cakes, prose, woes -- the photos, food & thoughts of a french-speaking seattle-native in brazil

In the end, you're just happy you were there—with your eyes open—and lived to see it. -AB
In the end, you're just happy you were there—with your eyes open—and lived to see it.

Friday, July 4, 2008

The Family 4th--Je dise NON à l'Hamburger

It's as if I never left.

Travel changes you. As you move through this life and this world you change things slightly, and you leave marks behind, however small. And in return, life--and travel--leaves marks on you. Most of the time, those marks--on your body and on your heart--are beautiful. Often though, they the end, you're just happy you were there--with your eyes open--and lived to see it." -anthony bourdain

America, America, I stand on guard for thee! or is that the wrong song...I think that's Canada...ok so maybe I need a little practice getting back in, but I am getting much needed help already from Matt Lauer and Al Rocker as their voices assault my morning emails and milky teas. A tv free year indeed is quite blissful. My younger brother is taller than me. My youngest sister is quiet around me.Though the two dopes closest to me in age have managed to time capsule their personalities and maintain the same block headed-ness of which I love so much. Cheers GR and Kaitles, great to be back. By the way--i do find you both, very, very chouette none the less.

Let's get something straight here, I was informed, I don't want this whole summer to be about America bashing, you know the whole 'well in France we do it this way, in France this, in France that--our food is, yadda yadda,' if you don't like the cheese, then don't eat it. I stared, a few thoughts milling around in that confused vide space that is my head at the present moment, and all but replied, well tant pis. Get used to it, because darling this is me. Now, let's stop trying to take the France out of the girl, and instead let her put some France into this life. If not, something might fracture and crack.

July 4th, the Independence day of the United States. When I realized said day would fall but a few days following my return, I thought, what a slap in the Face. Welcome back to Americer! Have a hamburger, grab a sparkler, eat some yellow cheese, let's celebrate this great nation for ours! Yeah! God Bless America! Yes I am bitter, and no it is not because I hate America, or necessarily its image, I have much respect and gratitude for having been born in a free country, out of poverty and oppression, out of crime and toil. Any American is lucky, lucky compared to so many who live in nations around the world that cannot claim such rights that to us appear as the most basal and 'inalienable' but to many others appear as treats.

Every 4th of July I often ponder the same travesties of the state of no of our nation, but the state of the people in it. Is it actually funny and cute to see on the news the giggling Americans surveyed in street polls to "name the president on the nickel 5 cent coin"? Is it funny to hear the responses so blatantly painful and disrespectful to what this country is supposed to stand for? Is the image of a nation of idiots really what is wanted? It is not what I want; I may have been French for a year but I am still an American, and I will always be, even if only partly American, or perhaps someday again an American from afar, I will always be American, but never again, i feel, just American. Once a foreigner, always a foreigner.

That said, and perhaps sensitivity to such a subject held at a peak from a year in France, I wish to inform that I do not desire to reject America, no, I want to help America. How can I help America one may ask? Can I get its sticky fingers out of places it doesn't belong, pull its head out of its ass, and educate the throngs of the uneducated 'educated'? No, that is what we leave for Obama to do. Me? what I can do is bring a new view, a report, and say, "well the French do it this way, the Portuguese like this, in Germany they say, and in Brasil---here, let me show you." So slowly, and with many slaps in the face, with many rolling eyes, and with many rejections, we are going to infect each new place we inhabit. For now, it is America. So America, I'll show you how I would tweak it. On y va.

It is helpful, I will say, to have a non-classical american family, who feel little need to attend the street parades, buy the sparklers, sing the anthem, wave the mini flags, and purchase pounds of nearly inedible american beef products pounded into frozen circles ready to be adorned by a type of dairy bi-product some refer to as cheese. I find nothing endearing about a hamburger. Nothing. No matter how variant, fancy, "upscale"--call me a snob, call me unamerican. If I cared I wouldn't tell you. No, not here. But then again, are you surprised? I didn't think so. Like many holidays around here, we just like the decorations. It's all in the presentation.

The American 4th of July "back yard barbecue" usually consists of overcooked hamburgers and hot dogs smothered past saturation with the sticky sweet crap known as ketchup, more beer and soda products than is ever actually needed, a rainbow assortment of bagged chips, apple pies, cookies, perhaps some ice cream, lemonade, maybe a slice of watermelon here and a little carrot cube there--and always that red jello with a bit of coolwhip and a few blueberries for that adorable red white and blue touch. That is the american 4th of July we all know so well. But here, here we know that it is the visage of Thomas Jefferson on the shiny little nickel, and we know that shooting off some rockets in honor of our nation doesn't mean jack, here we have a 4th of July dinner the way we want to because we can; and we have our dinner, and are grateful for that.

No burgers--no. We eat fish. C'est vrai! Pan seared talapia, alongside a spring pea and almond salad. Some dessert? Excellent, let us bake. Lo and behold, there are no alternative flours in the house to be found. Well, now the baker has returned, but for now, a system D. Searching, we find an unwavering supply of tapioca pearls. This is a tapioca family. And there is a can of coconut milk--here we are then, a coconut and tapioca pudding, let me tell you a story of an easter in Paris my dear family. Let us jazz for a sauce though--blueberries, and creme de marrons, for i smuggled many cans and tubes into this country of mine. Vanilla sugar, and a dash of grand marnier, and we have, a delicious tapioca pudding treat to end the night.

Tonight I will not be watching fireworks. Tonight will be a few house calls from old friends, a few glasses of French wine (bien sur) perhaps, if i am lucky, a pink marshmallow roasted on a backyard deck fire, and of course, a salute to this country that gives me the freedom to question, disagree, scorn, leave, come back to, change, and leave again. With travel, with opening to cultures and allowing life to change, you create an irreversible affect, and these affects cannot be erased. There are never two lives, only just one, one made better with experience, with tastes, with people, with new flavors--you cannot leave yourself behind, so instead try to bring others with you. We can keep everyone, we just have to try, they will mix, people are not water and oil, culture may be different, but if we are all oil, then the difference is merely olive and canola, and perhaps, every now and then, a peanut.

Perhaps we can end the night by remembering that the French were the first friends of this baby nation, and though old and unlikely at present, there is hope. Hope I see that maybe soon our fridges will have that constant ripe and fermented smell of myriad cheeses fused together and forever melded into the plastic drawers and doors that the French, and the me, love, and will always love so much.

Happy Independence Day America

à bientôt


Ryan said...

Welcome Home! I totally agree about the hamburgers. I used to love the woman, but hamburgers are so Rachael Ray, uuuughhh!

Anonymous said...

How about a fish hamburger? :P

Poulet perhaps?

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

J'ai relue ce chapitre 3 fois, mais le ton de tes pensees mon surprie. En plus de l'appreciation pour les fromages et vins Francais, il me semble que tu as aussi appris l'attitude Francaise. MERDE!!!
I love a good burger, and a cold beer on a hot summer day, as much as a glass of wine with baguette and St. Andre.
Cannot wait to see you, and hear all the stories.
Gros becs,
Tante pufflette.

Tartelette said...

We had fresh caught crabs, mayo and baguettes for the 4th. For the 14th..which nobody here will celebrate but a few crazy expats dont moi, we are having pan bagnats and Champagne on the beach. Et voila, simple mais sympa.