Friday, December 23, 2016

A Christmas Special. Thanks Greg & Donny!

I've left the Christmas preparations to the last minute, which is a grand old Paris and Pittsburgh tradition. So let me share a holiday special from Greg & Donny, who produce a web series based in Johnston, a stone's throw from Pittsburgh. The Special is a send-up of one of our favorite holiday movies, "It's a Wonderful Life." Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Don't Breathe!

Paris veiled in pollution this week
The air has been so polluted this past week in Paris—a 10-year high—that officials restricted car travel, an extreme measure to reduce the toll on human health. Doctors are seeing more children with asthma and bronchial infections. Citizens were warned against exercising outdoors. Worried Parisians donned surgical masks, which offer no real protection.

Meanwhile, one of my brothers emailed me this week about the new U.S. administration, which intends to name a chief in charge of the Environmental Protection Agency who is not really interested in protecting it. My brother worried that Pittsburgh will again merit the nickname the Smoky City. For photos of Pittsburgh when smoke turned day into night, see my post here.

But just how clean is Pittsburgh now, compared to Paris?

I was shocked to find out that Pittsburgh is still one of America’s most polluted—ranking in the top six. The American Lung Association graded Allegheny county with an F for its overall air quality. The reason? Car traffic and industry, especially along the rivers, exactly where Pittsburghers like to play outdoors. designer pollution masks
In Paris, people are blaming the French love of diesel fuel, which powers most cars and trucks as well. This love affair is due in part to the government’s lower taxes on diesel, a break meant for the trucking industry. But it’s also due to a weather inversion that has put a lid over the city.

This week, PM10 particulates exceeded 80 micrograms per cubic meter. The EU has set a maximum daily average of 50. PM10 are particulates with a diameter of less than 10 microns, which include the most dangerous ones of less than 2.5 microns, which can penetrate deep into the lungs and the blood system and can cause cancer, according to this report.

In Pittsburgh and Paris, what you can’t see can hurt you. What's a person to do? I just downloaded an app called Plume (developed by Frenchies) that lets me know when it's safe to bike or exercise outdoors, whether the 'Burg or Paris. And I have my eye on on a designer mask that really does work! Sincerely, I hope the way forward is a future of clean fuel that powers our cities and jobs, and allows us to breathe easily.

Rose MarieBurke, an editor and journalist, writes a blog about her personal insights into life in Paris. After 20 years in the City of Light, she still calls her native Pittsburgh "home." Want to follow this blog? Enter your email address into the “Follow me” box. Or find me on LinkedIn, Facebook, or Google+.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Teaching Dad French

My Pittsburgh dadlike manyis passionate about the hometown football team, the Steelers. But I’m not crazy about sports unless I’m doing them. That makes for difficult conversations with my dad during my weekly phone home, especially if The Game is on. I can't get a word in edgewise.

But there’s no excuse for a Pittsburgh native to be sports-illiterate. So yesterday I did something about it: No, I didn’t join Steeler Nation, the official fan club. Instead, I fished out my Terrible Towel, and boned up on the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette website.

The good news is that the Steelers are doing well. They’re 6-5 with the Ravens, and tied for first place in the northern division of the American Football Conference. As this blog post puts it: “By the end of the day, you might have a pretty good idea if you’ll need money for a playoff ticket deposit.”

That day being Sunday, the day I usually call mom and dad! Ah-oh. I’ll have no chance of talking to dad. The Steelers are scheduled to play at 4:45 p.m., and the Ravens at 1 p.m.
ET phoning home

So I put into a call into dad on Saturday, and had a nice chat. After conversing about the Steelers, I taught him a little French. When he said he wasn’t feeling “too bad,” I said that in France that means you’re doing really well. I hope the Steelers don’t do too badly today, and that the Ravens do a lot worse. 

Sometimes when you want to speak French to native Pittsburgher, it pays to learn a little of their lingo.
Rose Marie Burke, an editor and journalist, writes a blog about her personal insights into life in Paris. After 20 years in the City of Light, she still calls her native Pittsburgh "home." Want to follow this blog? Enter your email address into the “Follow me” box. Or find me on LinkedIn, Facebook, or Google+.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

A Paris Thanksgiving: Without The T

Shopping at Picard
We celebrated our Thanksgiving last night, two days late and without the T.

Don’t get me wrong, we gave Thanks and we had Turkey. But we did it without even a mention of the other T. You know, the name that has been on the lips of Americans these past few weeks. The day before, my daughter banned mention of U.S. president-elect from our household.

I also did Thanksgiving without another T, which I can’t seem to get enough of: Time.

So I did as the French do, I rose early on a Saturday morning and went to a store called Picard, which sells only frozen food—great frozen food. There’s no place like it in the U.S. I grabbed bags of turkey, broad beans, celery rave, rolls, and for dessert, the French version of apple pie: tarte tatin. Something else with a T that I can’t get enough of.

Thanksgiving chez moi
The turkey wasn’t a whole turkey, because in France that’s for Christmas. Instead I bought turkey pieces and made a fricassee, basically a stew. Ours was with mushrooms in a white wine sauce spiked with black current liqueur.

But because Time wasn’t on my husband’s side, as he decided to make stuffing from scratch, we’ll have that tonight, with leftover turkey stew on the side.

The only problem: we’re out of an essential ingredient for the stuffing. It also begins with a T. We are out of Thyme!

Rose Marie Burke, an editor and journalist, writes a blog about her personal insights into life in Paris. After 20 years in the City of Light, she still calls her native Pittsburgh "home." Want to follow this blog? Enter your email address into the “Follow me” box. Or find me on LinkedIn, Facebook, or Google+.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

The Tiny Country Between Paris And Pittsburgh

Kerid crater lake, not far from Reykavik
We’ve discovered a land between Paris and Pittsburgh that has solved a puzzle for us. It’s a common one for expats: how to see family back home and keep travel costs down, but see more of other folks and the world during our annual homecoming.  

The answer for us this year is Iceland. We’re not the first to discover the island of “fire and ice,” so named for its volcanoes and glaciers, a place of raw, unsoiled beauty. It’s become a trendy, offbeat place to visit (read about that here). Is it cold and dark? The average winter temperature is 32 degrees Fahrenheit, and even the shortest days aren’t inky black but more like a constant twilight. But watch out for extreme weather! Blizzards can blow in unexpectedly. In the summer, however, Iceland enjoys spring-like weather and long days that are a bonus for hikers and day trippers. 

The pull was Icelandair’s “free stop-over” program, where passengers can deplane in Reykavik and spend up to a week discovering the island before continuing onto their destination, without an extra airline fee. Warning: Staying in Iceland itself is not free! It’s known as an expensive place, but there are ways to keep costs down: We stayed in an AirBnB in the suburbs, soaked in public pools instead of the pricey Blue Lagoon spa, used city buses for transport, and made most of our own meals. 
At a farm outside the capital called Farmhotel Efstidalur,
which serves ice cream made from the milk of the cows it raises.

Branching out even further, we selected the airline’s Paris-Minneapolis round trip (with the Reykavik stop-over) so we could visit college friends in the Midwest, fulfilling an old promise. We completed our itinerary with a Minneapolis-Pittsburgh round trip.

We loved Iceland so much that we’d like to “stop over” again and see more of the sights. And that’s just been made easier because Iceland’s budget airline, Wow Air, that added Pittsburgh as a destination earlier this month. Read about that here. Wow starts the service in June 2017, and also offers free stop-overs.

Now that Pittsburgh International Airport is once again starting to live up to that name, with direct flights to Frankfurt beginning next summer as well, we hope to do more PIT-stopping on our way home.

Want to follow this blog? Enter your email address into the “Follow me” box. You can also find me on LinkedIn, Facebook, or Google+. Rose Marie Burke, an editor and journalist, writes a blog about her personal insights into life in Paris. After 20 years in the City of Light, she still calls her native Pittsburgh "home."

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Breakfast in America—In Paris

The "2 X 2 X 2"

Every so often, after living in Paris for many years, I get a craving for a real breakfast that a dainty croissant can’t satisfy. Like those Saturday morning brunches I made for my brothers as a young girl growing up in Pittsburgh: Bisquick pancakes, slathered with Imperial margarine, and swimming in Log Cabin syrup. That was the life!

Those happy memories came flooding back as I read “Pancakes in Paris,” about how an unlikely American with no restaurant experience—Craig Carlson-- started a chain of diners called “Breakfast in America” or BIA for short.

In reading the book, I worked up a pancake hunger. Yesterday, my husband and I left our cozy suburban apartment for the Latin Quarter, home of BIA No. 1.

Now I had been to BIA before, and remembered a long line and an impatient little girl—my daughter. This time, there was a short wait and no daughter, who now as a normal teenager didn’t even have enough patience to join us. Refusing a tiny table for two, we took seats at the counter. The best seats in the house--in a diner!

CC's Big Mess: Not for vegetarians
Hubbie ordered the 2 X 2 X 2, which is two each of eggs, bacon or sausage, and pancakes, with a side of real maple syrup. (Ever the mathematician, he wonder why it wasn’t the 2 + 2 + 2?) I bravely ordered the owner’s signature dish, CC’s Big Mess: Scrambled eggs with bacon, ham, sausage, onions, peppers, mushrooms, avocado, and cheddar cheese, served on top of a pile of home fries—with a hold on the cheese and a side of salsa.

BIA's diner decor
We admired the décor as we waited for our dishes, including the authentic laminated counters. There was a reason BIA reminded me of the diners of Pittsburgh. Because that’s where Craig found his inspiration! After joining the Diner Rescue Fund, he was invited to attend Dinerama 2001, a bus tour of Pittsburgh’s finest in diners dating back to the 1920s. (For a history of diners, go here.)

“Thanks to the Pittsburgh diner tour, I met a diner supplier that still made the authentic 50's era boomerang laminate counter top, which I then had shipped to Paris,” Craig said in a Facebook message to me while on book tour in California.

“I have so many special memories! I wish I knew the name of the diner, but it was a 1950's shiny, classic diner where we were allowed to order whatever we wanted off the menu (included in the tour price!),” Craig said. “I also remember visiting a diner just outside of the city, where they had a muscle car show and Hank Williams, Jr. was there to sing.”

Our dishes arrived on diner-issue oval plates. My mess was hearty, to say the least, and I loved the concept of scrambled eggs and potatoes together. But you’ve really got to be a carnivore for this dish, and not just a half-hearted vegetarian like myself.

But the pancakes!

Before John had a bite, I had already had two. The hotcakes were near perfect, round, evenly cooked, tender, and generously hanging over the rim of the plate. (No small praise for a former restaurant reviewer and child pancake prodigy.) Proust had his madeleine that brought back memories. For me, it's pancakes.

Rose Marie Burke,  an editor and journalist, writes a blog about her personal insights into life in Paris. After 20 years in the City of Light, she still calls her native Pittsburgh "home." Want to follow this blog? Enter your email address into the “Follow me” box. Or find me on LinkedIn, Facebook, or Google+.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Paris And Pittsburgh: So Much In Common

I was surprised to learn that as a native Pittsburgher, I come from Appalachia -- a region I always thought began as soon as I dipped my toe into West Virginia. But the book “The Paris of Appalachia,” by Brian O’Neill, set me right: Pittsburgh is smack dab in the Appalachian region, the mountainous stretch from Alabama to New York.

I wasn’t surprised at the comparison of Pittsburgh and Paris. Just think about what they have in common: rivers, bridges, parks, beautiful views, the arts, neighborhoods, and walkable streets. They are big food, drink, and sports towns, each in their own way. Pittsburgh has pierogis, Iron City, and the Steelers. Paris has pommes frites, café, and Paris Saint-Germain. Both cities work to live instead of live to work.

There are some big differences between the two cities, of course. Paris is expensive, snobby, and dense at the core. Pittsburgh is affordable, friendly, and has a weak core that’s a revenue sinkhole.

Since Pittsburgh at times seems mentally stuck in the 1950s, I asked the author, a staff writer at the Post-Gazette, whether anything had really changed since his book was published in 2009. As the French saying goes, Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. The more it changes, the more it’s the same thing.

“The city still has the problem of its largest employers, the hospitals and universities, not paying property or payroll taxes,” because of their nonprofit status, Mr. O’Neill said in an email, “but the city has been talking with the big four -- UPMC, Allegheny Health Systems, Carnegie Mellon University and Pitt -- about a payment in lieu of taxes plan.” That would help alleviate Pittsburgh’s budget problems. 

What would give a boost to the whole area, however, would be the creation of a Greater Pittsburgh to give the city the same scale as other American cities. “In Pittsburgh, for instance, 83 distinct municipalities manage the sewer system that serves the greater metro area,” according to Keystone Crossroads. There are a whopping 418 local governments in the six-county Pittsburgh area, and 130 in Allegheny county alone. That doesn’t make any sense. Or cents. Municipalities in the Paris area are merging to save government overhead costs, deliver better service, and avoid raising taxes. Why not Pittsburgh’s?

What about the city’s people problem? The millennials who are moving into city neighborhoods like Lawrenceville are a change for the better, Mr. O’Neill believes. “The arrival of Google, Uber and the like has brought another issue Pittsburgh never had to face before: gentrification driving up housing prices. But, again, that beats the problem of values perpetually sinking.”

I think the only big change left is for Pittsburghers to change their minds. OK, Yinzers aren’t as negative as Parisians, but that’s not saying much. If anything, Mr. O’Neill says he’s more positive about the ‘Burgh than he was in 2009. “But it's now evident I was not optimistic enough. In short, Pittsburgh's future is genuinely looking up. It just has to be smart as it deals with the very real issues it must face.”

Rose Marie Burke, an editor and journalist, writes a blog about her personal insights into life in Paris. After 20 years in the City of Light, she still calls her native Pittsburgh "home." Want to follow this blog? Sign up with your email, or find me on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, or Google+.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

“Pittsburgh Dad” Comes To Paris

It’s a shame my dad has never come to see me in Paris, but I’ve found a way to bring “Pittsburgh Dad” to the French capital!
"Pittsburgh Dad" (

Although mom has visited several times, dad has never been. He did a tour around Europe in his army days in the 1950s, when he served in occupied Austria. But since then, he’s rarely strayed far from the Burgh.

Various Pittsburghian reasons come to mind. He doesn’t want to miss a Steeler’s game. He hates mass transit. He doesn’t want to pay for parking. I don’t have a La-Z-Boy. I suspect France is not his cup of coffee. He likes a big old mug before dinner, as soon as he hits the chair, by a waitress who calls him “hon,” not by someone looking like a Pittsburgh Penguin and just as cold.

But now I have a paternal substitute! A couple of days ago one of my brothers sent me a link to “Pittsburgh Dad.” I feel like my dad is right here with me in the living room, and I’ve saved big time on Delta’s Pittsburgh-Paris direct flight!

Why haven’t I heard of Pittsburgh Dad before? Started in 2011, Pittsburgh Dad has 160 episodes under his belt and has surpassed 30 million views. I’ve been spending a lot of quality time with Dad lately, binge-watching. My favorite show so far is “Giving Directions.” My husband is watching too, buffing up his Pittsburghese, so he knows what’m saying half the time.

While the show is popular, it does have its detractors. Director Chris Preksta and actor Curt Wootton take hits for making fun of Pixburghers. In their defense, Curt’s father, the inspiration for the persona, is proud that it’s a sensation (see the interview with both Pittsburgh dads in this news report). He does admit he yelled a lot, trying to balance raising a family and preventing utter chaos. We love our Pittsburgh dads!
Keith and Curt Wootten (
Now if I can only get Pittsburgh dad or even “Pittsburgh Dad” to come to Paris. Wouldn’at be sumpin’?

This post is dedicated to Iris, a Pittsburgher who I met in Paris this morning! 
Rose Marie Burke, an editor and journalist, writes a blog about her personal insights into life in Paris. After 20 years in the City of Light, she still calls her native Pittsburgh "home." Want to follow this blog? Find me on LinkedIn, or follow me on Google+.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

I’ve Got The British Blues

Working out of London last week, I started feeling blue. Don’t get me wrong, I love the capital of Great Britain. It’s bustling, bountiful, beautiful … But I wonder how long it will last.

Britain will change as it exits the EU, that’s for certain. As you know, on June 23, the British went to the polls and decided to exit the EU. It may take a few years or a decade, but I fear the country won’t be the same again.

Ever since the Chunnel opened more than 20 years ago, connecting France and the U.K. with underground rails, the two countries became closer culturally, economically, socially. I began to think of Merry Old England as a state, rather than a country. In travel time, going from Paris to London is like going from Philadelphia to New York City. (For those of you and me who can’t keep straight the difference between Britain, England, and the U.K., see this hilarious video by Foil, Arms & Hog.)

While I don’t think the U.K. will cut the cord and close the Chunnel, sooner or later we’ll feel the island nation break with the continent. We’ll hear fewer French accents among the workers in London, see fewer British students at universities in Europe. The financial district, Canary Wharf, will suffer as banks and brokers try to find another city to serve as the capital of Europe.

In the U.S., the Founding Fathers decided that the states were better together than apart, but that didn’t prevent the Civil War. Texas talks about seceding, but that’s Texas Talk. Let’s remember what the founders said: “e pluribus unum,” out of many, one. We have our differences, still, but we have learned (the hard way) to work them out, peacefully, democratically.

There are some benefits of togetherness: economists call it economies of scale. The U.S. is enormous, and in world affairs, size matters. My fear is that once out of the EU, Britain will shrink in stature and size. Twenty years from now, will the U.K. still matter? Will London be anything more than the capital of England?
Rose Marie Burke, an editor and journalist, writes the blog Paris, Pittsburgh, And More, about her personal insights into life in Paris. After 20 years in the City of Light, she still calls her native Pittsburgh "home." Want to follow this blog? Find me on LinkedIn, Facebook, email me at rose.burke89 "at", or Google+.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

American Ballet In Paris

Walpurgisnacht Ballet
Châtelet Theater
Hunting around for something to do one evening, we discovered tickets reserved months ago for the ballet. I was actually looking forward to a movie in the neighborhood.

My daughter expressed interest in seeing a ballet in January, something I’ve never done in Paris. But instead of booking to see a French ballet, she picked an evening with the New York City Ballet at the Châtelet Theater. Oh well.

I wanted to see French ballet in the country that made dance into an art form. (See “The King Who Invented Ballet.”)

That night, July 16, we were treated to four works—Walpurgisnacht Ballet, Sonatine, La Valse, and Symphony in C. These were all created by George Balanchine (1904-1983), who founded the company in 1948. The intention of the director of NYCB was to tell Paris: this is the way Balanchine does it, this is the way it’s done in America.

I didn't realize that where French ballet left off, the Russians took it to new dimensions. And one Russian, George Balanchine, took this dance form to the U.S. and made it American in the years after WWII. His influence led to the popularity of ballet in the U.S. and the founding of ballet schools and companies throughout the country--including the Pittsburgh Ballet Theater in 1969.

I told my daughter Balanchine was modern, but that's not right. It's certainly not classical ballet. You know something’s up when you see ballerinas wearing limp dresses rather than tutus. The stage is sparse. Compared with French ballerinas, the ones in this troupe take the stage rather than flutter across it. The dances tend to express abstract themes rather than tell stories. Balanchine is considered “neoclassical.”

Yet the last number, Symphony in C, was a classical crowd pleaser, a joyous romp with tutus and tiaras. The crowd roared with amazing applause, and wouldn’t let the troupe leave the stage. Did these American ballet slippers leave a mark on Paris?
Symphony in C
Châtelet Theater

Going out to see a live performance in Paris can be expensive, but I’ll give you a tip. At the Châtelet, buy the seats with an obstructed view. Our tickets were 35 euros each, and we don’t feel we missed a thing, even though we couldn’t see the left edge of the stage. To get a good deal, book in advance.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Fireworks And Freedom

On Thursday, we celebrated Bastille Day by watching our town’s stunning display of fireworks. As people gathered at sunset, I had this warm, fuzzy feeling. Here we were, people of all colors, and by the looks of it, all faiths, assembling peacefully together to have a good time. Live and let live.

France and the U.S. have much in common (so much so that we love to debate the differences). Our celebrations of independence from rule by monarchies are only 10 days apart. We both have republics, private ownership, democracy, capitalism, and a number of individual freedoms—though they might vary in degree or application. The U.S. has red, white, and blue, and France has blue, white, and red.

When I woke up on Friday to hear about the horrible attack in Nice, I thought again about another thing France and the U.S. have in common: the threat of terrorism.

It’s hard to know how to respond. One of my U.S. blogger friends believes in counteracting random acts of terrorism with random acts of kindness. (Read her post here.) That beats giving into fear, which is exactly what the terrorists want.

For now, I think I’ll respond by remembering those moments when we stood together in the park on July 14 in awe of the magic of fireworks, and in celebration of freedom. And remembering those people in Nice who never made it home from their night out.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Monessen And Le Monde

Monessen is a small town south of Pittsburgh.
Source: Google Maps.
Over the past week, I've been reading and hearing about Monessen—a rusty former steel town in the Pittsburgh area—everywhere. The story not only went viral, it went global.

Through Google, I counted more than 1,700 references to the city in the English-language media worldwide, from The Guardian in London to the South China Morning Post in Hong Kong. In France, I saw reports on French television and in Libération and Le Monde.

What was it about Monessen, home now to just 7,720 people and 300 blighted homes, that attracted the world’s attention?

The answer is Donald Trump, the Republican Party’s nominee for U.S. president. The mayor of Monessen, a Democrat, invited him to come—and how could Mr. Trump refuse such a breakdown in party discipline?

On his visit on June 28, Mr. Trump spoke about his policy on world trade, which he said would bring steel production back to the U.S. and save towns like Monessen. But wait a minute—bring steel production back to the U.S.?
Trump speaking in Monessen

Since I was born in Pittsburgh, I too long believed that since steel production left the area, it left the country. But that's not right. About 71 percent of the steel used last year in the U.S. was made in the U.S., according to the American Iron and Steel Institute, in an article submitted by Tim Worstall to Forbes magazine, “Donald Trump's Monessen Steel Plant Wasn't Killed By China.”

Mr. Worstall explains that when Monessen was booming, the steel industry in the U.S. focused on making virgin steel from raw materials, using blast furnaces. Then along came innovation in the form of the company Nucor, which found it was much cheaper (and thus more profitable) to recycle old steel into new using arc furnace technology. That put blast furnaces, like the one in Monessen, out of business.

Scott Beveridge/Observer-Reporter
Blighted houses in Monesesen.
Now some will say the problem was more complex than that. Even then, am I the only one who has a hard time seeing how a change in world trade agreements will resurrect Monessen?

I have to give it to Mr. Trump for one thing. He accepted the mayor’s invitation and visited the town, which President Obama did not. Who knows if the Republican candidate actually cares about the people of Monessen, but for one week in decades, a lot of people filled Main Street. Like the good old days.

Monessen started out having grand, global designs. The town, which sits on the bend of the Monongahela River, gets it name from the first three letters of the river's name and the German city of Essen, famous around the world as a producer of iron and steel.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Paris-Pittsburgh People: Greg Grefenstette

Pittsburgher in Paris, Greg Grefensette,
with his wife Irène on a recent visit to China
It’s amazing how many stories about Americans in Paris have to do with romance. And Pittsburgher Greg Grefenstette’s story is no exception.

I met Greg at a meeting of Paris Speech Masters, a Toastmasters club where I am a member and he came a guest. I found out that we grew up 3 miles away from each other in the South Hills of Pittsburgh!

It was in his junior year abroad in the city of Tours that Greg started his lifelong love of France.

Actually, it didn’t start out so pleasantly. He spent three miserable months in a French student dorm—nothing like today’s U.S. dorms. It was more like living in a monastery: “just beds and showers, and cockroaches.”

So Greg asked to be housed with a family for the remaining three months. At the first address, there was no sign of life, just letters piled up in the entryway.

At the second address, a lovely young woman, Irène, answered the door, but Greg didn’t understand a word. He finally understood that he was to return at dinner time.

“I did, expecting to be invited to eat. I was always hungry back then. I wasn't invited to dine, but I was given the room.”

“During the next three months, I saw Irène, and thought her way out of my class.” He was going out with a French girl, but it wasn’t serious. It was “just to learn French.” But one fateful day in June 1977, the girl was away, and Irène and Greg went to a movie, and we “fell in love then and there.”

One love letter led to another (no Internet and the telephone was $1 a minute back then). After graduating from Stanford, Greg obtained a grant to study in Belgium for a year, the closest he could get to Tours. The couple married in 1980 in a French civil ceremony, then in a religious ceremony at St. Paul Cathedral in Pittsburgh. After a few years in Paris, they settled in Tours, and started a family as Irène finished her qualifications as an obstetrician-gynecologist in 1989.

That done, they decided to test out life as a family in Pittsburgh. While Greg completed a doctoral degree at the University of Pittsburgh, Irène studied and acquired the U.S. medical equivalency for general medicine. (Medical degrees aren’t transferable from foreign countries to the U.S., unlike Greg’s degree in computer science.) By 1993, Greg had finished his Ph.D., and “we had a choice to make: stay or go back.”

They weighed the pros and cons. A big negative: Irène would have to redo her training as an Ob-Gyn. Who knows where in the U.S. she would be accepted? In the end, they felt their children (by now two boys and one girl) would be exposed to a wider variety of people, cultures, and thought in Europe. Greg believes it was the right choice.

Two of his two of children live in London now, while the last is finishing up a double master’s at Cornell “before going off somewhere else in the world.”

His very big family from Pittsburgh—he grew up with eight siblings and two cousins--all like the idea that Greg lives in Paris, and almost all have visited at one point. They all have fallen in love with France.

Rose Marie Burke, an editor and journalist, writes the blog Paris, Pittsburgh, And More, about her personal insights into life in Paris. After 20 years in the City of Light, she still calls her native Pittsburgh "home." Want to follow this blog? Find me on LinkedIn, Facebook, email me at rose.burke89 "at", or follow me on Google+.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

The U.K. Disowns My Daughter!

Source: The Spectator
So the U.K. has done it. It has disowned the European Union--and my daughter.

How could that be? Am I taking this too personally? We’re long-time residents of France. But my daughter was born here and at 13 years old, became a French citizen, which gives her rights throughout the EU.

One of those rights is to go to university in any EU country, and she is (was) planning to go to a university in the U.K.

The night before the Brexit referendum on Thursday, we were in the living room, firming up plans to go on a 10-day tour of universities in Britain. Should we even bother to go?

Once the U.K. is out of the EU, my daughter will be treated as an “international student”—at fees three or four times the usual amount. Right now, EU citizens can attend U.K. universities for 9,000 pounds a year (and ones in Scotland for free), which is a bargain compared with U.S. universities, but expensive considering that tuition is free many EU countries.

Yes, that means U.K. students can attend university in the EU for free or at home rates. (See this story, "Leave the UK, Study in Europe.") Or just for a year as an exchange student under the EU Erasmus program. More than 200,000 U.K. students have participated in Erasmus, according to Universities UK. Belonging to the EU does have its advantages.

We're hoping it will take years for the U.K. to untangle itself from the EU. My daughter might get into a British university at "home rates" under the wire. We’re not calling off the trip, but thinking about a plan B.

Maybe the University of Pittsburgh? (The irony here is that the city and by extension the university was named after one of Britain's prime ministers, William Pitt, whose country when he ruled was engaged in wars with its European neighbors.)

With Brexit, a parent in the EU family has sued for divorce, and the division of the household is not going to be friendly or fast. Living together is hard, but fighting against one another separately for centuries is worse.

And it is the parents--the oldsters, who are to blame. Compared with around 40% of over 65s, upwards of 60% of 18 to 24-year-olds voted Remain. And 16-year-olds like my daughter didn't have any say in what will be their future. As in any divorce, it will be the children that will suffer the most—the next generation who did not choose this path.

Rose Marie Burke, an editor and journalist, writes the blog Paris, Pittsburgh, And More, about her personal insights into life in Paris. After 20 years in the City of Light, she still calls her native Pittsburgh "home." Want to follow this blog? Find me on LinkedIn, Facebook, email me at rose.burke89 "at", or follow me on Google+.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

When Life Gives You Franco-American Crumbs

What I had in mind
My daughter celebrated her 16th birthday this week, and as usual,  the mere idea of making a cake was stressing me out. 

No, I couldn’t cop out, and go to one of Paris’ many fantastic bakeries; the cake had to be homemade. 

How it really turned out
Last year the request was for a baklava cake, and I reacted with a typically French “can’t do attitude.” But with my daughter's help, we  pulled off this stunning feat. And it’s not as hard to make as it looks (go here for the recipe).

By comparison, this year’s request sounded so simple. It was for a plain yellow cake with strawberries and whipped cream, a simple version of the French frasier, in other words--strawberry shortcake.  No problem, I thought! 

My husband bought the gariguette variety of strawberries, which are small and delicate, but bursting with flavor. And they were in season. We were off to a good start.

But of course, I had to make it complicated. I thought I’d try to bake the cake into thin layers, and then stack them artfully with sliced strawberries, using the whipped cream as mortar (see the photo for my dream cake).

And of course, I made the batter using an untested American recipe. The cake came out partially burnt, uneven, and stuck to the pan. Why? Because I insist on using American recipes with French ingredients, which is an intercultural marriage with bleak prospects.
Last year's baklava cake
I salvaged the larger pieces of the cake, but abandoned the project, letting it sit overnight. I’ll just start all over again, I thought. (At least I had enough common sense to build in a day in case the cake was a total disaster.)

“How about cutting out small rounds with the end of a glass,” my daughter suggested. “And make a mini leaning Tower of Pisa?” I added.

When life gives you crumbs, make crumb-cake?

I started stacking, alternating a layer of cake with whipped cream and strawberry halves. My husband, the engineer, suggested impaling the tower with a chopstick for structural integrity. 

“It won’t last that long,” I said. 

We took a few photos before the tower collapsed under its weight, and somehow made it onto our plates. 

This mashup of an American recipe and French ingredients was messy. But put on the blindfolds, and it was a marriage made in heaven!