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

 

Dirk Gently (Season 1)

Alright, we’re back after the holidays and an extended vacation from reviewing. It seems that the Sun has also been on holiday seeing as we haven’t seen daylight in Saintes since before the New Year… on the bright side, this weather’s been great if your New Year’s resolutions were to, say, avoid melanoma or perhaps be more generally wet. This year is shaping up to be a good one for all the French vampires and pretty trash for everyone else.

~ This image ~ I nabbed off of Itunes. Thanks, ghost of Steve Jobs.

 

Moving on. All this ~ not-being-outside~ has given me some time to catch up on my Netflix queue, and after pounding back episode after episode in rapid succession, I’m ready to review season one of Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, created by Max Landis. This series is an adaption of Douglas Adams’ (Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy) novel by the same name, and has been described by one French critic as a “Dadaist nightmare,” so get yourself in the mood for a post-WWII quest for meaning in a meaningless world type-thing.

It’s a pretty good watch, though, definitely better than being turned into a dog by a gaggle of counter culture cultists looking to blackmail your… spoilers. I guess that’s getting into the realm of spoilers. That said, it’s definitely worse than actually being involved in the Universe’s plan to fix itself. That’s, like, an instant solution to existential dread—step aside, Sartre & Kierkegaard! I’m on a mission from the Universe and everything is connected and there is such a thing as Fate and Destiny, but they’re not mutually exclusive and they only kind of interfere with my free will to an unspecified, definitely non-paradoxical degree. You know how much time that would save me? I’d never worry again about the infinite number of ever multiplying, constantly diverging paths that lead out in all directions, the many headed hydra of possibilities that creeps closer, grows larger with every decision you make. It wouldn’t matter! I’d just be on one big ol’ universal superhighway with no exits, riding it until I eventually fall asleep at the wheel and crash the car.

What a dream that would be.

So, let’s talk about the characters and plot real quick. We’ve got ourselves a sort of Doctor Who, Sherlock Holmes-esque character named Dirk Gently. He’s got the superhuman ability to be exactly where he’s supposed to be in the Universe at any given time, and if you’re thinking, “Well, Zack, that’s not a superpower,” isn’t it though? Isn’t it? You can keep your invisibility and flight, because I know, at the end of the day, I’ll have either been hit by a car or shot down by an anti-aircraft gun. At least with Dirk’s superpower, I’ll die knowing that’s exactly how I was supposed to die.

Dirk is accompanied by Todd Brotzman, played Elijah Wood, who will reprise his role from Over the Garden Wall as extremely reluctant protagonist. Watch Todd’s transformation from begrudging sidekick to holistic parrot as he spends the latter half of the season regurgitating the same silly bullshit Dirk shoved down his throat in the exposition. They’ll also be joined by Todd’s sister, Amanda (played by Hannah Marks), and her struggle against a debilitating case of Pararibulitis, a made-up disease that seems like a cross between epilepsy and schizophrenia.  The whole thing with Pararibulitis becomes a little problematic by the end of the season though, but since another, more qualified blogger has already written about it (plus there are a few spoilers), I’ll pass you on over to them. (Click here)

The show’s main villain, played by Aaron Douglas, is fairly compelling and reminiscent of John Goodman’s performance in 10 Cloverfield Lane, just a lot less sinister. He definitely had a good creepy streak going for him in the beginning, but the more you learn about his character’s origin and motives, the more goofy and, at times, pathetic he seems, so by the end of the season, you don’t feel particularly threatened by him and his goons.

So where do we stand on this season? It’s definitely a good time all the way through, but I don’t know that you actually gain anything from watching it. What separates Dirk Gently from other characters in his archetype is that Dirk more often than not has no control over the situation and often becomes very overwhelmed by the absurdity he surrounds himself with. A good example of this is when Todd and Dirk infiltrate the home of Gordon Rimmer (the main antagonist), and Dirk very quickly finds himself well out of his depth. He becomes immediately paralyzed and useless by fear, which seems all the more peculiar as the show progresses and you learn the genesis of what seemed like Dirk’s precognitive and perceptive abilities. I think this makes him seem more relatable, and definitely sets him apart in the genre, but I don’t know that his character is wholly consistent.

Also, this show certainly has its share of gratuitous violence, which to be honest, I didn’t notice until a few episodes in (somewhere around the time the “holistic” assassin enters the fray). I’m not sure if this is more of a commentary on the series or my own viewing habits… or maybe society? Still, something to consider before watching.

All in all, I give this season six snowflakes. I wouldn’t say that it’s a must-see, but if you wanna get into that headspace where you’re mulling over the underlying interconnectedness of the world, this is definitely a good way to do it. Plus, it’s easier to come by than DMT and less of a commitment than LSD, though still not as potent.

I’m gonna go ahead and wrap this review up for now, and hopefully I’ll see y’all next week.

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.