Sunday, March 11, 2012

Paris en chansons

Paris en Chansons
The City of Light has been the inspiration for countless songs. Probably more than any other city in the world.   Mention Paris in a song and you might hum "April in Paris", or "Sous le Ciel de Paris or "Last Time I saw Paris".   Paris is associated with love and romance,  being it burgeoning or sadly ended; its urban beauty is elegized, its colorful quartiers and the people are lovingly evoked. Themes in the songs about Paris range from its sky, the seasons, day and night, La Seine, the bridges, the metro, work life. While the loss of old Paris is often lamented, many expatriates sing the love they have for their adopted city like Josephine baker  in "J' ai Deux Amours"- Mon Pays et Paris.  Many streets, squares, landmarks and neighborhoods are evoked in songs such as St Germain des Pres , La Tour Eiffel, Montmartre, Bastille , Belleville, rue Saint Denis, place Pigalle and many others.

For the first time, a unique exhibit prepared jointly by two specialized city libraries - la Mediateque Musicale de la Ville de Paris and the Historical Library will feature the rich musical landscape of Paris as a subject in songs. This is an  interactive exhibit arranged in two journeys-- audio and visual.  The audio journey invites visitors to discover the major and recurring themes that feature Paris in songs by listening to a selection of more than 400 songs.  Quintessentially French singers like Edith Piaf, Maurice chevalier, Charles Trenet, Serge Ginsbourg, Juliette Greco, Yves Montand, Jacques Dutronc are featured among 200 artists and using an interactive map of Paris you are able to localize a song for a street and neighborhood.

 The visual component of the exhibit is provided by the Historical Library and features old records and record jackets, photos, posters, books, manuscripts, music partitions and video clips.

Did you know Paname is an endearing slang term referring to Paris?. The word was popularized in the early 20th century and was sung by the likes of  Montand,  Piaf and  Josephine Baker.

Paris  En Chansons-  March 8 to July  29  at Galleries des Biblioteques- 22 rue Mahler Paris 4 

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Early Signs of Spring in Provence

Almond Blossoms-Vincent van Gogh
In many parts of the world- Spain, Sicily, Morocco, Israel, California, the first signs of spring come in February and early March when the almond trees are in bloom. In Provence too, fields are awash in virginal pink and white almond tree blossoms. This was so lovingly represented by Vincent van Gogh when he painted upon his arrival in Arles in 1888 a series of almond blossoms. He particularly liked to depict blossoming trees as this represented life, renewal and hope. In early 1890, after hearing of the birth of his nephew, son of his brother Theo, he painted Almond Blossoms as a celebration of this new life. The painting depicts tree branches in a blue sky and was meant as gift to the new parents. Almond tree was introduced in southern France in the 5th. century B.C. by the Greeks. It was heavily cultivated until the 1930s when farmers uprooted the trees in order to plant more profitable crops. In recent years, the decline in almond production has been reversed as new trees are replanted especially in the orchards of upper Provence. After spring bloom, fresh almonds are harvested in June and are used to make confection and pastry like marzipan and calissons. Dried almonds with their bitter flavor are collected in October. Properties of almond are beneficial in beauty products too- its oil and milk are good to soften skin and the shell can be finely crushed and used to gently exfoliate it. My favorite almond confection is the florentine cookie here is a simple recipe I would like to share:
 Florentine Cookies--
 In a saucepan melt 1/2 stick of butter; 2/3 cup o sugar; 3/4 cup of heavy cream--
Bring to a boil--
Take off heat and stir in 1/2 cup of flour and 6 oz of sliced almonds--
 Cool the batter for 20-30 minutes, stirring it occasionally--
 For each cookie, place 2 teaspoons of batter on your Florentine Pan or baking sheet, spacing evenly apart (remember, the cookies will spread). Flatten the batter slightly with a fork or your wet finger--
 Bake the cookies at 375 degree until they are lacy and golden brown, about 20 minutes--
 Gently place the cookies on a cooling rack and let them cool completely--
 Spread melted chocolate on one side of each cooled cookie--
Place in the refrigerator to harden--