Tonight’s Dinner A Chez Josette

Tonight's repast in the dining room Chez Josette

Richard and I decided that prudence and careful travel demanded that we eat in the apartment tonight.  We previously had bought two bottles of very fine and reasonably priced wine at the shop across the street, and when we returned from today’s travels we decided to visit the boucherie across the street to buy some pate de compagnie and some Camembert de Normandie, as well as some baguettes at the neighboring boulangerie et patisserie.

Sure, the guy at the boucherie looked somewhat amused as I bumblingly tried to order an appropriate amount of pate using my high-school French, where the only metric measurement I can remember is a kilogram.  But, he was friendly, as the French inevitably are when you make an effort to use their language, and we ended up with a large, but reasonable, amount of pate that we consumed, with gusto, with some crusty bread and some excellent French wines.

And then, after we had killed two bottles of wine and gobbled down a lot of the pate and cheese and bread as we played cards, we rambled over to an adjoining street for a nightcap of Pelforth Brune, toasting Aunt Corinne ‘s 70th birthday, and enjoyed some people watching at a fine example of an open-late French cafe.

In all, not a bad day!

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Aunt Corinne At 70

Today Aunt Corinne reaches the age of 70.  I want to wish her happy birthday and thank her for the special, and vital, role she has played in our family.

The five Webner children have been blessed with a trio of amazing aunts, each special in her own unique way.  Aunt Corinne has always been the intellectual aunt, the one who was not afraid to break free of the cultural constraints placed on women during the ’50s and ’60s, the one who encouraged reading, and thinking, and proper grammar and word usage.  (And let me tell you, there is no greater spur to developing a decent vocabulary and passable conversational skills than having a brainy and witty aunt who patiently corrects misstatements.)

Corinne Palmer Webner graduated from law school when few women even dreamed of a legal career.  She has always loved to cook and worked patiently on a needlepoint creation that hung for years over a special rack at their home.  She reads voraciously and was the first person I knew who extolled the value of a Kindle.  In short, Aunt Corinne has always marched to the beat of a different drummer — except in her case she is probably moving to the complex rhythms of a Bach cantata.

When Kish and I lived in the Washington, D.C. area in the early 1980s, Aunt Corinne and Uncle Mack were the nearest members of the family.  We spent a lot of time with them and their children Laura, Betsy, and Billy at their home in Reston, Virginia.  You could not ask for more gracious hosts.  Aunt Corinne always gave great advice (and, I think, gentle guidance) as we dealt with the beginnings of our professional careers, the early days of law school, and the first few weeks of parenthood.

At that time, Grandma Webner lived nearby, too, and Aunt Corinne and Uncle Mack bore the brunt of the many administrative and social responsibilities that come with caring for an aging relative.  Until you have done it, I don’t think you can fully appreciate what it means to field that ill-timed call for help, or to carefully explain the change in routine to a puzzled senior, or to progressively assume greater decision-making responsibilities for someone who is slowly failing.  Aunt Corinne did all this, and did it cheerfully and well.  We can never repay her, or thank her enough, for that.

Now she and Uncle Mack are retired, to their lovely home in the outskirts of Savannah, Georgia, where Aunt Corinne is re-doing the kitchen to her exacting specifications, giving that Kindle a workout, and doing what grandmothers do to make their grandchildren feel safe, warm, and loved.  Happy birthday, Aunt Corinne!  May you have many, many more!

A Fat Guy In A Thin Country

Paris makes me want to suck in my gut.

As you walk around the city, you can’t help but notice that there aren’t many overweight people here. Everybody, regardless of their age, seems to be thin, stylishly dressed, and moving fast.  The contrast with America, where you see seriously obese people everywhere, is startling.

Why is this so?  Maybe it is because more Parisians seem to smoke than Americans — at least, that’s the impression I get after a few days here — or maybe it is because food is expensive, and people have cut back a little on the chow-downs as a result.  More likely, it is because this is a city of walkers and cyclists.  On weekdays, you see people hustling down the streets to get to work or riding their bikes as part of their daily commute.  My guess is that few Parisians follow the American model of going to their garage in the morning, hopping in their car, and then driving to a parking garage a block away from their workplace, where they will sit on their butts all day.

I also think there is a strong social disapproval of being overweight — implicit, perhaps, but nevertheless a factor.  Everyone here wears fashionable clothing, from hats down to shoes.  If you want to join everyone else and be part of the haute couture parade, you’ve got to keep the weight off.  It’s hard to look stylish, and Parisian, if you are hauling around an extra 60 pounds.