All righty, then. I've made it through the major Europe homework books, the big tomes, the 900- and 600-page, too-big-to-read-in-the-bathtub books. I can tell you about the good tidbits, and warn you about the slow-going parts.
First up, Austerity Britain by David Kynaston, describes England just after WWII. I never understood just how bombed out they were. The nation had a terrible housing shortage. So that was problem #1 to be solved.
After suffering through all the deprivation, the people just wanted the government to take care of them. So 1945 was the beginning of the British welfare state.
Kynaston's book swings between people's personal accounts of rationing, i.e. how many coupons meat cost and how terrible it was, how hard it was to get nylons, and even the rationing of electricity. Imagine going into a shop where the clerks worked by candlelight because electricity ran only five hours a day.
The greater portion of the book is brainy, political stuff, like a long article in The Economist or something. I'm talking articles with no pictures, you understand.
My second bit of homework was Sixty Million Frenchmen Can't Be Wrong by Jean-Benoit Nadeau and Julie Barlow, who promise to tell readers "What makes the French so French." On the train from London to Paris, I read a magazine article about a growing community of French expatriates in London. They loved the freedom of England, but missed the french bread. After reading the Nadeau-Barlow book, I understand a little better about the freedom; their description of higher education in France paints a picture of an ultra-competitive system, one where your fate is sealed early. If you cannot gain entrance into the Grand Ecoles, which are a mighty big step above their so-so universities, you will never amount to much.
Nadeau and Barlow also discuss the French welfare state, the expectations people place on their government, their willingness to pay the high taxes that this sort of state requires.
They also promised to tell me why the French, "who smoke more cigarettes, drink more alcohol and eat more fat,. . . have fewer heart problems and half the obesity rate of the British." I don't remember what the authors said about this, but I can tell you that I saw some very slender French girls in a cafe on the Trocadero, mowing through a lunch of French fries and cheese-draped bread. How do they do it? I wondered as I picked through my turkey salad.
Sixty Million Frenchmen also includes a lot of political stuff.
I'm sending the book to Abbey. I eagerly await her opinion on it. But please return it when you're done, girl. That cute little paperback is an actual souvenir from a Paris bookstore.
As for your recipe, we feature:
Sour Cream Fan Rolls
Perhaps the recipe's instructions to cut strips of
dough, stack them, etc., cut some more left you just as paralyzed as it left me. Truly, I can't be
bothered with all that. Just roll each blob of dough into a circle, cut
into wedges, roll up like crescent rolls, and you will have some fat,
tasty rolls without the frustration of all that cutting and stacking.