We had fervently hoped to remain above the truly absurd French bashing going on of late. Surely the Loop would not descend to such a level, talking about Freedom Fries and Freedom Toast and Freedom Kissing and the like.
So on Friday came word that Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite (R-Fla.) was working on a bill suggesting that families of the thousands of American troops buried in France and Belgium be allowed to dig up their remains and have them shipped back to the United States.
"The remains of our brave servicemen should be buried in patriotic soil," she told the Orlando Sentinel, "not in a country that has turned its back on the United States and on the memory of Americans who fought and died there."
Veteran Mack McConn, who survived the D-Day landings, was outraged by the suggestion. "That is ridiculous," he told the Sentinel.
But there was more. At a hearing Thursday of the House International Relations Committee, Rep. Thaddeus McCotter (R-Mich.) had some observations about the situation.
"Much of the philosophy that led to the [American] revolution," McCotter said, "came from French philosophers -- Rousseau, Voltaire. That thinking went into our very Constitution. It was the French who helped us in the Revolutionary War. The French were a help in the War of 1812. And, in fact, you could even add the Louisiana Purchase which made possible [Louisiana GOP Rep.] Billy Tauzin, for which we are all quite grateful."
So now we're blaming the French for Billy Tauzin? When will this stop?
And Grey Poupon Isn't Gray
Meanwhile, the French Embassy has noted that what are called French fries really should be Belgian fries, since that was their country of origin. And there is some evidence that French toast could be as American as apple pie.
On the Web site foodnetwork.com, we find that "there are a number of conflicting stories about the origin" of the dish. "Although the exact origin of French toast is unclear, sources agree that the dish does not stem from classical French cuisine. Toast it may be, but 'French' it is not!"
The Food Network says that "an early source, 'The Accomplisht Cook' by R. May (1660) -- now that's early -- has a recipe for 'French Toasts' " but the recipe is "a pretty far reach from our modern breakfast favorite.
"One version of the story is that the dish was invented in 1724 at a roadside tavern near Albany, N.Y. According to the tale, the tavern owner, Joseph French, gave the dish his name."
Another Web account says the problem was that French had "a very poor knowledge of grammar" and because he wasn't so good with the use of the possessive apostrophe, he put it on the menu as "French toast" instead of "French's toast."
Or perhaps Pain du Joe?
To Negotiate State, Use the Camel
State Department officials are being taken aback these days when they get off the elevators on the sixth floor. There they find a huge new mural, in yellow hues, of a man riding a camel, with a romantic desert background.
The sign at the bottom of the picture says "India." But there's a piece of yellow tape just before the word. A source lifted the tape and found it said "transportation in." Presumably, someone complained the mural slighted people from India, implying they rode camels when, these days, Jaguars and BMWs are more likely modes, especially among the high-tech set.
So there's this camel. And there are yellow labels for the offices in the area, which is near the suite of Assistant Secretary for International Organization Affairs Kim R. Holmes.
The diplomats weren't sure what this was all about, but it seems to be a prototype of the color-coding and themes -- such as transportation -- that are going to be used to keep people from getting lost in the labyrinthine Harry S. Truman Building.
It may be an outgrowth of the much derided "way-finding" project begun in January 2002 with surveys of employees to see whether they knew their way around the building. Notices posted in the building explained that the project would help prevent employees and visitors from getting lost. The old color-coded stripes on the hallway walls, in addition to being ugly, apparently weren't doing the job.
One source said it didn't make sense to do this for visitors because these days all visitors must be escorted anyway. But it will help ensure the escorts don't get lost, said another source, recalling a story of then-Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger losing his way in the building.
So now people can be directed to an office on the sixth floor, left at the yellow camel, right at the palomino pony and just past the ferry boat.
Mount Reagan in the State of New Reagan
Conservative activist Grover Norquist has clearly arrived. His Reagan Legacy Project, hoping to name just about everything after former president Ronald Reagan, was lampooned the other night on "The Simpsons." The plan on the TV show was to name the Mississippi River the Mississippi Reagan.
Now, it turns out, the New Hampshire House did something close. It passed a measure Thursday renaming Mount Clay, as in Henry Clay, Mount Reagan. Supporters said it made sense, because the peaks in the Presidential Range are named for presidents and Clay wasn't one.