Posts Tagged ‘France’

By the time that we American Jews begin our commemoration of the Shoah, the first round of the 2017 French Presidential election will be over.

That is significant.

At the very moment that we are praying that the horror of the Holocaust will never again befall our people, the moment when we hear from the few remaining survivors of the Nazi death camps, it’s likely that Marine Le Pen – the daughter of an avowed anti-Semite who is the farthest of the French far right – will receive sufficient public support to make it to the final round.

The French racist hyper-Nationalism which puts Ms. Le Pen into this position is not unique.

As we pray that such a horror will never befall our people again, many of us pray that such atrocities will never befall ANYONE again. But, as we do so, our American President is hell bent on beginning to build a wall on our southern border before he reaches his 100th day in office. Our American President sends congratulatory messages to dictators who’s people stupidly grant their leader additional powers. Our American President was elected on the specific promise to turn away refugees just like our country disgracefully did to European refugees who’s return trip sent them right into the National Socialist gas chambers.

But it does not end with Le Pen and Trump.

Throughout Europe there is a rising tide of Antisemitism. Around the world, Antisemitism is weakly disguised as anti-Zionism. America is immersed in Islamophobia. Radical Islam perpetuates the myth that even Muslims have insurmountable divisions that can only be solved through mass murder. The UK would rather leave the European Union than to embrace diversity. And an insane child is leading North Korea toward World War III.

In other words, every year I quote Robert Nozick and every year I come closer to believing his statement that the Holocaust may have demonstrated that our species is indeed unworthy of survival. I can’t bring myself to embrace that, though, and here’s why:

I believe that humans are no more than the latest round of primates. I believe that we are not really all that special. But, I also believe that we have been given, by God or by chance (who knows?), the unique capacity to reason and, as far as we know, a uniquely sophisticated linguistic ability. Together this is a powerful toolkit. With it, we have the ability to change our destiny.

We can use those tools to accelerate our demise as Kim Jong Un is want to do. But we could also delay it by thousands of generations, perhaps even permanently change its course. But to do the latter takes the courage to fight the forces of hatred, misogyny, xenophobia, and fear-mongering through which everything “other” becomes a tool for evil dictatorial “leaders” to take control of our societies. To turn toward good we need only use our reason and our communicative capacity to help enough others to realize that we can, indeed we must, turn away from evil.

And so, as we approach Yom haShoah 2017, my hope is that all of my coreligionists will use our commemoration of the past to rededicate ourselves to the realization that the past can and will repeat itself if we are not each individually a force for change.


The Pays de Caux is an area encompassing much of the Seine Maritime in Haute-Normandie in Northern France. It is a part of France that I have not visited but, if this desert is an indication of its beauty then, it must be amazing. The Tarte Cauchoise is one of the traditional tartes of this region, thus its name.

I’ve looked for a good recipe for a long time. Finally I have one courtesy of the family who owns and runs the Saint Honore Boulangerie in Portland. Because I’m a total amateur mine looks nowhere near as gorgeous and the one I was taught to make. Further, since the recipe comes from the family bakery in Normandy and I don’t know if I have permission to share it I won’t give you the exact proportions. But I will tell you the basics and show you the photos of my first, delicious if imperfect, attempt.

Basically, a Tarte Cauchoise is an apple tart that uses a puff pastry shell and an almond meal and creme fraiche based custard. The other ingredients are .eggs, sugar, corn starch, milk, and a bit of Grand Marnier. It’s traditionally made with golden delicious apples but, as you will see from my photos, I used several varieties of apple that I picked at my friends farm in Oregon.

So… here we go!

Start by taking a 10″ tarte pan and lining it with puff pastry dough and then parchment paper. Fill it with pie weights and bake it at 375f for about 15 minutes. If you are an actual competent baker (like my wife) yours will look a hell of a lot better than mine. None the less, here’s what I came out with. (Hey! You come make in for me next time!).


For a single tarte you will need 3 large apples. I selected mine from this wonderful assortment.


Whisk 2 large eggs in a large mixing bowl.


Add 1/2 to 3/4 cup of sugar.(I like mine a bit less sweet but that is also less authentic)


Add 1/4 cup of corn starch.


Add about 1 1/2 cups of almond meal.


Mix it all up.


Now add 3/8 cup of creme fraiche. (I make my own from whipping cream, a couple tablespoons of buttermilk, and about 12 hours of sitting out on the kitchen counter)


And 1 1/4 to 1 3/8 cups of whole milk.


Mix it again so that you have a nice almond custard.


Leave the custard alone while you peel and core your apples.


Cut each apple into 8 slices.


Remember the pre-baked tart shell? If the dog has not eaten it by now go grab it and fill it with the apple slices.


Add your custard.


Bake at 330f for 40 minutes and…

VOILA! You have an amazing desert from the glorious culinary history of Normandy!

Processed with Snapseed.

Perhaps you’ve noticed that I neglected to mention the Grand Marnier. That’s because I did not have any when I was taking my photos. (No the dog didn’t get it). You can add it to taste while adding the milk and that is what makes it authentic. I considered adding some Grappa but feared by oven would explode. 🙂 I considered some Cognac but did not want to start a civil war 🙂 I considered buying some Grand Marnier but I don’t think it comes in 1/8 cup bottles 🙂 I decided to just leave that up to you!

Bon Appetit!

In 1988, 60 headstones were overturned in the Jewish cemetery in the Alsatian city of Sarre-Union. In 2001, the same holy resting place had 54 graves vandalized. Yesterday, once again, a place supposedly of peace was desecrated. From what I have heard, Sarre-Union cemetery consists of about 400 graves and, this time, around 200 of them (!!!) were violated,” Not only is the is the 3rd time in 27 years, but it is the worst attack yet.

According to Bernard Cazeneuve, the Minister of the Interior: “The country will not tolerate this new injury which goes against the values that all French people share”… “Every effort will be made to identify, question and bring to justice the person or persons responsible for this ignominious act.” Prime Minister Manuel Valls, Tweeted that the attack is “a vile, anti-Semitic act, an insult to the memory” of the dead.”

Well, no shit M. Cazeneuve et M. Valis! This is indeed a vile act. The question, though, is: What is France going to do to stop it? It really does not seem much.

As a huge Francophile, who loves your country, your art, your music, your food, and your culture I want to say this to my French friends:

Nous ne sommes pas votre problème!!! Laissez nos tombes en paix!  L’antisémitisme français doit arrêter maintenant!

I’m sorry that my French sucks but you get the point. I won’t post the photos that have bounced around the media because I won’t share the crime of the swastika here. But, suffice it to say, French troubles are not the fault of the Jews. Leave us in peace.

The following is taken verbatim from They own the copyright and none of what follows is mine. If you like this sort of information I encourage you to subscribe to Tablet.

Here’s what the past year looked like for French Jews.

Jan. 26, 2014: Video footage captures anti-government protestors shouting “Juif, la France n’est pas a toi”—“Jew, France is not yours”–at a demonstration in Paris.

March 2, 2014: A Jewish man is beaten on the Paris Metro by assailants who reportedly told him “Jew, we are going to lay into you, you have no country.”

March 3, 2014: France’s Jews demand the election of new chief rabbi (the post had been filled by two interim chief rabbis since April 2013), in a letter that cites the need of a leader “to express the voice of Judaism during the difficult period we are experiencing.”

March 10, 2014: An Israeli man is attacked with a stun gun in the Marais district.

March 20, 2014: A Jewish teacher is attacked leaving a kosher restaurant in Paris. After breaking his nose, the assailants drew a swastika on his chest.

April 3, 2014: A French court fines a 28-year-old Moroccan man $4,130 for posting photos online of himself giving the quenelle salute in front of Grand Synagogue in Bordeaux.

May 15, 2014: A Jewish woman was attacked at a bus stop in Paris’ Montmartre district by a man who shook her baby carriage and said, “Dirty Jewess, enough with your children already, you Jews have too many children, screw you.”

May 19, 2014: A poll of 3,833 French Jews reveals 74 percent have considered emigrating.

June 9, 2014: Two Jewish teenagers and their grandfather are chased by an ax-wielding man and three accomplices as they walk to their synagogue in the Paris suburb of Romainville on Shavuot.

June 10, 2014: A Jewish teen wearing a yarmulke and tzitzit is attacked with a Taser by group of teens at Paris’ Place de la République square. In Sarcelles, two Jewish teens wearing yarmulkes are sprayed with tear gas.

June 23, 2014: Rabbi Haim Korsia is elected Chief Rabbi of France.

June 24, 2014: A French court drops its lawsuit against Dieudonné M’bala M’bala, ruling the French comedian’s video mocking the Holocaust doesn’t constitute hate speech. (Europe’s notoriously strict hate speech laws regulate Holocaust denial as well as “racially or religiously discriminatory expression”.)

July 10, 2014: A 17-year-old Jewish girl is pepper-sprayed at Paris’ Place du Colonel-Fabien square.

July 14, 2014: Bastille Day celebrations in Paris turn violent. Anti-Israel rioters attack the Don Isaac Abravanel synagogue on Rue de la Roquette, and its congregants fight back.

July 16, 2014: More than 400 French Jewish emigreés arrive in Israel, most of them young families from Paris and its suburbs.

July 23, 2014: French Prime Minister Manuel Valls denounces anti-Zionism as anti-Semitism. “Anti-semitism, this old European disease,” he said in a speech, has taken “a new form. It spreads on the Internet, in our popular neighborhoods, with a youth that has lost its points of reference, has no conscience of history, and who hides itself behind a fake anti-Zionism.”

Aug. 14, 2014: The Simon Wiesenthal center requests that a small hamlet south of Paris known as La-Mort-aux Juifs—‘Death to the Jews’—since the 11th century change its name.

Sept. 2, 2014: Two French teenage girls are arrested for plotting to blow up a synagogue in Lyon. A Central Directorate of Homeland Intelligence source said the teens were “part of a network of young Islamists who were being monitored by security services.”

Sept. 12, 2014: French anti-Semitic watchdog group SPCJ reports 527 anti-Semitic incidents from Jan. 1 to July 31, 2014. There were 423 incidents reported in all of 2013.

Oct. 23, 2014: French Jewish leader Roger Cukierman is indicted for referring to Dieudonné as a “professional anti-Semite” during a television appearance.

Nov. 5, 2014: Arsonist responsible for setting fire to a kosher supermarket during July 20 riot in Sarcelles is sentenced to four years in prison.

Nov. 12, 2014: In a new spree of anti-Semitic incidents in Paris, a kosher restaurant is firebombed, and a Jewish student wearing a yarmulke is assaulted outside his private high school.

Nov. 21, 2014: French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve expresses his support for the Jewish community. “Every time you feel the violence exercised against you, when you are afraid for your children, when you are worried about this rising violence, remind yourselves that the republic protects you and an interior minister who loves you and who is your friend,” Cazeneuve says at an event sponsored by Station J, a Jewish radio channel.
Dec. 2, 2014: France votes to recognize Palestine as a state, which the Israeli embassy in Paris says sends “the wrong message to leaders and people in the region.”

Dec. 31, 2014: France states the country from which the largest number of Jews immigrated to Israel in 2014. Nearly 7,000 French Jews immigrated to Israel, double the 2013 figure of 3,400.

I admit it. I am a foodie. I am a wine snob. And…. I am a baguette fanatic.

In 1986 I made my first trip to France. My friend Robin and I went to Paris and spent 3 wonderful weeks with our friend Paul. I came to love Paris and I came to love French food. Three years later, my wife and I spent our own 2 amazing weeks in Paris – visiting a friend at IRCAM, MEETING Olivier Messiaen, visiting every possible museum… and EATING. Almost 2 decades elapsed before I again found cause to  return to France; this time, on several occasions, to Albi – birthplace of Henri Toulouse-Lautrec, home to the tallest brick cathedral in the world, appellation of a wide array of un-exported wines, and the city that introduced me to Cassoulet (which, given 2 or 3 days of preparation and someone willing to bring be sausages from Toulouse, I have been known to make as well as a Southern Frenchman). Over all the years between my Paris of the 80’s and my Albi of the 21st century, I have searched for good baguettes. They were there in Paris. They were there in Albi. They were everywhere I went in France. They were NOWHERE ELSE.

Then, one day, I was wondering around Northwest Portland and I decided to stop in at a place that I had heard about for a few years but had never visited. The pastries were amazing, but I love the pastries at La Provence and at St. Honore in Lake Oswego just as well. Ken Forkish has mastered every possible French baked good. Others have too. But Ken Forkish has also mastered something that it seems almost no other Americans have mastered – PERFECT, TRADITIONAL, French breads; especially the baguette.

All of this is just my opinion but here is what I think:

Here is a photo of the top of 2 baguettes. The upper one is from a bakery I like a lot. The lower one is from Ken’s.

Baguette top

The 2 breads are both baked to a relatively dark brown. Ken’s has much higher contrast between the valleys of the crust and it’s peaks. This is because of the high temperature at which he bakes and the care with which he allows his loves to proof. The color difference indicates that the crust is lighter and flakier that the more evenly colored crust. In fact, Ken’s crust is the lightest, crispest crust I’ve had. Just like it is in France.

A cross-sectional view of the loaves is even more telling. Look at the height of the loaves and look, particularly, at the size and relative density of the air pockets. Ken’s baguette is on the right.

Baguette Cross Section

These bigger air pockets, and this greater height is, again, due to care and control. I’m honestly not sure whether it’s his long bulk fermentation times, his proofing time, the temperature, or what. If I knew, I’d make my baguettes like he does. All I know is that when you look at these cross sections you  see that Ken’s crust is thinner and his center is lighter, airier, and softer. Um… Just like it is in… you guessed it… FRANCE.

What you can’t tell from these photos, even if you believe me when I say that they indicate crisp crusts and soft centers is this. Because this bread is probably bulk fermented for a longer period of time that most other bakers, it has a richer, more complex flavor. This is where being a wine snob comes in handy. You can taste the complexity. Now, I’m sure that Ken has little tricks he plays with his levains. But, I know (from reading his book not because I know how to bake), that complexity come from the time it takes for a full bulk fermentation. If you don’t believe me, visit the bakery and try for yourself.

Now, here’s the big question of the day. What the heck is so important about finding the perfect baguette, anyway? Well, easy. Crappy bread is cheap. Good bread is expensive. If I’m going to spend $3.00 for a baguette, I want a great one. That’s it. Nothing more. I don’t expect a lot from an inexpensive wine; though I find many of them quite acceptable. But, when I spend good money on a Bordeaux, or a California Cab, or a Oregon Pinot Noir, I want my money’s worth. This may sound like I’m cheap and it may sound like I’m snooty. Maybe there is some of both in me. But here is how I feel.

Good food is an aesthetic experience as much as a well-played string quartet or a great painting. Either it edifies you, or it doesn’t. In my case, much of my enjoyment in life comes from a great cigar, a great bottle of wine, a great string quartet, a great Rothko exhibit, a great Opera, a great sculpture, a great film; in short from sensory mindfulness. Mindful eating is an equally enjoyable experience.

So why a baguette? That too is easy. If a great steak is like a Beethoven Symphony and a great cassoulet can be as epic as Wagner’s “Ring”, then a perfect, simple baguette with an underlying hidden complexity is a Bach cello suite. Sometimes I’m up for an epic but almost nothing is more enjoyable to me, after a long day at work, than a single malt scotch and a Bach cello suite. In that context, I’ll savor a Ken’s Artisan baguette, any day.

Bravissimo Ken Forkish!