The shootings in Paris happened just after my last post, so I've taken these two weeks to read and ruminate about the horrific event that made the world shudder. Like many people here in France, we have friends who lived in that Paris neighborhood, turning the surreal into reality. And of course it is not only Paris that has suffered, there have been terrorist events all over the world this month. They are also a grim reminder of 9/11, the Boston Marathon bombing, the Ford Hood massacre, and the long reach of terrorism. Photo left: Paris, bouelversée: perplexed and turned upside down.
This is the week we reflect on our many blessings, a week of gratitude. But it is also a week of la tristesse. Sadness for the victims, for the world's most beloved city, shaken to its core. Sadness for the many desperate refugees, whose path is likely to be much harder. Sadness for innocent Muslims who may be regarded with increased suspicion. Sadness for people who are possessed of such anger, envy, and hatred that they want to brutally murder children, to destroy historic monuments, to be willfully savage.
Is this a war of religion? "My God is better than your god" seems to be the theme, and one that has inspired so much war and brutality throughout history. But the situation is infinitely more complicated than that.
Dear readers, we so often share books and articles with each other, so I will share with you today some of the things I've read these past two weeks: the wise voices which have inspired, touched, reassured or terrified. Photo below: on the banks of the Seine, Lady Liberty stands proudly on the deck of a péniche (a riverside houseboat).
Here are some reading suggestions:
Frank Bruni, "How ISIS Defeats Us". He says in part, "ISIS isn’t about a finite pantheon of ruthless puppeteers. It’s about a region in violent disarray, a culture in crisis and all sorts of brutal crosscurrents that no drone alone can address. Our assault on ISIS must be multifaceted...We lose the war against ISIS by being simplistic. We lose it by letting emotion overtake reason."
Walter Shater for the NYT, "To Stop Radicalization, the French Need More Fraternité".
From Francis Clines: "The Real Terror Threat that Congress Should Confront". Which reveals that: "An egregious loophole that Congress has failed to close has allowed over 2,000 suspects on the federal terrorist watch list to freely buy firearms and explosives across a 10-year span. Data collected by the Government Accountability Office shows that at least 2,233 terrorist suspects on the watch list, though barred from airline flights, sought to buy guns between 2004 and 2014 and only 190 were rejected."
In Time Magazine this week, Madeleine Albright writes: "Our enemies want to divide the world between Muslims and non-muslims, between the defenders and attackers of Islam. By making Syrian refugees the enemy, we are playing into their hands. Instead we need to clarify that the real choice is between those who think it's OK to murder innocent people and those who think it is wrong."
John Alderdice, a House of Lords member and expert on countering terrorism, is a dear friend. He recommends this article for understanding ISIS. It's a necessary read but not a reassuring one. "Mindless Terrorists? The Truth about ISIS is Much Worse, by Scott Atran, writing for the Guardian.
I will also share My personal prayers for this Thanksgiving week:
--That we will honor the victims in this way: we will be brave, we will go on living freely, we will not allow the terrorists to bend our will. That is the best revenge.
--That France will make changes in their behavior toward Muslims: accept and integrate the Muslim community, and address the problem of disenfranchised Muslim youth. And that America too will fight discrimination in every form.
--That Europe and the US find a solution to the immigrant and refugee problem, with the kindness, compassion, and openness that has been a part of our history.
--That our leaders will not be weak, nor overreact emotionally to these events. That they will act thoughtfully and wisely and use all their resources to counter this distorted ideology, in addition to the military intervention that may be required. And that we as citizens will choose experienced, level-headed, humane candidates to fight this battle.
OK, deep breath, and we must all go on living, and be thankful for the beauty and love that the world offers, in the midst of suffering. On that note I wish you and yours the happiest of Thanksgiving holidays. And I offer a recipe to warm the soul in troubled times--and to use up any leftover pumpkin!
RECIPE: Pumpkin Pecan Bread or Maybe Cake, with Maple glaze
This recipe was inspired by a pumpkin bread recipe from Collaboreat. But I couldn't find my loaf pan so I made it in an 8x8 square cake pan, and cut it into squares. Which is better because with its nutty, cinnamon-infused streusel topping and maple glaze, it is more like cake and just as yummy, only healthier.
I've never seen canned pumpkin in France, but the French cook a lot with pumpkin, so I make my own purée. But canned works just fine.
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 large egg whites
1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling) , or fresh pumpkin purée
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
streusel topping (recipe below)
maple glaze (recipe below)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and greasea 8x8 (or 9x9) inch square cake pan with baking spray. Put flour, sugar, baking soda, spices, and salt in a medium bowl and whisk to combine. In a large bowl, use a hand mixer to beat oil, egg whites, pumpkin puree, and vanilla until thick.
Add the flour mixture to the pumpkin mixture and mix until just combined. Use a rubber spatula to put batter in the pan and sprinkle with streusel topping. Bake for 40-ish minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Drizzle with glaze.
Note: cover pumpkin bread with foil three-quarters of a way through if it appears to be browning too quickly. Cool it completely before you cut or eat it, it's not good hot; in fact it's better the next day.
For the Streusel Topping
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon & a dash of nutmeg
1 cup chopped pecans
1/4 cup butter, cut into pieces
Mix ingredients in a bowl with a fork or clean hands until crumbly. Sprinkle on top of pumpkin bread batter before baking.
For the Maple Glaze
1 cup powdered sugar
pure maple syrup
Mix syrup with sugar a few drops at a time, stirring after each addition, until it's the consistency of a glaze. Drizzle over cake.
In the COMMENTS: Besty, I’m on Scarf Probation and you are really getting me in trouble! How did I not know about Petrusse? Next trip to Paris I’ll sneak by. Ellie, real men DO wear scarves in France, (so do cowboys, per Herm), but I couldn’t find a man who would pose for me! Subject of a future post, I think. Julie, Sam and Natalia are kindred scarf spirits! Betina and Janine have great scarf-tying youtube tutorials to share, and Suzanne knows another scarf tying trick. Buffy and Debbie use scarves as decor, a fine idea.
Our loyal reader Colleen Taylor, a fine artist, has created her own scarf collection from her artwork. They’re beautiful one of a kind pieces. Her scarf at the right is called Bleu de France. You can see them all here.