our own imaginations to interpret the meaning of the gesture.

         Sometimes I ask myself: Is it because he's an architect and sees the trees and the forest; is it because he's so good in math that he gets carried away with examining minutiae, or does he simply like to annoy me?

      His first question to me was: "Was the woman smiling when she said 'merci beaucoup' to the child?"

       "I have no idea."

       "Maybe it was a little humor," he suggested.

       "How's that?" I reposted.

       "Think of it this way, maybe the child's toy fell at the feet of the woman and with humor she said merci as if the child were 'giving' her the toy. Did you ever think of that?"

        "Of course I didn't think of that; who would?"

        At any rate he concluded, the woman was not trying to teach the baby a lesson. He saw it as something totally innocent.

Men pour wine, women are apparently allowed to pour water.
        When I then -- big mistake -- explained to him that I used the incident to launch into how the French frequently correct me, and others, for everything from language to the finer points of etiquette like the cheese cutting and the fact that a woman never pours the wine at table, he said: "Why did you melange two subjects that have nothing to do with each other?"

       I pointed out that I thought it made the post more interesting. He felt it made it more confusing. He also noted that "you always told me you like it when someone tells you about words and customs."

       That's true. He can be so annoying.

Monday, July 14, 2014

This & That, Ici et Là

Today is La Fête Nationale en France.
         Here and there, this and that -- today's theme. Organization tends to be a problem. I'll try for transition sentences.

          It's Bastille Day which meant I had a croissant for breakfast. Really, the French do know how to celebrate a holiday.


          No transition: Have you seen, read or heard about the new Vittel water bottle that has a magic cap that tells you when you need to drink more water? From a marketing/gadget point-of-view, you have to admit it's brilliant.  When I get out of rehab I intend to buy a bottle even though I don't really like Vittel.

         If you click here, you will be taken to an interview I did with Pam, the creator of the exhilaratingly up-lifting blog, Over 50 Feeling 40 -- right there you see why you want to put her on your daily reads. She interviewed me about building on the basics of a neutral wardrobe.

        Now, I have to finish writing a proposal that is way past deadline. I shall not sleep until it is finished. I set the deadline, but I have been told by outside sources that I should get cracking.
           
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