Gallic Parenting

Journalist Pamela Druckerman isn’t sure she likes living in Paris, but after the arrival of her first child notices distinct differences between French and American parenting styles and outcomes.


Bringing Up Bébé by Pamela Druckerman, Penguin Press, 2012, delves deep into the success of French parenting.

Why newborns sleep though the night without waking their parents. How they learn to eat a wide variety of food. Are able to amuse themselves without demanding constant adult supervision. And the remarkable ease in which both children and parents maintain harmonious relationships in public venues.

Druckerman’s cross-cultural research includes both personal interviews with American, British, and French mothers as well as conversations with experts in various related fields.

I was intrigued by the book when it first came out but wasn’t provided with a review copy by the publisher. However, after my son and daughter-in-law announced they were expecting twins, I was convinced it was relevant reading material for me and them.

Bringing Up Bébé is a definite resource guide for would-be parents.

copyright © 2018 by N. A. Diaman, all rights reserved

Book Lover

I was hoping to visit Papasotiriou again, a large bookstore across from the university in Central Athens. Especially the large English-language section on the top floor where I found the latest titles in Greek history, politics, and culture in previous years. But it’s no longer in business.


There are English-language books at Public on Syntagma Square, though nothing resembling the depth of titles stocked by the defunct bookstore. However, it’s a great source for new Greek CDs.

One evening I noticed a bookstore in the neighborhood specializing in dictionaries but it was closed. A few days later I checked it out during business hours and was amazed at what I found. Lexikopoleio sells French, English, Spanish, and Italian books as well as dictionaries. And all titles are sold at the prices charged in their country of origin.

When Odile Brehier rented the space in the wake of the economic meltdown, women passing by frequently asked her if she really wanted to do this. She was undeterred by their skepticism and launched what’s become a successful venture five years ago.

Odile’s father was French and her mother Greek. She was born in the French Congo and has lived most of her life in Athens. Working as a translator is a solitary task. The store allows her an opportunity to socialize with like-minded people.

An event I attended hosted by Lexikopoleio featured young Greek prose writers and the editor who put together a book of their work for French readers. An overflow crowd packed the store and some lingered afterwards for a reception with people chatting with one another both inside and out in the street.

Brehier is a charming and gracious host who enthusiastically greets both old friends and new visitors to her store. She lives and works in Pangrati, or Frog Island, an area defined by two rivers that still flow underground.

I look forward to visiting this neighborhood gem and seeing her again the next time I visit the city.

image & text copyright © 2016 by N. A. Diaman, all rights reserved

Waiting For Romuald

A young woman is invited to her lover’s house in the south of France but no one answers the doorbell when she arrives. A workman lets her in and shows her to the guest room, informing her that her host was suddenly called away but his children will soon return from the beach. Merle’s encounter with the teenage son, Felix, and his younger sister, Emma, is initially cold but improves over the next couple of days.


Merle manages to occupy herself while she waits for Romauld to return. Interacts with his son and daughter, lies in the sun, reads, works on a book she’s writing, takes walks, and explores the commercial part of the town below. And when she tries to reach him she gets a recorded message asking her to leave a message. Unsure how long he’ll be away or when he’ll reappear.

Everyday Objects is directed by Nicolas Wacherbarth (Germany/France 2013), who describes his film as a thriller abut uneventful days. It screens two more times at the Sundance Kabuki Cinemas during the 56 San Francisco International Film Festival. Tickets and info at San Francisco Film Society.

copyright © 2013 by N. A. Diaman, all rights reserved

James Beard Finalists

The 2012 finalists for the James Beard Foundation Award for Best New Restaurant include: Altura, Seattle (Italian); Bistronomic, Chicago (French); Fiola, Washington, DC (Italian); Isa, New York City (Mediterranean); Petite Jacqueline, Portland, ME (French); Pistou, Burlington, VT (American/French); Tertulia (Spanish); and Zeppoli, Collingwood, NJ (Italian).

Three of the nominees for Outstanding Chef are: Tony Mantuano of Spiaggia, Chicago (Italian); Frank Ruta of Plena, Washington, DC (Italian); and Nancy Silverton of Pizzeria Mozza, Los Angeles (Italian).

Outstanding Restaurant finalists include: August, New Orleans (French); Balthazar, New York City (French); Patina, Los Angeles (French); Picasso at Bellagio, Los Vegas (French); and Vetri, Philadelphia (Italian).

And for Outstanding Restaurateur: Frank Bonanno of Bonanno Concepts, Denver (Italian); Richard and Larry D’Amico of D’Amico & Partners, Minneapolis (Italian); and Piero Selvaggio of Valentino Group, Santa Monica (Italian).

Piero Selvaggio

I enjoyed both the food and ambiance of Valentino Restaurant during a trip to Southern California perhaps twenty years ago. Selvaggio, who was born in Modica, Sicily, has been in the restaurant business for over forty years and is already the recipient of many prestigious awards.

copyright © 2012 by N. A. Diaman, all rights reserved

The Story Of French

I arrived in Paris on a Sunday, registered at The Alliance Française on Monday, and began my first class Wednesday on rue Raspail. In 1966 I was determined to learn the language because I intended to remain in France indefinitely. Sadly, I only made it to the second grade. Failing to find work there, I returned to San Francisco six months later.

The year before I was to visit Paris again I began watching French In Action, from the beginning to the final episode in preparation for the trip I was to make three decades after my initial stay. I wanted to attain at least a basic level of proficiency. But in 1996, each time I asked a question in French I almost always received the answer in English.

The Story of French, by Jean-Benoit Nadeau and his life partner Julie Barlow, St. Martin’s Press, 2006, not only traces the origins and subsequent history of the language but also unveils some startling information about the attitudes and practices of French people. These include the struggle to linguistically unite the French people over time, the current status of the language in a world dominated by English, and the popularity of French in places such as Tel Aviv.

It was a book I thoroughly enjoyed reading and recommend to anyone curious about the language, history, and/or culture of France itself and other parts of the francophone world.

copyright © 2012 by N. A. Diaman, all rights reserved