Sunday, May 06, 2007

We'll Always Have Paris Too

Over on Blame it on Paris today, Laura blogged about Paris. She spent most of her time talking about food, but what else would you expect from Laura, and I think in her mind food and Paris are so intertwined as to be one and the same anyway. At the end of the post she asked her readers this question:

"What about you? What do you dream about in Paris or in France? If you go there for the first time or if you go back, what do you want to see/eat/do?"

I started to answer in her comments section and then realized I was writing an entire blog's worth of response. So instead, with the magic of cut and paste, I'm using my response here as my contribution to the blogging world today, thereby killing two birds with one stone. Or would it be more appropriate to say - eating two truffles with one bite? You see, my daughter-in-law Lisa and my darling grandbaby Joli will be here in just a few hours and have I cleaned and prepared and fixed up the house just so for their arrival yet? Snort! You know the answer to that one if you've read my blog for any length of time. So, ignoring my lack of housekeeping skills (or rather, just misplaced skills) let's see what my answer to Laura's question was:

Because I was in Paris for such a short time (four nights, five days) and because I had a fifteen year old with me, I had to balance sitting (which is what one has to do to eat things) with seeing and climbing and doing things. So I didn't get to try as many different eating establishments as I would have liked.

See how happy this teenager looks sitting at a street cafe? Not.

The food I remember most fondly is this boulangerie we went to twice. It was just across the street from the entrance to the Catacombs. There were people lined up out the door in the morning for pastries. We went there the first time because we were going to the Catacombs. We bought pastries first. Well, I bought pastries. William didn't want any. We walked to a little park across the street and sat on a bench and then William decided maybe he'd just try one. Good thing I'm an smart, experienced mom and bought extra. Still, after that I had to fend off both William and the sparrows to get any of it for myself. We found out after that the Catacombs were closed on Wednesdays. (Or was it Thursday?) All I could think of was - Great! Now I have an excuse to come back to for more pastries the next day. (because it was a long metro trip out there so I wouldn't have come back otherwise) I have a feeling it was a local favorite because no one spoke English like they did in the center of Paris and it was mostly locals lined up. We came back the next day and William and I pointed through the glass - we want one of those, and two of those, and OH!, one of those..... - until we had a huge bag of goodies. I don't think I'm quite as obsessed with food as Laura, but hmmmm, I don't know. It might be close. I swear to you my eyes literally brim with tears whenever I think of how far away that pastry is now. Sniff. Because in the US, I'm not so much a pastry lover.

Another food memory I have is asking the waiter what "aubergine" was. It sounded familiar to me but I didn't know why. He was having a hard time with what English he knew explaining it. He was able to communicate that it was a vegetable of some sort so I said "what the heck, I'll have that." It arrived. Ohhh! Eggplant! One my favorites. And the reason I knew the word aubergine is because it's often used as a color description. Have you figured out yet, by the way, that the amount of French I speak is..... oui, merci, si vous plait. That about covers it. I did better with the written word though.

Last but not least there was this little corner.... bistro? Cafe? Don't know what it would qualify as exactly. It was on rue La Fayette (or is that Lafayette?) just down from our hotel which was on rue de Poisson. We wandered past the first night and realized we were starving, not having eaten since late afternoon. They were closing but they were happy to send us home with food. Sure. So they filled up these enormous take-out aluminum tins - one with a ratatouille, one with fries, one with salad... and then threw in an entire loaf of bread. It was enough for a family of four. The man sort of tipped his head as he thought about it and then charged us a ridiculous low price - I think it was all of 7 euros. We aren't stupid. We showed up each night after that and he happily piled us up with their leftovers. One night it was a chicken casserole of some sort. Can't remember the other night.

I forced William to go to a creperie with me one afternoon because I love crepes. I'll admit it, it wasn't all that great. I think I need to go back and try some different creperies as obviously I need to find one that will be what I'm imagining it will be. The little sparrow that so boldly lit on the side of my plate didn't have any complaints about it though.

More food memories - we ate at the cafe in the Louvre and I ordered a turkey sandwich. It came on a long dry roll with no condiments. I was trying to figure out how to ask the waiter for some mayonnaise, couldn't figure it out and so I just said "Can I get some mayonnaise?" "Oui madam, mayonnaisse!" and off he went, just as I realized DUH!, "mayonnaise" is a French word. Yes, a dumb American moment.

We went to a really small, tucked in a side street Vietnamese restaurant just the other side of the Seine from Notre Dame. William very bravely ate every single unidentifiable thing on his plate. It was all delicious. Except he didn't like the sesame seed dessert, so I ate both his and mine.

Doesn't it look like the light is a little hat?

We were the only people in the restaurant. They had a string of paper lights draped, well, tangled haphazardly across the window. Nothing like you'd think of when you thought about eating in Paris, but it was a lot of fun. We sat in a loft area and the owners sat down the stairs below us and watched television except for when they served our food.

I have to admit that since I'm not a big dairy fan, and the French like to cover things with cheese, I didn't go gaga over all the French food like one would expect. But the things I did like, there's nothing like that here in Susanville. Maybe in Sonoma. Or other places with a more European local cuisine. But not out here in the boonies. Just yesterday I was telling Jeff yet again, for probably the 20th time, about the apple tarts we ate there and he suggested I go to Safeway and get some tarts if I wanted them so badly. I just stared at him, not sure whether that suggestion warranted bursing into tears or smacking him upside the head.

Oh - the cappuccinos. They don't taste the same here. I don't understand it. They tasted creamy and sweet there, without anything added. Here they need sugar.

And silly me, I'll admit I was surprised to find french fries so popular in... whodathunk, France. I thought it was just something we called them for some quirky reason. If I think of french fries in relation to another country, I think of the English and their chips of course. Although in France they're called pomme frites, yes? Uhm, why? Doesn't "pomme" mean "apple"?

If I'd known that they had great falafel in Paris, I would have been all over that - I love falafel. And chocolate. I know, Laura is fainting at the very thought of not associating Paris and chocolate. Hey, I didn't read her book until after I returned! If I had known, I would have bought good chocolate. I swear!

As for nonfood memories - that would take hours before I'd stop remembering this and that and just one more thing and oh yeah that too.... you'd all be sprawled over your keyboards, snoring, a bit of drool falling from your mouth on each exhale. Eventually though my holiday photo posts will make it all the way to Paris and then you won't be able to shut me up! So I'll stop here after I've covered food memories. Besides, I need to get up off my butt and do some cleaning as my girls will be here very, very soon!


Anonymous Deirdre said...

I think it might be because they use milk or cream and don't understand you when you say you want a decaf skim soy latte! With no refills

:-D eirdre

...Oh - the cappuccinos. They don't taste the same here. I don't understand it. They tasted creamy and sweet there, without anything added. Here they need sugar.

5:05 PM  
Blogger Blame It on Paris said...

Hey! I write about things besides food. I DO.

And I always buy extras at the boulangerie/pâtisserie, too. I am just instinctively prepared that way, even though I don't have a teenage boy traveling with me. And somehow they never go to waste, even without the teenager.

I can NOT believe this. You found our favorite Vietnamese restaurant! It just doesn't seem the kind of place someone visiting Paris would randomly wander into. Sébastien worked right beside it, which is how we discovered it. We LOVE, love, love that place, I can taste it just looking at the pictures.

Well. I should say "loved." Sadly, I have learned that the owners changed recently, and it is no longer anything like what it was. A moment of silence here for the passing of a truly exceptional restaurant. That always seems tragic to me.

6:00 PM  
Blogger catsmum said...

yes you are correct 'pomme' is apple BUT potatos are 'pommes de terre' [ ground apples ] so pommes frites makes sense when you think of it that way.

2:56 PM  

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