Thursday, November 30, 2006

Resignation Day!

Voila! Here it is, copy this letter. All George has to do is follow the simple directions and send a copy to Condoleeza Rice and it's over. That's how Nixon did it. Simpler than impeachment or a messy coup. Copy this letter and print it out and distribute copies. Post them on the walls, on bulletin boards.
Of course, then we would have to deal with Cheney, buut, hey, I'm working on it.....
(click on the image to enlarge!)

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Nasty Little Man with Tiny Ideas

Newt Gingrich, on Tuesday night at a dinner in New Hampshire honoring Free Speech said during his address that perhaps we "needed a different set of rules" regarding free speech and the internet. Of course he added that he thought that it was inevitable that if we didn't change the First Amendment of the Constitution, a major American city would probably be taken out by terrorists in the near future. Nothing like a little fear to spike the paranoid response of the American people!
It's so typical of these Nasty Little Men who try to manipulate us with fear. The Chicken Little response, "The sky is falling, The sky is falling! We have to change the constitution!"
Nasty Little Men with no imagination. Nasty Little Men who stumble from one sordid little plot to another. Men who are so blind that they cannot see what is the cause of our problems and so full of greed and denial that they could never admit it or change.
Nasty Little Men like Dick Cheney who believe we all have too much freedom and only maniacs like himself are wise enough to make the decisions that rule our lives.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Just Another Weird News Day

Extra, Extra read all about it! George Bush Jr. is going to build the biggest and the most expensive presidential Library ever!
He already has a half BILLION dollars in donations! All this for just a few copies of My Pet Goat and a pop up version of the Constitution. I'm waiting to hear about the Cheney Vice Presidential Library, you put books in and they come out the back door in shredder bins.....
Bush Twins asked to leave Argentina! I thought they were making a big effort to look as if they were leading responsible lives devoted to Public Service now. Jenna got her purse and cell phone stolen. A Secret Service Agent got beat up. The Argentinian tabloids are running headlines like "Bush Twins Run Nude in Hotel Hallway"...hey I'm not making this stuff up. The US Embassy asked them to leave because they couldn't keep up with the securty risks of the non stop partying. Heck, leave the girls alone! They're only 24, dad didn't stop until he was into his mid 50's.
Lead story of the Drudge report this morning! Woman in Burka with George Bush Jr.s'
face! Amazing....Now find her mother with George Bush Sr.s' face or her father with Babs' glowering visage....OUCH!
I'm already taking bets for the fight of the century! LUCHA LIBRE! Trent Trash Talkin' Lott no holds barred against Karl The Texas Turdblossom Rove! They're already saying nasty things about each other and the stage is set for a clash of these semi-ambulatory Titans! You will be on the edge of your seat as we wait to see which one needs to be jump started after getting defibbulated from the exertion! YEESH!
The Republican Controlled Congress might meet 6 more times befor the end of their reign...long enough to do absolutely nothing regarding the very pressing real disasters deferred until the new Congress is seated. Ohh, there's more......

Monday, November 27, 2006

Another Gateau aux Noix

A few weeks ago, I published my favorite gateau aux noix recipe. We have kilos of walnuts and try to shell some every day.
I make the gateau with the chocolate napped top for a special occasion, but this is a very simple and lower calorie (if you think about
these things) version. Besides, a friend emailed me and said that the other was was pretty complicated...
This one takes a few minutes to whip up. I used to make it all the time in my primitive Lower East Side kitchen in New York City. The original recipe calls for fromage blanc, but in NYC, I always used yoghurt and it worked perfectly. I especially like the crunchy topping. I also like to use a tart pan with a removable bottom, but a shallow regular tart pan will do just fine. Most of the measurments are with a big soupspoon.
First, butter and flour your pan. Preheat your oven to 325 f. For the batter:
200 grams of flour
100 grams of sugar
125 grams of yoghurt or fromage blanc
1 egg white
tablespoon of baking powder
4 soupspoons of oil
a pinch of salt
Mix the ingredients in a bowl. It will be a thick batter, then put it into the tart pan and use a spatula to spread it.
For the crunchy topping:
100 grams of sugar
50 grams of sweet butter
1 soupspoon of milk
7 soupspoons of chopped walnut pieces
the egg yolk
Melt the butter in a saucepan, add the sugar and the milk. When the sugar is melted, take it off the fire and add the nuts and the egg yolk. Spread this mixture over the batter.
Put the gateau in the oven for 30 minutes, until the topping is nice and brown and shiny. It's best served slightly warm, but great at room temperature also!

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Giant Green Hemmorhoid of Doom

It's big, it's green, it's semi ambulatory, it talks! Why does anyone listen?
Today, after an afternoon outside planting 3 birch trees. (This is the Sainte Catherine...the time when you must plant trees and shrubs!) I came in and my wife was watching Wolf Blitzer on CNN International. He had Zibignew Brezinski and Henry Kissinger on to debate about the future of American involvement in Iraq. Of course Henry was "stay the course" and making bizarre projections of the triumph of the American Will in spite of the fact that there is no definable goal in this mess that could ever be described as victory. As I listened to him spin each question and seemingly make up his answers as he went along, I started to think, why is he even taken seriously anymore? What foreign policy was he responsible for that wasn't an unmitigated nightmare? He was responsible for the coup in Chile that brought Pinochet to power and caused thousands of Chileans years of brutal dictatorship and torturous deaths. He was Secretary of State for Richard M. Nixon and did the same thing then as America is now doing in Iraq. Constantly changing the definition of victory and spinning away as thousands of Americans and Vietnamese died for no real reason.
Yet, he is given this senior statesman homage as the grand old man of American foreign policy. This is the man who bombed Cambodia and supported brutal coups that brought dictators to power all over the Americas. What possible good came from any of his schemes? Chile has a Socialist President again and anti American feelings due to his policies has resulted in most of South and Latin America electing governments that don't want American influence or involvement. Finally, in spite of all we have done, Vietnam is turning into a real success story. They did it withouut our aid and in spite of our embargoes.
Why give this inflamed aged senile agent of doom the time of day?

Friday, November 24, 2006

Keeping Our Canton Green

I live in a rural farming community with small villages and a lot of preserved forest. Our Canton is Hautefort and the chef lieu of the canton is the village of Hautefort. Hautefort has a magnificent historic chateau that evolved from a 13th century military castle into 17th century splendid baroque masterpiece it is today. Its history is entwined with Bertrand LeBorn, the first minstrel of France, Richard the Lion Hearted and for a few centuries it was the seat of power in this region, Le Pays d'Ans.
It was burned by the Germans at the end of WW2 and sat in ruins until the mid 60's when an American woman bought it and with the help of the French government rebuilt it. Just as the roof was being finished in 1969, the carpentry caught fire and it burned a second time! Undeterred, the roof was rebuilt and today it is a restored masterpiece complete with a celebrated formal garden. The Village is a little gem complete with a baroque church and old hospital. The architecture is quite unlike anything else in this region.
Alright, that's the story of the picture, but the story I want to tell is about the greening of our department. 6 years ago, a real crisis loomed over this region. A region of farmers who voted as their politicians told them to were about to lose a lot of the green because a lot of the land was going to be destroyed by huge limestone quarries and France was in a program of building huge trash incinerators as a way to make money. They were going to be used to burn trash from Germany, The Netherlands and Belgium. The quarries, after they were dug would become landfills. The communes stood to make money and went after these opportunities and some individuals would make small fortunes by destroying the environment. The ground water would be polluted, the air quality would suffer and so would the population because of the dioxins released into the air.
A small but very vocal movement started to protest and educate the communities of the dangers that threatened them. At first, it was easy for the politicians to label them as eco nuts and opposed to progress. There was a lot of bitter fighting and slowly, through political action, town meetings and constant pressure, first the quarries were defeated and now finally, the entire incinerator program is being abandoned all over France.
What are we doing with our trash? Triage, separation is mandatory. We are provided with recycling bags from our mayors and here in the rural areas, there are separate containers for different kinds of trash. There are glass collection points, battery collection bins, special bins for televisions and other appliances.
The big stores don't give out plastic bags anymore. It's hip use straw bags or cloth and the stores sell very cheaply, multi use heavy duty bags. You can tell you local post office not to send you publicity and catalogues.
Yesterday, Thanksgiving in the USA, but a normal day for me was spent with a friend getting rid of all the junk we had laying about in our barns. We loaded his van and a small trailor 6 times and went to the dump (decheterie) near Hautefort. The dump is a neat facility with a ramp that makes it easy to dump into the different bins. I had a lot of old appliances left from the people who sold us our house 5 years ago. So stoves washing machines, old metal parts, glass, bags of hardened cement, even a 50 liter barrel of 45 year old (at least) motor oil (that went into a special tank for recycling oil).
All this is a complete turn around in the last 4 years! Now to get elected, the local politicians have to talk and think green! I even took the opportunity to pick up a new composting bin provided by the commune for only 10 Euros.
This thinking has made it possible for old abandoned water mills to be brought back to life and refitted to generate electricity! Any alternative energy system now can be subsidized by the government.
What has happened in the Dordogne shows what can happen if people organize and educate each other. We had to educate the politicians, some learned the hard way and aren't around anymore. 2 years ago, there was a last ditch attempt to sell the incinerator plan and there was meeting in Perigueux by the Departement Consul-General. When he started to insult people in the crowd during the question period at the end of his presentation, almost 1500 people got up and left in a mass protest which made the local television news! Amonth later, the plan was dead in tthe water!
I was inspired to write about this after finding "longlivethevillagegreen" blog today via the "politicsinmudville" page. A great Ohio blog about ecology, politics and the Kinks!
I have a link posted in the sidebar!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Turkey Pardons Bush

The entire nation and a beleagured president could all breath a sigh of relief as the official White House Turkey pardoned George Bush Jr. "I'm truly sorry for the illegal wire tapping, honest, I am" George yammered as Bitey, the big white fowl with a bigger heart stared soulfully with his beady little turkey eyes into the Pres' own wide set of reptillian peepers. "I don't know what came over me, I didn't want to torture people, I just wanted to scare them a bit...I guess, I went a little overboard, sob, sniffle, know I'm really a softy deep down inside...I...uhhh...ohh, darn!", George started to sob and snuffle.......
Bitey the Turkey made some concilliatory gobbling noises and gave what might be construed as a wry consoling smile of understanding, if that's what turkeys do under these circumstances. It is very hard to read a turkey. He gobbled and clucked and shook his wattle in remonstrative motion and George, now on the same wavelength as Bitey and able to understand him..went on..."Uhhh, I, uhhh, well, I'm sorry I lied to the American people about the reasons I wanted to go to war with was..sob, gasp, all about...oil...sob...and I uhhh...have been lying to the American public all along about global's...uhhh...real and the time is running out...there, I've said it! I feel better all ready, sniff" George wiped a tear with his sleeve and blew his nose. Just then Laura walked into the room a fashion victim to the end, dressed in another beige on tan plaid non-threatening pants suit.
"Laura, Dear,"George sweetly said,"You know, I feel great now that Mr. Bitey here has pardoned me. Let's have him over for dinner tonight! I've been able to talk to him and he truly understands me!"

So the Bushes had Mr. Bitey over for Thankgiving Dinner and we shall never speak of this again. Happy Thanksgiving Day to all my readers!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Another Viewpoint

Today a Christian, anti-Syrian Lebanese Government official, Pierre Gemayel was assasinated on the streets of Beirut. Over a year ago, the ex prime minister, the very popular, anti-Syrian Rafik Hariri was spectacularly assasinated in a massive car bombing on the streets. Of course, the first fingers pointed directly to Damascus.
Syria denied involvement. Today, they denied involvement and issued a statement of sympathy towards the victims family and Lebanon. The assasination of Hariri had the immediate effect of forcing Syria to withdraw their military presence from Lebanon.
Without too much shaky speculation, I would like to propose that Syria was not the perpretator. Why would they commit acts so obvious that only have the effect of turning world opinion against them? Why would they commit an act that has the world pointing fingers at them at the same time they are beginning to cooperate with the United States over Iraq? On the same day that they are in the news establishing relationships with Iraq for the first time in over 20 years?
I really feel the hand of a third party here. One that stands everything to gain by the destabilization of Lebanon and destroying the credibility of Syria. A renewed civil war would be just the reason Israel needs to re invade Lebanon to restabilize things and set them up they way they would want. Think about it.

Friday, November 17, 2006


The Foep. (pronounced: FOOP) What is it? Can I catch it? Where do you find it?
Ask Jan, he's got it and he can get you some! A slang Dutch word from a part of The Netherlands around the city of Hussen, or as they say it, Heeyooosin.
What it takes, Guts, Spirit....You need it! THE FOEP!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Professional Grape Picking....

For the last 5 years, I have spent the end of September and beginning of October in a little village named Neac, in the Lalande Pomerol region near Libourne. I work for the Chateau Vieux Chevrol assisting with the Vendenge or Grape Harvest. Chateau Vieux Chevrol produces a classic Lalande Pomerol rouge.

It is truly a great wine made in a very traditional manner. The grapes are picked by hand and no chemicals are used in the culture of the plants. The appelation control is very strict in France about whata winemaker can and cannot do to make an authentic wine. There is no watering of the vines allowed. The natural rainfall defines the grape.
Grapes do best in rather poor soil. The composition of the earth they are grown in determines why the same variety grown in different places will make a completely different wine. This is why a Graves is different than a Medoc or a St. Emilion, or why there is a Pomerol and a Lalande Pomerol even though they are all grown within the same geographic region of France.
The varieties grown at the Chateau are Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. The soil of Chateau Vieux Chevrol is alkaline clay and sand. The landscape is broad and flat, a surreal sea of green most of the year with the steeples of the village churches and the wineries rising out of it like ships. There are hills in the distance, you can see St. Emilion on its hilltop over looking the Dordogne River Valley where Edward the Third of England built his tower and England held the region for a few hundred years.

St. Emilion also has a Subterrenean church, hollowed out of the rock cliff. Years later in the Renaissance, a magnificent bell tower was built at the top of the cliff.
Each year when the grapes are ripe and seem to be at their peak, the Vendenge begins.
At Vieux Chevrol, the crew is fairly diverse bunch. Jean-Pierre Champseix is the owner and he has been keeping hand written records of the weather and growing conditions since he was a teen.

There are French locals from Libourne and some of the small villages in the area. They have grown up with the traditions. There are Algerians and Moroccans who live in the area as well and of course French from the overseas territories like The Reunion Islands. Then there are the Dutch, some who live in the Dordogne and love to have the hard outdoor work for a few weeks and those who drive all the way from Holland. Then there is me, the American, who inexplicably keeps coming back! Also each year, there are occasionally New Zealanders and English. We get paid in Euros or the option of a bottle of wine an hour. The wine is the best deal, because it last for years and its real value increases with age. The Lalande Pomerol reaches its maturity in 6 years and could get better, but usually it is not bought to be kept much longer though at dinners we have had had 18 and 20 year old bottles that have been amazing.
The wine is fermented in vats.

A crust develops over the fermenting wine and it has to be aerated from time to time. A by product of the fermentation is Carbon Monoxide and it's not too good of an idea to lean over the vats too long.
The wine is then transfered to a stainless steel tank and then put into oak casks to age. The casks are very handsomely made, there are many barrel makers in the Bordeaux region. After a year in the casks, it is bottled. It takes 2 years for the process from picking to bottle.
Next year, the 2005 wine will be available and from all sources, it will be one of the best of the century! Last year, when we were picking, you could tell everything was right. The skins of the grape were thick, full of tannin and the grapes were concentrated, full of sugar. Also, due to the weather, there was practically no rot. All this combined to make what looks like a very collectible and eminently drinkable wine! 2006 was good, but not as good. 2004 was a good year as well, but there was so much rain and there was such a record harvest, the grape skins weren't as thick and the grapes were'nt as sweet.
Most of us slept at the Chateau, but the locals all drove in each morning. Wake up a 7am, a good breakfast then we meet to work at 8. This year there was a lot of rain so there were a few days of slogging in the mud, the clay turns to boot sucking muck pretty fast. I spent a few years cutting grapes, but now I enjoy being a porter, which involves carrying huge plastic basket on my back and having the cutters dump

the grapes into it. The basket can get pretty heavy, then we climb up a ladder and dump the grapes gracefully into the tombola, a trailer pulled by a tractor where there are grape sorters who constantly monitor the quality of what is picked.
The above picture is the very graceful Dirk Aarts dumping grapes perfectly into the tombola.
Cutting grapes involves working fast without injuring yourself, leaving the unripe grapes and cutting out the rotten ones. It's pretty brutal for the first three days as you are in a crouching position all day, after that you get numb.
Though it is hard work, everyone gets along and jokes are flying in Dutch, French, English and Algerian. After a while, we all know a little of each others language. My French improves by leaps and bounds each year and my jokes get a little more easier for everyone to understand.
We eat lunch together at noon at the Chateau. Excellent food and of course, the table wine is Chateau Vieux Chevrol. A break until 2, then we go back and work until 6 pm.
Then around 8, the workers staying at the Chateau have dinner. Some nights we have a guest lecturer who supervises a degustation, where we learn about different wines and how they are made. This year, we learned about Porto and Sherry. We also had a grand paella with everyone invited and drank Spanish Rioja!

Usually the Vendenge lasts for 2 weeks, we work on Sundays. The grapes must be picked. Then, suddenly, it's over. Just as it gets easy. I feel I could haul tons of grapes everyday for the rest of my life. I am suddenly having very complicated conversations with my coworkers in French and able to speak better than I have ever done before! It's time to get paid and go home. The Dutch are loading up their vans with cases of wine. We are all saying goodbye and exchanging emails and promisiing to be back again, next year!

Frankengrape aka Microdot

An Autumn Salad

This is a short blog today. Reality has caught up. Lots of wood to split and saw, the lawn and garden have got to be attended to. We have visitors arriving from Australia for a few days and things have to get cleaned up...then there is the satellite reciever that keeps deprogramming itself!
So, I am going to suggest a salad, perhaps it would be a great entree for the fried chicken?
Very simple, very good! You need to get some herbed soft cheese, like Boursain and a ripe pear.
Compose the salad on individual plates.
I did this with red oak leaf lettuce, but you could use romaine.
Make a dressing with olive oil, stoneground mustard, lemon juice and a scant teaspoon of honey.
Cut the pear into thin slices and fan it out on a bed of lettuce. Crumble some of the herbed cheese and perhaps some walnut pieces.
Pour on the dressing.
Serve it!
Very fresh, very good!
Now I have to do my French Homework!

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Fried Chicken and Sour Grapes

Well, it's happened, the Senate has a Democrat majority. Allan gracefully conceded rather than drag it out and risk all the bad publicity that an investigation of just how crooked of game he played would uncover. There are still a few house seats contested. Mean Jean Schmidt is still trying to hold on to her seat, claiming victory with a slim lead and 22,000 votes still to be counted and I think there will be a dirty tricks investigation in Florida. Katherine Harris has sailed off into oblivion. I was rather hoping she would give us one more show stopping performance. It would be kind to only say that her political career is toast...perhaps, though, she will write a "tell all" book? I can't wait.
Meanwhile we are stuck with a lame duck congress with an impatient President counting down the clock as his special super powers wane. How much damage can he do in the ttime allotted to him and his discredited cronies? Plenty!
WLook for a rush to have Bolton confirmed for the UN appointment which the Pres snuck through temporarily when Congress was on vacation...Ditto with Gates, damaged goods who will just be more of the same...a undercover version of Rumsfeld.
Today on the White House steps, the entire cabinet was assembled in a show of "solidarity". A real rogues gallery, Cheney suddenly looking much older than I remembered him, holing up at his lodge for the election and drinking a case of Jack Daniels always leaves him rough at the edges. Look at these guys, and Condi. Do you think for a minute they have any inclination to relinquish a shard of power? These are people who have convinced themselves that they and they alone are qualified to run America. They got us into this mess and they are the only ones who can get us out!
This has been going on for a long time, Cheney and Negroponte were buddies back in the Iran Contra days, setting up Columbian drug deals to buy arms for the Somoza dictatorship in Nicaragua. 50,000 dead Nicaraguans in that fiasco. Ironically, Daniel Ortega was re elected president of Nicaragua inspite of the fact that they dragged Oliver North out of retirement to go down and threaten the voters to do the right thing! Gates was the CIA point man on that deal also. He fed misinformation to Congress ands didn't he get sacked over it? He's Back!
This new congress has got to show backbone when it gets into power and fight hard to prove that the executive branch has usurped power and reclaim the constitution for the American people! The Patriot Act has to be shown what it is in reality and dismantled. Can they do it? Will the noise machine that has taklen over the minds of America let them?
These are all painful questions and realities. After the giddy unreality of the last few days wears off, we have to face the harsh reality of undoing what these thugs have done in the last few years. We have to fix a ruined economy. We have to restore Americas honor by stopping the torture practices, rejoining other nations in respecting international law and treaties. We have to stop forcefully medding in other nations affairs to enrich Oil Companies......we have to become sane.
Boy, all this ranting makes me hungry!
I still want to celebrate this historic and joyful event we have just lived through!
It's time for Fried Chicken!

I just happen to have the very best fried chicken recipe ever devised by the mind of man. This was the recipe from Big Johns Fried Chicken on West 116th Street in Harlem. It was a joint that was open for a few hours every day and only did carry out. I think it closed in the late 60's, but the recipe lived on in the catering business of Big Johns daughter, Cleo. Cleo became a famous caterer doing pretty upscale soul food and southern cuisine in NYC. I've been making this for years and I call it Cleo's Daddy's Fried Chicken.
It's pretty simple, just get some chicken parts. Please leave the skin on for me.
Put the chicken in a big bowl or a sealable palstic bag.
Add a big soupspoon of mustard. You know how I feel about mustard, I use good hot Dijon, but I'm sure Big John used good old American yellow.
Add a tablespoon of sugar.
Grate, actually liquify a small onion. I use the small part of the grater.
Cover with milk and mix everything together and let the chicken sit in the milk for at least 6 hours in the fridge.
Get a big frying pan hot and put in some oil. Dredge the chicken pieces in flour and let them get golden brown in the oil. Then put them on a baking pan and finish them in a 350 degree oven for a half hour.
This makes them super crispy and most of the oil bakes out!
I guarantee the best fried chicken youu ever ate, that's what everyone has been telling me for almost 30 years!

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The View from Europe

I will post more on my reactions to the great victory for America last night. I would like to congratulate and thank anyone who comes to this blog and voted or worked and suffered to help this happen. The above image was in yesterdays Guardian by the very lethal cartoonist, Martin Rowson.
I just watched the noon news on France 3 and they broadcast a report from Cleveland, Ohio which focused on the very real and ignored problems of poverty and unemployment. Those were the issues that no politician spoke of in the campaign.
One great side effect of this election here, is that it really takes the wind out of the sails of the UMP candidate, Nikolai Sarkosi who seems to be trying to forge a tie with Bush and capture some of his fascist aura.................

Sunday, November 05, 2006


It smells like fall. I always catch the scent of wood smoke from someones, if not my chimney. I wake up in the morning and there is frost at the edge of the forest and down in the valleys. When I take my dog, J Edgar for a walk, a few times each day, I end up in the forest. Up till the first frost, I always had a plastic bag with me and never failed to come home without a few chantrelles or pied de mouton mushrooms. Of course there was the incredible bounty of cepes this year, a once in a lifetime season, I was finding cepes as big as my head!
Now it is the time of chestnuts, chataigne in French, or the larger variety, marron. I can't really tell the difference between a chataigne and a marron. They litter the floor of the forest, popping out of their spiny cases. They are a part of the cuisine of poor people all over Europe. Of course like the soul food of America, great things are born of neccessity. The chestnuts were used for everything. Dried and ground, they became flour. Today, the tradition of Chestnut bread is kept alive in the artisanal boulangeries in the villages. I remember growing up in Detroit being able to buy bags of roasted chestnuts from a vendor by the main library on Woodward. He had the traditional copper chestnut roaster in a wagon and it whistled. That's a fall type memory, a bag of warm roasted chestnuts to keep your hands warm.
We have a few ancient chestnut roasters to put in the fireplace with long wooden handles. In the Dordogne, there is a three legged cast iron pot made that sits in the fire place for chestnuts. You roast them and then with the aid of two long notched wooden sticks that are pinned together, you can shell them in the pot.
Once you acquire a taste for them, the mealy texture and sweet nuttiness, fall is never complete without them.
A very special treat in the fall and winter are Marrons glace, candied chestnuts boiled in sugar syrup. You can buy them in fancy boxes. The chestnuts can be boiled and mashed with butter and seasoned to be served as a puree with game or roasted with in the oven with meat and served on the side.
One of my favorite chestnut products is Creme de Marron. It is marrons pureed with sugar and vanilla. It is sold in cans and jars and even squeeze tubes. Horribly addictive! One of the regular bistro desserts is a concoction called a Mont Blanc, which is simply Fromage Blanc and Creme de Marron together in a dessert dish. So simple but so sinfully good! I know you can get Creme de Marron in America, I've found it in some pretty unlikely places, but it's worth looking for. Fromage Blanc is as far as I can tell available in the USA as something called Quark. It's like Yoghurt, but not fermented the same way and really more like creamy sweet farmers cheese. Here, it is a staple.
One of my favorite things to do with Creme de Marron is to make a creme, like a custard. We make the creme, then put a tablespoon of creme de marron in the bottom of each ramekin, pour in the creme and then put the ramekins in a bath of water and cook them in the oven.
The creme recipe I am going to give you is actually the perfect recipe for a creme brulee....You make the little ramekins of custard and when they are cool, right before serving, I put a light coating of sugar on top, the use my blowtorch carmelize the sugar. It hardens immediately over the creme and you have to break the carmel topping when you eat it. When we do the creme with the marron filling, I don't do the caramel topping.
This actually is very simple. You need 6 flat earthen ware ramekins...if you know how creme brulee is served, then that is the size you need.
Creme Brulee
6 egg yolks
75 cl of cream (in America, I would use half and half)
60 grams of sugar
mix the ingredients together and if you are going to do a straight creme brulee, fill the ramekins, but not all the way to the top!
If you are going to do a Creme Brulee au chataigne, put a soupspoon of the Creme de Marron in the bottom of each ramekin and then ladle in the custard mixture.
Have a wide shallow baking dish ready with some water in it and put the ramekins in it, then put the baking dish into a 250 farenheit oven for about an hour. The pots of creme should just begin to color when it's done. You can always use the toothpick trick...stick a tooth pick into the creme and if iit comes out clean, it should be done!
Let it cool before you eat it, we have found that it's better after it has set for a day in the fridge!
Bon Apetite!

Saturday, November 04, 2006

I Gaze Into the Crystal Ball

As I gaze into my crystal ball, images are swirling in a haze. I can vaguely make out Donald Rumsfeld being dragged screaming hideoulsy in front of a military tribunal in a grey room...could it be Guantanamo? There are palm trees outside the window...The swirling glitter powder obscures the image and I can't be sure......
There's a helicopter on the front lawn of the whitehouse and George Bush Jr. scurrying across the grass, knuckles dragging on the ground, carrying a briefcase stuffed with cash. He trips and the suitcase bursts open and money and bags of white powder spill out and get caught in the backwash of the copter....I can't see any more, the clouds of white powder are fogging up the ball...
Hmm, I seem to be able to make out Dick Cheney driving full speed in a black unmarked SUV into a police roadblock somewhere in Georgetown. He has a few shotguns in the car, a open bottle of Jack Daniels and Mickeys Malt Liquor...he has the leads from his pace maker plugged directly into the cigarette lighter slot on the dashboard. He is making a strange grunting noise, sort of like Marvin the Martian in the Bugs Bunny Cartoons......I can't make out any more because the Veeps SUV hit a truck which contained an industrial paper shredding service that has just left his office...there is a paper storm of shredded incriminating documents..............
Meanwhile, the entire whitehouse staff has come out of the closet and is roaming the deserted hallways in drag. A few deranged and defrocked Evangelical Christian ministers are begging for forgiveness as they snort crystal meth off of the top of a bust of George Washingtons head. One of them sneezes and the swirling meth clouds up the air and I can't see anything anymore...
Hmmm...this crystal ball is acting very strangely, either I have to take it into the shop for it's 100,000 mile tune up, or maybe the Democrats will actually win both the senate and the house on Tuesday!

Friday, November 03, 2006

Music and Politics

A few months ago, I started to ask readers what the 3 pieces of music, pop music, had the most emotional impact on them. I hear certain pieces of music and get so excited that it totally demands my attention and there is a visceral pleasure....
I got some very interesting responses from people. Yesterday, wjohnson sent me a list of three pieces that he thought idealistically were important to him. It made me think abouut how important music was in the 60's as an instrument of cultural change and promotiona and exchange of politiical ideas, whether it be James Brown singing "I'm Black and I'm Proud!", "Trouble Comin' Everyday" by Frank Zappa or "Ohio" by Crosby, Stills and Nash. Earlier, it was the folk music movement of the late 50's and early 60's. Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan and Joan Baez singing for social change. Probably one of the most powerful "Protest" songs ever written and recorded was "Strange Fruit" by Billie Holliday. Though it professed to be against everything, Punk was at its best when it took on political rage...even the Ramones recorded "Bonzo Goes to Bitzberg" when Reagan made his trip to Germany in the early 80's.
I loved Gang of Four!
I played in a band in the early 80's called Belle Starr. We were somewhere between Punk, folk, and had some funk in the brew...but we were all basically political animals and it came into the passion and subjects of the music.
Who was our audience? Did we actually expect to influence the political thinking of the Lower Manhattan Clubbers who danced to songs like "Free The Rich", "Gulag Rock" or "Videlas' Last Tango"? Probably not, but we were passionate and played Rock Against Racism concerts in Central Park with other like minded artists.
I try to listen to music today, but I hear American pop in ragged fits and starts. I hear a lot of European and French Music. There is a lot of very politiical rap here, the Algerian, eastern European and African elements here all blend together to make a heady mix. Rap has become a French art...the language is more suited to the wordplay and rythmn games of rap than rock.
Are there musicians that manage to be popular, entertaining and consistantly political at the same time? Do you have any suggestions? I will publish them and if you can send sound byte and promo stuff to me, I will publish it also!
The CD cover illustration of this post is the latest release by a great American Band called Ollabelle. It is their second CD and is called Riverside Battle hymns. I am recommending this music because it manages to be political, spiritual and real American Roots music all at the same time. Incredible vocals by the entire band with an emphasis on harmony. Blues, country, New Orleans, Gospel, Rock all served up by Glenn Patscha who lived and recorded in New Orleans for many years, he is the keyboard player, Fiona McBain, singer and multi instrumentalist, Byron Hawkes, singing bassist, Tony Leone, singing and drumming and Amy Helm, singer and multi instrumentalist who by the way is the daughter of Levon Helm, the drummer of The Band.
For soundclips and more, go check out their website:
I have to admit, they are friends of mine and I am a fan!
I'm looking forward to your contributions as to what you think about music that manages to be political in America today!

Wednesday, November 01, 2006


Two Words uttered by Don Rumsfeld! In two words he summed up the arrogance and disrespect that Bush Co. has shown America and the world for 6 years now! He doesn't need your stinkin' philosophizin' intellektyouallizin' questions or comments!
Two words that demonstrate the utter contempt for the masses and the insane superiority complex that makes him unable to be self critical or feel the least bit of empathy for another human. He's an expert and we couldn't possibly grasp the rarified stench of his reality. How dare we question anything aspect of the administrations policy in Iraq!
Go occupy your selves and let us do our jobs! We've got a plan...or another plan, or if that fails, well.........
On November 7th, it won't be so much an election that takes place in America, it will be an intervention.....