Friday, December 06, 2013

The Americans in Paris tend to fall into three categories

I’m aware that there are worse things to be than an American in Paris
writes Pamela Druckerman "who took the ultimate expatriate plunge" ("I started doing psychotherapy in French").
You could be, for example, a Congolese in the Democratic Republic of Congo. But as I spend my 10th Thanksgiving here, permit me a moment of reflection. Because Thanksgiving prompts the question that expatriates everywhere face: Shouldn’t I be going home?

The Americans in Paris tend to fall into three categories. There are the fantasists — people nourished by Hemingway and Sartre, who are enthralled with the idea of living here. The moneyed version of this person lives as close as possible to the Eiffel Tower. The Bohemian version teaches English or tends bar, to finance his true vocation: being in France. 

Then there are the denialists — often here for a spouse’s job — who cope with living in Paris by pretending they’re not in Paris. They tap into a parallel universe of Anglophone schools, babysitters and house painters, and get their French news from CNN. 

Finally there are people like me, who study France and then describe it to the folks back home. We’re determined to have an “authentic” French experience. And yet, by mining every encounter for its anthropological significance, we keep our distance, too.

No matter how familiar Paris becomes, something always reminds me that I don’t belong. 

 … The question of whether to stay is especially resonant for Americans in Paris, because many feel that they live here by accident. Not many foreigners move to Paris for their dream job. Many do it on a romantic whim. Expatriates often say that they came for six months, but ended up staying for 15 years. And no one is quite sure where the time went. It’s as if Paris is a vortex that lulls you with its hot croissants and grand boulevards. One morning, you wake up middle-aged — still speaking mediocre French.

 … The biggest lesson I’ve learned in 10 years is that I’m American to the core.

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Europe's Superior Society? Over 1 Million Frenchman Have Trouble Getting Food on Their Dinner Tables

 This is what America's Democrats do not tell you when vaunting Europe's more generous, more humane, and more generally superior society. According to Le Monde's Catherine Rollot, over 12% of French adults have trouble getting enough good food on their tables, and one million Frenchman will be given food by the association Les Restos du Cœur (The Restaurants of the Heart). Nicole Darmon goes further, saying that 22% of people below the poverty rate are "in a situation of food insecurity."
C'est la France des frigos vides. Celle des produits discount et des petits paniers, celle aussi qui peine à frapper aux portes des associations caritatives pour se faire aider. Alors que s'ouvre lundi 25 novembre la 29e campagne des Restos du cœur, qui risque cette année d'atteindre le chiffre record de 1 million de personnes accueillies, de plus en plus de familles vivent en « insécurité alimentaire ».

De ces ménages qui doivent faire des restrictions telles qu'ils n'ont plus accès en quantité mais surtout en qualité aux aliments pour satisfaire leurs besoins nutritionnels et leurs préférences alimentaires, on sait peu de chose. En France, contrairement aux Etats-Unis, la notion est encore mal connue et souvent confondue avec l'absence ou l'insuffisance de sécurité des aliments. La tentation est aussi facile de restreindre cette population à celle des 3, 5 millions de bénéficiaires de l'aide alimentaire.

Pourtant, de l'avis de Nicole Darmon, directrice de recherche à l'Institut national de la recherche agronomique (INRA), qui a étudié les comportements alimentaires des personnes défavorisées, 12,2 % des adultes appartiendraient à un foyer en « situation d'insécurité alimentaire pour raisons financières », soit plus de 6 millions de personnes, un chiffre bien supérieur à la population qui a recours à l'aide alimentaire.


« Ce phénomène, même s'il est trois fois plus fréquent parmi les ménages défavorisés, ne se résume pas à la pauvreté monétaire, explique Mme Darmon. On estime ainsi que 22 % des personnes qui vivent en dessous du seuil de pauvreté sont en situation d'insécurité alimentaire. Bien que plus faible, cette proportion atteint près de 8 % parmi les personnes vivant au-dessus de ce seuil. »

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Le Terroir: is the holistic combination of soil, geology, climate and local grape-growing practices real or mysticism?

"American wine growers have long expressed varying degrees of skepticism about [the] ineffable concept" of terroir, asks Nicholas Wade in a New York Times article (one replete with French phrases), "some dismissing it as unfathomable mysticism and others regarding it as a shrewd marketing ploy to protect the cachet of French wines."
 Terroir is a concept at the heart of French winemaking, but one so mysterious that the word has no English counterpart. It denotes the holistic combination of soil, geology, climate and local grape-growing practices that make each region’s wine unique.

 … Now American researchers may have penetrated the veil that hides the landscape of terroir from clear view, at least in part. They have seized on a plausible aspect of terroir that can be scientifically measured — the fungi and bacteria that grow on the surface of the wine grape. 

 …The discovery of stable but differing patterns of microbial communities from one region’s vineyards to another means that microbes could explain, at least in part, why one region’s zinfandel, say, tastes different from another’s. The links between microbes and wine-growing regions “provide compelling support for the role of grape-surface microbial communities in regional wine characteristics,” the researchers conclude.

 … While [David A. Mills] said that “I make fun of terroir all the time,” he believes that regional distinctions between vineyards do exist and that microbes have a role in creating them. If the specific links between microbes and the sensory properties of wine can be identified, growers will be able to take a savoir-faire attitude to terroir instead of a je ne sais quoi shrug. 

On the other hand, he added, pinning the qualities of wine on bacteria and fungi may spoil that frisson of enchantment for some connoisseurs. “Many people don’t want this figured out,” he said, “because it demystifies the wonderful mystery of wine.”

Sunday, December 01, 2013