Francegiving

Bonjour y’all, welcome to the American Fables’ Review… thingy. I really gotta come up with a better name for these. But that’s all just a bunch of hoopla for Season Two, because tonight I welcome you to the much anticipated

~ Season One Finale ~

At long last, the votes are in and it looks like we’ll be doing a review of the international holiday, Francegiving!

So, interesting tidbit about this review before we dig in: I’d already written this review back in November, right after Thanksgiving, but I never published it because I think I had a couple of other reviews that were ready and I thought this lil’ pup was a bit too hot to release just then. Now that it’s had a couple months to cool off, I think I’m ready to take a ~ trip ~ back to that particular time, and that very particular mindset.

Without further ado, let’s unscrew the lid on this little time capsule.

 


 

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Hey, everyone, today we’re going to do a very special review. It’s the beginning of the holiday season, and I thought I’d go ahead and kick it off with a review of the national French holiday, Francegiving. Now, I know a lot of you probably have objections like, “Zack, that’s not a real thing” or, “Zack, you can’t review holidays, that doesn’t make any sense,” but honestly, after a bottle of wine and a day like today, I can review anything I damn well please.

So let’s dig into it. En gros, Francegiving is a holiday celebrated by American expats residing in France. It’s based off the American holiday, Thanksgiving, a day of relentless indulgence (not to be confused with Mindless Self-Indulgence) and intense visceral regret coupled with undercurrents of thankfulness and familial tensions. Traditionally, an American family will hunt down a wild turkey, slay it, pull out all of its feathers, stuff bread into its butt cave and roast it in an oven. Following the ritual hunt, they will then share their turkey with a tribe of Native Americans, so as to render them sluggish and complacent prior to appropriating their land or running piping in or around it—oops! Almost got a little ~ political. ~ That reminds me though: what’s one crucial difference between Francegiving and Thanksgiving? No heated family debates over politics! Not because there aren’t any politics over here, but rather there isn’t any, uh, family here. Not for me anyway, I mean, that is to say,

I am alone.

Let’s go ahead and break down this holiday into its base components: there’s the invitation stage, the meal prep stage, and then the actual feast itself. Naturally we’re gonna take this thing apart chronologically, starting by dismantling the invitation stage. Now, Francegiving is unique among holidays in that it is a celebration that absolutely no one expects you to celebrate, and one that you have zero obligation to participate in. Unlike Thanksgiving, your family won’t be dragging you along to any relatives’ places and you won’t get invited to, like, ten different “Friendsgivings.” This means that when you decide to participate in Francegiving, you have no one but yourself to blame.

That said, I’m a Francegiving veteran, having celebrated it twice in my life, and I’ve learned that this special holiday can look a lot of different ways. For example, my first Francegiving was spent in the beautiful city of Lyon and I didn’t have many friends and I lived in a tiny dorm outside of town, so I bought a whole pizza that night and ate it. All of it. By myself.

But this time was different, and last week I walked into the office and told my colleagues that this year we were going to celebrate Francegiving! Sure, you know, it took a little explaining, but I also told them that I was going to cook food for them and supply beer, so they agreed, and that is how this year’s invitation stage kicked off.

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Holidays are for family.

Since you’re in another country where you don’t know many people, and, depending on when you arrived, the people you do know you probably don’t know very well, it’s quite likely that you’ll accrue an eclectic bunch of thankful, albeit confused, kinda-friends. For example, you might want to invite the nice butcher who reminds you of your middle school band teacher, or perhaps your much older neighbors, or your roommate because they can’t really say no. Just make that a staple in your conversations for a week, inviting everyone you talk to, and making sure to mention that you’ll be cooking food and supplying alcohol. Remember, in the moment, it doesn’t matter who you invite or what you say, because it’s your future self that has to deal with all this and not your present self.

Now, after you’ve invited people over for Francegiving, you’re going to want to devote a very minimal, though constant, stream of attention to the project. This way, you can maximize distress by thinking extra about this event without actually doing anything to prepare for it. This is the psychological equivalent of packing peanuts: you can make it seem like you’ve crammed a lot into a week while having done nothing extra at all. The best way to do this, in my opinion, is to start thinking about preparations every night at 7:45, right when the E. LeClerc closes. Meditate on these feelings of malaise until bedtime, and then coast off the norepinephrine till the wee hours of the morning. This strategy is doubly effective, because not only will you accumulate more stress the next day due to sleep deprivation, but you’ll also miss the free air markets in the morning because you’ll be sleeping in. Since all the seasonal food you know how to make requires stupidly specific ingredients that are only offered periodically in the grocery store and in the markets, missing the markets is essential to securing that last minute frenzy you’ll want the day of Francegiving.

By now you might be feeling a little uncomfortable, maybe there’s some subtext to this review that I should be more forward about. You’re probably saying something like, “well geez, no one made you celebrate this holiday,” and, “golly gee, mister, do you maybe wanna talk about this in a less public space.” But honestly, No, this is just another straight forward review from a straight shooting guy. So, that brings us to the preparation stage which should begin in earnest the morning of, at the earliest. Since celebrating Francegiving necessitates that you live in France, you won’t have the day off work, because the government for some reason doesn’t recognize Francegiving as an official holiday. That’s perfect though, because this means you get to wake up extra early before work, buy everything at the supermarket and then try and cook it all right after work. Hopefully you’ve set the RDV time optimistically early in the evening so that you’ll be sprinting back to your apartment to ram-jam that turkey in the oven.

Pause. Breath. Un-pause.

Let’s talk about what you’ll actually be buying: everything. Buy all the things you could conceivably cook in one day if that day was on Venus, and make sure that you do none of the unit conversions at home. Some of my fondest memories of Francegiving as a twenty-three year old took place right there, in the canned food aisle of LeClerc, trying to figure out how many grams 30 ounces of corn is. Look up none of the translations beforehand either, because Francegiving is all about the journey and part of that journey is trying to explain what nutmeg is to a sale’s clerk while you’re running late for work.

I recommend a price range of somewhere around 100 euros, or roughly one eighth of your monthly salary. Anything less than that isn’t going to be enough to  trigger an existential crisis. See, 100 euros is the threshold for calling into question your motives for planning this event in the first place: why would you spend that much money on something you didn’t need or necessarily want to do in the first place? Not to mention, you’ve known these people for, what, about two or three months, au maximum? This is just going to be awkward. Like, you wouldn’t even normally spend this kind of money on people you’ve known for years, why are you going to do it for virtual strangers? Clearly, you’re not doing this for them, but are you really doing it for you?  You would’ve been perfectly satisfied to Facetime in to one of your friend’s Friendsgivings or your family’s actual Thanksgiving. So if it’s not for them, and it’s not for you, then who is it for?

Let’s talk about the meal. Now, you should anticipate a certain level of

C

O

N

F

U

S

I

O

N. As per tradition, you’ve not explained what Thanksgiving is to any of your guests or why it is you want to celebrate it. You may expect,

for example, that one of your guests brings an apéritif or some biscuits to enjoy before the meal. This will be a

blessing

in

disguise, because testing your oven for the first time on Francegiving means that you’ll have turned the oven off several times by accident

I mean, if it wasn’t in accident, it was self-sabotage. Why would I do that?

Why would anyone do that?

while trying to cook your turkey. Consequently, when you open your front door and accept the apéritif from your neighbor, telling him or her that the cuisse de dinde is cooking as we speak and will be ready in an hour, that will be,

in fact,

what we North Carolinians call,

a lie.

And by extension, this also means that the turkey will not,

in any way, shape, or form,

be ready by dinner time.

… Just needed to refill my glass real quick before continuing on.

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Never fear the black smoke! 

Let’s talk about mysterious black smoke. For any other holiday celebration, mysterious black smoke would be a real canary in the coal mine, indicating that something is clearly amiss. But on Francegiving, never fear the black smoke, it’s great for reinforcing the sense of enigma surrounding your strange hybrid celebration. The annual black smoke hunt is a time-honored tradition, and I think we can all agree, it’s less about actually finding the source than the maddening, frenzied hunt.   

Sooner or later, the nature of time will inevitably see you all seated at the dinner table. Tis’ now the season for merriment and non-familial bonding between you and your melange of hastily adopted family members. Remember all those great equivocating skills you learned in French Lit class? Time to employ all the genre de’s, the Une sorte de’s, the C’est compliqué’s, and all the En fait, je sais pas du tout qu’est-ce que c’est ou comment l’expliquer, mais à la base c’est une…’s that you’ve ~ bien maîtrisé ~ to describe your savory simulacra of recipes you grew up with and still never learned to properly cook.

Some of you might be worried about cooking food for French people given their rich culinary patrimony, but let me just tell you, sample size of four and they all ate my stuffing so don’t you worry about a thing. For those of you who’re reading this that aren’t from the States, stuffing is literally stale white bread that is made to be put inside of a turkey’s excavated asshole. So, really, there are two take away points: don’t be afraid to cook for other people, and the bar for acceptable French cuisine is considerably lowered the moment bread is added to a recipe.

What else did I cook besides stale bread crumbs? Well, let’s break it down, listicle style:

 


Three Recipes you Absolutely Cannot Forget about this Francegiving

Dishes that will make the holiday season memorable for everyone in the office whose first name you remembered.

Corn Swamp,
The Martha Stewart approved recipe for abiogenesis.

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Mega Crispy Turkey Leg, 
Mega crispy, yet somehow still not cooked all the way through.

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Butternut Squash Puddle,
Perfect pie surface, hiding the sloppy-slop lagoon below. 

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Well, that about does it for today’s review. I don’t want to come off as a sellout, but I should be upfront and disclose that this review was, in part, paid for by Schadenfreude— Schadenfreude, the disconcerting feeling of joy you get when get when you watch someone else fall down stairs or see Sarah Huckabee Sanders take the podium.

In total, I give Francegiving my first score of 0. Zilch. Aucun flocon de neige. What I’m saying is: don’t celebrate this holiday. Just don’t. Thanksgiving is about being thankful for good fortune and family; Friendsgiving is about being thankful for friends (and white affluence, I’d imagine). Francegiving? Francegiving is about an Instagram post.

Look, if you have friends in France, have yourself a Friendsgiving, tag it #Francegiving, and be done with it. But whatever you do, don’t try and build this baby from the ground up. Instead, just buy yourself un demi, or maybe even a pint, and call your mom. Have her put you on speakerphone, say hi to the fam, and tell them all what a wonderful time you’re having across the pond and how much you miss them this Thanksgiving.

 


 

And that’s it. We’ve reached the end of Season One of Today in Review. Yep, that’s what we’re going with, we’re calling the thing Today in Review and sticking with it.

I really do hope you’ve enjoyed this project so far. I know I have.

We’re back in a couple months with another season, but in the meantime, we’ll be focusing our energies on developing our fiction catalogue. If you haven’t read our first two complete short, Sun Shines Bright and A Trip Down Memory Lane, please do. We’ll be publishing new chapters of Lost in the Woods soon, and hopefully releasing all new stories, unrelated to The Escapists.

One final note: we’re always looking to work with new artists, so if you’re interested, feel free to contact us here, at:

Americanfablesofficial@gmail.com

Send illustrations, animations, stories—you name it, we’ll be happy to look over it.

Until next time,

À toute, y’all.

-Z

 

Purée de Sésame

Sésame Butter, Demi-Complète, puréed by La Vie Claire; reviewed by me.

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Photograph of the sesame butter manufacturing process, taken by the AF Media Division.

Bonjour y’all, and welcome to another riveting review brought to you from Saintes, France. Today we’ll be tucking in to the world of gastronomy and French cuisine with a sinfully unsweet jar of La Vie Claire’s Purée de sésame demi-complète.

In a world where the white, middle-class man can live at large without fear of major, non-fiscal consequences for his actions, comes one big jar of repercussion.
It’s the original  “slap-on-the-wrist” for your tongue;
it’s a Trojan horse filled with awful;
it’s La Vie Claire’s sesame butter, and it’s come to sucker punch you in your mouth.

Let’s really get into it, though. First off, I gotta say, it’s pretty bad. Eating this is definitely better than eating bark, but only because you don’t have to chew it first. That said, eating this butter is probably worse than taking a bath in it: it tastes like something that would be way better to rub on your skin, like soap or a good aftershave.

I originally bought this after deciding to go vegan and having no idea what to eat. I was lost, confused, and I didn’t know where to go or what to do… I’d traveled too far down the millennial rabbit hole without a lantern. I needed a light, a guide, and then there it was, in the back of the organic food co-op–my Virgil. Little did I know, Dante’s three part voyage to a more eco-friendly Paradise wasn’t all Musky space cars and community gardens, but it also involved the occasional unsuspecting bite of liquid mediocrity.

I do wonder, though, what did they actually have in mind for this product when they made it? Maybe it wasn’t made to be eaten, and this has all been one big misunderstanding. It’s all too possible that somebody simply moved this purée from the Health & Beauty section and misplaced it in the comestible section. Hmm, if we just have ourselves a look on the back of the jar… “Cette purée est préparée à partir de graines de sésame complet…” blah, blah, blah here’s a summary:

This is a purée composed of shelled and… well, I’d say de-shelled, but that’s not a word. The thing is, there’s already a word for de-shelled: it’s shelled. If you shell something, it no longer has a shell. Which means it’s shelled. But if something has a shell on it, then you can also call it shelled. I… I don’t know what to say anymore. The only word I want to use is shelled, a word now devoid of meaning, torn apart by the duality of its definition.

Anyway, it’s a purée made of half no shells and half shelly sesame seeds, mashed to bits, and thrown in a jar. Apparently, it’s the shelly seeds that give it its ~ strong ~ flavor, and I guess that means they really did intend for us to smear this in our mouth holes. Huh.

It’s not all bad news, though! If you swallow, or just hold it in your mouth for a long time, you’ll absorb a wide range of nutrients such as fiber, magnesium, and phosphorus (which I didn’t know I needed, but if it lights a match, I want it in my body!). Speaking of fire, this mash has never even heard of it: the only thing this purée has been subjected to is ritualistic grinding on the ol’ millstone. No heat, no pasteurization, no preservatives, no sterilization… I presume none of these precautions were taken because even fungi were like, “Oh, better not. I’ll stick with your unsealed bread loaves and warm milk.”

You know, it’s also possible this is all about food combinations or whatever. According to the back of the jar, you can use it in your vegetable pâtés or you can dilute it in water and… add it to your drinks? Seems a little out of left field, but alright, you can add it to your drinks. Actually, I’ve got some oat milk in the fridge—maybe their equal wave functions of awfulness will cancel out and I’ll be left with just, like, normal milk. One final suggestion is to simply spread it on toast, which is, in fact, the first thing I ever tried to do with it. What this does is effectively slow the chewing and consumption process down to increase time spent on your tongue, prolonging the contact between your wriggly taste worm and this wood paste. I would just not.

All in all, I give it nine snowflakes, because eating this product was a genuinely new and invigorating experience for me. Like being pinched in a dream or dunked with water mid-slumber, my eyes have been opened! For too long I’d lived coddled under the flanneled wing of Trader Joe and Whole Foods. Then, La Vie Claire came in to my life like a leather-clad Dom or The Contortionist and showed me what it truly meant to be metal.

I’m not saying this stuff is good; it isn’t. It’s definitely one of the worst things I’ve ever tasted and that’s including many inedible things I accidentally (or purposefully) put in my mouth as a kid. But I’m giving it nine snowflakes because it’s a new perspective for me and it’s just, I don’t know, authentic. It’s genuine—it’s got nothing but the raw ingredients.  We, the consumer, asked for food that was untampered with, with no added sugars, no preservatives, no nothing, and only one champion of truth stepped out from the shadows and dared give us what we asked for. La Vie Claire was the only one who was able to not only call us out on our bullshit, but serve it right back to us with a giant ORGANIC sticker on it.

So, there you have it. Hope you enjoyed the review; feel free to drop a Comment, slap on a Like, or maybe even spread it around with a Share. Whatever’s in your practice today. Until next time, keep it viscous, y’all.

Croix de Guilan

Hey, so today we’re live-reviewing a two-day old bottle of Buzet’s Croix de Guilan that’s been hanging out in my fridge. It’s in the Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon family and it pairs well with boiled chicken (poule au pot). It also pairs well with stir-fried mushrooms (poêlée de cèpes), wild boar stew (civet de sanglier), and a tray of cheese (plateau de fromage). I don’t know if that’s supposed to be all at once, or if you’re having any one of those dishes separately you’re good to go, but you’ve definitely got options. I’ll be drinking this wine with a meager side of nothing else, because I already ate my supper.

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This wine is meant to be served at 17-18°C, and since I don’t really know too much about Celsius other than room temperature was always 25°C in chemistry class, I’m gonna say that 17-18° is prolly about the temperature of my fridge. As I said, I opened it two days ago with some friends, so it’s had a little time to respirate. Should be a pretty relaxed and chill wine by now—let’s go!

First, we’ve got to do the swirly-swirly around the glass. At first glance, I notice that this glass is a lot dirtier than I originally thought. To be honest, I didn’t know we had any wine glasses in the apartment, otherwise I would’ve been using them instead of mugs for the last month and half. I found this one tonight, actually, while doing the dishes and if I’m being perfectly honest with myself, that’s the reason I started writing this review. It’s probably fine though, shouldn’t interfere with my assessment. Looks like we’ve got about ten or so bubbles slippin’ down the side. Pretty good. Nice and smooth vibe I’m picking up. Maybe overfilled the glass a bit; there’s wine all down the front of my sweatshirt.

I’m getting pretty excited now. I know I’m not, like, a professional oncologist or anything like that, but I have to say, this wine tasting thing is really growing on me. Half the experience of wine tasting is in the build up: the anticipation of that first sweet sip is what heightens your senses and allows you to pick out every individual note that the wine has to offer. Two weeks ago, my buddy told me a story about an orthodontist that could tell you after one sip what perfume the guy or girl who was making the wine was wearing at the time of its bottling. He told me the story in French, so I may have misheard or confused some of the details.

Next we’ve got to look at a cross-section of this wine, shining a light through it while holding it up to a white surface and tilting the glass. Definitely massively overfilled the glass, it’s hard to get a good… oh, yep, there’s some wine on the table now. It’s alright, though, I still got a pretty good gradient going on here. Yeah, I’m seeing now that this glass needed a good rub and a sponge bath before the tasting. But still, strong reds and a clear sort of transparent edge. Definitely gonna be a full-bodied wine with that kind of nebulous red tone’d’ness.

So, we’re running this whole thing from the memory I have from two weeks ago in Bordeaux when my buddy showed us how to drink wine, as well as my somewhat abstract notion of how wine tasting works, and I think the next step is to give it a good sniff whilst slowly rotating the glass. The rotation helps relax the wine and make it feel more comfortable releasing its smelly-smells into your face’s scent port. I’m smelling it now; it’s got a good smell, very red, definitely notes of fermented grape. I’m going to say a certain sweetness as well, maybe like a juice-box grape or a grape lolly kind of thing going on here.

Giving it a taste now. Yeah, really hit it on the nose with the red. I’m going to say that’s the dominate flavor tone at work here, really the tonic note, if you will. I’ll go even further actually and say that the sub-dominant note is grape, with a leading sour raisin finish that brings us right back to the red tonic flavor.

I’m not gonna lie, I did try and look to the bottle for a little help here in my saveur analysis, but it turns out that Buzet’s main selling point isn’t the flavor of their wine, but rather their production method. They don’t use any chemical fertilizer, they promote the development of local fauna and flora blah, blah, blah… they did at one point say, “Le travail de la Terre, le soin apporté à la vigne, la sélection des grappes, le suivi attentif de la vinification et le savior-faire des œnologues, vows garantissent des vins dont nous sommes fiers,” and I thought, “BOW! Really nailed it on the grape tones,” until I realized that grappes in French is actually “a bunch/bundle of fruit.” Pretty interesting vineyard though, their slogan/motto/thing is “une viticulture respectueuse de l’Homme et de la Nature” (a viticulture respectful of both Man and Nature). I am a man, and I felt like the wine was very respectful when it entered my mouth, and it for sure had some earthy tones too, harkening its natural origins, but again, that might have just been the dirty glass.

Anyway thank y’all for tuning in for today’s review. I hope you liked my first foray into the world of oenology. I think this has been a very promising first step down the road to a kind of Dionysian awakening. I give this wine four Snowflakes for anyone thinking about buying it—it’s well worth the four to six euros I spent on it. If you enjoyed this review, or want to see more like it, leave me a comment, like my post, or send me a message.