Vegetable, french lentil, potato ragout

Vegetable french lentil ragout

In which Claire goes on and on about The Two of Us, part 2 of 2.

Did I mention that we recently watched the Claude Berri film, The Two of Us? Oh, I did? I’ve told you that I loved the film, and some of the reasons why. But there was more to it than that. The film spoke to me, about things I’ve been thinking about the last few weeks. I saw myself in some of the characters in a way I don’t usually with most films. I wonder if everybody feels that way when they watch The Two of Us, because the film is so human and honest that it feels universal? Such specific things resonated, though. An old, old dog, loved more than anything in the world. A bright, energetic 8-year-old boy, who doesn’t quite understand why you’re upset by the way he acts. The father’s anxious-angry-loving face was so dear and familiar. And then there were the animals. Pepe is a vegetarian. Not a common or popular position in the French countryside at the time, it would seem. The rest of the populace was trying to find a way to scrounge some meat during the deprivations of WWII, but he proudly announced that he only ate vegetables. By choice. Not because that’s all the rations allowed. His wife raised, killed, and cooked rabbits. But to Pepe, that wasn’t an option, because he knew the rabbits. He loved the rabbits. Exactly in the way he loved Claude, though he was a jew, because he knew him. It reminded me of the film The Shooting Party, in which a parallel is made between children who save their pet duck from a duck hunt, as though she’s the only duck that matters, because she’s their duck, and the fact that the accidental shooting of an old man is only important because they know him. All this in the context of WWI, in which surely it was only possible to kill other humans in fear and ignorance, because you didn’t know them, and they were the enemy. In the way Claude, the little boy, would have been to Pepe, before he knew him.

Anyway…I wanted to make something to go with my couronne bread, and I decided to make something Pepe might eat. So I made a ragout, which as I understand it is a stew substantial enough to be a meal. This was hearty, because of the potatoes and french lentils, but they weren’t the stars of the show. We also had zucchini, broccoli rabe and tomatoes, and white wine and capers for brightness. So it had a certain lightness, despite being completely satisfying. Not the prettiest thing I’ve ever made, but right up their with the tastiest.

Here’s Nina Simone with Turning Point. A devastating, complex song, told with the simplicity of a child’s voice. A revelation of prejudice that makes it all seem so idiotic and unnecessary.
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Couronne bread

Couronne bread

The Two of Us, by Claude Berri, is one of the most perfectly beautiful films I’ve seen. During world war II, an eight-year-old Jewish boy is sent to live in the country with his landlady’s parents. The story is based on Berri’s memories of his childhood, and it has the beautiful glow of a child’s perspective filtered through memory. With the ease that children approach friendship, Claude takes to Pepe, the old man. And Pepe loves him back, not realizing, as he weaves frightening tales of Jews as villains, that the boy himself is Jewish. There’s such a simplicity and grace to the film – it has a feeling of effortlessness and honesty – that the emotional impact is powerful and immediate, and it took me a while to realize just how intelligent it is. Pepe, as played by the incomparable Michel Simon, is so human – so wonderful in some ways, and so flawed in others. Without moralizing or judging, Berri provides a vivid illustration that prejudice is born of ignorance. In the context of the war going on around them – tragic news on the radio, threatening posters around the town – Pepe’s bigotry, which seems innocent because he’s so sweet, takes on a looming dangerous shadow.

And it takes place in the French countryside, in summer! They eat outside and drink copious bottles of homemade wine! They chase each other and their elderly dog around gorgeous fields and meadows! And, as you can see in the trailer, there’s a lovely and intriguing loaf of bread on the table throughout most of the film. I decided to try to make this bread! I believe it’s called a couronne, because a bread of that name is made in Lyon, and I believe they’re in Lyon because that’s what the sign on the train said. To be honest, what I actually made was my version of a French baguette in circular form. I’ve long wanted to make bread that had this texture – chewy crispy on the outside, and not so finely crumbed on the inside. I think this turned out that way! It’s really good! And pretty! I read a bunch of different recipes, and then combined them in a fly-by-the-seat-of-my pants kind of way. But it seems to have worked, so I’ll tell you what I did step by step.

We had a Vegetable, french lentil, potato ragout with this, and it was a perfect meal.

Georges Delrue wrote the music to The Two of Us, and oddly enough, years ago I fell in love with a song he wrote for Jules et Jim called Brouillard. I set some super 8 footage to it a while back. So that’s what this is.
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