If It’s Not French What Is It?

Believe it or not, the history of the french fry is not as simple as it may seem. Despite being labeled as “French” these friend potatoes in strips are not actually French!

In order to understand their origin, we need to first understand the origin of the potato. The potato was actually first brought over to Europe from South America. In the late 1530s, the Spanish army discovered the local cuisine of potatoes and labeled them ‘truffles’.

From there they were brought back to Spain, Italy and throughout Europe. Which brings us back to the French Fry. It wasn’t until the 17th century, where the first historical record of thinly cut fried potato. In Belgium, it was common for the locals to cut fish into tiny thing pieces and fry it up. Due to cold weather, the river that supplied local fish would freeze, leaving nothing but potato to fry.

Around the same time in France, the potatoes were starting to become popular. This is where the facts start to become hazy. Many people believe that the French were indeed making fries whereas others believe it was French soldiers who saw how the Belgians prepared the potatoes who then introduce it to France.

And the French as the ones who introduced this “delicacy” to America hence why they are known as French Fries. Due to the popularity in American fast food chains, in Europe, these fried potatoes are referred to as American Fries.

Best French Films In The Silent Era

A lot of the class and charm of times gone by has been lost on newer generations. There used to be a time where you had to play outside with your friends to have fun. Now we have the option of blasting at each other in crazy violent video games from half a world away. When you can meet in the virtual world, why bother to find someone real? Something similar happened with television. In the past, movie makers had to be more creative. They didn’t have access to color. They didn’t even have access to sound! They needed to do evoke feelings in the viewer a different way, and they did so successfully. These are some of my favorite French films from the era of silent movies.

Film first arrived in in the late nineteenth century, but the science fiction genre didn’t arrive until 1902, when Le voyage dans la lune sent a rocket to the moon long before rockets were invented. That wasn’t good news for the Man in the Moon. The short film runs for only fifteen minutes, but by 1902 standards it was a masterpiece. It was conceived by Georges Méliès, whose storytelling was greatly appreciated. He was creative and thoughtful, and he inspired this new art to go farther and farther.

Today’s American blockbuster hits from Los Angeles and NYC might be a spectacle all their own, but something has been lost along the way. It’s all about the biggest explosions, the best computer animations, or the most creative ways of killing someone. Sometimes the grainy, archaic silent films of the past helped push creativity even more. Filmmakers had to find ways to tell a story without words–and that’s no easy feat.

Fantômas I: À l’ombre de la guillotine was a great series that followed the criminal exploits of Fantômas. Sometimes you don’t need words to show that something has been stolen or that someone has had an affair. That’s the fun part of interpreting these famous French films–you can’t do it without using words and phrases like “it seems” or “it looks like” to describe each scene. Someone else might see something differently. This series comprised of five films managed to pass the five hour mark. This was the film that inspired the modern crime thriller genre, and many remakes were made later.

Everyone likes a good vampire story, and Les Vampires delivered. It debuted in 1915 while the world was dealing with a grand war, and perhaps that impacted the dark, somber mood that this movie maintains. The series was noteworthy because it glorified criminal activities (critics hated it), and it has continued to inspire writers, filmmakers, and other artists to this day.

French Stereotype: Bad Drivers

It seems like the more the population booms, the more we all think we live somewhere with the worst drivers ever. No matter where you are, it feels like the entire world has become one big school parking lot with new drivers anxious to get home after the last bell rings. Talk about bumper cars! Maybe statistically there’s some factual data behind the phenomenon. Los Angeles has basically the worst traffic in the world, so it wouldn’t be that surprising if there were more accidents there than in a lot of other cities. But some places have endured the stereotype of bad driving skills for a lot longer than others, and France is most definitely one of them. Is it true?

Well, maybe a little bit. According to some pretty irrelevant surveys, French drivers don’t really like to follow the rules. Traffic lights? Nope, we don’t like traffic lights. Cutting someone off? Sure, if it’ll get me to the liquor store (or maybe that audition) a little bit sooner. The poll asked pretty standard questions about stopping at lights or speeding through small towns. Not surprisingly, nearly half of respondents kept going if the light was yellow, and the same number exceed the speed limit on occasion. To be honest, “nearly half” is a lot fewer than I’d have expected.

The survey also revealed a decline in the number of drivers who thought cell phone use while driving was dangerous. While that may seem meaningful, here’s a more meaningful statistic that you can rely on: car accidents that resulted in a fatality are fewer than the world average. For every 100,000 citizens of a particular country, the average death rate worldwide is 17.4 people. For all of Europe, the rate stands at 9.3. In France, the number stands at a measly 5.1! Compare that to the United States, which enjoys more than double the number of deaths as France. I guess we know who the bad drivers really are (not that I’m judging, since I live here). The difference is similar even if you compare the number of deaths with the number of vehicles on the road.

The smaller number of accidents might also be a result of stricter laws. France has a lower legal blood limit for alcohol than other countries in the area, and police have the right to perform random checks to carry out a breathalyzer test. In addition, the French are legally obligated to carry certain safety items in their vehicles just in case they get into an accident or the car breaks down. This might help prevent cars from inadvertently hitting a car stopped at the side of the road.

At the end of the day, the stereotype probably doesn’t have any merit. The French drive just like anyone else. Sometimes they break the rules to get from point A to point B more quickly, but most of the time they don’t.

A Brief History of French Fashion

Fashion is defined by so much more than a time period, or a simple change in popularity from one generation to the next. Fashion is a culmination of thousands of tiny little experiments conducted over decades and centuries. Each experiment is a test. To pass the test, you need to have the right look at the right time, and you need to catch the eye of the right person. How do you do this? Well, it might help to look at history–and what better place to start than France? These are the fashion houses that made France synonymous with great fashion over the last century.

If you’ve never heard the name Paul Poiret, then you should take a minute to look him up. He worked for an umbrella maker, and it was that experience that jump started what would be a rewarding career in fashion in an unexpected way. Sometimes you don’t need wealth to make something that everyone will love. Art isn’t about money. It’s about how you put things together. Poiret used leftover silk scraps from those umbrellas to make a doll dress for his sister. He didn’t make a name for himself until he controversially injected freedom of movement into women’s fashion by eliminating the corset from traditional wardrobe.

That started it all.

You know the Dior brand. Christian Dior followed in the footsteps of Chanel by continuing to help fight against typical female wardrobes thought appropriate only because of gender. Dior’s “New Look” showed off the entire female body with form-fitting skirts and brimmed hats. These garments imagined a look for women that didn’t show off too much–but didn’t show off too little either.

There was another massive twist in women’s wear in 1966 when Yves Saint Laurent introduced a tuxedo suit designed entirely for women. This also marked the end of an era in French-based fashion. In the subsequent decades, cities around the world introduced their own creative twists on old favorites while adding new ones to the mix. New York, London, and even Tokyo took the spotlight.

If we want to learn about great fashion in Los Angeles, then we need to teach and inspire creativity in schools. We need to create an eye test for learning how to do this, and then we need to implement the changes needed to ensure that we will pass the eye test. Right now, we’re not. Fashion should rely on change, on excitement, and on fearlessness for trying new things

For more on French fashion, please check out the following video:

Perspective on #MeToo

Your point of view on the recent #MeToo movement will likely depend on your own experiences in life. Your point of view will depend on who has taught you; how they’ve taught you. Your point of view will depend on the values and experiences of those who came before you, both men and women. The combined experiences of women who have experienced sexual assault, childhood molestation, or unacceptable levels of harassment in the workplace outweigh the combined experiences of men for the same, but that doesn’t mean that men don’t have their own fair share. We all share the burden, and we can all help fix the problem.

It came to light recently that a hundred French women–from my own country–recently signed an open letter to all those who participate in the strengthening movements. The letter didn’t so much as denounce the movement as it quietly urged restraint. This is a point of view hardly shared by all, but it is something with which I’m familiar. The sexuality in France is far different and far more overt from what it is in the United States. We don’t see it as something to shy away from. We’re open about it. We’re healthy about it. Sexuality can be an exciting, empowering force for good, and we don’t want to see its power reduced to a cold, frightening taboo the way it is in almost all of America.

The women who signed the letter are well known for these same beliefs, and there are people all over the world who agree. I can sympathize, but as an aspiring actress in the very town where so much of this backward sexual behavior occurs–to young women I know and love–I must take a somewhat different stance.

Certainly, men have the right to flirt, to make their attractions known. But women have the right to stop any unwanted advance cold. We have the right to say no. We have the right to speak out against public figures who wield power and money, and have made these perpetual habits into a pattern of criminal activity all over the country, and beyond. This cannot–and will not–continue. We won’t let it. I’m proud of the women who have stood up for what they believe is right, and I know that they will continue to do so in the future. I know that this already normalized behavior will someday soon come to a stop. I know that sexuality in America may perhaps remain cold and taboo, but I also know that progress means we have to end the pattern of acceptance of what has become a culture that allows rape and molestation, and lets justice go undone when such crimes are ignored.

We need a reset. We need to let people be open and honest about their feelings whether they live in France, New York, or Los Angeles, while being realistic in expectation. We need to learn self-control. What’s more important: we need to teach kids the same. I love my French compatriots, and I love my American compatriots as well. I want us to keep fighting for what’s right, and I want us to be emotionally healthy, sexually healthy, and safe.

#metoo

Here is one celebrity’s take on the #MeToo movement:

What Spirits are Produced in France

What Spirits are Produced in France

French spirits being enjoyed with grapesAlcohol is one of the oldest and most commonly celebrated substance in the world. It seems like each country is known for their own specific type of alcohol. Some are known for wine, while others are known for vodka, whiskey, or beer. Whenever you hear France, you think of wine and cheese. Interestingly enough, France is not only known for their wine, but for their carefully crafted spirits. Spirits, or liquors, are the oldest form of alcohol and can include all types of liquors (vodka, gin, tequila, rum and whiskey). The difference between a spirit and other types of alcohol are that spirits are distilled and the have a higher alcohol by volume. The ABV of spirits usually falls in the range of 20% to 80 or 90% ABV.

The French have been producing spirits just about as long as they have been producing wine. You may not know it, but many of the popular cocktails you drink would not be possible without French spirits. I’ve put together a little crash course of French Spirits to get your taste buds going.

1.Cognac

Cognac is the oldest of the French spirits. Cognac must follow strict production methods including being made in a copper pot, aging in French oak for a minimum of two years, and is distilled twice. Cognac’s main ingredient is Ugni Blanc grapes.

2.Armagnac

Armagnac is widely considered “the original cognac.” The dirtier version of the spirit is made from the same family of grapes and is distilled only once, creating a heavier more flavorful spirit.

3.Grand Marnier

Grand Marnier was created in 1880 by Alexandre Marnier-Lapostolle. Grand Marnier is an orange liqueur that is cognac based. The most notable drinks that include Grand Marnier are the Cadillac Margarita and B-52. It is not uncommon for people to enjoy Grand Marnier on the rocks or straight up.

4.Cointreau

Similar to Grand Marnier, Cointreau is a bitter orange liqueur. The difference between the two is that Cointreau is made of a natural spirits while Grand Marnier is cognac based. The result of the natural base gives Cointreau the edge when is comes to mixing cocktails. Cointreau is often used as a top-self version of triple sec.

5.Chartreuse

The roots of this herbal liqueur trace back to 1605 when the Carthusian monks began making this spirit. The spirit contains 130 different herbs, spices, roots and barks. Chartreuse comes in two flavors, green and yellow. Green Chartreuse is 55% ABV and is considered the spicier and drier version of the two. Yellow Chartreuse has a lower ABV (40%) and is considered to be softer and sweeter than green.

6.Benedictine

Benedictine is the second herbal spirits to make this list. Created by Alex Le Grand, this rich, peppery, honey-sweet flavor is often consumed neat or in conjunction with Brandy.

7.Calvados

Calvados is from the Northwest region of France. The apple-flavored brandy can be used in any apple based cocktail. One of the best ways to enjoy it is in between course when you are looking to wake up your appetite.

8.Absinthe

Absinthe, AKA the Green Fairy, might be the most famous of all French spirits. While the idea of Absinthe is originally from the Swiss, Absinthe had been intertwined in French culture as far back as anyone can remember. The spirit has reached a mythological status and has been banned and rediscovered in many countries, including France, around the world. One of the best glasses of Absinthe you can have is from one of the oldest producers of the spirit, Pernod Absinthe.

Best French Bars in LA

Perch in Los Angeles
Perch in Los Angeles. Image: Yelp.

Once upon a time, downtown Los Angeles was home to “French Town.” In the late 19th century, “French Town” was home to the majority of LA’s French residents, hence the name. Since then, the french population and influence has dispersed, dropping bits of culture throughout the city. Some of the french bars in Los Angeles have remained with a more traditional french approach, while others have modernized, adapting to the culture, but still keeping that classic french feel.

Top French Bars in LA

Los Angeles is home to some of the best french bars in the state of California. I decided to create a guide to finding the hottest french bars in Los Angeles. Here are some of my favorite spots to grab a drink or bite or just to hangout with friends and dance:

Petit Trois – Hollywood

Petit Trois brings the classic french bar style and cuisine to the streets of Hollywood. The small bar/restaurant is open from 12PM-10PM every day but Saturday, which they keep the kitchen open an extra hour, until 11PM. They do not take reservations and the menu features traditional french bar food like steak tartare and various breakfast style dishes, including the best omelets in the Los Angeles area.

Perch – Los Angeles

Perch resides on a rooftop in Downtown LA. The rooftop has some breathtaking views including Central Library. Perch has an extensive wine menu and a late night bar menu that is offered from 11pm – 12am. One of the best items on the menu are the Merguez sliders and the truffle poutine.

The BoardRoom – Los Angeles

Downtown Los Angeles is packed with different nightlife hotspots from cultures around the world. The BoardRoom is a lounge where you can have drinks, grab a bite, enjoy music, and mingle with others. The food menu is filled with a bunch of traditional french h’orderves and a few classic french entrees. The extensive drink menu will have you asking for another one before you finish your current drink and wanting to try everything on the menu. After 8:30pm, from Thursday to Sunday, The BoardRoom is open for you and your friends.

Pour Vous – Los Angeles

Pour Vous is a fair priced, french-influenced bar in Los Angeles. Pour Vous opens at 8pm from Tuesday to Saturday except for Friday, when the bar opens up at 5pm. The nightlife really does not kickoff until around 10pm. Pour Vous is known for their tasty cocktail menu that leave you wanting more by the end of your glass.

What is Escargot?

For those of us who aren’t very adventurous–or perhaps just overly squeamish about what we eat–it can be a good thing when cuisine from overseas bears a name pronounced in a foreign tongue. Although most of us already know what escargot is, this can especially be the case for those of us who don’t. Escargot is French for snail, and the dish is generally eaten cooked with a hint of lemon. It may bear the same name even for those varieties that are left raw.

The etymology of the word has a more literal translation, adding in the word “edible” to make escargot mean “edible snail.” The first use of the word seems rather new, historically speaking, and goes back only to about 1892. Even so, historians do know that escargot the dish was enjoyed in ancient civilizations. To the Romans, it was a rare, expensive food that only the wealthy could afford. But the human palate for snails goes even farther back than that. Archaeological evidence shows that snails were enjoyed in prehistoric times as well.

When you eat escargot, the type of species matters. Land snails can sometimes be altogether inedible. Some are even too small for mass consumption. Of the species that are edible, there are a number that simply aren’t desirable. After all, the taste of a creature’s flesh is important when you’re about to consume a dish often known as a delicacy. Some species are also a good source of protein.

Because the dish is so well known, it even gets its own unofficial American holiday–May 24 is National Escargot Day.

Escargot are often farmed because of their desirability, and these are usually sustained with ground cereals. Naturally, no one wants to eat a snail with full bowels, and so sellers will often forego feeding for a few days prior to sale. After that, the escargot is ready to be cooked and eaten!

Preparation of escargot varies depending on the region where you consume it, but the French variety of the dish is typically prepared with a generous helping of garlic butter, soup, or wine. These substances are used during cooking. The snail is removed from the shell, cooked in whichever other ingredient the chef decides to use, and then likely replaced in the shell. Usually, they are served by the dozen or half-dozen.

In the United States, you might not often have the chance to experience this dish. It is often highly recommended by those who have tried it, and you’re most likely to have the option as part of a cruise or resort stay, or at a fancy restaurant. If you do decide to indulge in this popular French cuisine, then you’ll enjoy a heft fifteen percent protein content in addition to just over two percent fat.

What is Roquefort Cheese?

Americans have a tendency to pasteurize absolutely everything, even when we don’t need to. This is the result of socially reinforced health and safety standards that are supposed to benefit everyone. For example, there are all types of bacteria both good and bad, and most of them won’t do us any harm. Pasteurization often destroys the kind of bacteria that make your gut healthy, and so a lot of the cheeses that are unpasteurized can be hard to find in America–or are at least absurdly priced.

Luckily, you can find some types of cheese everywhere based on popularity alone. Roquefort cheese is a pasteurized brand of cheese that originated in France. It is made from the milk of a  Lacaune sheep, and you can easily tell you have the right one by the obvious blue mold growing within the brick of cheese. It is also usually of the whiter variety, crumbles easily, and tastes tangy and moist. You might also detect the flavor of butyric acid which itself is a product of a certain type of fermentation–and although we won’t detail it in full here (nor would you want us to), it is found in and smells of human vomit. Yummy!

By law, only cheeses that are aged in a specific region of Southern France, the caves of Roquefort-sur-Soulzon, can be branded Roquefort. This variety in France is the king of all cheese, and it takes about four and a half liters of sheep milk to make only a kilogram of the final product.

Without the caves in which Roquefort is produced, there could be no Roquefort cheese. This is because the veins of mold inside each brick can only be found and manipulated from within these caves. It grows within the soil, and so only companies with access to these caves and the specific kind of mold can produce the cheese.

The cheese takes approximately five months to age, and is best enjoyed between the months of April and October.

Roquefort cheese isn’t only known for its distinctive taste. Prior to the discovery of penicillin, it was used as a medicine. Shepherds in the area would use the cheese as a salve, applying it directly to wounds. It was known to curb the chances of coming down with gangrene. Studies done on the medicinal properties have maintained unsurprising conclusions, based on this other usage. In 2012, the cheese was found to have anti-inflammatory properties, and another study a year later discovered that the proteins in Roquefort can stop the spread of Chlamydia.

In other words, if you want to say no to sexually transmitted infections, say “yes” to Roquefort cheese!

Famous French Actresses

French women are known for their elegant beauty, but they also possess superb emotional gravity and wit, and as such make not only a great attorney, but superb actresses. They are daringly gorgeous and ooze a sense of charm that is rarely found in any other nationality. French actresses have made a huge impact on modern cinema with their stunning looks and superlative acting talent. In the 60s it was blonde bombshells Catherine Deneuve and Brigette Bardot who captivated cinema audiences with their sultry looks and in the 80s it was Isabelle Huppert and Juliette Binoche who were international stars. Today Audrey Tautou and Eva Green are among the biggest film stars in Hollywood and a new generation is emerging with as much grace and elegance as their forebears. Below are some of the most famous French actresses with details about their lives, acting careers, and films.

Marion Cotillard

Born to parents who were both actors it was natural for her to become an actress. Her acting career boasts acting roles in both English and French language films. In America, she acted in ‘Big Fish’ and in France she starred in ‘A Very Long Engagement’. She won an Academy Award for her superb rendition of the French singer Edith Piaf in ‘La Vie en Rose’ and received critical acclaim for her acting in ‘Rust and Bone’. In Hollywood she became highly sought after having acted in films such as Woody Allen’s ‘Midnight in Paris’ and Michael Mann’s ‘Public Enemies’. She also starred in two of Christopher Nolan’s films ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ and ‘Inception’. Her performances in movies such as ‘Nine’, ‘A Good Year’, ‘The Immigrant’, and ‘Contagion’ has proven her ability to portray varied characters.

Charlotte Le Bon

This vivacious French-Canadian actress has received universal acclaim for her roles in films like ‘The Hundred-100 Foot Journey’, ‘The Walk’, ‘The Promise’, ‘Yves Saint Laurent’, and ‘Mood Indigo’. Starting off as a successful model she moved to Paris in 2011 and starred as Miss Météo in the talk show ‘Le Grand Journal’ on the small screen. Her first major role on the big screen was as Ophelia in the French comedy film ‘Astrrix and Obelix: God Save Britannia’. She continues to impress critics with her acting performances in movies such as ‘The Marchers, and ‘Big Bad Wolf’.

Audrey Tautou

This French actress is best known for her portrayal of the eccentric, shy waitress in the comedy ‘Amelie’ for which she won several accolades and awards. After attending acting classes at Cours Florent she landed a television movie production role in ‘Coeur de cible’. ‘Venus Beauty Institute’ was her feature film debut for which she was highly acclaimed. A daring actress that likes to experiment with different roles, she acted in the thriller ‘Dirty Pretty Things’. Tautou made her Hollywood debut starring with Tom Hanks in the film ‘The Da Vinci Code’.

Vanessa Paradis

Vanessa Paradis began her career in entertainment as a professional singer at the young age of 8. She was the face of Chanel for many years and has starred in numerous French films such as ‘Café de Flore’ and ‘Une chance sur deux’. Accolades for her acting performances include the Cesar Award and the Genie Award.

These are just a few of the many fabulous French actresses that have taken the movies by storm with their beauty and brilliant acting abilities.

Please check out the following list of the top 10 French movies – see if you can notice any of the actresses!