French

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I remember my French apartment, next to the market-place in Amiens, a small town a hundred miles north of Paris. A woman and her husband ran one of the larger produce booths, just a few steps from my window.   She was one of those diminutive nut-brown Frenchwomen — not as pale as most of us were in the frozen north.  She told me that near the Mediterranean, where she came from, I would be called “white as an aspirin tablet.” And when I visited there briefly, that is exactly what they called me. Read more on The Pleasure Of The Table…

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The Emperor’s New Clothes — A great story that seems to have survived the ages. Like most Americans, I heard the Hans Christian Andersen (19th century) version in childhood. In case you missed it, the subject was two fellows employed as weavers, who offered the emperor a suit that would be invisible to those who were not smart or appropriate for their jobs.  The Emperor wears his new suit for a big public parade in front of the subjects, to great acclaim by all.  Nobody mentions the emperor is wearing nothing but underwear until a kid yells it out at the top of his lungs. Read more on The emperor has no clothes!…

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“How in the world do you know how to say that in French?” I asked my hostess, in French. The reason for that was simple — we were in France and she was French.  In fact, she was my closest friend at that time and in that place. As I look back, she was one of the best friends I have ever had, in a basically friendless world where I have received few favors. She told me — as we stood in front of a cranberry display on the Market of the Rue Mouffetard, in Paris — that she had learned the word when she had been on the team that discovered that DNA (and not protein) was the hereditary material. Afterward she had a year of sabbatical in Cleveland, Ohio at the Case Western University, and they grew cranberries somewhere around there.  Her friends had known that this strange little fruit did not exist in France, so they showed it to her, and somehow they had tested and exchanged vocabulary, just as I had with her.

Although I had been born in suburban Boston,  I had not seen cranberries growing in a bog until a high school road trip.  My class had traveled to see Plymouth Rock, and the reproduction of the Mayflower (so tiny — they must have been really cramped) and other such things I had been told existed no other place on God’s green Earth except for Cape Cod.  I was glad I had my French friend to help me break such myths of chauvinistic rubbish.  How strong the myth had felt, how deeply I had believed it, and for so long. Read more on Canneberges?…

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Poverty, illness and desperation are a tragic trio and destroy unknown numbers of lives.

One story that broke my heart was that of a sweet young thing, age 23, who had inherited nothing from her father but a disease.

She needed a “specialty medicine” for it — one of those medicines that is so expensive that nobody seems to want to pay for it.  But she lost her job due to “downsizing” so she had no insurance and no money. Read more on US Healthcare Is A Tragedy, Not A Success…

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