The Bistro

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Join us here in The Bistro for a discussion on the entire Gamache series. Feel free to ask or answer any questions about any of the books or the series as a whole.

Discussion on “The Bistro”

Thanks for the lovely comments Julie! I am glad I dont have to make my changes in public the way Louise does.
Thank you also dor the cooking tips. Our cream is pasteurised but we have lovely thick dolloping cream and clotted cream with its delightfully high fat content. Not sure why cream whips better in the food processor but I will remember that for my dinner parties.

I have an amazing tip (if it turns out to be something everyone but me knows, never mind, hahaha). I just read somewhere on the internet (some cooking blog or other) that it’s much easier to make whipped cream in a food processor – that it’s faster. (Now, making whipped cream is not difficult or time-consuming anyway, so I almost glossed over this). AND that it produces a far superior product! Anna, when you get to the states and start cooking, you’ll realize that our cream is far inferior to what you’re used to – both in taste and texture. This is due to ultra-pasteurizing, in my opinion. And this is the reason you can’t use our heavy cream to make clotted cream – it simply doesn’t react to heat, time, etc. in the same way as raw cream does. Most of us probably remember milk coming to our houses in bottles, and when you pulled off the cardboard top, there, floating on top of the milk, was a big glob of beautiful, thick cream. That doesn’t happen anymore – you can leave your whole milk alone for weeks and the cream will never separate from it.

So – reading how they were doing this with the food processor, I tried it last night – and oh, my, goodness! What resulted after 2 minutes (no – less, really) of spinning the cream in the processor, I had thick, beautifully dense cream. It was thick enough you could have iced a cake with it – or piped it from a pastry bag! I barely sweetened it, and it tasted so very like and had the texture of real clotted cream! Seventh heaven! I’m so excited about this, that I had to share. I even put a little spoonful in a container and put it in the fridge to see how long it would last as the dense, wonderful cream. So far, I made it last night at 9 p.m., and at 1 this afternoon, it’s still exactly as it was when I made it! Yippee! It was wonderful on a piece of apple pie….

Anna, I think you are on to something. Change is, of course, inevitable. And many changes come in small doses and we hardly even notice it as it’s happening. Other times are like what you are facing. I think you’re very brave to be moving halfway across the world, seeing your daughter go off to college and watching as your parents fade in their vitality… so very difficult, any one of those things – all three together is almost unimaginable! Not to mention the fact that you are separated from your husband for such a long period of time as he’s had to make the move so much earlier than you have. It’s all overwhelming, I’m sure. I think for sure you won’t break, because we already know that you are strong and capable and smart! You are also very articulate and can reach out to ask for help if you need to – something lots of people can’t do.

I am in absolute awe of Louise – to face what life is becoming for her with such grace – and yet, facing it unflinchingly – much like Gamache. It’s not easy to do it, but it’s far better than denial. Still, Louise is doing it IN PUBLIC, which is amazing to me. Now there is a role model! I had a surreal moment a few days ago. There is a local broadcaster here in the Seattle area, who was on the air for over 40 years, and certainly all the time I have been here. We saw her every night on the 5 o’clcock news. I knew she lived in our area (though in the tonier section than I do, hahaha). She retired last year, so we haven’t seen her on air for awhile. I ran into her (literally) at the supermarket the other day. She was rushing furiously through the produce section. She kind of laughed when our carts collided, and said “excuse me” and rushed on, and I almost said “It’s good to see you, how have you been?” as if she were an acquaintance of mine. Something she probably goes through every day, as people feel like they know even minor celebrities. I can almost see how someone a little off-balance could convince themselves that they really DO know a person they admire, and trespass into the personal part of their lives. Don’t know why I keep on that topic – it just is resonating with me lately.

Great comments Julie. You articulated it very well…the scripts we can’t escape….exactly. We keep falling back into the same patterns of behaviour even when we know they are not functional.
I think the key is change. It is so hard to change, because it is frightening and it takes energy. Perhaps when we resist change we are broken. If you can accept the need to be different you heal and become stronger and if you don’t, you weaken and fade.
We have been talking a lot about change here and it isn’t surprising because it is a feature of all of our lives. We know change is not necessarily bad but it is still difficult. I feel this quite strongly at the moment as my whole world is changing and it takes my breath away if I think about it for too long. If I adapt and go with the flow then I will not break…..I hope. Or do I?
Louise is a great role model as she changed her whole life and she too is facing great change. I admire her humour and dignity in accepting life with all its challenges.

Anna – that’s an interesting question – so many people say that things are strongest where they’ve broken and mended, and usually in reference to people. But to be a truly “broken” or “damaged” person seems like it needs to be more than the usual stuff we all go through in our lives – the deaths of loved ones, divorces, other such things. All devastating, but do they truly “break” us? I think this is reserved for victims of real abuse. The first thing that comes to mind is “The Three Faces of Eve”, the first time I heard about multiple personality (which has a different name now, that I can’t just remember off the top of my head). And I think that the actual splitting of a person into distinct personalities, must certainly, be an actual “broken” person… and is usually the result of terrible abuse. To me, it’s the result of actual evil, rather than just the heartbreak that we will all go through in life if we’re lucky enough to live that long. ” Nobody gets out of here alive” is something that I feel like was the name of a song or an album, or just something pithy someone said in my youth – but we all know it’s true, and we’re kind of prepared for that. Not that it isn’t awful to lose someone – of course it is. But I think we bend enough to handle the regular things of life, of which, unfortunately, this is one. But for a person to deliberately hurt someone very deeply – that’s the kind of unexpected evil that breaks us. I don’t know if that makes any sense… But I don’t really think we HAVE to break. And lots of people do keep breaking in the same place, I think. People who have got scripts running in their heads or hearts that they can’t seem to escape. I know you see women who escape an abusive husband and then move on to another man just the same… these are scripts our parents teach us, I think, and it’s very hard to break out of the cycle…

So many posts today – how wonderful! Cathryne, so nice to see you, and Nancy! It’s great to see you, too. I think you are right, of course, Nancy, that we’d all like to be Louise’s best friend (or did you say that she would ours? Is there a difference? I feel sure there is, somehow. But I know what you mean.) The one thing I do worry about for Louise is that she has so many of us admirers and is so open with herself, that many people already think they “know” her, and I could see people descending on her when she least expects it. I especially worry since we have known the name of the village she moved to… I know that’s silly, but there you are.

I heard her speak (but couldn’t meet her) two years ago – or was it three? For The Long Way Home. Because I’d already bought my book elsewhere I couldn’t get it signed, so I just enjoyed the talk and then went on my way, gazing wistfully at the hundreds of people lined up to meet her and get their books signed. Next time she’s in this area (though I’m actually hoping, for her sake, that that’s years and years from now, because it will mean that Michael is still at home and doing well enough for her to not want to leave. I worry about this, too.) She is such a humorous speaker – and so self-deprecating that she immediately seems to be speaking just “to you”.

It’s always a joy to see your words Cathryne. There are absolutely times when I do not have the words and even then I visit here and ‘listen’ even if I can’t speak. Sitting quietly in undemanding company is restorative.
Don’t you love those moments when the light and the essence is just right. And they are just moments but the beauty lingers. Your description is joyous.
I have only passed through San Diego but Pete sings its praises. He has spent some time there. I am sure I will visit!
My favourite music from West Wing was Sanvean: I am your Shadow. It’s a haunting piece by Lisa Gerrard and used most effectively behind a montage of scenes when Zoe Barlett has been kidnapped and the Bartletts attend a mass. And of course Jeff Buckley singing Hallelujah in Posse Comitatus. It is the combination of the story, the imagery and the music that adds so much more emotion to already emotional pieces.

Millie, so good to hear from you. I liked what you said,”Help in the form of just feeling part of this group is OK even when life is difficult at the moment and I’m not up to chatting”. I believe Anna said once that she “didn’t have the words” to post for a few days or so, when she knew her mom was going to have move ing a care facility. I hope I’m being accurate. I do think sometimes that I don’t have the words and it’s OK. A chance to comment on something unrelated can be nice, though.

We loved West Wing too, and the music they included was masterfully chosen.
I’m not a big fan of Hemingway and would love to have been able to set Ruth and her poetry on him! And Rosa.

I love what you said about true friends being happy for any minute they spend with you, Anna. I had lunch with a longtime friend the other day and it was as if we took up the conversation where we left off, relaxing and restoring.

I was surprised by joy today driving home from needed, mind numbing shopping. There is a lovely old tall bridge in Balboa Park, connecting a cityish area with museums, the Old Globe Theatre, and gardens. I drove under the bridge on a freeway and the late afternoon sun was breathtaking shining through the large, tall arches. San Diego is a beautiful place. If only it would RAIN!

Heeellllllooooo Nancy! How nice to see you. Of course you want to meet her and be her best friend because she is a lovely inspirational woman and who doesn’t want people like that for friends. I am very glad that Louise has given me all of you in her stead. I suspect she has as big a social circle as she can deal with right now.
I definitely have it on my list to be at one of her events next year. Pete had a great time and Louise was generous with hers. It must be exhausting to do all of that travel and talking and meeting so many new people. I am grateful she does it but I do hope she is an extrovert and draws lots of energy from such things. I would be wiped out!
One thing I have learned from moving a lot is that true friends are happy for any minute they spend with you no matter how long that is or much time there is between those minutes. It makes for a very relaxing relationship.

Hi Everyone!

It’s Friday and tomorrow, Saturday, is when Louise is appearing at Costco in Colchester, Vt to sign books. Oh how I’d love to be there. We often visit that store on our trips to Montpelier…however..it is usually extremely busy. I hope that there have been arrangements made to aid in parking and traffic flow because it can be a zoo even on an ordinary day. With Louise there I don’t even like to think about it. I know. I’m a coward. Paul, please tell me someone has taken care of this?? (Maybe buses from Shaws parking lot across the road??)

I keep telling myself that I met her years ago when she interviewed the End Of Your Life Bookclub guy at McGill so I should be happy and let others enjoy meeting her. But secretly I’d still like to be her best friend. How about the rest of you? Anna? Millie? Julie? Sigh.

It’s been a long day and I’m too tired to even try to wrap my brain around your questions, Anna. But I do have the energy to thank you, Barbara and Julie and anyone else who silently welcomed me ‘back’, made me laugh and enjoy the warmth of ‘belonging’. Laughter. a priceless gift. 🙂

I am a great West Wing fan as it is cleverly written and superbly acted. It has humour and drama and depth. Like Louise.
You are correct about Hemmingway sounding less hopeful. I thought he was harsh….hence the Ruth less comment. But is he right? Do we all have to be broken? Can we get through life dented but not fractured? Are we really stronger afterwards? What if you keep braking in the same place?

Anna – you are the cleverest person to be able to tie such things together… Are you watching West Wing to get ready for Washington? Have you ever seen Born Yesterday with Judy Holliday? I think it’s 1950 – here’s a link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PI8jeq6VOiI This is the movie I’d watch before visiting DC. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that Judy was so very wonderful! The more I watch it, the more I enjoy it – especially the gin playing scene.

Anyway – how cool that you made that connection. Hemingway’s thoughts somehow have less hope than Louise’s, though, and seem prophetic, don’t they? The thing that’s amazing about Louise is the hope she conveys through everything, and when you see even a glimpse of her everyday life, and know how she is constantly “surprised by joy”, it’s inspiring.

Oh, Millie, there are tears in my eyes. I’m the original “heart on her sleeve” girl – people could crush me in an instant, and some have. Luckily, I do rise from the rubble – I must be a Phoenix, haha. Here in the bistro, I feel that we have all signed on for kindness and understanding. Of all the places in the world, here is where I know I will be made to feel welcome and understood. I know it’s not really a “place”, but it definitely feels like it. And it IS a community. Please don’t stay away on account of feeling like you have nothing positive to say on this or that occasion. Someone here WILL have something positive and it’s bound to be just what you need to hear. Okay, now I hear Norah Jones singing “Come away with me”, so I must have reached my limit of trite for the day. (and in my first post!)

Ah Millie….so true. We rail against change, all of us and yet it is an everyday event. I so understand what you are saying and I think we have all been there. Isn’t it lovely that Bistro itself doesn’t change. The warmth and comfort are always there. Louise created Three Pines as the place to go when we want to be kind. The Bistro is the place to go when we need kindness. I am glad you are here.

Thank you Paul for the link. Just what I needed. There’s been a lot of stress in my life this year (again) and just when I thought it was safe to dive back into the waters of a more social life and share the warmth of the Bistro, more emotional sharks appeared this week. When stressed, I can’t eat anything but soup and French bread so finding a new soup recipe is just the encouragement I needed to stay involved here and venture past my front door in search of yellow peas. 🙂

But besides that, there was a line from the blog about Myrna talking to Gamache about living a still life that shook my core: ” stunted growth … an aversion to interior change that allows evil to flourish in one’s soul.” Not that I believe evil is flourishing in my soul but a deep sadness was certainly settling in. If not depression, certainly the inability to find joy in each day. Or, as Gamache tells Peter at the end of Trick of the Light, to expect a miracle everyday. I certainly didn’t feel I could offer anything positive. Even worse, I had forgotten the cardinal rules of:
I’m sorry.
I was wrong.
I need help.
I don’t know.
Sorry I didn’t participate more.
Wrong to think if I shared my thoughts they would come out with a negative, off putting twist.
Help in the form of just feeling part of this group is OK even when life is difficult at the moment and I’m not up to chatting.
And most important, I really ‘don’t know’ what to do sometimes with the seemingly endless turmoil and ‘inner change’ these past four years have demanded of me…

Thank you Paul for this place of refuge and To All for keeping the fire of comfort going.

Anna, you are a master of tying strings together. But I don’t see it so much as ruthless rather echoes of Gamache repeating often that we can make a heaven of hell or a hell of heaven with the added twist of ‘we must die before we are reborn’. Not necessarily physically but parts of our ego? The monkey mind that is constantly beating us up with negative self talk, self abuse. Like, “Your not good enough,” till we face a situation where we feel broken after dealing with whatever we just had to face. We feel broken because we had to change our self image. The world keeps changing and so must we, but the ego fights to keep the status quo tooth and nail. Which has led me to my next post. I wrote it right after seeing the link but was hesitant to post. But what the heck.

The point I was going to make was, “Can you imagine the hell it must be to live a long life without embracing change?”

I was following Paul’s link, which made me think about How the Light Gets In (the first book the blogger read), and an old episode of West Wing begins. How are the two related you may well ask?
I had the lines from Leonard Cohen’s Anthem playing in my head:

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.

And against that l had Martin Sheen quoting Hemmingway from a Farewell to Arms:

The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong in the broken places. But those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry.

We must break to survive and indeed be stronger. Tempered by life as it were. What interests me is Hemmingway’s fate for those who will not break. Sounds ruthless (is that Freudian?).

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