Searching for Family and Traditions at the French Table: Book Two Nord-Pas-de-Calais, Normandy, Brittany, Loire and Auvergne: Savoring the Olde Ways
by Carole Bumpus
I have eagerly awaited this, the second part of Carole Bumpus’ culinary tour searching for family and traditions at the French table, and I was not disappointed.
Carole and her good French Californian friend and translator Josiane Selvage begin this adventure by heading to the Somme, a now beautiful area which was the site of some of the most horrendous battles in WWI and WWII, and indeed even now, dotted throughout the countryside and coastal towns are the remains of the wartime bunkers, along with the memorials to the thousands who died there.
Then they carry on through the Nord-Pas-de-Calais to Dunkirk to meet with an old friend Veronique, and her mother, and thus their culinary journey begins as they discover the delights of cuisine pauvre or peasant food of France.
For those of us who love France and also who have a deep respect and interest in the tales of the older generations, this book is a real gem. Carole and Josiane are invited into many households on their travels, and they provide wonderful snapshots of the families, their history and that of the regions. The book is overflowing with descriptions of the wonderful regional produce and tales of times gone by.
Following the coast, the pair travel west, driving through Normandy and catching up with old friends. Near Mont St. Michel they stop off at the Manoir and are lucky enough to obtain an interesting interview with M. Barreaux, its owner and head chef. It is there that they are able to savor the delicacy of pré-salé d’agneau. These lambs (agneau) graze by the bay, consuming the salt-encrusted marsh grasses, and this is what gives their meat its unique flavor. Just one of the many exceptional local products they are lucky enough to sample on this amazing journey as they travel on through picturesque Brittany, with its breath-taking coastal views, wonderful architecture, and of course the delicious cuisine, before heading down to the Pays de la Loire.
The Pays de la Loire and the Loire Valley hold a special place in my heart because it has been my home for the last 16 years. Sampling its wonders is a daily pleasure, and I have enjoyed visiting the tuffeau cave homes, and the mushroom caves, in the area, taking home their produce to cook. However, I was fascinated to read about the truffle farms, with their truffle dogs (and pig,) and discover some of the uses of this world-renowned delicacy. The majestic chateaux and beautiful landscape of woods and vineyards truly comes alive through the author’s wonderfully descriptive writing, and it is no wonder that this incredible area steeped in history is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
However France has a diverse landscape and soon the pair find themselves noticing that it has changed, first to rolling hills, and then more mountainous, as they arrive in the Auvergne region, the Massif Central. Here, as in all over France local produce is celebrated, from the scallops and oysters of the coast to the Auvergne’s Fête du Cochon where each year a pig is slaughtered and is the center of celebrations, as this is an important time of the year and a traditional part of village life.
This book captures the French people, their love of family and friends, their generosity, and their passion for sharing good quality fresh local food. The author has generously ended the book with a collection of some of the wonderful recipes for us to enjoy making in our kitchens, whilst embracing the flavors and traditions of French family life.
Throughout it, however, the devastating effect the World Wars have reeked on families, and communities is heart-breaking. Yet despite this these people have survived and carried on with fortitude. The tragedies have given strength to this nation, emboldened them with incredible comradeship, and inspired the bravery of the resistance.
In conclusion, I would highly recommend this excellent book, and I am sure it will be enjoyed by anyone loving, France, cooking, traditions, and history.
Soaring Through Silent Skies
by Brian Ehlers
In this inspirational book the author, Brian Ehlers, really proves that Eleanor Roosevelt’s quote ‘life is what you make it,’ can be true. In revealing his story the readers get a glimpse into what it is like living life severely-hard-of-hearing and becoming a volleyball star.
Brian and his older sisters Debbie and Laurie were born in Minnesota, but the family moved to Southern California, and this is where he grew up. His childhood memories are happy as part of a loving and supportive family, however very early on his parents noticed him not responding to his name and it was discovered that he was severely hard-of-hearing. They decided to enroll him in the nearby John Tracy Clinic which was one of the world’s most acclaimed private providers of audiology diagnostics education and family support for pre-school to young hearing-impaired youth. Here he learned to master lip reading without a hearing aid, and this empowered the young Brian, enabling him to attend mainstream schools. As a child he embraced life, traveling with his family, enjoying adventures and this established his positive thinking attitude, allowing him to believe nothing could stop him from achieving his dreams.
He went to Chadwick private school and learned there that it takes commitment and dedication to succeed at sport. His two favorites were basketball and volleyball, however, it was volleyball which was to become his focus. After Chadwick, he went to Pepperdine and during the following years had an extremely successful sporting career.
It is through following his career the reader discovers the sacrifices and dedication required when training for the Olympics and major sporting events. Although in time, an injury forced retirement from playing professionally, his love of volleyball continued.
As husband to Gracie and father to Jake and Laney, his focus in life changed to being a good father, and a successful businessman. He discovered other ways of supporting his favorite sport and was eventually to accept an offer to come out of retirement and successfully coached volleyball at TCA. However, over time he realized his true passion was to focus on helping players at all levels get better, and achieve their own personal best, and teaching them that it was not all about winning, and as in with other avenues in life, you grow by facing adversity.
This attitude has helped the author face challenges in his own life, and as the book draws to a close we find him offering an important piece of advice to his readers, and this is, “Live your story, make a positive impact on the world, and leave a legacy that is yours.”
There is no doubt that the author has had an incredible impact on those around him throughout his life. His resilience, positive attitude, his impact on the people he has coached and the volleyball scene, and his passion for his children, make this memoir a truly unforgettable read.
Cross Winds: Adventure and Entrepreneurship in the Russian Far East
By Steven Myers
Steven Myers, the award-winning author of this awe-inspiring book has had an unparalleled career. He graduated from Stanford University with a BS in Mathematics, is a serial entrepreneur, director of public and private company boards, CEO, coach, author, public speaker, and aviator. He has achieved astonishing success with his company SM&A, which is an international management consulting firm serving aerospace and defense, aviation, telecommunications and other high-tech industry clients, he is a two-time US Air Force veteran, and a loving husband and father.
In this incredible story which is accompanied by amazing photographs, the author pays homage to the famous Charles Lindbergh, the American aviator who made the first non-stop transatlantic aircraft flight in 1927. He does this by sharing with his readers his own incredible adventure when in 1992 he became the first American aviator to pilot an aircraft into the Russian Kamchatka Peninsula, since Charles and Anne Lindberg’s flight in 1931.
Steven Myers amazing adventure was an incredible aviation feat, and one which had to be completed adhering to the three basic rules of aviation: Don’t crash, don’t run out of gas, and don’t get lost. The latter was a challenge as in 1992 the Air Force had a few satellites in orbit, but although GPS was being created and was starting to appear for land and boat use, there was nothing available for the aviation market.
With fortitude and attention to detail, this serial entrepreneur, called upon his knowledge, meticulous planning, and determination and then on the 4th July 1992 he began this epic journey, flying out of US airspace, across the Bering Strait, into former Soviet Union airspace, through Siberia, and into the Kamchatka peninsula. He was accompanied by Tom Heinsheimer, space scientist and Vice President of SM&A, Tom’s wife, Julie, an expert in Russian cultural affairs, Ed Beall, a Torrance architect and urban planner, Mike Stoner, 31, of Palos Verdes, a photographer and documentary film producer. When they eventually touched down at Russia’s Provideniya airport, they were joined by Viktor Shlyaev who had been assigned to fly with them whilst they were in Russia. This likable man was their interpreter, navigator, companion, and, of course, the eyes of the State.
The journey for all concerned was amazing and the book has wonderful photographs. Through the author’s incredibly descriptive writing the diverse landscapes they viewed comes alive. From Icebergs in Alaska to the scenery of the Kamchatka River Valley, which runs south between the two ranges and contains twenty-nine active volcanos. He also treats us to fly-on-the-wall glimpses into the everyday lives of the people he visited, from remote villagers to mighty Heads of State.
For those interested in aviation and technology the details throughout the book will provide an in-depth insight into aviation and space technology.
With this flight Steven Myers also helped create a union between the United States and the governor of Kamchatka being pivotal in establishing one of the first successful Russian-American ventures. He helped create a refueling base for carriers with international cargo near the city of Petropavlovsk and introduced entrepreneurship into post-Soviet Russia. In doing so he pioneered expansive business enterprises with the potential to transform the lives of the people of the Russian Far East.
I have never read a book which can come anywhere near this one as a real-life adventure, an expedition into unknown territory, facing dangerous situations, and throughout told by the man himself, ‘the real deal.’ In this book the author reflects on what makes people like Lindberg go on to live exceptional lives, and where do they get the courage from? For me, he answers this question by telling his readers his own near-death experience at the bottom of a crevasse on Mt. Rainier. He reveals that during the experience he never considered he would not survive, perhaps it was his ability to face adversity with courage, and discovering his inner strength which led him to go on to live his own remarkable life and has made him the man he is today. Highly recommended!
by Lang Fafa Dampha
In this interesting story we follow the immigration, hopes, and dreams of the protagonist Sainy as he leaves his native Gambia, in search of a better life in Paris. This migration is seen as a way of securing a better future, however it is still a courageous thing for the young Gambian man to do.
The story begins with Sainy’s plane descending to Roissy, Paris Charles De Gaule. Immediately he discovers how different Europe smells, how dull it is, and how wet. Yet, this is the place where his future lies, and he is soon to learn that life in Europe is very, very different from his native Africa.
He manages to find lodgings in Paris with Janneh, a friendly African who is extremely generous and is very caring, and his wife Kaddy. However life amongst the African community in Paris is very different from back home. He discovers that the women benefit from the famous French “Allocation familiale” – Child Benefit monthly, free medical care, and transport on the buses and the metro. In this promised land of Liberté Égalité Fraternité the role of the woman is very different from in Gambia, and this is something the women and their husbands find it difficult to adjust to.
Sainy manages to secure a temporary residents permit for three months and spends his time watching how his people live and behave in this other country, comparing in very thought-provoking ways, the lives they lead now to how their lives would have been, had they stayed in Africa. He discovers the ‘Peculiar’ attitude of his people living in this very different country, noticing their anger and how the roles are different. His people may be in another country, far from Gambia, but their heritage and roots still stand firm in their hearts and outlook, especially when they feel there is injustice. He discovers that some traditions like the replacement of wives if one dies are still maintained even though they are out of their own country, and realises that it is impossible for his people not to compare the differences in the cultures and how it affects them. It is interesting that as he watches it doesn’t seem to occur to him that he might adjust the same, and that under the umbrella of Europe he may adapt, and adopt these different values himself.
He falls in love with the beautiful Gambian divorcée Fatou. She had admired him since they first met at Kaddy’s, and they got to know each other more. A mother of a young son, she looks after him well and eventually they become engaged and married. The icing is truly on the plate when Sainy receives his residency permit, now nothing can stop him following his dreams…
The author of this interesting and thought-provoking story, Lang Fafa Dampa was born in the Gambia, migrated to Paris, where he earned a B.A. in English Language and Literature, and a Ph.D. in English Studies (Society and Culture). He also taught Legal English (Law and Politics – UK/USA) and Economic English, for two years before returning to Africa and working as a Senior Research and Programme Officer at the African Union office (the African Academy of Languages) in Bamako, Mali, from November 2009 to July 2015, and as Acting Executive Secretary from August 2015 to December 2018, and from then to now as Executive Secretary of the same institution.
This fascinating story gives its readers a true look into the lives of Gambian immigrants to Europe, showing the adjustments they have to make, and what drives them to succeed.