Tunisia hasn’t been a French colony since 1956, but one essential baking skill has apparently lingered. For the second straight year, the baguette deemed the best in Paris was produced by a Tunisian-born baker. In fact, 5 of the last 10 winners have been Tunisian.
Makram Akrout, 42, who entered France as an illegal immigrant 19 years ago and now owns Les Boulangers de Reuilly, beat out 171 other bakers to win the Prix de la Meilleure Baguette de Paris and, according to The Times of London, “shook with emotion after learning he had won the coveted prize, which gives him the right to supply bread to the presidential palace for a year.” Akrout described “a mixture of happiness, pride and fear. What a responsibility! Delivering [bread] to the Élysée. We’ll have to be up to it.”
In a presumably unrelated development in Lyon, President Emmanuel Macron told a gathering of chefs that he wants to create a “center of excellence” to promote France’s culinary traditions. The idea, reported The Guardian, “would be to train future chefs like footballers, rugby players and athletes so they can ‘achieve excellence in major competitions … and win international honours for France’.” The center would be based in Lyon, the self-styled “gastronomic capital of the world,” although—just a thought—the French might also want to consider Tunis.
Yes, Ussuriisk. In the Primorye region. O.K.: north of Vladivostok, and due east—way east—of Moscow, on the opposite side of Russia? In any event, it’s wonderful to learn from Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty that Primorye is “the epicenter of [Russia’s] stand-up scene”—though less wonderful that its comedians are paying the price. A court in Ussuriisk just sentenced two local actors to jail because of their appearances in a popular (two million YouTube views) online show that “[ribs] local officials and the ruling United Russia party,” reported the news service, in “a series of comedy sketches featuring … a fictional official who brutishly harangues corrupt subordinates, fights forest fires, and trumpets various made-up draconic initiatives in Ussuriisk and surrounding areas.” One actor was sentenced to two days’ imprisonment and a fine for “disrespecting society,” another to 10 days and a fine for “wearing a police uniform on set without official permission.”
Elsewhere, artists with a comic bent are faring better. The Uffizi gallery has commissioned self-portraits from 52 of Italy’s leading comic-book artists to add to its collection of works by Velásquez, Caravaggio, Rembrandt, Raphael, and Michelangelo. “Manga [comics] is coming to the Uffizi,” Eike Schmidt, the museum’s director, told The Times of London. “Some will be shocked but the old masters have long influenced comics and since Roy Lichtenstein in the 1960s art has absorbed techniques from comics, meaning separating high and low art makes no sense.”
The newspaper noted that the museum recently added a self-portrait by the London-based Endless, the first street artist to join the permanent collection, and that “the Uffizi’s attempt to bring in younger visitors by inviting Chiara Ferragni, Italy’s top influencer, to pose in front of Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus and by showing off its works on TikTok has paid off with under-25s making up a third of visitors last year.”
A rare orange lobster has moved into a new home at Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada in this city after having been safely transported from a grocery-store tank in Ontario. “It’s not every day you see a lobster that looks like it’s pre-cooked walking around,” Niki Lundquist, whose husband manages the store, told The Guardian. The couple bought the crustacean, whose color is the result of a genetic mutation, and contacted the aquarium, which issued this statement: “We recently rescued Pinchy, a very rare orange lobster, from a grocery store where some awesome people reached out and let us know they had this 1 in 30 million creature. Pinchy is settling in very well to his new home and is doing brilliantly!”
Pinchy’s rescue, said the newspaper, “marks the second time an orange lobster has been saved in recent days. Last week, a restaurant in Arizona spotted an orange lobster and donated it to a Scottsdale aquarium.” So make that two in 30 million? (Our math isn’t very good.)
Founded in 1889, vegan since 2015, the Forest Green Rovers soccer team has introduced lime-green, black-zebra-striped uniforms made with waste coffee grounds and recycled plastic. Its stadium, in Gloucestershire, features advertisements themed to sustainable living. To keep the pitch’s grass trim, the club uses a solar-powered robot mower.
No surprise that it’s been “declared by Fifa [football’s governing body] the ‘greenest team in the world’ [and] certified by the United Nations as the world’s first carbon-neutral football club,” Rowan Moore wrote in The Guardian, and “in the decade since its acquisition by the green energy industrialist Dale Vince has become famous well beyond its size, for its sustainability and, especially, for the all-vegan menus offered to both players and fans.… There’s also a plan for a new all-timber stadium designed by Zaha Hadid Architects.”
It should be noted that the Forest Green Rovers are also playing well: they’re currently in first place in their division of English Football League Two.
Grigory Perelman’s math, on the other hand, is good. But the Russian genius wants nothing to do with the million-dollar prize he was just awarded. Perelman, 55, was honored by the Clay Mathematics Institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts, for having solved Poincaré’s conjecture, a challenging theorem involving “the deep structure of three-dimensional shapes,” reported The Guardian. “It took the world’s leading mathematicians several years to verify that Perelman had definitively solved the problem in a paper published in 2002.”
Perelman, who has turned down previous honors, “is currently jobless and lives with his mother and sister in a small flat in St Petersburg,” said the newspaper. “[He] refuses to talk to the journalists camped outside his home. One who managed to reach him on his mobile was told: ‘You are disturbing me. I am picking mushrooms.’” We’re no Poincaré, and this is just conjecture, but it sounds as if he might just be doing further research into the deep structure of three-dimensional shapes.
George Kalogerakis is a Writer at Large for air mail