Monday, November 13, 2006

Vicissitudes

In a Road to Damascus moment some years ago, Amerloque realized that he had become an expatriate, forever. This is to his liking – although it certainly may not be every Parisian-American's cup of tea.

The very essence of expatriation, naturally, is planting roots in one's adopted country, building bridges to people and institutions, accepting the surrounding culture, learning, experiencing, living. Property ownership is one surefire way to learn the ropes: working, marrying a French spouse and having children are others, each with its own fascinating web of arcana, pitfalls and rewards.

Nowadays there seems to be a least one trade show for every imaginable product and service – and even expatriates apparently have one ! Amerloque was reminded of this recently when he received a flyer inviting him "to register" to attend an "expatriate show" called the "Welcome to France Fair", organized by a website aimed at expatriates. The event was held at the Carrousel du Louvre on an October Sunday. Amerloque remembers when expatriation meant packing up one's treasured belongings in a figurative or literal "old kit bag" and hopping an airplane – or even a cargo ship – to a new country. Now one apparently can go to a day-long affair and be allegedly spared many of the vicissitudes, both agreeable and distasteful, inherent to establishing oneself sustainably in a new venue. One might be tempted to wonder, just a bit, about the real benefits of such "progress", since one learns by experience, which only very rarely can be short-circuited in one day.


On that Sunday, however, Amerloque the Parisian Expatriate was out at his Normandy farm, joyfully and carefully harvesting the last apples of the season. There are basically two kinds of Normandy apples: pommes à cidre, for making the delicious Norman cider renowned throughout the world, and pommes à couteau, for cooking (pommes à cuire) and/or eating. Many years ago Amerloque planted young apple trees of varieties traditional to Normandy, apples maturing at various times from August to November. He planted only pommes à couteau, preferring to leave cidermaking to others more enthusiastic and better equipped, such as local farmers. Every year around Hallow'een time Amerloque completes his recolte, carefully gathering and sorting the apples, weeding out the bad ones and shining up the good ones.

How evocative the varietal names are, echoing Normandy and the French douceur de vivre that Amerloque appreciates. Amerloque particularly likes - and recommends to those thinking of planting a few trees - the claque-pépin, the court pendu gris, the calville rouge tardif, and the marvellous calville rouge coeur de bœuf. Not to be overlooked by any means are the benedictin de Jumièges, the rambour d'hiver, the pigeonnet de Jérusalem and the drap d'or chailleux. These are all real apples, with genuine taste and consistency: a far cry from the industrial, insipid "Granny Smiths" and "Goldens" available in super- and hypermarkets. Certainly the industrial apples look better, to attract the gullible consumer …but they cannot hold a candle to heirloom fruit when it comes to taste.


Using these Normandy apples, from his own farm, in carefully prepared Thanksgiving and Christmas dishes is an immense pleasure in Amerloque's life, one that he would not willingly forego.

November is a time when American expatriates in Paris remember those who fell in that War To End All Wars, la Der des Der … World War I, from 1914 to 1918. It is a time, too, when Americans prepare for Thanksgiving, that most American of holidays along with the Fourth of July. It is also a time when Christmas events for the American community in Paris are being scheduled. Each American expat has her own story, his fashion of celebrating Christmas: more or less emphasis is placed on American and French traditions, local and national - choices are much more personal and relevant, when two cultures coalesce in celebration. American traditions are alive and well in Paris (click here for Amerloque's list): every year Amerloque tries to attend as many of these as possible, since both sorts of "Americans in Paris" attend and there are always new faces.

In Amerloque's view, there are indeed two kinds of "Americans in Paris": the permanent Parisian-Americans, and the transient Parisian-Americans. (Note that SuperFrenchie, a French expat in Washington D.C., recently invented the appellation "Parisian-American".)

In the former case (the permanent Parisian-Americans), one can include those persons who have lived here a number of years and who have integrated themselves successfully into French life. These individuals have the proper papers (residence and work) and many of the characteristics of a stable and rewarding expatriate life: a local career, a spouse/companion who is a French national, natural or adopted children in local public or private schools, local home ownership, local payment of income taxes, overall acceptance of local customs and traditions, and near or complete fluency in the French language. Almost all permanent Parisian-Americans have burned a certain number of bridges: they have chosen to make their lives here, and, in some cases, even taken French nationality. Moreover, they have adopted and embraced the normality of the French society around them. These are the ones who organize the annual events for the American community.

These Americans are both in and of Paris.

An American reading this might immediately ask: "Hey, Amerloque, what does 'a number of years' mean ?" Amerloque would answer: "Perhaps eight to ten, at a bare minimum"; he would then hasten to add that the time spent over here is not necessarily a cut-and-dried pointer to permanent Parisian-Americanism, since this category obviously would include an American woman who married a Frenchman in the USA, say, and accompanied him to France. This is where a significant "bridgeburning" quotient comes to the fore !

In Amerloque's opinion, Americans in Paris who do not fit the definition of permanent Parisian-Americans fall into the other category, i.e., the transient Parisian-Americans. This would include, for example, students studying in Paris for one or several years (whether at the Cours de Civilisation at the Sorbonne, a degree program in one or another French university or the American University of Paris; researchers finishing up their Masters or PhDs at a French educational or government institution; instructors and professors and executives who are taking some sort of sabbatical in Paris; individuals whose companies have assigned them to Paris for a two-, three- or four-year stint. One must also include those who have purchased real estate here - perhaps "an oh-so-cute-and-chic" pied-à-terre in Montparnasse or in Montmartre - and who spend three or four months a year "living in Paris", while renting the place out – or simply leaving it vacant ! – the rest of the time, relying on an increase in value to make a nice profit. (Might one simply call them "property speculators" ?) Many retired Americans might fall into this transient category, too. There are also those individuals living out their Parisian dreams in one fashion or another, perhaps attempting in a given period of time to experience a kind of "Lost Generation" literary or artistic epiphany (nothing wrong with that, of course: many of the permanent Parisian-Americans started off just like that).

While these transient Parisian-Americans might have limited residence or working papers of some sort, they might not be fiscally domiciled in France, nor will they have burned many bridges (if any at all !) to "live in France". Language fluency and adoption of local customs and traditions is not emphasized. French society – and its difference - is apt to be roundly criticized and/or unflinchingly ridiculed and/or gushingly or superficially commented upon, rather than seriously investigated for its advantages and drawbacks. French cultural parameters have not replaced their American cultural parameters.

Although these Americans may be in Paris, they are not of Paris … and therein lies the difference from the permanent expatriates, in Amerloque's view.

Amerloque is wondering if over at the New York Times and its International Herald Tribune there hasn't been some kind of rethink about the IHT, its raison d'être and, in a nutshell, its version of expatriation. Many observers, Amerloque, among them, feel that the current IHT is but a clone of the NYT, leading to the nickname "New York Times, Lite". Recently, however, there has been at least one change, and Amerloque, for one, will be watching closely to see if the news coverage is transformed as well.

Through Monday, October 16th, 2006, this was the IHT's masthead:


The paper was billed as "The World's Daily Newspaper". "Published by the New York Times", it was "Edited in Paris and Hong Kong" and "Printed in Paris".

To Amerloque's surprise, the next day, on October 17th, the masthead was simpler:


No longer is the expatriate's paper "Edited in Paris and Hong Kong" (luxury advertisers, who always associate Paris with luxury, might start wondering about this, eh ? Why bother to advertise in the Trib at all ?). It isn't even the "The World's Daily Newspaper" any more. It's simply "Published by the New York Times", as though that were enough.

Alas, the IHT is still the only game in town for a Parisian-American who wants a traditional newsprint paper alongside his coffee or her croissant: there is no other daily international paper in English publishing general news. (Sure, the Wall Street Journal offers news about money and the markets, but general coverage ? No way. USA Today is far too focused on America, tout de même and the British papers are too … British.) What rankles about the IHT is that many American expats are not from New York, and couldn't give a flying fig about news involving New York "cultural events", or Mayor Bloomberg, or real estate in Manhattan or New Jersey.

Since the NYT takeover of the IHT several years ago, the latter has simply paid lip service to its internationalism, in Amerloque's view: In essence, it simply pushes the parochial New York line. Certainly its coverage of France and Paris leaves more and more to be desired: one increasingly wonders just what the IHT is trying to accomplish, with its slanted, partisan coverage of events it understands shallowly and imperfectly.

Moreover, no longer does the Parisian-American find Dick Roraback's unforgettable "Crack of the Bat" published at the opening of the US baseball season in April, as it was for many, many years. In 2005, Art Buchwald's famous Merci Donnant column was reprinted for Thanksgiving, comme il se doit … but without the italics that imparted the flavor and, in some cases, easy understanding. Inadmissible, in Amerloque's opinion.

Amerloque assumes that the change in the IHT masthead - the elimination of any reference whatsoever to its international audience and Paris – is a harbinger of other, more deep-rooted shifts to come at the paper. Will the IHT soon be thrown into the dustbin of history ?



L'Amerloque



Text © Copyright 2006 by L'Amerloque
Images © Copyrights reserved to copyright holders

10 Comments:

Blogger blueVicar said...

Amerloque,

Well, I'll be...

I was just preparing to write about Chantecler apples as I wondered if you had any comments about them. I have been enjoying them immensely since my new vow to try fruits, wines, vegetables, breads, pastries, chocolates, etc... that fall outside my circle of familiarity...a gradual change to a "Frencher" version of life, if you will. I have lived here but 4 years and still have decades of new things to try, you see. Not to mention newspapers and even cities...

...and as I was about to launch onto these topics, I realized that I owe you an apology...

I believe that I have been mistyping your name for quite a long while now...

how embarassing...

so, I must wander away to hide my shame, and return another time when I can write without apple-red cheeks...

Meilleurs voeux!

6:28 AM  
Blogger L'Amerloque said...

Hello blueVicar !

/*/.I was just preparing to write about Chantecler apples as I wondered if you had any comments about them. /*/

Amerloque doesn't have too many at all. (smile)

Over on Chocolate & Zucchini she says:

You can also look for its equally tasty half-sister the Chantecler apple (a.k.a. Chantecler Belchard), a cross between Reinette Clochard and Golden Delicious that was developped in the fifties.

If it dates from the 1950s, it's modern and not heirloom … at least in Amerloque's world … (grin) … anyway; sounds like a tasty fruit !

/*/I have been enjoying them immensely since my new vow to try fruits, wines, vegetables, breads, pastries, chocolates, etc... that fall outside my circle of familiarity...a gradual change to a "Frencher" version of life, if you will. /*/

Is this not why one comes to France, for the foods ?! (wider grin) It takes a lifetime to taste everything … if Amerloque may make bold … one book that is a "must read" if one is interested in French food is Waverly Root's "The Food of France". Came out in the 1950s.

/*/I realized that I owe you an apology...I believe that I have been mistyping your name for quite a long while now.../*/

No problem, of course, and "apology accepted", as the locution goes.

Don't worry about it. (grin) Amerloque had one correspondent addressing him in emails as "Monsieur Loque". (grin) She's living here, is married to a French fellow … and she was completly unaware of what "loque" means en français …

Always nice to see you here !

Best,
L'Amerloque

8:14 AM  
Anonymous Jo Ann said...

Hi Amerloque!

It would seem that where we were born and raised as a yougster will always define us no matter where we live.

Even in the U.S. this is true Just ask any Mainer about this. Even where I live, there is this certain snobbishness about being a "local". I don't know. There are some people who hail from other places who seem to embrace and appreciate the local culture and surroundings even more than the locals do.

I have enjoyed reading your posts for some time now, but never really felt that I had much to contribute as my experience with France is based upon a six-month stay there many moons ago, a number of extended vacations, and from some friendships with some Frenchmen and Frenchwomen.

1:17 PM  
Blogger L'Amerloque said...

Hello Jo Ann !

//It would seem that where we were born and raised as a youngster will always define us no matter where we live/*/.

Yes, a great portion of the definition of one's personality is apparently dependent on one's early upbringing: Amerloque is on the same wavelength there !

/*/Even in the U.S. this is true Just ask any Mainer about this./*/

It's true 'way out West, too. Amerloque visited in Maine in the early 60s: just passing through. (grin)

/*/I have enjoyed reading your posts for some time now, but never really felt that I had much to contribute as my experience with France is based upon a six-month stay there many moons ago, a number of extended vacations, and from some friendships with some Frenchmen and Frenchwomen./*/

Jo Ann, you're welcome anytime, of course ! Amerloque is looking forward to a contribution … or many ! (grin)

Best,
L'Amerloque

7:59 AM  
Anonymous Etchdi said...

Hello, l'Amerloque!

Juste un petit bonjour en passant par un autre long time amateur de pommes...

9:23 AM  
Blogger L'Amerloque said...

Bonjour Etchdi !

Bienvenue !

/*/Juste un petit bonjour en passant par un autre long time amateur de pommes.../*/

(smile) As is said in la langue de Shakespeare: "An apple a day keeps the doctor away !"

Best,
L'Amerloque

12:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

For once I agree with you L'Amerloque: Les malfaisants qui ont inventé la "Golden" devraient être traînés devant les tribunaux!
Bien entendu les peines consisteraient en l'obligation de planter dans chaque département normand 10.000 claque-pépin, autant de courts pendu gris, calvilles rouge tardif et rouge coeur de bœuf. Plus 10.000 bénédictins de Jumièges, rambours d'hiver, pigeonnets de Jérusalem et du drap d'or chailleux. Ca leur passera l'envie de recommencer...
Now I have to look up on the Internet to learn what these different breeds are....

Flocon

1:33 AM  
Blogger benoit said...

I always considered that since countries are similar to persons, there must be some countries that can match with your personality, and some can't, just like people.You just seem to confirm my theory... ;)

3:59 PM  
Anonymous Greg said...

Amerloque,

I almost forgot you had a blog. I should come here more often.

And I also never realized you had a farm in Normandy. I must really not be paying attention.

I grew up in farm country, and worked on a fruit farm for several years. For me, there will never be anything better than a macintosh picked freshly off the tree. I share your opinion about supermarket apples. I can't eat them.

Did you buy this farm with the trees? I know it takes many years of hard work to get an apple tree to bear good fruit.

2:06 PM  
Blogger L'Amerloque said...

Hi Greg !

/*/I almost forgot you had a blog. I should come here more often./*/

Greg is welcome anytime ! (smile)

/*/Did you buy this farm with the trees? I know it takes many years of hard work to get an apple tree to bear good fruit./*/

There were some old (50 years) apple trees, for making cider (pommes à cidre).

As he stated, Amerloque planted a number of trees years ago. There wasn't that much work involved, actually: natural fertilizers and "natural insecticides" and so on … Amerloque has been lucky so far: no major pests or illnesses … hope it lasts ! (smile)

Best,
L'Amerloque

1:53 AM  

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