Tuesday, May 30, 2017

What's That Growing By the Side of the Road?

          One more France story.  We are driving along, somewhere between Paris and Lake Annecy, when we decide to stop for lunch.  Or rather, Flunch, in a convenience mart like no other I’ve ever seen.
This is what one of their shelves looks like:
          They also have lavish dessert bars, cheese bars, enough to make the day of it, though we did not.
          Anyway, riding along, I’d been noticing fields of yellow flowers which I think are mustard. At least they look like the mustard fields of California. And, after all, Dijon is not far away. 
But just to be sure, I decide to ask the friendly lady at the gas station.
          “Oh,” she says, in not bad English, “that’s diesel.”
          I am wondering what French word that can be, since surely she can’t mean fuel.
          “Makes your car go,” the woman continues, zooming her hand through the air to demonstrate.
          I am speechless, a frequent occurrence in France, but I manage to say, “You mean diesel fuel?”
          “Yes,” she says.  She is most emphatic.
          I know no one in my family will believe this, so I drag Richie over to verify this truly amazing story, and she tells him, as well, that they are growing diesel in those fields.
          None of us have a proper comeback, so we buy our snacks and leave, later verifying with a cheese vendor that evening, that it is actually canola they’re growing. Okay, so maybe the first lady thinks diesel is the English word for oil, and she thinks oil and gas do the same thing?  Maybe.  I’m stretching, here.  “She works at a gas station!” Richie mumbles.
          But we get home and learn that canola and mustard plants look identical.  In fact, I see matching photos when I Google both of them. 
They are very closely related, but one yields a mild oil and the other a tangy mustard. I would imagine farmers must be careful to distinguish these, no?  This would not be a good time to confuse Brassica napus with Brassica juncea.



          Either way, I’ve already decided what I will say if a tourist asks me what’s growing in our mustard fields.  I’m going with latex paint.  Hey, they need something to write home about.
And you need something fun to read.  Try out my books, here!

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

How do you say "YUM!" in French?

Here’s the deal with French food.  I love it.  I love it too much and will eat until I am sick, like a dog with a stack of steaks.
I love the sauces, I love the ingredients, and I most of all love that you are basically eating art.  Here are just a few examples caught on camera before I inhaled them on our recent trip to France:
And believe me, there were more.  I even love the fact that Du Pain Et Des Idees, a little bread bakery in Paris, has this for its ceiling:
I cannot find its equal in the U.S.
At Pierre Herme they will design a dessert for you that reflects the personality of your company.  And you could swoon over their macarons, fall to the ground and hit your head.  They’re that good.
at Amorino in Paris they even sculpt ice cream into a rose:
HOWEVER, drum roll please, my daughter did the sweetest thing, no pun intended.  She made me a fabulous cake for Mother’s Day.  And this is no mere fete.  It’s Verden’s Beste Kake, the national cake of Norway, which translates to The World’s Best Cake. 
When she pronounces it, it sounds even better.  It’s layers of sponge cake (that taste like pound cake), meringue, cream, custard, almonds, and fruit.  You bake the meringue and the cake together at the same time—wow! 
So maybe I can survive without a trip to France for awhile.  Piece of cake.
And what goes better with cake than a great book to read? Order any one of my 25 books here and curl up with a generous serving!

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Parlez vous Cat & Apple?

          I recently went to France on a vacation with two of my children.  To prepare for this wonderful holiday, I went online to learn as much French as I could cram into my middle-aged brain.
          Guess what I learned how to say? “The cat is calm” and “the men are eating an apple.”  I shared this with a friendly French TSA agent, who kindly said, “Yes, but when would you use zees phrases?”  THANK  YOU—that is exactly what I’d like to know.
          First of all, calm cats don’t elicit much commentary, unless you are a burglar sneaking up on a guard cat (notice you never see those), and hoping he’ll be calmly bathing so you can slip by unnoticed.
          And several men eating one apple?  When could that possibly happen?  And why would you point it out, when the person you would be speaking with undoubtedly has your same view?
          So off we went, first to Paris then down to the French Alps where we happened to visit the Citadel (built in 1692) in Briancon (except the c in Briancon should have a little tail). 
Speaking of tails, this entire fortification has been turned into a zoo!  It’s so huge that it creates spacious habitats, and plenty of great echoes for the call of the howler monkeys.
          But, of all things, what should I come upon?  A lounging tiger that gave me the perfect opportunity to point out that the cat is calm. 
Now all I need is a few guys to walk by, eating an apple.

No need to learn French to enjoy my books.  Order them here today and travel without leaving your armchair!

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

My Cloak of Invisibility

          I have a cloak of invisibility.  Yes, I know you think only Harry Potter has one, given to him by Dumbledore with the admonition, “use it well.”  But I have one I wear nearly every time I go out.  Perhaps you have it, too.
          It’s called Being Over 40.  You actually get a glimpse of this when you’re young and have a baby in a stroller.  You go to the mall, let’s say, and no teenager can see you, whatsoever. Even if you were cute just three years ago. Their eyes may fall upon you, but those eyes just keep scanning the crowd, because you have fallen off the cliff of People Who Matter.  At least to teenagers.

          And this is but a harbinger of what is to come. After 40 you become sufficiently invisible enough to, conceivably, rob a bank. Without a disguise. If, let’s say, that bank employed only people in their twenties. You have virtually entered Geezerdom and are no longer noteworthy.  Or glanceworthy. 
          To get help in a store, you must track down an employee (often running to catch them), and beg for assistance.  They help you for only as long as they can manage it, before returning to their important customers.
          The invisibility cloak gets thicker with every passing year, until you are treated with amusement, like a friendly apparition. Your opinions are not sought,  your comments are not heard, and your presence is not acknowledged.
          And at first this feels unkind, even disrespectful.  BUT… as with many a dark cloud, it has a silver lining.  You can smooch with your husband in a public place, and people will simply look away.  You can giggle at greeting cards and no one stares.  You can stumble around with zero embarrassment, because no one is watching you.  You can order a triple scoop of ice cream.  

          You can say, “No, I don’t think so,” and not feel you must provide reasons.  You can wear the purple sweater with the green pants.  You can break into song.  And it’s all ignored by the general public.
          So not only do I have a cloak of invisibility, but it’s a silver one.  Coolio.
You can also read as many books as you like, and take all the time you wish.  Might I suggest these for Mother’s Day?

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Why Do We Call Them Raspberries?

          I love these guys.  They’re plump, juicy, and sweet.  They also look great on my Vacharin, which you can make if you check out the “What’s Cooking with Joni” tab here. And here's another one I made:
          My childhood was in northern Utah, where—I am serious—due to weather conditions the raspberries are the sweetest in the world.  Southern Idaho can also make the same claim.  
          Kids in that area make treks to Bear Lake, where they pick all day, and come home with red fingers, red lips, and full bellies.
          Of course, those areas won’t have raspberry season until late summer, but where I live in California now, farmers’ markets are already bursting with fruit, including these luscious babies.  You do sacrifice some flavor, though (sigh).
          But why do we call them rasp berries?  I checked it out and there is actually a debate about it. Yes, there are not enough things to argue about in this day and age, so three theories have emerged as to how raspberries got their name.  One camp says it comes from “Raspise,” a sweet, rose-colored wine of the 15th century. 
Some say it could also come from raspoie, meaning “thicket.”
Another group says no, it got the name from its rough, “rasp”-looking surface.

But everyone agrees that it’s pronounced Razz-berry.  I take that back.  In Great Britain it’s ROZZbury. Either way, I’ll take it.  With a dollop of whipped cream, please.

What could be more glorious than curling up with a bowl of berries and cream AND a good book?  Check these out—and remember Mom with one for Mother’s Day!