In search of lost time

December 18, 2020 • 1:15 pm

Truth be told, it’s a cold and lazy day, with one lone hen (named Soft-Serve) swimming in a half-frozen pond, and a tired PCC(E) trying to stay awake. Braining just isn’t on today, so let’s revisit some of the past—without the help of madeleines or tilleul. That is, here are a some old photos for your delectation. Click to enlarge them.

First, here’s a photo that warms my heart: Honey overseeing her 17 offspring, half of which weren’t hers but were kidnapped from Dorothy. It was a great joy for me to see Dorothy re-nest and produce a brood of her own, which she raised to fledging.  This photo was taken on June 12 of this year. Yes, Honey stole another hen’s brood, but she took good care of them, and all flew away. She’s now produced 29 ducklings on my watch.

The Hermitage in St. Petersburg, where I spent two glorious days in July, 2011, surrounded by palatial architecture and fantastic paintings. It’s still the nicest art museum I’ve ever visited in regards to architecture and paintings (the Louvre comes second):

Throne room, with lovely inlaid floors:

You’re allowed to take photos so long as you don’t use a flash. Here’s a gorgeous Rembrandt: “The Descent from the Cross” (1634):

And what may be one of the few Leonardos in the world: it’s not absolutely certain this is by his hand: “Madonna Litta” (ca. 1495, sadly with a glass reflection). The Hermitage labels this as a genuine Leonardo. (It’s my goal to see every Leonardo painting in existence, though I can’t be arsed now to look up how many there are.)

October, 2011: Mark Twain’s house in Hartford, Connecticut. During the Freedom from Religion Foundation’s annual meeting, where I spoke that year, the FFRF ran a field trip to the house. (Twain was, of course, an atheist.) You can see he made enough dosh to have a big place to live! Some say it was designed to partly resemble a riverboat, which of course Twain had piloted (that’s where he got his pseudonym):

Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-president of the FFRF raffling “clean money”, i.e., currency printed before 1957, and thus lacking the “In God We Trust” motto added by Congressional declaration that year:

I traveled a lot that year. In October I spoke in Valencia, and my friends took me to the market. Such delicious raw hams for sale!

The Spanish love their ham, as do I:

Local mushrooms:

And local people waiting to cross the street:

Olives of all sorts!


After Madrid I met a friend in Switzerland, near Geneva. Two trees on a walk:

Richard Burton’s house in Céligny, Switzerland, where he died in 1984. He was 58. Note the ducks on the gate.

January, 2012: After the Evolution Society’s mid-year officers’ meeting in Costa Rica, I traveled around a bit. This is the humble abode of Alexander Skutch, (1904-2004; a near centenarian), the great ornithologist who lived here for many years. It’s now a museum, but preserves the house as it was when he lived there:

The house is just as he left it, including his clothes, office, and books. As you see below, he was well read:

The Skutches had a beautiful garden with local and imported plants.

And of course there was a bird feeder, replenished with fruit. Can you identify these two birds?

Finally, a few photos of the famous field station La Selva, where I spent two weeks in 1974 as a grad student in the OTS Tropical Ecology Course. Here I was, back again nearly 38 years later.

Some birds (you identify them; I can’t):

Sexual dimorphism:

Some bats on the ceiling of the field station; the dots are marks put on by researchers:

And my favorite frog (besides Atelopus coynei, of course), Oophaga pumilio (I knew it as Dendrobates pumilio). There are several color morphs, and this one gives it the name “blue jeans frog”. It’s a poison-arrow frog, very toxic—as you might guess from its coloration:

I love making these posts. In a time of no travel or adventure, they bring back good memories.

Tonight: The University of Chicago’s world famous Latke-Hamantash Debate

December 17, 2020 • 10:45 am

The famous Latke-Hamantash Debate of the University of Chicago, now copied by a lot of wannabee schools, takes place tonight. (It started here in 1946.) I’ve been to it a couple of times, and it’s always a hoot. The premise is that local scholars, using only data and analyses from their own academic fields, debate the merits of the two Jewish foods latkes (potato pancakes) and hamantashen (triangular cookies filled with prune or apricot paste, usually eaten during Purim). The debate continues the classical disputations of Judaism, and, like those, cannot be settled.

The debaters, nearly always Jewish, are required to wear academic gowns.

Here’s the entire debate from 2016—the 70th debate. As usual, it begins with a musical piece, and then an introduction. Then the real fun begins: the arguments. They were good that year. Shadi Bartsch, a classical scholar, is also married to our University’s President.

This year, sadly, it’s a virtual debate, but the show goes on, as it has yearly since 1946, but I’m sure it’ll be as funny as ever. You can read about this year’s debate here, which begins tonight at 7 p.m. Central (Chicago) time, and you can register here for a free webcast link, and learn who the three speakers will be. Usually there are at least six speakers, and the debate always ends in a tie. Afterwards, the audience and speakers repair to the nearby refectory, where the two items at issue are served to all.

Latkes (with applesauce, though sour cream is a popular topping as well:

The estimable hamantash, here in the classic prune-filled version:

The post-debate nosh in years past:

Images from the 65th Latke Hamantash Debate at Mandel Hall at the University of Chicago on November 22, 2011. (Photo by Jason Smith)

Halloween special: elephants

October 20, 2020 • 2:45 pm

Here’s a treat: giant elephant eating hypertrophied pumpkins. They are, of course, Asian elephants (ears are small), Elephas maximus.

The caption from the Oregon Zoo:

Visitors watched some of the world’s largest land animals demolish a couple of the area’s largest pumpkins at 11 a.m. Friday, Oct. 18, during the Oregon Zoo’s annual Squishing of the Squash.

“Our elephant family got one 800-pound pumpkin and another 600-pound one to stomp on, play with and munch on,” said Bob Lee, who oversees the zoo elephant area.

. . . .The giant pumpkins for this year’s Squishing of the Squash were provided by Pacific Giant Vegetable Growers Club members Larry and Christy Nelson of Albany, Ore. Enrichment items such as pumpkins help keep the zoo’s animals mentally and physically stimulated.

VICE: Why veganism is racist

August 18, 2020 • 12:30 pm

I found this article, from VICE, mentioned in a public tweet from activist and atheist Ali Rizvi, who was aping the “first they came from the bird names. . ” craziness. This time, though, it’s not bird names, but veganism.

I suppose that anything these days can be found racist, like knitting and young adult fiction, not to mention bird names, but the idea that veganism was inherently white was alien to me. Perhaps that’s because I live in Chicago, which has a fair number of vegan restaurants run by African-Americans (many Black Muslims are either vegan or vegetarians). And a well known vegan retaurant run by blacks,  B’Gabs, is just a few blocks from me. The fact that veganism is seen as “white people’s culture”, then, surprised me. But Anya Zoledziowski, who is of Polish Armenian descent, and identifies as a privileged European, has seen fit to chide all vegans for racially “appropriating food” (click on the screenshot below).

What’s her beef? (Is that an appropriate question to ask about such an article?) It appears to be that veganism is racist because black people see it as a “white person’s habit”. And, says the author, it seems that black vegans have been ignored, though I’m not sure how. Finally, vegans are guilty of “appropriating” cuisine from other cultures, though why that’s a sin still eludes me. (Throughout the article, Zoledziowski confuses veganism with vegetarianism: for example, much of southern Indian cuisine is vegetarian but not vegan.) But somehow, says the author, since the murder of George Floyd, veganism is going through a “racial reckoning”. A few quotes:

When Afia Amoako became a vegan five years ago, she said she didn’t see herself reflected in the community, which was dominated by wealthy white women.

They often touted recipes—”African peanut stew” or “Asian stir fry”—that rely on racial stereotypes, said Amoako.

“One, they don’t look like you, and, two, they are appropriating your food. Those are ways to turn racialized people away.”

First of all, African peanut stew and Asian stir fry (which I often make) do not rely on racial stereotypes. They are foreign dishes, and that’s all. They are not “appropriated” but appreciated.  And if you’re turned off of veganism because some white people cook vegan or vegetarian food, you’re not a victim of racism but perhaps an exponent of racism.  Why do vegans have to “look like you”? And what are “racialized” people, anyway? That term is new to me.

Not only that, but black vegans are wary of white ones:

 “These white women, they are the gatekeepers of the vegan movement,” Amoako said. “We Black creators have been here this whole time.”

White women are starting to acknowledge Black and racialized vegans now, following a string of racial reckonings happening in several sectors and communities, Amoako said, but “I’m not gonna lie to you, some of us are still skeptical.”

Skeptical of what? That the “acknowledgment of Black and racialized vegans” (what’s the difference between “Black” and “racialized”?) is real?

The connection between racism and veganism grows ever more tenuous as the article goes on, as Zoledziowski must drag in vegetarianism to make her case. And “privilege” of course, makes its inevitable appearance:

In this post-Floyd world of racial reckonings, many vegans are starting to look inwards at their own privilege. White vegan influencers are urging people to follow BIPOC accounts as part of the #AmplifyMelanatedVoices campaign, while racialized vegans who have amassed large followings continue to post about Floyd and Breonna Taylor. Stories are surfacing in the vegan corners of the internet, highlighting vegan Black Instagram accounts and vegan Black-owned businesses.

The article then goes on to note that many “racialized” communities are “plant based”, but of course “plant based” is not vegan but vegetarian, at least in these examples:

In fact, several communities globally, most of which are racialized, are either plant-based or largely so. According to the latest counts, Brazil and India have the largest vegetarian populations in the world: about a third of Indians—375 million people—and 14 percent of Brazilians, or 29 million people, are vegetarian. TaiwanJamaicaMexico, and Vietnam also have sizable vegetarian or vegan populations. And while that’s not to discount the growing popularity of plant-based diets in predominantly white countries like Switzerland, New Zealand, Germany, and Australia, mainstream portrayals of vegetarianism and veganism are largely white.

. . . Almost one-third of Delhi, India residents identify as vegetarian today. A rich variety of lentil dishes—yellow lentil, brown lentil, and split chickpea dals, and mung beans cooked in different curries marked Siddharth Seth’s upbringing in New Delhi. Seth was raised vegetarian because his family identifies as Hindu and follows an interpretation of the religion that preaches nonviolence— Ahimsa—including towards animals. For Seth, who is now 40, vegetarianism was never a fad; it was just part of daily life.

Remember, the article isn’t about vegetarianism (which incorporates dairy food), but veganism (which spurns dairy). They have to drag Indian vegetarians into the mix to buttress their case. And most Indian vegetarians, as far as I’ve observed, are not vegans: they eat paneer (Indian cheese), yogurt, and milk-based sweets.  As for American vegans, why is their diet not “part of daily life” as well?

I really can’t go on with this article. . . it’s just silly, but I’m highlighting to show how virtually everything on the planet can be seen as a racist act if white people participate in it. The most bizarre quote in the piece, and I’ll end with it, is this, which was uttered by Emani Corcran, who runs a black vegan Instagram site:

“Showing that many dishes from around the world are already plant-based is a huge step for people of colour who are maybe intimidated by veganism,” Corcran said. “That’s what influencers are supposed to do: show what you like to eat. I’m a woman of colour, so I like to eat what women of colour like to eat, and that’s what I’m going to show.”

Putting aside the silliness of people getting intimidated by veganism because it’s seen as white, I find the notion that one should eat what those with similar skin pigmentation eat as crazy.  The fact is that most women of colour are not vegans, so why is she eating a vegan diet?

While the murder of George Floyd brought important focus on the persistence of racism in American society, it’s had the unfortunate side effect of allowing people to get away with racializing nearly everything. And that dilutes the message of movements like Black Lives Matter. My response to this article is to satirize its title: “Dear White Savior Zoledziowski: Get a grip.”


The omelette maker of Delhi

August 16, 2020 • 2:30 pm

Writing about Kamala Harris reminded me of this video I had waiting in the wings. It’s about an old man who sells omelettes (an “omelette walla”) in Delhi, a place I love. And the video also exemplifies many of the things I love about India: the dedication to one’s work and one’s family, the persistence—and cheerfulness—in the face of adversity, and, of course, the love of good food. It also calls up the grinding poverty of the country, something that one must come to terms with if one is to visit. If you go to India, you will either vow never to return or will want to keep coming back. I’m definitely in the latter group.

Do watch this 7½-minute video about Balbir Singh, who sells omelettes outside a metro stop in Delhi. Although there are footnotes, I adore the lovely lilt of Hindi. Note that, like many educated Indians, the narrator speaks a mixture of Hindi and English.

By the way, the price of an omelette or half fry, 50 rupees, is about 67 U.S. cents. (“Ghee” is clarified butter.)  I hope I get back to Delhi soon, as I want to try Singh’s eggs. Make mine a half fry!

If you love the food of India, Curly Tales has a lot of videos about it. Have a look at this one, featuring pre-Independence food joints that are still around. I’ve been to three of the 15 featured in that video: the Parsee place in Mumbai, Karim’s in Delhi, and Glenary’s in Darjeeling (a remnant of the Raj; the food is British and not that great).

Now I’m really hungry!

Trader Joe’s decides to keep “racist” brand names like “Trader Ming’s”

August 2, 2020 • 11:00 am

A while back I watched one of Mike Chen’s fantastic food/restaurant review videos (he’s one of the best food “vloggers” around), and, since he’s locked down and can’t travel or visit restaurants, he’s been devoting his videos to reviewing take-out foods and purchased foods. One was a review of all the dumplings available at Trader Joe’s, and many of the Chinese one were labeled not as “Trader Joe’s Dumplings,” but as “Trader Ming’s” dumplings.  Chen, who was born in China, noted the name but didn’t seem offended at all.

But others have been, as we’ll see below. Besides “Trader Ming’s”, the chain labels several of its ethnic foods with other ethnic names. To wit:

Trader Joe San (Japanese):

Trader Giotto’s (Italian)

Trader José (Mexican):

Trader Ming’s (Chinese and East Asian):

By the way, while I’m here, I’ll recommend the Trader Joe’s frozen pork/scallion dumplings and chicken dumplings. They’re cheap, filling, not calorific, and very good, especially if you steam them. But give the Thai basil eggplant a hard pass! Oh, and I recommend, among the Indian foods, the palak paneer or sag paneer (spinach and Indian cheese), which I’ve found pretty authentic and tasty. (And no, it’s not “Trader Ravi’s.”)  I’d never bought anything at Trader Joe’s until the lockdown (they have “senior hours” when it’s easy to shop), but some of the frozen Indian and Chinese foods are pretty tasty.

But onto the theme. Although these names have been around for a while, you can imagine what happened in the new era of wokeness. People objected, saying that the names were racist, and Field Marshal Anna Slatz predicted that reaction:

And of course the opprobrium descended in spades, with the expected cries of racism. As the New York Times reports below (click on screenshot), last month the company announced that it would ditch all of these labels, which were apparently designed to be inclusive.  Now, in a stunning and unexpected reversal of course, Trader Joe’s says it’s going to keep the names.

A quote:

Weeks after admitting that some of its international-themed product labels might have fallen short of an “attempt at inclusiveness,” the grocery store chain Trader Joe’s is rejecting criticism of the labels — some with names like Trader José and Trader Ming’s — as racist.

After an online petition denounced the company’s use of labels such as Arabian Joe’s, Trader Giotto’s and Trader Joe San as racist because it “exoticizes other cultures,” Trader Joe’s announced that it would keep names that it felt still resonated with customers.

“We disagree that any of these labels are racist,” the company said in a statement on July 24. “We do not make decisions based on petitions.”

“We thought then — and still do — that this naming of products could be fun and show appreciation for other cultures,” it said.

. . .The spokeswoman added that labels such as Arabian Joe’s and Armenian Joe’s were no longer in use, and that the label Trader Joe San is currently used on only about three products.

Briones Bedell, who started the online petition that led to renewed scrutiny of the company’s labels, said on Saturday she was “honestly surprised” by the company’s comments. [JAC: Read the petition if you want to see hype.]

“I see it to be a complete reversal to their previous commitment to removing the labels from the international foods,” she said.

With her petition, Ms. Bedell, 17, said she wanted to raise awareness of stereotypes that are of a piece with the larger discussions about race happening across the country.

“They rely only on characters and kind of vague ideas and not anything of actual substance or legitimacy,” Ms. Bedell said of the labels. “It becomes a tool of othering.”

Now I have to say that I’m generally on the side of the company because I don’t see anything horrible with the names, which are surely not meant to denigrate other cultures. Further, there are lots of Mexican restaurants with names like “José’s”, and I’m sure not all of them are owned by men named José.  Likewise with Chinese restaurants named “Ming’s”.

On the other hand, I’m not sure how I’d feel if they started a line of Jewish foods with names like “Moishe’s Frozen Latkes” or “Schmeul’s Buttery Hamentashen”—and you have to go a long way to offend this secular Jew! The only way I can understand my feeling is because it hits home when one is a (secular) Jew. And so it may hit home to a Chinese person to see “Trader Ming’s Dumplings.”  It is surely not racist, but it may be stereotyping and insensitive.

At any rate, I can’t get really worked up about this, and the pushback by Trader Joe’s is one of the first times a major company hasn’t truckled to the will of the Woke. But perhaps they will if people start boycotting Trader Joe’s because of these names. After all, money talks.

Since I’m ambivalent, let’s have a poll, and then you can weigh in in the comments below.

Readers’ wildlife photos

April 2, 2020 • 8:00 am

Today we have photos from Chile by Joe Dickinson, who was kind enough to include food photos for my benefit. Joe’s notes are indented:

Here are some photos from a recent trip to Chile that we stuck with in careless disregard of CDC admonitions (i.e., that people of our age should in no circumstances get on an airplane).  Knowing that you are a bit of a “foodie”, I’ve also included some shots of former wildlife (mussels and clams) being converted into a unique and delicious meal.

Not exactly wildlife, this monkey puzzle tree (Araucaria araucana) was one of several on the grounds of our hotel, which were set up more as a botanical garden than formal landscaping.

Black necked swans (Cygnus melancoryphus) seemed to be quite common.  It is the largest species of waterfowl native to South America.  Is that an oystercatcher in the foreground?

Of, I believe, two species of penguin found on the Chilean coast in temperate latitudes, we saw only the Magellanic penguin (Spheniscus magellanicus).


I first thought this individual had some sort of parasite, but I now believe it is just molting.

When I first saw a gull eating a starfish (which they swallow whole) I thought “this can’t end well for either party”, but it turns out to be pretty common.  I presume that birds have digestive and respiratory tracts that do not intersect in a way that allows choking.  I can’t identify either species in this case.

These are neotropic cormorants (Phalacrocorax brasilianus).  Such graceful birds.

Again not exactly wildlife, Chileans claim the oldest purebred line of horses in the Americas [JAC: “Criollos“].  Surrounded by the Pacific Ocean, the Andes and the Atacama Desert, the lineage has remained isolated since introduced by the Spaniards.

The Chilean mussel (Mytilus chilensis) was the main ingredient for a traditional meal cooked in a pit over heated rocks and covered with rhubarb leaves and then sod.  Some of the diverse local varieties of potato also were featured along with some pieces of pork and potato dumplings that looked more like pancakes.

Here is my share of the finished product.

Finally, neither wildlife nor food, this “Lady of the Lake” sculpture represents a mythical figure who gave fishermen clues as to when it was safe to go out.  She dances here in front of the Fugi-like Vulcan Osorno seen from Puerto Varas.

Today’s lunch

March 14, 2020 • 1:45 pm

It’s supposed to be my day off, and now that my talk in Florida has been canceled because of the Virus, I feel the need to have some fun. So I left work this morning and took the bus to Gage Park, heading west on 55th Street toward Midway Airport. After you leave the University, you first head through an African-American area, which then transitions to a Hispanic area that used to be a Polish area. In the Hispanic part are several good places to eat, but I wanted to try the carnitas (chopped-up braised pork that’s juicy and tender) at Carnitas Uruapan, a highly rated place in Pilsen that just opened a larger branch right on the bus line from Hyde Park to Midway.

The new branch is supposed to be even better than the old because, as Chicago Eater says,

The Carbajals [the owning family] still believe word of mouth is the most important way to attract customers. But they want to expand their base. Marcos Carbajal wants to open more locations after they get their feet under them in Gage Park. Chicago chefs have taken notice. Rick Bayless has worked with the Carbajals on getting heirloom white corn masa imported from Mexico to El Popo, a popular tortilla maker. The Pilsen location already uses El Popo shells. For years, Carnitas Uruapan has been the first stop for El Popo trucks on their delivery routes. At the new restaurant, they use heirloom corn masa to make tortillas. The Pilsen restaurant is limited by space, but they may start making tortillas there, too.

Bayless, a Chicago chef who became famous for making authentic and delicious Mexican food at his Frontera Grill (he now owns several other restaurants), talked about the heirloom masa in a t.v. show he did recently (I sometimes watch cooking shows), and since he mentioned that this is what he serves in the tortillas made in his own restaurants, and that the masa is now at the new branch of Carnitas Uruapan, I couldn’t rest until I tried it at that branch.

And so, my lunch:

Here’s the outside and the inside:

The menu at the takeout line. You buy carnitas by the pound as well as salsas, cactus-and-cheese casserole, drinks, and chicharrones (fried pork rinds). They have Mexican Coca Cola made with cane sugar, guacamole, and those delicious tortillas: only $1.50 per dozen:

Chopping carnitas (you choose what bits you want). I had it all but said “no organs” as they often include tripe and brains (it’s all pig):

I ate in the dining room so I didn’t have to fight the line of hungry locals, and this is what I got: a half pound of carnitas, a dozen tortillas, various salsas with lime and chopped onions, a few chicharrones (best I’ve ever had), and ice water:

Lord, were the carnitas good! No wonder this place is locally famous! The white corn tortillas were soft and flavorful.

The chicharrones went very well with the make-your-own tacos. You take a small bite of the crispy pork rind while chewing your taco, and they’re a good combination. Note the hunks of fried pork adhering to the rind:

The bill (after tax but before tip). I had to take away food, even though this was my only meal of the day, and I have enough for two more meals!

Chicharrones on the way out:

Across the street was a sad, empty chicken restaurant, and no wonder since there’s porky largesse across the street. They’d hired some poor schlemiel to dress up in a chicken suit and wave at passersby (see video below):

Waving Chicken Man!


I returned home by way of Botany Pond, since if I ate well, so must my ducks. There are two queens and two Weinsteins today, and I fed them all, feeling generous. Honey’s female friend is still here, and perhaps you might think of a name.

But here’s the real Queen: Honey.

Remember, do not food-shame me as I don’t eat like this very often. Violators will be disciplined.

Last day in Paris: Rain and no restaurants

March 2, 2020 • 10:45 am

Sadly, my dining pal (like Matthew) came down with the lurgies this morning, and so we had to cancel lunch at d’Chez Eux (I believe a reader suggested that restaurant, and I was keen go to as I’d heard of it as a good bistro and also knew it had a well-respected rice pudding).

I then went for a long morning walk through my old haunts in the Sixth Arrondissement (I used to live on the Rue Jacob—in a garrett!). On the way back to my hotel, I procured a nice crispy baguette, a good thick slice of St. Nectaire cheese, an apple, and a liter of red grapefruit juice. I also stopped by a fancy bakery and bought a giant cramique for later and tomorrow morning, when I take the train to the airport at 5:30 and won’t get breakfast.

It’s nice to have these picnics, as I haven’t tasted cheese since I’ve been to Paris this visit. Still, as soon as I finished my extemporaneous lunch, my eating pal called and said she’d miraculously recovered (she’s very resilient, especially when restaurants are in the offing), and that we should go out for lunch. But, as Beethoven reportedly said when a case of Riesling was delivered to him on his deathbed, “Pity, pity, too late. . . ”

The next meal I have will be (ugh) on the United flight home. Ceiling Cat help me! I can’t even use the Star Alliance Club at Charles de Gaulle because I’d have to be flying business or first class.

Here’s a cramique from Fred’s (not the one I bought, which I didn’t photograph). Mine is about 8 inches across: a really belly-buster.


Paris, day 7: Perfume and and a mediocre meal

March 1, 2020 • 12:00 pm

It’s been raining cats and dogs all day, and so there are many poodles to avoid. This mandated another indoor thing to do, which involved getting a late start and then wandering the Place Madeleine to find the Place Édouard-VII, a small square in the Ninth Arrondissement built in 1913 and named for King Edward VII, the son of Queen Victoria.

Edward was considered the most French of modern English kings, and one tourist site gives this information (probably a translation from the French):

King Edward VII, made himself the artisan of the Entente Cordiale, between France and England. Paris which he appreciated above all the spirit, gastronomy and women, paid homage to him in 1913. The young Paul Landowski wished to register here, far from the style of his Saint Geneviève or the Christ of Corcovado.  In the great tradition of the equestrian statue. The king, guiding his horse calmly, is represented in his role as chief of the armies. He carries, executed with realism, the uniform of Marshal who befits his rank: helmet with panache, coat, jacket probably red barred with a scarf and adorned with decorations, white panties and boots of rider. The choice of this classical iconography also echoes the portraits commissioned by the Sovereign in his own country. It is that it is indeed an official portrait, to express the nobility and the power, in the center of a place strictly authorised.

At the end of the  18C, there were built  18 private hotels in the  rue Caumartin, a few steps from the Boulevard des Capucines, which was then a place of promenade established on ancient fortifications dating back to King Louis XIII. In the 19C, in the purest Haussmann tradition, this boulevard had seen the erection of monumental buildings of five floors. Finally, in 1913, Nénot, the architect of the new Sorbonne and the Palais de la League des Nations in Geneva, had pierced a street in a piecemeal gap in order to carry out an extensive urban and real estate program. A street that was to take the name of Edward VII, in homage to the King of England who had worked so much in the Franco-British rapprochement.

Some photos:

The statue in the square:

The Théâtre Édouard VII, which you can glimpse in the panorama above. The photo below is from Wikipedia, which also notes:

Important figures in the arts, cinema and theatre have performed there, including Orson Welles, Eartha Kitt, and more. Pablo Picasso created props for a play at the Théâtre Edouard VII in 1944.

The Théâtre de l’Athénée. Converted from another building in 1894 and renovated in 1996, it saw debuts of plays by, among others, Oscar Wilde (Salomé), Jean Giraudoux, and Jean Genet.

After a wander round the fancy interior of the Edward VII theater (we weren’t allowed to see the main stage and hall), we tried to visit the nearby Musée du Parfum, or Perfume Museum, run by the Fragonard Company. Unfortunately, it was closed, so we had a look at the perfume store, and I bought a few scented soaps (my one cosmetic vanity).

Perfumes and soaps (the sticks in the last row enable you to smell the scent without putting it on):

I can’t resist selfies in weird mirrors:

A late start, and so it was time for lunch, heading toward the Third Arrondissement from the Opera. On the way, I photographed one of the gilded figures atop the Opera:

The restaurant was an old favorite of mine, the Ambassade d’Auverge, featuring the cooking of that area of south-central France. When I lived here in 1989 and was relatively impecunious, this counted as a fancy restaurant. The food has been consistently good, but there have been high and low periods. Sadly, today’s meal appeared to be at a low period.

The restaurant:

A YouTube video of the restaurant. Here you can see them making the restaurant’s speciality: aligot, a mixture of mashed potatoes and lots of cheese. It is “stretched” for the diner before it’s served, to demonstrate the high titer of cheese in the dish:

The interior. Note the d*g; canids are allowed in restaurants in France. Sometimes they’re even given food by the restaurant.

Pork rillettes to start:


Trio of smoked fish: salmon, trout and cod. This was pronounced mediocre.

Warm lentil salad with bacon. This is always an excellent dish, made with green lentils of Puy and bacon bits, doused with a dressing made from mustard and pork fat.

Les plats:

Parmentier de confit de canard au foie gras. Again, pronounced so-so:

My sausage with aligot. The potatoes were very good but the sausage below par: pre-cooked and barely warmed before serving.

Stretching the potatoes for two tables of diners, including us:

We did not try the cheeses, but here are the four on tap, including a Bleu d’Auvergne, a Cantal, and a Fourme D’Ambert:

The wine, a Saint-Pourçain, had considerable floating sediment, and the carafe of water smelled faintly of fish. Given all this, we pronounced the meal a semi-disaster and decided to skip dessert, heading instead for pastries at Isabelle’s and Aux Merveilleux de Fred.

My pastries. A small kouglof from Isabelle’s:

And a chocolate merveilleux from Fred’s. Both of these were fantastic, especially the merveilleux, which had two meringues sandwiched around a cream filling sitting atop a biscuit, all sprinkled with chocolate and topped with whipped cream. This was incredibly good, and I now know why the Parisian dowager I followed out of the shop the other day started eating hers on the street—something rarely seen in this city.

A cross-section of this pastry from NancyBuzz:

A bad meal made good by desserts.