“If Macron wins, we will go back to business as usual,” said Philippe Waechter, chief economist at Natixis Asset Management.
“If it is Le Pen, she will target a Frexit. She wants France to exit from all European institutions. The European institutions are based on the French-German couple and if Le Pen wins, it will be only Germany and probably it will be the start of the decomposition of all European institutions,” he added. (MarketWatch; May 5 2017)
Which is worse?
Our next term of French language courses in the very heart of Sydney's CBD will be starting on the first week of April. There are plenty of days to choose from and ample flexibility if you cannot attend your regular French class. So, to paraphrase the Prime Minister, there's never been a better time to learn French - at the French Centre of course! Not to mention that it's a lot of fun and, studies prove, quite good for you! Learn more about French Centre's French language courses in Sydney.
Tomorrow is la fête de la Saint-Valentin, la fête des amoureux, and Flora is holding open the page dedicated to France of a lovely pop-up book published in 2009: Everyone Says I Love You: A pop-up trip around the world, illustrated by Beegee Tolpa. Every year, the lovely Geraldine, from Comme une française dedicates a video to la Saint-Valentin, in which she's explains how the French celebrate the occasion and provides lovely phrases which will so impress your amoureux or amoureuse. Below are Geraldine's videos for la Saint-Valentin. Meanwhile: bonne Saint-Valentin !
We hope you had a lovely start to 2016 despite the rainy weather in Sydney. Our very first course of the new year, the Summer Intensive French Beginner 1 course, ended yesterday and we truly couldn't have wished for a lovelier group of students! The course ended with a croissant feast so let's talk about le croissant. Here is what Michael Paul, in his wonderful book Sweet Paris, says à propos du croissant:
The iconic breakfast croissant is said to owe its popularity in Paris to the ill-fated Marie Antoinette, who was Austrian by birth. It was supposedly invented by a quick-thinking Viennese baker in 1683, who foiled a plot by Ottoman invaders to tunnel into the city. He was rewarded with a stash of flour, left behind by the Turkish tunnellers. As a mark of his appreciation, he baked a buttery bread in the shape of the crescent emblem on the Ottoman flag and it became the foremost pastry in Vienna. When the Archduchess of Austria married Louis XVI, she brought the recipe to France as a memento of her charmed childhood. It's a good story but probably all a pile of far-fetched piffle - or in this case 'KipferI', a cousin of the croissant that was documented in Austria as far back as the thirteenth century.
Notwithstanding the fact that crescent-shaped breads and cakes venerating the moon have been around since the Middle Ages, the French croissant really came into its own in nineteenth-century Paris. The early form of the croissant was popularised by August Zang's Boulangerie Viennoise, and the Viennese Kipferl, which morphed into the croissant, soon graced the breakfast tables of the Parisian haut monde. Then, in the 1920s, a chef with a penchant for puff pastry transformed the ever-evolving Kipferl into the contemporary buttery, flaky croissant that we find irresistible today.
As any baker will tell you, making the perfect croissant is an exercise in origami. It's all in the folding, or 'laminating' as the technique is commonly known. It sounds intimidating but it's actually rather simple. Authentic croissants are made with a leavened alternative of puff pastry, where the yeast-risen dough is layered with butter, rolled and folded several times in succession, cut into a triangle with a croissant cutter, then rolled into a scroll with a bulging centre which is then curved into its familiar signature shape.
Connoisseurs of the perfect croissant demand a crunchy, caramelised exterior (called a Maillard reaction) that crackles when you bite into it and, importantly, a soft, honeycombed interior as light as air that smells freshly baked and has a very subtle hint of salt. My own approach is much less sophisticated - I scoff them down with slabs of creamy butter and lashings of a slightly tart, homemade apricot jam from Provence. Almond versions stuffed with nutty paste are a rustic, sweet alternative on this popular puff pastry staple.
Ranking the best croissants in Paris is about as contentious as French politics. Everyone has their own opinion, and there is no end of knowledgeable blogs devoted to the subject that passionately argue their definitive lists. So I am going to fuel the controversy even further and opt for only one or two bakeries that light my fire. Poilâne and Du Pain et des Idees both do excellent croissants, but when it comes to the crunch, for me it's a close-run thing between Blé Sucré in the 12th and Des Gateaux et du Pain out in the petit-bourgeois 15th. Both achieve perfection.
Sweet Paris: A Love Affair with Parisian Pastries, Chocolates and Desserts - Michael Paul (Hardie Grant Books; 2012)
And voilà Trish Deseine's description of the four bakeries mentioned by Michael Paul in her excellent guide, The Paris Gourmet (Flammarion; 2013):
Poilâne: who has not heard of this legendary and revolutionary baker? His Harvard-educated daughter Apollonia gamely took on the maison ten years ago after the tragic death of her father, when she was just eighteen, and continues to keep up the world-famous quality and tradition. The punitions, their little shortcrust biscuits, are perfect for dunking.
8, rue du Cherche-midi • Paris 6e • Tel. +33 (0) 1 48 48 48 89
49, boulevard de Grenelle • Paris 18e • Tel. +33 (0) 1 48 79 11 49
38, rue Debelleyme • Paris 3e • Tel. +33 (0) 1 44 61 83 39 • www.poilane.com
Blé sucré: no concept store or designer decor here, just an honest to goodness boulangerie-patisserie with the most divine bread and cakes. The madeleines, lightly iced with a sugar coating, are perhaps the best in Paris. The three signature cakes of La maison are: tarte Tatin, melting caramelized apples on a sable (sweetened shortcrust pastry) base rather than the usual unsweetened shortcrust or puff pastry; the Vollon, a mix of chocolate sabayon on almond dacquoise and praline; and the more exotic Aligre, with pineapple confit and a coconut base flavoured with ginger, vanilla and lemon. Heaven.
7, rue Antoine Vollon • Paris 12e • Tel. +33 (0) 1 43 40 77 73
Des Gâteaux et du Pain: one would think that choosing and buying cakes would be a joyous thing, but in this store, looking eerily like an undertaker's from the outside, you need to keep your voice down and watch your step. There's hardly a smile from the vendeur, but who cares when in front of you are the most exquisitely made bread, viennoiseries and, oddly, tucked away in the corner, an impressive choice of cakes and pastries? Everything is beautifully wrapped and comes with strict instructions about transport and storage. Make sure you use the right door to leave ... or else. And no photos.
63, boulevard. Pasteur • Paris 15e . Tel. +33 (0) 1 45 38 94 16 www.desgateauxetdupain.com
Du Pain et des Idées: ooh, the sacristain with its feather-like pastry and silky crème patissière and the bottom caramelized bit that stuck a little to the baking tray. Ooh, the escargot chocolat pistache. Ooh, the majestic sourdough 'pain des amis'. Everything here is unbelievably good. The antique decor in the shop is gorgeous. One of my top five cake stops in Paris.
34, rue Yves Toudic • Paris 10e Tel. +33 (0) 1 42 40 44 52 • www.dupainetdesidees.com
Et pour finir, quatre vidéos: the first, dedicated to the history of the croissant, is by our perennially favourite Arte channel programme Karambolage (you'll find the French transcript immediately beneath the video); in the second video, the one and only Gordon Ramsay puts to the test le croissant artisanal and the factory version and in the third video, Monsieur Ramsay shows us how croissants are prepared; finally the fourth video, by TV5 Monde, introduces us both to the history and the preparation of the iconic French pastry. Les voilà et merci à tous :
Vous aimez les croissants ? Katja Petrovic se penche aujourd’hui sur l’histoire de cette spécialité française qui ne l’a pas toujours été…
Oui, je sais : il n’y a pas de sujet plus éculé que le croissant ! Un vrai cliché : la quintessence du savoir-vivre français… Mais savez-vous qu’en fait, ce fameux croissant n’était pas français à l’origine ? C’est un Autrichien qui a inventé cette sorte de petite corne, en 1683, alors que les Turcs, qui voulaient conquérir Vienne, étaient massés devant les portes de la ville. Pour y parvenir, les soldats ottomans tentèrent de creuser, la nuit, un tunnel passant sous le mur d’enceinte.
Mais c’était compter sans les maîtres boulangers viennois, qui, au travail avant l’aube, entendirent les grattements et les martèlements des Turcs. Ils donnèrent aussitôt l’alarme et les sentinelles mirent en fuite les ennemis stupéfaits. Pour fêter cette victoire, les boulangers créèrent une pâtisserie au levain en forme de croissant, copiant la demi-lune que l’on peut voir sur le drapeau de la Turquie. Et en allemand, on appela cette nouvelle "Delikatesse" un "Hörnchen", une "petite corne".
Un siècle plus tard, en 1770, Marie-Antoinette, fille de l’impératrice d’Autriche Marie-Thérèse, épouse le futur roi Louis XVI, et c’est elle qui introduit la petite corne viennoise à la cour de France. On l’appelle désormais "croissant", tant son aspect rappelle la forme du "croissant de lune". Ce qui nous ramène d’ailleurs à la demi-lune turque. Les Français savent tous plus ou moins que le croissant vient de Vienne. Ne fait-il pas partie des "viennoiseries", au même titre que le pain au chocolat, le pain aux raisins et le chausson aux pommes ?
Et pourtant, à côté de l’Autriche, d’autres nations encore revendiquent l’invention du croissant. La Hongrie, par exemple. En 1686, à l’époque où les Turcs assiègent la capitale, Budapest. Les Turcs voulaient creuser un tunnel sous le mur d’enceinte de Budapest, mais un boulanger… et cætera… et cætera. Vous connaissez déjà cette histoire ; la seule différence réside dans le lieu de l’action ! Même si la France n’est pas à l’origine de la création du croissant, c’est elle qui a le dernier mot dans cette histoire. Car, à la fin du XIXe siècle, le croissant y a tout bonnement été réinventé.
Les Français ont remplacé la pâte utilisée jusqu’alors, qui ressemblait plutôt à celle de la brioche, par une pâte feuilletée donnant la vedette à un ingrédient majeur : le beurre. Enfin, vous n’apprécierez le bon goût du beurre que si vous achetez un "croissant au beurre". Car le "croissant ordinaire", malgré sa jolie forme incurvée, ne contient que de la margarine.
Texte : Katja Petrovic
To Defeat ISIS, We Must Call Both Western and Muslim Leaders to Account
And that includes the Saudi kings whose funding of Wahhabi doctrine gave rise to the scourge of Islamic extremism.
By Laila Lalami (November 15, 2015; The Nation)
What happened in Paris on November 13 has happened before in a shopping district of Beirut on November 12, in the skies over Egypt on October 31, at a cultural center in Turkey on July 20, a beach resort in Tunisia on June 26—and nearly every day in Syria for the last four years.
The scenario is by now familiar to all of us. News of the killings will appear on television and radio. There will be cries of horror and sorrow, a few hashtags on Twitter, perhaps even a change of avatars on Facebook. Our leaders will make staunch promises to bring the terrorists to justice, while also claiming greater power of surveillance over their citizens. And then life will resume exactly as before.
Except for the victims’ families. For them, time will split into a Before and After.
We owe these families, of every race, creed, and nationality, more than sorrow, more than anger. We owe them justice.
We must call to account ISIS, a nihilistic cult of death that sees the world in black and white, with no shades of gray in between.
We must call to account Bashar al-Assad, whose response to peaceful protesters in the spring of 2011 was to send water cannons and military tanks to meet them.
We must call to account the governments of the United States, France, Britain, Russia, Iran, and many others, who lent support and succor to tyrant after tyrant in the Middle East and North Africa, and whose interventions appear to create 10 terrorists for every one they kill.
We must call to account George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, whose disastrous invasion of Iraq in 2003 and subsequent disbanding of the Iraqi army destabilized the entire region.
We must call to account the Saudi kings—Salman, Abdullah, and Fahd—whose funding of Wahhabi doctrine gave rise to the scourge of Islamic extremism.
When I was a child in Morocco, no clerics told me what to do, what to read or not read, what to believe, what to wear. And if they did, I was free not to listen. Faith was more than its conspicuous manifestations. But things began to change in the 1980s. It was the height of the Cold War and Arab tyrants saw an opportunity: They could hold on to power indefinitely by repressing the dissidents in their midst—most of them secular leftists—and by encouraging the religious right wing, with tacit or overt approval from the United States and other Western allies. Into the void created by the decimation of the Arab world’s secular left, the Wahhabis stepped in, with almost unlimited financial resources. Wahhabi ideas spread throughout the region not because they have any merit—they don’t—but because they were and remain well funded. We cannot defeat ISIS without defeating the Wahhabi theology that birthed it. And to do so would require spending as much effort and money in defending liberal ideas.
I am a novelist. Every year, I spend a great deal of my time giving readings or lectures at which, almost unfailingly, I am asked about Islam and Muslims and the wars now consuming the Middle East. I try to explain and contextualize, remind people about history and politics, bring in some culture and art into the mix. But every few months, when another terrorist attack happens, the work I do seems to be for nothing. What chance does someone like me have when compared with the power of well-funded networks?
The beheadings, the crucifixions, the destruction of cultural heritage that ISIS practices—none of these are new. They all happened, and continue to happen, in Saudi Arabia too. The government of Saudi Arabia has beheaded more people this year than ISIS. It persecutes Shias and atheists. It has slowly destroyed sites of cultural and religious significance around Mecca and Medina. To almost universal indifference, it has been bombing Yemen for seven months. Yet whenever terror strikes, it escapes notice and evades responsibility. In this, it is aided and abetted by Western governments, who buy oil from tyrants and sell them weapons, while paying lip service to human rights.
I have no patience anymore for people who claim that Muslims do not speak out. They do, every day. Muslims are the primary victims of ISIS, and its primary resisters. It is an insult to every one of the hundreds of thousands of Muslim victims of terrorism to lump them with the lunatics who commit terror. The truth is that ISIS unleashes its nihilistic violence on anyone—Muslim, Christian or Jew; believer or unbeliever—who doesn’t subscribe to their cult.
I wish I could do something for the victims of terrorist violence. But I am a writer; words are all I have. And all I know is that I want, with all my heart, to preserve and celebrate what ISIS wishes to destroy: a multi-ethnic, multi-religious, multi-cultural life.
It's been some time coming but the French Centre now has a Blog. Le voilà!