Culture bites: Montreux, munchies, and mega happy tummies

The luckiest girl in France 24-dom - and also suddenly a very busy one...

Hang out the flags and get ready for an arts-and-culture fest. The lovely Eve Jackson is on maternity leave, and her temporary replacement is lucky old me. Presenting Culture is one of the most varied and fun jobs at France 24 in my humble opinion - and an incredibly busy one, so I decided I'm going to try to bring you some of the little highlights of it all to you on this blog.

It's Jazz time: live music at the new Montreux Jazz Café

Let's start with a little jazz - and the opening of the Montreux Jazz Festival Café at Paris' Gare de Lyon train station. The festival is already world famous but looks to be expanding beyond its Swiss borders with a café in London already and now this new space in Paris.
You might be wondering why it's located in the normally un-glam surroundings of a train station. The answer is that Gare de Lyon is where you would catch the train to Switzerland... clever eh?
The space itself is pretty nice - though you have to go through a pay turnstile to use the loos... an effort to keep out streams of travellers needing to spend a penny - and the festival is promising to put on a programme of live performances.

On the night we had Bastian Baker - not really a jazz musician, but a nice young guy who at least writes and plays all his own stuff- as well as Manu Lanvin and Jerry Léonide.
Paris is hardly short of places to go and hear jazz so it'll be interesting to see how this one carves a niche. They are promising to play footage from previous festivals on a loop, and seeing as Montreux videos were classified by UNESCO in 2013, that at least is a bit of a USP.

South African delights to warm a Parisian winter tummy

Did you know it was "officially" South Africa season in France this year? Somehow, I didn't entirely catch on myself, having only done a few Culture shows since the Cannes Film Festival.
Anyway, I definitely know now, thanks to a lovely dinner inviation to a gourmet meal cooked by South African chef Nompumelelo Mqwebu at the 104 arts centre.
The season has included (I belatedly learned) all manner of performances and exhibtions by South African artists, hosted at cultural centres all over the country. It's nice to see cuisine getting a bit of a look in. Here in France, food is definitely considered one of the arts, but French cooking dominates the restaurant scene to such a degree that it's a very rare treat to get to taste something like a South African meal.

Nompumelelo Mqwebo herself is a delight. She's trained all over the place, including in Ireland, which she said was a bit cold but full of lovely people and ace cooking (I paraphrase).
The meal she served us included all kinds of treats you really don't get easily in France: ginger beer, Wors sausage, and yam stewed down into a pudding with yummy hot berry jam on top.

One thing I particularly liked about her is her determination to get South African ingredients onto restaurant tables - and thereby keep small producers of the ingredients going. That's why she included the yam 'n' jam dessert - and I sincerely hope it gets exported to wherever you live, so you can have a taste too.

That's just a little update for you - there's plenty more to come including some very happy art from Stefan Sagmeister and Layla Sailor, Paris' christmas market, and the inside info on Culture's recent trip to India.

Stay tuned! à bientôt xx
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