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Mar 19 2012

What the Shooting at a French Jewish School Means For Us

By at 11:48 am
school shooting in toulouse, france

The father and children who were killed this morning.

Back when I was in elementary school, the words “school” and “shooting” did not go together. One did not flip on the car radio and hear a brief mention of a school shooting, where children were killed by a gunman who was either a random shooter or one of their disenfranchised peers. And if one did hear it, one certainly would not shake one’s head, flick off the radio, and then go about one’s business without thinking about it. But that is our new modern way of life.

I was in the carpool line for elementary school, of all places, when I heard the latest news. And by “heard,” of course, I mean “heard” in the 21st century sense. I was bored waiting for my turn to finally turn onto my street, and checked my smartphone email. I read the “Breaking news” subject line and my stomach sank: “Four reported dead in shooting at French Jewish school.Read the rest of this entry →

Feb 17 2012

Friday Night Dinner: Moroccan Inspiration

By at 10:11 am

Kveller was recently introduced to personal chef Rebecca Bazini, who’s a French ex-pat cooking her way through New York City. She volunteered to share a couple of recipes with us that she promises aren’t too hard, and are a delicious and new spin on the traditional Ashkenazic Friday night Shabbat dinner.

Dried Fruit & Lamb Tagine with Minty Couscous

This is a very traditional Jewish Moroccan recipe that we typically have for lunch on Shabbat, but is also perfect for a Friday night dinner. Don’t let the long list of ingredients put you off! It really does not take a long time to prepare and it is very easy: once you have assembled all the ingredients together (about 25 minutes), all you need is to let it slow-cook for a couple of hours and that’s it. This dish is even better when prepared one or two days ahead.

Ingredients for the Tagine (serves 5-6)lamb tagine

2 lbs boneless lamb shoulder cut into cubes

5 medium onions, cut into 1-inch cubes

3 cloves garlic, crushed

1 handful of dried apricots

1 handful of prunes

1 handful of sultanas raisins (you can use regular raisins or golden instead)

1 handful of almonds (skin off)

2 tbsp fresh ginger (grated)

2 tsp ground cumin

3 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp cayenne pepper

1 pinch saffron

2 cups chicken stock

3 tbsp cilantro, roughly chopped

Salt and pepper to taste

How to Make It:

1. Salt and pepper the lamb.

2. Heat 3 tbsp vegetable oil in a large casserole dish (like a Le Creuset) and brown the cubes of lamb on all sides. Then take them out and leave them aside covered with aluminium foil.

3. In the same casserole, add the onions and garlic over a gentle heat for about 15 minutes – or until the onions become soft and slightly colored.

4. Add the lamb cubes in the casserole, all the dried fruit (apricots, prunes, raisins, almonds), the fresh ginger, all the spices, the chicken stock (which should cover the lamb. If not, add some hot water in addition), and the cilantro.

5. Bring to a boil, cover with a lid and reduce to a very low heat and cook for two or two and a half hours–until the meat is meltingly tender. Taste regularly and rectify the seasoning if needed.

6 . Place the lamb in a tagine or large serving dish and sprinkle over with some chopped herbs (cilantro, flat parsley or mint).

Ingredients for the Minty Couscous

2 – 3 cups couscous

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp ground curry

about 3 tsp salt

2 tbsp mint, roughly chopped

How to Make It:

1. Cook the couscous according to the instructions on the pack.

2. Add the cinnamon, the curry, the salt and mix well with a fork so there are no lumps. (If the couscous looks too dry, you can add a tablespoon or so of water and mix again.)

3. Add the mint and combine well.

Did we mention that if you live in the New York area you can hire Rebecca to come cook for you? Just send her an email at and mention that you found her on Kveller.

Feb 6 2012

How to Say “Non!” Like a French Parent

By at 12:44 pm

why french parents are superiorIt was just one year ago that the Wall Street Journal printed a book excerpt by Yale professor Amy Chua called “Why Chinese Mothers are Superior.” Chua argued that a Chinese breed of tiger moms–moms who lay down hard and fast laws for their kids, both socially and academically–raise “better” children. Apparently, the Journal has had a change of heart and nationality-focus, running a book excerpt this past weekend entitled, “Why French Parents are Superior.” Read the rest of this entry →

Jul 27 2011

French Feminist: Natural Mommies Have Gone too Far

By at 2:50 pm

Think the “mommy wars” are the exclusive domain of America’s over-educated, suburbanites? Think again.

This week’s New Yorker profiles Elisabeth Badinter, a Jewish feminist with strong opinions about epidural-rejecting, cloth-diaper-embracing lactivists — and she doesn’t hail from Berkeley or Montclair. Badinter is French, and resides in Paris.

Stateside, where the policies that could have the greatest impact on the lives of mothers and children — paid parental leave and affordable childcare, among them — seem too politically cumbersome to tackle, it’s easy to understand how pain meds and diapers and bottle-feeding would become maternal diversions. It’s harder to understand in France. There, many of the major feminist battles, as they pertain to motherhood (if not to government representation and skirt-chasing spouses) have been won: Eighty percent of Frenchwomen work fulltime, paid maternity leave is mandatory, and daycare is heavily subsidized.

Still, France is apparently not immune to the mundane skirmishes that pit mother against mother. And Badinter’s tough assessment of her country’s recent parental preoccupations has made her an alternately esteemed and reviled figure.

In her latest book, Le Conflit: La Femme et la Mère, slated to be released in the U.S. in January, the self-described “ideologue” takes aim at “motherhood fundamentalism” — a movement, she said, “dressed in the guise of a modern, moral cause that worships all things natural.” She sees it as regression cloaked in ecology or, worse, in biology. (Badinter, a mother of three grown children, made a name for herself three decades ago by rebutting the idea that women are born with maternal instincts.)

“These young women, they’re being told to use cloth diapers; paper diapers aren’t ‘natural,’” she told The New Yorker. “For me, the epidural was a victory over pain. But they say no, they want to feel what it is to be a woman. Their idea is that if you’re not suffering, you have failed the experience of maternity.”

The profile’s writer, Jane Kramer, rightfully points out Badinter’s economic interest in writing Le Conflit. Her father — a Russian Jewish immigrant to France, who flew reconnaissance missions on behalf of the French Resistance — went on to become the founder of the global advertising and communications firm Publicis. Badinter is now the controlling shareholder for Publicis; and the firm represents the manufacturers of Pampers diapers and Nestlé baby formula.

Whatever Badinter’s motivation, and she says it’s not Publicis’ bottom line, her thesis, on one hand, provides a welcome counterpoint to the messages that have bombarded this nine-months pregnant Park Slope resident. On the other hand, despite Badinter’s insistence that all she wants is for women to exercise their choice when it comes to giving birth or feeding their babies, she comes off sounding as doctrinaire as the Brooklyn stroller mommies who equate epidurals and bottle-feeding with parental failure.


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