America’s Favorite Sandwich…and the Croque Monsieur

After I wrote about BLTs as America’s second favorite sandwich, some of you asked what is America’s NUMBER ONE favorite. According to Wiki, it’s ham! I was surprised. Are you?!

I’m guessing nobody needs a refresher on how to make a ham sandwich, but if you have some bread and ham, that’s all it takes! Of course, some of us like to add mustard and lettuce, maybe a few pickles, cheese, tomato, mayonnaise, or whatever, but ham sandwiches are simple and always a treat (unless you’re trying to treat your Jewish, Muslim, or vegetarian friends. In that case, DON’T use ham)!

However, I now have a friend from France, Jerome, who reads Summer Setting and suggested I try Croquet monsieur sandwiches. I’d never heard of them, so I looked up a recipe in my favorite encyclopedia, Wikipedia, and found the basic ingredients. I can 100% recommend this delectable take on ham sandwiches. If you’re looking for a gourmet flair to brighten up your lunch or supper, try this:

Croque monsieur

Per sandwich:
1. Dip two slices of french bread in a mixture of 1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon of milk.
2. Place one slice of the bread in a frying pan with melted butter.

Favorite cheeses for Croque monsieur: Emmental, Gruyére, or Comté

3. Top the bread with deli (or baked) ham, cheese (whatever you have), and the other slice of bread.

4. Fry in butter until both sides are browned.

5. Sprinkle liberally with grated cheese.

Place under the broiler until the cheese melts and starts to bubble. If you like ham and cheese, and especially if you’re a fan of french toast (also known as “poor knights” by Germans), I’m pretty sure you’ll love Croque monsieur! We definitely do!

At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall be filled with bread. Then you shall know that I am the Lord your God” (Exodus 16:12. The part of the verse I want to emphasize is that it is ultimately the Lord who provides food for us. In the context, the meat was lamb, not ham! As you likely know, in the Old Testament pork was condemned as unclean. I hope we’re always sensitive to the needs and emotional reactions any guests in our home may have to certain foods. Let’s avoid serving anything offensive!)

Thoughts on Patience and Exquisite French Gardens

“Patience is the ability to let your light shine after your fuse has blown.”
(~ Bob Levey)

Sunshine and summer gardens . . . two of my favorite things! A month ago I wrote about “Peaceful Thoughts and Gardens,” but as I examined my photos of fabulous gardens, I couldn’t help but consider the years of meticulous care that go into producing a quintessential garden!

Château du Clos Lucé, France, established in 1471

For instance, the Château du Clos Lucé was once the home of Leonardo da Vinci and has been maturing for over 550 years—more than twice as long as America has existed as a nation!

The Palace of Versailles, first built in 1624 as a hunting lodge by Louis XIII

France’s most famous palace, Versailles, has expanded and been refined over hundreds of years. This long process of sowing and reaping, envisioning, building, pruning, and renewing speaks to me of the patience it takes to make something magnificent!

Gardens near the Louvre in Paris, France

In light of this, and building on Jesus’s parable about the sower (from my last post), I’ve found some thoughts on patience to share with you, and I’ll illustrate them with photos I took at some of France’s most stunning gardens.

Chateau De Villandry Gardens. Loire River Valley

“The two most powerful warriors are patience and time” (~ Leo Tolstoy).

Gardens at The Royal Château de Blois, originally built in 854 AD. That’s almost a thousand years older than the United States of America!

“I realized that the deepest spiritual lessons are not learned by His letting us have our way in the end, but by His making us wait, bearing with us in love and patience until we are able to honestly to pray what He taught His disciples to pray: Thy will be done.” Elisabeth Elliot, Through the Gates of Splendor.

Gardens of Clos Luce, where Leonardo da Vinci lived and died

“Patience serves as a protection against wrongs as clothes do against cold. For if you put on more clothes as the cold increases, it will have no power to hurt you. So in like manner you must grow in patience when you meet with great wrongs” (~Leonardo da Vinci).

Pools and flowers at the gardens of Giverny in France.

But we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us” (Romans 5:3-5).

The Château de Chambord in Chambord, Loir-et-Cher, France.

“Genius is nothing but a great aptitude for patience”
(~ George-Louis de Buffon).

Azaleas and Rhododendrens at Chateau De Cheverny, France

“Patience is the companion of wisdom” (~ St. Augustine).

Kitchen Garden of Chateau De Cheverny, France

But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience” (Luke 8:15).

Bois de Chassepaille, Chaumont. Loire Valley, France

“One minute of patience, ten years of peace” (~ Greek proverb).

Visiting Chateau De Cheverny with our two youngest sons

“Have patience with all things, But, first of all with yourself”
(~ Saint Francis de Sales).

Formal Gardens at Chateau De Villandry, France

“Have courage for the great sorrows of life and patience for the small ones; and when you have laboriously accomplished your daily task, go to sleep in peace. God is awake” (~ Victor Hugo).

Gardens of Chateau De Cheverny

Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing” (James 1:3-4).

Chateau Chenonceau

“It is easier to find men who will volunteer to die, than to find those who are willing to endure pain with patience” (~ Julius Caesar).

Exuberant flowers bursting with color in Giverny Gardens of France

“Who ever is out of patience is out of possession of their soul”
(~ Francis Bacon).

Meticulously kept formal gardens of Chateau De Villandry

“Patience is waiting. Not passively waiting. That is laziness. But to keep going when the going is hard and slow – that is patience” (~ Unknown).

Water gardens at Bois de Chassepaille, Chaumont, Loire Valley of France

“One moment of patience may ward off great disaster.
One moment of impatience may ruin a whole life” (~ Chinese Proverb).

Château Royal de Blois, where Joan of Arc went for a blessing in 1429.

In your patience possess ye your souls” (Luke 21:19).

The Lourvre Quay. France

Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy” (James 5:11).

Wisteria overhanging the bridge at Giverny Gardens, France

“How poor are they that have not patience!
What wound did ever heal but by degrees?” (~ William Shakespeare, Othello).

Formal Gardens of Chateau De Villandry, Loire Valley

Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:1-2).

Profusion of flowers beside a lily pond at Giverny Gardens, France

“Our real blessings often appear to us in the shape of pains, losses and disappointments; but let us have patience and we soon shall see them in their proper figures” (~ Joseph Addison).

The incredibly beautiful gardens of Chateau De Cheverny in May

“Let nothing disturb thee; Let nothing dismay thee; All things pass; God never changes. Patience attains All that it strives for. He who has God Finds he lacks nothing: God alone suffices” (~ St. Teresa of Avila).

The Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi

The most beautiful prayer I’ve ever read concerning peace came from the pen of St. Francis of Assisi, who is one of the Church’s most revered saints, even though he lived over 800 years ago and died when he was only 44. St. Francis truly tried to life his life in imitation of Christ!

Painting of St. Francis in the Louvre Museum, Paris

“Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is Hatred, let me sow Love.
Where there is Injury, Pardon.
Where there is Doubt, Faith.
Where there is Despair, Hope.
Where there is Darkness, Light, and
Where there is Sadness, Joy.

“O Divine Master,
Grant that I may not so much
seek to be consoled as to console;
To be understood, as to understand;
To be loved, as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive,
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
And it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.”

Stained glass windows in Notre Dame, Paris
(tragically destroyed by fire last year)

The most profound explanation of how to be an instrument of peace comes from the heart of my Lord, Jesus Christ, who taught us: “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God. 43 Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. 44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;45 That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:9,43-45).

Sunshine streaming down on a bouquet at Chateau De Villandry, France

Peaceful Thoughts and Gardens

“You can choose to live in the past—or choose to live past it. Make peace with your past before it tears you to pieces” (Linda Swindling, Ask Outrageously: The Secret To Getting What You Want).

Rose in the Musee Rodin Garden, Paris

Ready for some encouraging quotes about peace from around the world? I don’t know about you, but I’ve been struggling with anxiety lately, despite concerted efforts to “Keep calm and pray on.” Between COVID concerns, racial injustice, economic insecurities, rioting, looting, social isolation versus taking some chances on opening social channels again . . . that along with my beloved husband turning 70 and planning to retire in a few weeks . . . well, I’m ready for something to soothe my soul and comfort my heart. I hope what I’ve found will be a balm for you as well . . . so please take a few minutes to meander with me through french gardens while pondering wise thoughts!

Chateau De Cheverny, France

“The first thing is to be honest with yourself. You can never have an impact on society if you have not changed yourself . . . Great peacemakers are all people of integrity, of honesty, and humility” (Nelson Mandela).

Honey bee gathers nectar from Johnny Jump ups

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (Jesus, recorded in John 16:33).

Apple Blossoms and Colorful birds in Giverny Gardens, France

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity . . . Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow” (Melody Beattie).

Red Valerian (Centhranthus ruber) from garden at Mont Saint-Michel, France

Agree with God, and be at peace; thereby good will come to you” (Job 22:21).

Kathi in a field of rapeseed (from which canola oil is made); Loire Valley, France

“May you find peace and purpose within friendships and fruitfulness without” (— Sara Ewing What? You’ve never heard of Sara Ewing? Okay, so she’s not famous; but she’s a very wise friend of mine!)

Pansies at Chateau De Villandry, France

“Peace is not made at the Council table or by treaties, but in the hearts of men” (Herbert Clark Hoover, who was America’s president from 1929-1933, during our Great Depression).

“Do not let the behavior of others destroy your inner peace” (Dalai Lama).

Gardens of Versailles

“Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee” (Augustine of Hippo in Confessions).

Giverny Gardens

“The day the power of love overrules the love of power, the world will know peace” (Mahatma Gandhi).

Wisteria. Étretat France

Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (Jesus, recorded in John 14:27).

Maman’s Ratatouille

My friends R and J work with North African Muslim immigrants in France, and one summer I had the privilege of helping out a little too. One afternoon, J set me to work helping her make a huge dinner of ratatouille for a wonderfully large group of guests (oh, for the good old days!!), which was so memorable that I asked if I could share her recipe with you. She’s actually made a small recipe book full of her favorite french and North African dishes, and this is one of the recipes in her book. I made it for (family) company recently (less than 10 of us), and they all approved. If you like fresh veggies, or vegetarian dishes, I think you’ll love this:

Maman’s Ratatouille
(Serves 6-8+)

What I did was slightly different, so I’ll tell you what I did, but J’s crock-pot approach would doubtless be excellent too. I just wanted the veggies a little less cooked.

In a large skillet (or the bottom of a large cooking pot), chop and saute together in
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium onions
1 large green pepper
1 large red pepper.
3-5 cloves of minced garlic
(about 3 tablespoons if previously prepared fresh or 2 T. dried)

When these have started to brown nicely, transfer to a large cooking pot and add the following chopped:
1 large eggplant
3 medium zucchini
3 medium onions
3 tablespoons fresh basil

Salt and pepper to taste (I added:
1 teaspoon Lawry’s seasoning salt
1 teaspoon table salt
2 teaspoons pepper

Just before serving, or if you’re making it to serve immediately after cooking, add:
1 six-ounce can of tomato paste
1 can black olives, chopped
(I used a 12-oz. can and added the juice)
3 tablespoons fresh basil, then heat until it’s simmering and steaming again.

I think fresh bread is a must, but we also served it with a tossed salad and a bowl of watermelon. It’s definitely good enough to be a stand alone meal if served with bread and butter!

Better is a dinner of herbs where love is, than a stalled ox and hatred therewith” (Proverbs 15:17). In these days of COVID concerns, a dinner of fresh herbs is a real treat! I had just been to the store before our family (who are also sheltering-in-place) arrived!

A Memorial Day Tribute

For anyone who’s feeling sad to miss being able to celebrate with friends and family this Memorial Day Weekend, I would like to remind us ( because I’m among this group) that Memorial Day was established as a day to mourn for and honor the valiant soldiers who have given their lives to keep our country free for the past 150+ years!

Memoirs of Omaha Beach Landing—so worth watching
for those of us who never lived through the horrors of World War 2.
Lord, deliver us from repeating our world’s past mistakes!

While exploring France a few years ago, we traveled to Cricqueville-en-Bessin, Lower Normandy, France so we could visit the Musée Mémorial Bataille de Normandie . . . the museum and monuments commemorating the battles of Normandy during World War 2.

I was born just five years after the war ended in Europe, but in America, nobody was really talking about the war. People were intent on trying to forget and rebuild their lives.

I think this was actually impossible, but because the war was mostly fought on foreign soil, and our guys were mostly buried overseas, the terrible scars and unending need for rebuilding was not as obvious.

Therefore, it meant all the more to me to be able to visit the Musée Mémorial Bataille de Normandie, with its vast storehouse of information about D-Day and the war to free Normandy, France from the Nazis.

The day we visited was immensely foggy and dreary . . . it couldn’t have been more somber or fitting.

Omaha Beach Memorial

If ever you’re tempted to start a war (even with your beloved family members), please stop and do a little research into the horrible effects and unforgettable sorrows you will inflict—not only on others, but also on yourself. There are ultimately NO winners in a war.

There will be the victors and the heroes . . . we actually got to meet one the day we visited. But, I feel certain that had I asked him, he would have wished the world had been able to contain and overcome the threat of world dictatorship without the terrible personal, national, and international losses.

However, I would also guess that until God causes wars to cease, people and nations will continue being willing to sacrifice their lives to fight for the freedoms they believe to be their God-given rights. It’s the ultimately difficult job, but I am grateful for every person who serves in our military—and for every military that protects the rights of their people to live peaceable, quiet, godly lives. Thank you, soldiers, and “Hats Off!” to my son and his family (serving in the military) as well. May God bless and protect you all.

Barbed wire still in place along Normandy Coast of France. Omaha Beach Landing

Come, behold the works of the Lord, what desolations he hath made in the earth. He maketh wars to cease unto the end of the earth; he breaketh the bow, and cutteth the spear in sunder; he burneth the chariot in the fire. Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth” (Psalm 46:8-10). Oh Lord, we wait on you to bring an end to wars forever! “Even so, come, Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22:20).

Irresistible Crème Brûlée (Burnt Cream!)

Crème Brûlée is one of those dishes you never forget once you’ve tasted it! What’s not to love about creamy custard with a caramelized sugar coating?

We got four desserts for the four of us . . . this isn’t JUST my tray!

Everywhere we traveled through France, there were amazing desserts, but even though Crème Brûlée is simple, always the same, and almost a “staple,” it’s such a classic taste that it’s pretty irresistible.

So, if you’d like to create your own irresistible dessert that’s so mild everyone from your toothless great granny down to your toothless six-month old will love it, try this!

Irresistible Crème Brûlée
(Serves 6)

Preheat oven to 325°F. Place 6 ramekins in a baking dish on the counter. Prepare a tea kettle full of boiling water.

Next, in a saucepan, heat:
2 cups heavy whipping cream until starting to bubble at edges (just below simmering)

While the cream is heating, in a stainless steel mixing bowl, whisk together:
6 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

When the cream is hot, add it slowly to the egg mixture, blending until uniformly mixed.

Next, pour the custard evenly into the 6 ramekins.

Carefully pour the boiling water from your teapot (or whatever) into the bottom of the baking dish so that it is just about as deep as the dishes full of the cream mixture. (This will make the pan super hot, so have it on a cutting board or some other heat resistant surface, and use hot pads when you transfer it into the oven.) Place the baking dish in the hot oven on the top rack and bake for 35 minutes at 325°F or until the mixture is starting to set but is still jiggly in the middle.

Remove from the oven and cool on the counter. Remove the ramekins from the water and allow them to cool completely, then place them in the refrigerator to chill thoroughly (which takes about 2 hours hours; overnight also works fine, but then cover them after they’re cold).

(This is a bit of an aside, but when I have a little extra and bake it in the oven without the benefit of its being in a bath of boiling water, it tastes almost as creamy, although there’s a bit of a drier edge—as pictured above. So, to be a true gourmet, I think you do need the baby as well as the bath water!)

Shortly before serving them (or before you serve dinner if they are to be your dessert), turn on your broiler oven to heat up, preparing a top rack that’s about 6 inches beneath the broiler unit.

Then, sprinkle the tops of the chilled creme evenly with a mixture made from:
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoon white sugar

Place the ramekins under the broiler and let them broil for 2-4 minutes, or until all the sugar melts and starts to turn a golden brown. (This is the hardest part, so watch the sugar like a hawk. It can go from crystalized to burnt in a minute!)

Remove immediately and return them to the refrigerator so the crème brûlée cools and the sugar resolidifies and becomes brittle (which usually takes 15+ minutes if you can stand to wait that long. For this reason, I recommend completing the crème brûlées before dinner. They’ll survive an hour in the fridge and still taste perfect). If you’re really into making crème brûlée, you can buy a kitchen torch to melt the sugar, but I bought one that never worked very well, and so I’ve reverted to the broiler method, which is less precise but certainly simple! 🙂 They don’t call it “burnt” cream for nothing!!

It’s pretty much perfect ungarnished, although you can always add a few fresh berries and a touch of whipping cream to make it look especially gourmet!

To eat it, you have to crack the top with your spoon and then scoop out a little of the creme with a little of the sugar brittle topping. Also, if your ramekins are shallow with a greater surface area than the ones I use, then you might want to use 3 tablespoons of brown sugar and 2 of white.

To the end that my glory may sing praise to thee, and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give thanks unto thee for ever” (Psalm 30:12).

After War Comes Peace

May 8, 2020 marked the 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe—a national holiday in France. Last week I shared with you a little bit about Jérôme, the french catechist who loves Jesus. In corresponding about VE-Day celebrations, Jérôme reminded me that “after war comes peace.”

What a comforting reminder for each of us during this season of world-wide unrest and “war” on COVID! Someday—we don’t know when—there will be peace again.

Rubble left from D-Day attack along the coast of Normandy, France
now adorned with gorse bushes

During our trip to France, I was touched over and over again by seeing this lived out in nature. All along the Normandy Coast, wildflowers and soothing fields of green grasses and moss were softening the terrain . . . overcoming destruction with beauty.

Violets and moss flourish atop an old stone wall. Mont Saint-Michel, France.

Did you know that “peace” is mentioned 420 times in the Bible? Something about the quiet glory of wildflowers taking root in rubble and along the rugged cliff sides made me think of peace.

Land scarred by bomb craters now jeweled with flowers

Peace can come to our hearts if we will open them to God’s Holy Spirit and allow him to quiet us. In this light, please let me share a few wildflowers from France and a handful of my favorite verses on peace from the Bible:

Honeybee on Forget-me-not

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven . . .
A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace
(Ecclesiastes 3:1,8).

Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it” (Psalm 34:14).

Salvia and sea pinks stand like sentinels of peace along the cliffs of Étretat France.

Great peace have they which love thy law:
and nothing shall offend them” (Psalm 119:165).

Lichens and violets climb the walls of Mont Saint-Michel in France

But the meek shall inherit the earth;
and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace” (Psalm 37:11).

Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright:
for the end of that man is peace” (Psalm 37:37).

Stinging Nettles

He hath delivered my soul in peace from the battle that was against me:
for there were many with me” (Psalm 55:18).

Kidney Vetch on slopes at Cliffs of Etretat, France.

Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27).

Columbine near Mont Saint-Michel in France.

And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding,
shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7).

Highbush Cranberry

Love the truth and peace” (Zechariah 8:19).

Cabbage White Butterfly on Common Winter-cress

Mercy and truth are met together;
righteousness and peace have kissed each other” (Psalm 85:10).

Mounds of wild roses transform the once Nazi-occupied Normandy Coast

And the work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness
quietness and assurance for ever” (Isaiah 32:17).

Honey bee on Gorse Bush. Étretat, France.

Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee:
because he trusteth in thee” (Isaiah 26:3).

Sea Pinks along cliffs of Étretat, France.

In his days shall the righteous flourish;
and abundance of peace so long as the moon endureth” (Psalm 72:7).

Nature softens an abandoned bunker at Pointe du Hoc, France

I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep:
for thou, Lord, only makest me dwell in safety” (Psalm 4:8).

Steamed Garlic Mussels

I was never much of a fan of mussels until Alan and I visited the Normandy Coast in France a few years ago with two of our sons.

Along the boardwalk in Étretat, mussels were obviously the top seller and most popular local dish, so we all thought we really ought to try them. Feeling a bit like Dr. Seuss’s Sam I Am testing green eggs and ham, we tried them . . . and unilaterally LOVED them!

(Mussels is one dish definitely not meant just for the birds! 🙂 )

Since then, we’ve tried them many places, although the memory of first experience with those amazing pots of steaming mussels lived on in our imaginations as something almost inimitable.

Because we live in the center of America—far from ocean beaches—it’s taken me a long time to get around to tracking down a reputable source for mussels, but they do exist, and if you’re interested, you, too, can make pots of fresh, steamy mussels that (possibly?) come close to rivaling the flavor of Normandy.

(Or else I just can’t remember how much more wonderful they really were). If you’ve tried mussels and like them, then try this sometime:

Steamed Garlic Mussels
(Serves 2)

In the bottom of a large cooking pot saute:
3 tablespoons of butter
1 chopped onion
2 tablespoons fresh, crushed garlic
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
When the onions and garlic are nicely browned, add:
2 cups white grape juice, apple juice (or traditional if you’re french, which I’m not, white wine)
1 teaspoon seasoning salt (I use Lawry’s, but whatever you have is good)
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 zested lemon (or you can use a lime in a pinch)
1 teaspoon crushed, dried parsley (or 1/2 cup fresh added just before serving, if you have fresh, which is truly delectable 🙂 )
Bring to a simmer

Add 2 pounds of prepared mussels. (Yes, each person gets their own entire pound. In France, they often served them in even larger proportions!) If the mussels are really fresh, you’ll have to clean and de-beard them, and then cook them in salt water. However, if you buy mussels that have already been cooked, cleaned, and flash frozen, then prepare them according to the directions on the package. Once they are cooked, add them to the broth above and let them simmer for 2-3 minutes. If most of the shells are already open, you can add the broth and turn the heat off, allowing the flavorings to meld with the mussels. Test to make sure they’re salty enough, although they probably will be if they were cooked originally in salted water. Add more salt only if needed.

Steamed Garlic Mussels garnished with fresh parsley and served with fresh lemon
Along the Normandy coast, we could discard our shells into the top half of the pot.
However, if you don’t live along some wildly romantic coastal area and just happen to have pots for steaming mussels or clams, then you can do what I did:
Serve mussels with an extra bowl for the shells! Also . . . a loaf of fresh bread with lots of butter and hopefully a tossed salad.

Steamed mussels are also great in pasta, served over rice, or with french fries.

However, we like them just on their own merit, with lots of bread to sop up the broth (which is delicious; consider it a “soup”).

And take thou unto thee of all food that is eaten, and thou shalt gather it to thee; and it shall be for food for thee, and for them” (Genesis 6:21). “Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things” (Genesis 9:3).

Impressions of Étretat . . . and of Life

Images of Étretat, France have been playing in my brain for 38 years—this image in particular! Do you recognize it? It’s from Epcot’s utterly captivating Impressions de France movie, which began playing on opening day back in 1982 (when our family was young) and now holds the Guinness World Record for the “longest running daily screening of a film in the same theater.” There was always something wistfully romantic about this elderly couple meandering along the cliffs beneath a stormy sky . . . the spire of an old stone church above them and the immortal beauty of Monet’s chalky cliffs below. It made me think of my parents, who were about that age, and conjured up images of peace and endurance . . . God, man, and nature in harmony despite the looming clouds and darkness coming on.

L’Aiguille (The Needle) and Porte d’Aval Arch. Cliffs of Étretat France

So, when we toured France with our two youngest sons a few years ago, Étretat made it into the list of “must sees”. . . and has remained in my heart as one of our “best sees!”

Étretat is a tiny “commune” (French, but we’d call it a village in English) of fewer than 1,300 people.

Étretat is best known for the 300-foot chalk cliffs, graceful arches, and magnificent hiking path. The area was made especially famous by Claude Monet (and other prominent french painters and authors) and retains the atmosphere of a quaint beach resort.

Le monument Nungesser et Coli (Monument to The White Bird)

Étretat’s other claim to fame is as the last place in France where “The White Bird” (a 1927 biplane) was last seen. Two World War I war heroes were attempting the first ever non-stop from Paris to New York City, but the plane disappeared over the Atlantic and was never recovered—continuing as one of aviation’s greatest unsolved mysteries.

Étretat with Chapelle Notre Dame de la Garde (Stone Church) and the Monument to The White Bird atop the far distant hill above the village

The morning we arrived was as overcast and grey as the evening scene in The Impressions of France.

The cliffs were enshrouded with low-hanging clouds of mist.

We explored the beaches and walkways above and through the cliffs.

Remains from World War II German Occupation

Although we knew that the coast of Normandy had been occupied by the Nazis during World War II, I hadn’t realized that their fortifications extended to Étretat.

How many of their sons lost their lives during the raging wars?

I couldn’t help but consider that the elderly couple in The Impressions de France movie would most likely have lived through both World War I and World War II, just like my own parents.

Our sons coming to meet us at the top of Étretat.
They were able to hike faster and longer than we could!

Although our sons kindly refused to acknowledge that Alan and I have become that elderly couple in The Impressions de France, I couldn’t help but sense that in 38 years, we’ve gone from being a young couple in the midst of having children . . . to an elderly couple on the verge of retirement! We haven’t had to live through nearly as much heartache and world destruction as our parents did, but we are heading into a storm during the twilight years of our life— a world war of disease. As of this morning, there are 4,387,438 confirmed cases of COVID-19 globally with 298,392 deaths, and I think before the year is out, these numbers may seem insignificantly small.

Still, my hope and prayer is that our beautiful world will come through the storms intact. May the Lord have mercy on us and heal us. May we find peace to endure and harmony with God and nature as we pilgrim on. May our heavenly father cause his son’s shine to burn off the misty shrouds of death! And, for those who can’t walk along the mountain top but are forced to walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, may the Lord cast long golden beams of light to brighten your way.

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me” (Psalm 23:1-4).