Bananas for Ananas!

© Jessie Kanelos

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s sweet.  It’s refreshing.  It aids digestion, especially if you eat the whole thing.  All that was left of this poor specimen was this drawing and a throbbing belly ache.  Nevertheless, here’s a step-by-step guide to enjoying my favorite fruit, pineapple.  Moderation at your own risk.

Happy 6th of July!

© Jessie Kanelos

Greetings direct from McDonald’s!

Shortly after I wrote my last post, I was rudely awakened by a girl on the Metro wearing American flag knee-highs and a stars & stripes bandana.  My stomach turned; I knew something was terribly wrong.  I completely forgot it was the 4th of July.  With all the unpacking and deeply pondering how to organize my spices, it completely slipped my mind.  Since I already supported my nation’s economy with my McCappuccino, that’s as patriotic as I could be.

So America, I tardily toast you today with this hot dog illustration and my 0.5 liter Coke Zero on ice.  Tchin-tchin!

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taco taco taco

© Jessie Kanelos

I know I have a one-track mind; I should just give into temptation and get my Mexican fix at the new Chipotle already.  But the past few months, this sign at the park at the Place de la Republique in Montreuil always stops me in my tracks.  Before hopping on line 9 in search of carnitas, let me just warn you that this sign is situated in the parking lot at an isolate end of the park.  Just like GIRLS GIRLS GIRLS, any word repeated three times is a promise.  But no tacos are to be seen!  Is this a cultural misunderstanding or false advertising?  I will buy a taco for the first person who can put this mystery to rest. But that all depends on what taco means first.

A ratatouille is a ratatouille is a ratatouille.

© Jessie Kanelos

It all began with a Sunday roast, rather a rosbif (translation: ‘French’ for roast beef).  Like always, mon mari was in charge of the roast and I was in charge of the accompaniment.  Digging through the fridge, I exclaimed, “Hey!  I’ve got all the makings of a ratatouille!”  I’ve always thought that any combination of zucchini, eggplant, red peppers, tomatoes, onions and garlic would instantly qualify as a ratatouille, even disguised as a the quick saute.  But mon mari is always discouraging me from making it.   As Mr. Meat & Potatoes himself, I just shrugged it off as an unsuccessful attempt at force-feeding him something green.  But finally, it came out, “c‘est pas terrible!  A real ratatouille needs to be cooked for at least a day or two.  It should be like jam when it is done”, he insisted.  Was this just another cross-cultural, marital culinary scuff?

Sure enough, in a country divided by 200-something kinds of cheese, the preparation of ratatouille has inspired a national debate, too.  The ingredients can simply be sautéed.  Or they can be layered and baked in the oven.   Or simmered away for hours à la Joël Robuchon.  I sucked up my pride and rescheduled the ratatouille, leaving it to stew away into the evening hours.  Alas, Robuchon, I mean, my husband, was right.  Although all the vibrant colors of the vegetables were lost in the stewing, what was left was a rich, meaty concentration of vegetables, leaving it with an intensely savory sauce evoking a boeuf bourguignon.  I poached some eggs in the ratatouille and dinner was served.

Although I will still use all three methods, all of them should be explored to come to a personal conclusion.  But the simmering method upgrades ratatouille from an unconscious side dish to a sophisticated main course.

Frenchie knows best.

Très Brooklyn

© Jessie Kanelos

Paris is amidst a burger blitz.  USA is the chicest marque about town.  And of all the breaking news in the world, Parisien burger trucks splashed the front page of the International Herald Tribune earlier this week in Julia Moskin’s article  Food Trucks in Paris? U.S. Cuisine Finds Open Minds, and Mouths.  There has already been an endless flow of coverage on this sensation, thefrancofly included.  But one thing that struck me was the article’s coining of the ultimate praise from French foodies, being “très Brooklyn”.  As most Parisians don’t understand, Brooklyn is usually something to be avoided by New Yorkers.  However, the Brooklyn philosophy of local, sustainable, simple food is exactly the idea borrowed from France that revolutionized American cuisine decades ago, thanks to other American expats candidly looking in like Julia Child and Alice Waters.  So what is the big deal?  The real fuss is the discovery of quality food without the formalities of traditional eating rituals.  Instead of sitting down to an hour-long lunch, eating with the hands, eating on the go, or my personal favorite, eating standing over the sink, are all creeping into the new French food culture.

So what’s up next in this mini-Americanization?  I’m keeping my fingers crossed for bodegas and/or CVS.  Will the food truck brigade start a revolution?  Raise your biodegradeable fork and say ‘oui’.  Or are Parisians adapting the “très New York” pastime of voracious food trends?  I will know when I hear “très Long Island City.”

Truite Rose en Papillote

One of the first things I have learned living in France is that non happens much more quickly than what you want to hear.  Similarly, customer service follows the same philosophy.  Every time I ask where to find something at the grocery store, I get a few shrugged shoulders and a je ne sais pas.  But luckily, I have found a place where useful information is generously rationed, at the biweekly, neighborhood market.  And wouldn’t you much rather take advice from an artisan?  Recently, I’ve been experimenting with smaller, inexpensive, more sustainable fish like mackerel and sardines.  Truite rose, or rainbow trout, a distant cousin of salmon, caught my eye.  I quickly inquired how my fishmonger would prepare it.  He suggested en papillote, or wrapped up and baked in parchment paper.  I brought the little beauty home, stuffed her with a few lemon slices, parsley, plopped on a nob of better, sea salt and sealed her in egg-brushed parchment.  Cooking the trout precisely for 15 minutes at 250 C or 480 F, we were left with a perfectly cooked fish for two.  Although the truite rose itself is not as tasty as its oilier predecessors like sardines and mackerel, this non-recipe recipe can be suited to any fish with any combination of herbs and aromatics.  Just ask your poissonnier!

Which aromatics would you add to your truite en papillote?

Cafe Titon

Original illustration by Jessie Kanelos

Very few cafes have the same open charm and open arms as Cafe Titon on the corner of Rue Chanzy and Rue Titon.  On a no-frills corner in the 11e arrondisement, Cafe Titon opens up like a clamshell onto the street.  Maybe it is the ancient stone mosaic tiles geometrically breaking up the floor or the makeshift loveseat of beatup leather armchairs pushed together.  Photos are hung back-to-back to engage patrons and the passerby. The wraparound bar’s stocked shelves of Paulaner glasses and a currywurst special on the menu are a subtle wink to the fact that Cafe Titon is Paris’s Germanophile bar.  An overhead projector broadcasts football matches, riling up a rowdy crowd in the evenings.

It is one blueberry scone and chai latte away from being a coffee shop in Prospect Park, Brooklyn, Wicker Park, Chicago, or anywhere but here.  But I will spare the comparisons and embrace the currywurst, the beer on tap, and maybe even football!

34 Rue Titon  75011 Paris 09 53 17 94 10

Nail in Foot, Burger in Hand

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We are in the demolition stage of our new apartment.  This morning, as we walked into the place for our daily visit, our quirky 1950s flat to-be was transformed into the town of Bedrock.  Before I could even say “Wow, what a dump!”, “Ohmygawwwwputainmerde!”  My first step into the apartment, I got a nail in the foot.  The throbbing pain was the least of my worries.  Since I have the undisputed Generation Me dilemma of not having had health insurance since my shatterproof undergraduate days, I was sure I could feel my jaw locking in the matter of moments. Luckily, I had an unsuccessful semester in grad school that got me up to speed on that important tetanus shot.  Phew!

To help ease the pain, I was whisked off for lunch at the hyper-popular food truck Le Camion Qui Fume by mon mari qui fume.  Le Camion Qui Fume ends the search for an authentic American cheeseburger in Paris.  Although there are imposters on every cafe menu, 18 euros for a dry, uninspired hamburger on an industrial bun is not worth the ho-hum indulgence.  Food trucks have not  taken off in Paris yet, partially considering that the French cannot eat with their hands alone.  But fellow American expat Kristin Frederick has mastered the right fatty mix of ground beef, the soft, butter-brushed sesame seed buns, real cheddar and shoestring fries to cheer up any expat having a bad day.  Although the truck changes locations everyday, we dug into our burgers on the steps of the Église de la Madeleine overlooking the Place de la Concorde.  And at just 10 euros for a burger and fries, there is no better bargain or breathtaking view.

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French yogurt and its culture

Yaourt.  Although my tongue still hasn’t wrapped around the right pronunciation yet (Is it yAo-oort?  YA-OOrt?  Ya-oURt?), I’ve never loved yogurt more.  Just take a look at the selection!

Today, on this dreadfully dreary day in Paris, jessiekanelos.wordpress.com delivers its first taste of hard journalism.   I will test the limits of my curiosity and my lactose tolerance for the hard facts on my neighborhood grocery’s yogurt isle.

I never really like yogurt in the States because there really is not much variety.  It is often overly sweet with cloying artificial flavors.  Wouldn’t you think yogurt cultures would be canceled out by a cotton candy flavor?  It gets more and more difficult to find a plain version.  However, according to Wikiyogurt, the French eat around 21 kilos of yogurt a year.  French fridges are continuously well-stocked.  It is a go-to breakfast, snack, and dessert.  But the word yaourt can be deceiving.  It often refers to the cream desserts, pudding cups, and often single-serving desserts that share the yogurt isle.

How clever!  Yogurt with the granola already mixed in!

Licorice and mint?  Some flavors are better admired than tried.

Porfiteroles, clafoutis, creme brulee, chocolate mouse.  Just take a look at the Greatest Hits of French desserts carefully disguised among the yogurt.  Everywhere I look in Paris these days, there is a new USA burger, bagel & cookie diner.  The yogurt isle is just as trendy with its “le cheese cake” and “les cookies”.

Oh hello, cottage cheese.  Fancy seeing you here!

Speaking of plain yogurt, there is just as much variety to be found.  I am one spoon away from exposing it tomorrow. Stay tuned!