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Our Favorite French National Heroes…and Other Matters

Painting by Jean-Baptiste Debret (1768–1848), the first distribution of the decorations of the Legion of Honor, made by Bonaparte, in the church of the imperial hotel of Invalides, July 14, 1804
Painting by Jean-Baptiste Debret (1768–1848), the first distribution of the decorations of the Legion of Honor, made by Bonaparte, in the church of the imperial hotel of Invalides, July 14, 1804

A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO…THANKSGIVING

We were set for the 8 p.m. seating of Thanksgiving Dinner at Breakfast in America #1 (BIA) on rue des Ecoles. Lisa Anselmo and I ordered up a table with past clients and now current friends, Michael Mancini and Cyrus Katrak, who share their time between New Orleans and Paris. Craig Carlson, owner of BIA, recognized that he should seat attendees Bruce and Susan Brower near our table, as they have also been my clients, and also from New Orleans. In fact, the Browers live a few streets away from exactly where I grew up on Milan Street (pronounced MEYE-LIN by native New Orleanians).

Thanksgiving Dinner, from left to right: Lisa Anselmo, Michael Mancini, Bruce Brower, Susan Brower, Cyrus Katrak, Adrian Leeds

Thanksgiving Dinner, from left to right: Lisa Anselmo, Michael Mancini, Bruce Brower, Susan Brower, Cyrus Katrak, Adrian Leeds

Michael and Cyrus, Bruce and Susan, discovered that not only do they all live in New Orleans, but their Paris abodes are literally across the street from one another in the 2nd arrondissement. They see each other’s windows and have patronized the same neighboring merchants and cafĂ©s. That started non-stop conversation and enlarged our little family from four to six.

The menu at BIA was laid out on the table with festive napkins. It was classic with all the fixin’s, but with a French touch—crĂšme fraiche in the pumpkin soup and tarte aux pommes. This was the 18th year of doing Thanksgiving Dinner of this kind and they filled every seat with a broad spectrum of Americans and people from around the world who wanted to celebrate Thanksgiving, even if it weren’t native to their country of origin. Every morsel of the meal was delicious(!), for which we have Elisabeth Chameroy to thank, co-owner of BIA Julien Chameroy’s mother, who is a professional chef.

Thanksgiving Dinner menu at Breakfast in America

Thanksgiving Dinner menu at Breakfast in America

Pumpkin Soup starter, by Elisabeth Chameroy, Breakfast in America

Pumpkin Soup starter, by Elisabeth Chameroy, Breakfast in America

Book now for next year!

WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO BE A NATIONAL HERO IN FRANCE?

David Andelman, a veteran foreign correspondent, author and commentator who contributes frequently to CNN Opinion on global affairs

David Andelman, a veteran foreign correspondent, author and commentator who contributes frequently to CNN Opinion on global affairs

The French government and President Emmanuel Macron have granted my friend and journalist of note, David Andelman, the enormous honor of appointment to the rank of “chevalier” (knight) in the order of the LĂ©gion d’Honneur. This will be conferred on him by Ambassador JĂ©rĂ©mie Robert, consul-general of France in New York at a ceremony in just two days on December 1st at 6 p.m. at the Consulat-General de France in New York.

He’s one of 1087 people to have received such an honor. More than a third of today’s recipients belong to the public sector, a quarter are involved in economic activities, 15 percent work in the health and social humanitarian field, 10 percent are involved in research and teaching, five percent are involved in the field of culture and communication, and more than five percent are elected officials or similar.

Among the 1087 recipients, the field of research is particularly honored with the presence of three dignitaries: the physicist HĂ©lĂšne Langevin-Joliot, the only grand cross of the class; the virologist Christine Rouzioux and the historian Annnette Wieviorka, both raised to the dignity of grand officer. The fourth dignitary is the grand officer Laurent Burelle, CEO of the eponymous group. The class also includes 898 knights, 161 officers and 24 commanders.

During the French Revolution, all of the French orders of chivalry were abolished and replaced with Weapons of Honor. It was the wish of Napoleon Bonaparte, the First Consul, to create a reward to commend civilians and soldiers. From this wish was instituted a “LĂ©gion d’honneur,” a body of men that was not an order of chivalry, for Napoleon believed that France wanted a recognition of merit rather than a new system of nobility. However, the LĂ©gion d’honneur did use the organization of the old French orders of chivalry, for example, the Ordre de Saint-Louis. The insignia of the LĂ©gion d’honneur bear a resemblance to those of the Ordre de Saint-Louis, which also used a red ribbon.

French Legion of Honor

French Legion of Honor

Napoleon originally created this award to ensure political loyalty. The organization would be used as a façade to give political favors, gifts, and concessions. The LĂ©gion d’honneur was loosely patterned after a Roman legion, with legionaries, officers, commanders, regional “cohorts” and a grand council. The highest rank was not a Grand Cross but a Grand Aigle (Grand Eagle), a rank that wore the insignia common to a Grand Cross. The members were paid, the highest of them extremely generously. (Source: Wikipedia.org)

Josephine Baker’s making an awful lot of noise in this arena, too, as the world’s first Black superstar—a revolutionary performer, world-famous singer, movie star, spy for the French resistance, and civil rights activist to be honored with a place in France’s revered PanthĂ©on monument. (See the report by France 24)

To honor Ms. Baker, Maison Noire AmĂ©ricaine and its Paris-based partners will host “JOSEPHINE IN ROSE,” a champagne gala to be held at the iconic Casino de Paris tomorrow evening November 30, 2021. The event will be held in the legendary Casino du Paris on November 30, 2021, on the occasion of Josephine Baker’s induction into the Hall of Fame, and will feature a special tribute to her “diversity, equity and inclusion,” concepts she embraced long before anyone else did.

Promotional poster for Josephine en Rose

Josephine Baker will be the first black woman and one of the very few foreign-born figures to have a plaque on the monument, receiving this honor alongside other French national icons such as Marie Curie, Victor Hugo, Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Simone Veil. Josephine Baker will be officially inducted into the Pantheon on Tuesday, November 30, 2021, a distinction traditionally bestowed upon France’s greatest artists from the world of arts, letters and sciences.

You can join us for this exceptional Josephine Baker-inspired evening filled with champagne, appetizers, live music, door prizes (I’ve donated a two-hour consultation), gift bags and more as we celebrate this historically significant event in reverent tribute to Josephine Baker, mother extraordinaire, civil rights activist, French Resistance spy, showgirl and global icon whose life has inspired generations around the world.

Tickets (if still available) can be purchased online via Eventbrite. Discounted rates are available for students and groups of 10 or more.

Founded in 2013, Maison Noire Américaine (MNA) is a poignant nonprofit arts and cultural organization dedicated to raising awareness and educating people of all ages, ethnicities, and backgrounds about the presence, experience, and influence of African-Americans in France.

For more information, visit their website.

France 24’s French Connections segment asked, “What does it take to be a national hero in France?” Here’s what.

MOBILITY: PARIS SPEEDS UP TO BETTER REGULATE PUBLIC SPACE

Everyone knows how much I “love” Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo. Now that she’s made a complete wreck of the streets, in a way that has every taxi and Uber driving complaining from morning till night and every pedestrian frightened of crossing any street, she seems to have realized her folly and is taking drastic measures to fix the problems.

Brochure cover for the City of Paris mobility improvements

Here’s how:

* The speed of self-service scooters will be limited to 10km/h throughout the capital: only a few structuring lanes (especially those with protected cycle paths) will remain limited to 20km/h.

* The circulation of electric scooters will also be prohibited in parks and gardens.

* The City of Paris is mobilizing for better respect for public space is the major objective of the measures announced by the municipality this Thursday, November 25th.

* The introduction of paid parking for two-wheeled vehicles, originally scheduled for January 1st, 2022, shifted to September 1st, 2022.

* The reform initiated on parking aims to adapt public space to the real uses of Parisians: 197 hectares, or 8 percent of public space, are currently occupied by motorized parking (cars and two-wheeled vehicles) in Paris.

* 65 percent of Parisians do not have a car, a figure that is constantly rising, and car traffic has halved since the late 1990s, as public space is rebalanced in favor of pedestrians, bicycles, and public transport.

* There will be no tolerance for parking on sidewalks and inconvenient parking.

* Expect intensive regulations and verbalizations against inconvenient/unauthorized parking and unauthorized traffic on sidewalks, bus lanes and cycle paths.

* Guarantee the cleanliness of the City: accentuate the removal of wrecks and suction cups (not sure what they mean!) that clutter the public space and contribute to the feeling of filth and insecurity. (I’ll believe it when I see it.)

* Five free-floating scooter operators (Cityscoot, Cooltra, Lime, Yego and Troopy) have obtained authorization to deploy a total of almost 7,000 machines in Paris, and plan to increase their fleet to reach 9,000 at the start of 2022.

* Shared scooters will be able to use the motorized two-wheeled parking lot on the road as well as the parking lane open to all.

* The Paris Council confirmed, on November 16, its plan to reserve a lane of the ring road for carpooling and “other virtuous modes,” even after the Olympic and Paralympic Games of 2024.

Read more here.

Let’s hope some of this actually works!

FRENCH FRIES AND TAPING HOUSE HUNTERS INTERNATIONAL

Thomas Jefferson eatin friesOver lunch Sunday with the crew from House Hunters International, taping my 47th episode since 2006, and while munching on French fries, we learned that French Fries are not French—that in fact they may have been invented in Spain, but the Belgians claim them thanks to a 1781 family manuscript recounting that potatoes were deep-fried prior to 1680 in the Meuse valley (in what was then the Spanish Netherlands): “The inhabitants of Namur, Andenne, and Dinant had the custom of fishing in the Meuse for small fish and frying, especially among the poor, but when the river was frozen and fishing became hazardous, they cut potatoes in the form of small fish and put them in a fryer like those here.”

So, how is it they came to be known as French? That’s thanks to our own Thomas Jefferson who while he serving as a diplomat in France, the french fry was considered practically “haute cuisine” and he and his contemporaries referred to fries as “pommes de terre frites Ă  cru en petites tranches” (“potatoes deep fried while raw, in small cuttings.” One of Jefferson’s slaves—yes, our forefather owned slaves like most did at the time—James Hemings, who likely picked up the recipe while training to be a chef at a country estate where French kings would drop by for lunch (this comes via the Journal of the American Revolution).

A la prochaine…

Adrian Leeds in her bedroom, well coordinated...Adrian Leeds
The Adrian Leeds GroupÂź

Adrian in her bedroom, well coordinated…

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