Purple Rain and Wild Edibles
Fifty-seven year-old pop superstar Prince died last week and the world went purple. Monuments across the globe turned the royal color in his honor, including our own Tour Eiffel.
Le Parisien reported in an obituary that the world-renown musician loved France: “I love playing in France. I even plan to sing in every single concert hall in Paris. Anyway, I want to live in France,” Prince told the reporter. “Paisley Park, my base in Minneapolis, is fine for business but I’d really like to move to France.” He was particularly fond of the Riviera, having performed in Monaco in August of 2009 and in Nice and Cannes in 2010. According to The Local, he was seen at New Morning http://www.newmorning.com/ here in Paris playing until 6 a.m. Have a listen to Prince at New Morning.
An autopsy was performed and completed on Friday, but the results we won’t know for perhaps several weeks. Fifty-seven is simply way too young and the world wasn’t ready to give up the extraordinary man who made rain turn a princely color.
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One thing an American notices not long after spending time in France among the French, particularly when mingling over a dinner in someone’s home, that the conversations are very different. We Americans tend to ask someone we meet for the first time things like, “What do you do?,” “Where do you live?,” “Do you have kids?,” etc., etc. — personal things we want to know in order to get to know the person a bit better. It helps us form an opinion about with whom we’re speaking.
The French wouldn’t dream of asking such personal questions, at least not at first — that’s simply too invasive and disrespectful of one’s privacy, whereas we see it as ‘being interested in the person.’ The conversations around the dinner table, in the same vein, will focus on impersonal subjects, such as the latest art exhibitions, great places to which to travel, a good wine recently discovered, a favorite new restaurant…and wild mushrooms for which they may have made a special excursion to find and pick, cook up and serve to adoring fans.
Discussing wild mushrooms is one of those ‘very French subjects’ on which one is expected to be knowledgeable, just like wine or cheese or classic French literature. What’s even more important is knowing which are poisonous and shouldn’t be picked and God forbid, eaten.
Jeffrey Greene, an American living in both an apartment in Paris and in an ancient presbytery in the Burgundy town of Rogny-les-Sept-Écluses, explores the subject, along with other wild edibles in his most recent book “In Pursuit of Wild Edibles” — a Forager’s Tour.” Jeffrey is not only an old friend from as long ago as 1995 when I first met his mother, Gretchen, at a French-English conversation group offered by WICE, but is a poet, memoirist, and nature writer of the formidable kind. He is also a professor and Creative Writing Program Coordinator at the Department of Comparative Literature and English at the American University of Paris, as well as the author of the memoir “French Spirits: A House, a Village, and a Love Affair with Burgundy” and three other nature-related books, including “The Golden-Bristled Boar: Last Ferocious Beast of the Forest” and five collections of poetry and mixed-genre writing.
I have enjoyed every single one of his France-related works, not only because the subjects are fascinating, but because Jeffrey has a writing style that keeps you yearning for more. He has been called a “wise and generous writer” by Dan Barber of Blue Hill Stone Barns and author Michael P. Branch said, “In Greene we have an author who not only understands what snail slime consists of, but who writes in a way that compels us to take genuine interest in a topic we would not have thought to engage.”
This is the truth among all truths. When I was reading his book about wild boars, a topic never before on my list of “must know about” subjects, it surprised me that I gobbled up every word and then licked my chops for favorite recipes of “sanglier.” Reading “In Pursuit…” had the same affect on me, remembering vividly when my family would go ‘crabbing’ in the Gulf of Mexico in the dead of summer, with big nets and chicken for bait, then dropping them into a caldron of hot boiling heavily spiced water, and eating them until we couldn’t breathe. (My mother used to swear that she once sat with her cousin, Golda, and they each ate 100 crabs, spending the entire day to polish them off! We never believed her, but she told the tale till her dying day and therefore it must be true.)
Jeffrey, an American living in France for more years than me, has fully immersed himself in the most profound depths of the culture, so that he can shine among his French compatriots at the dinner table and beyond. He has us as fully immersed his “forager’s tour” — not because we care so much about mushrooms, oysters, snails or berries, but because he has a way of letting us see what he saw through his own eyes and emotions, down to his personal experiences as a child with his parents who ignited those first sparks of interest. His mother, retired from the Yale University School of Medicine and his wife, Mary, of the Institut Pasteur and a native of New Orleans, who has the same natural relationship with gulf, river and swamp fare as me (oysters, shrimp, crawfish, shrimp, crabs, frogs, turtles, snails, alligator, etc.) play a major role in his tale as prime supporters of his efforts foraging for the delicacies.
In his handwritten note to me on the title page of the book, he wrote “This book is a collaboration effort with Mary and Gretchen, so when you read it, you will join us on our adventures. I hope it gives you a smile.” Love, Mary, Gretchen and Jeff.
And it did. I am loving it and you will love it, too. Fortunately, you will have an opportunity to meet Jeffrey for yourself and learn more about “In Pursuit…” when he speaks at Parler Paris Après Midi on September 13th. But don’t wait until then to get your copy. Visit our Recommended Ready page to get your copy or visit his own Web site for more information.
A la prochaine…
The Adrian Leeds Group
P.S. For expats who need assistance with financial planning, the Adrian Leeds Group recommends Dunhill Financial. To plan for your retirement, your savings for educational needs or to arrange your estate, Brian Dunhill is happy to discuss your options during a telephone consultation or face-to-face meeting. Visit Financial Planning for Expats for more information today!