Paris is begrudgingly hailed by some Parisiens as a Disneyland for Americans. Frankly, it is a moveable feast for all the world’s wealthy gobsmackers. But did you know that EuroDisney is the most-frequented attraction in France? Hands down, it beats both the Eiffel Tower and the new Abercrombie & Fitch on the Champs Élysées. (But don’t worry, I still have seen Parisien women wearing neither sweatpants nor the A&F bedazzled bottom variety.)
Considering my childhood dreams were A.) to convince my parents to take me Disneyworld and b.) become a Snow White impersonator by trade, it was not difficult to enjoy EuroDisney. Regardless of its European sensibilities like Perrier on tap, like any Disney institution, the pizza at Euro Disney is still bad. But how about those Mickey Mouse meringues?
France is known for many delicious things. There’s charcuterie with all its nuance and varying levels of porkiness. Then there is the abundance of cheese. Charles de Gaulle himself so famously exclaimed, “how can anyone govern a nation that has two hundred and forty-six different kinds of cheese?” Additionally, there is butter. It is the undisputed backbone of traditional French cuisine. It is butter that gives a croissant its flaky altitude of layers. And then there is the butter of the unknown, that special ingredient that creates sensuous sauces and envelopes vegetables on a restaurant plate.
However, there is a new realm of butter that I have never known before. One recent morning, I whipped up a tartine for my husband comme d’habitude. I sliced a day-old baguette lengthwise, threw it in the toaster oven, threw a little butter on top, and let the oven do the work. I spread on a thin layer of plum jam and awaited my ‘merci’. “I don’t like it when the butter is melted”, he said. My jaw dropped. It’s toasted bread! The butter is supposed to be melted by the heat of the toast! That’s magic of breakfast right there. I shrugged it off; so particular, this husband of mine. Then over our Alpine vacation, over one of the many chats about food over coffee with my mother-in-law, she exclaimed the same disfavor for the taste of melted butter, like in pound cake. But butter is as butter does, non? I’m an intelligent person. I saw The Tree of Life. And I liked it. But somehow, I never thought about the difference between butter in its many mediums. Alas, at the end of the day, I have lot of work to do. And I am still as American as I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter!® – Spray.
I have been on a bit of a bread-making kick lately. As of now, I have not whipped up anything to give the four boulangeries on my block a run for their money. Most everything has been a bit doughy and heavy-handed like all amateur homemade bread. However, I came across a terrific recipe for pita on one of my favorite foodie sites, Gilt Taste. (Check it out here at http://www.gilttaste.com/stories/4806-make-perfect-pita). ‘Pita, you say? How granola of you to make,’ you must be thinking. ‘You might as well start making your own Windex and growing your own flaxseeds.” But at the end of the day, it’s something a bit less traditional to mess up, right? To my chagrin, it’s more or less the same recipe as pizza dough. But with the dough, there is more rolling than the Harlem Globetrotter-twirling pizza treatment.
And what’s the greatest part about homemade pita? Although there is no instant gratification in bread-making, there will be instant gratification when it hits the table. And I can attest for a lot of friends who have minimal NYC and/or twenty-something kitchens. Pita can be cooked either in an oven or in a skillet. Alongside some store-bought hummus, tabbouleh, and other Mediterranean accoutrement, it’s an instant party!
The first weeks of March, all the French people I know flock to the French Alps for the obligatory February ski trip. Luckily, I am a part of the majority this week; it’s a family tradition of my new in-laws. Bonjour, French Alps! Bonjour, Mother-in-Law! We are in Meribel, a favorite ski station of Bridget Bardot. Unfortunately, I do not ski or snowboard. And I have not found a good snow sport compatible with my two left feet. Any recommendations? In the meantime, I’m trying out the snow bunny look and learning to eat 5-course meals gracefully. More on that soon…
P.S. Sorry I forgot my camera! I will let Bardot do the talking.
As much as I am continually charmed by the life in France, some things lag behind. For example, to complete most bureaucratic tasks (banking, visas, health insurance), a secretary hands me a blank piece of paper to put my request in writing. Most secretaries have a desk piled-high with said requests. Hmm.
Peeling paint and spiderwebs are often a part of the decor.
Our old washing machine has been bust for months now. I’ve been begging my husband to ditch it. However, there is only one issue; it is also our only counter space. How I long for one of those stainless steel and granite American-style kitchens with a French-doored refrigerator and a freezer larger than a shoebox!
Finally, the other night I was brushing my teeth on my way to bed. Not only to find a worm on the bathroom floor. Of all the things that could come off the street and into our humble bathroom, a measly little worm is the least of our troubles. But it doesn’t mean I want to have my bare feet in the proximity of an unannounced worm.