We’ve set a date! The renovations are wrapping up in our new place. And we are set to move in next week. But sweet nostalgia is sinking in. I’ll miss our untamed little garden out back. The warm tradition at our local boulangerie. The peeling paint. And the curtains of cobwebs. The assortment of wildlife that creep into our bathroom. The defunct washing machine which serves as our only counter space. The scars on my shoulders reminding me of our ongoing war against bedbugs. The upstairs neighbors and their Saturday morning smooth jazz sessions. Wait a minute, let’s blow this joint!
Just like any other day, aside from the crisper drawer full of Kodak, the fridge is barren, except for a well-rounded collection of condiments with nothing to put them on. But regardless of what’s inside, there are always a few zucchini lurking about. They are sturdy, reliable, adaptable, and have already outlasted Kodak.
I never cared much for zucchini in my previous life, pre-France. Growing up in the Midwest, zucchini was yet another victim of the deep fryer. And in the summertime, my mom always thought buying a 5-pounder from the farmer’s market would satiate our annual zucchini consumption. But in reality, half went to a zucchini bread and the other half was lost to the fridge. Just like avocado chocolate mousse and peanut butter & banana sandwiches, zucchini bread was another cultural over-share with mon mari qui fume. But that’s ok. In France, zucchini always seems to be in season and the price is always in reason. Mixed with a little creme fraiche and sprinkled with cheese, it bakes up into a beautiful gratin. I usually slice it and sauté it over a medium heat in olive oil with a crushed garlic clove until it caramelizes on both sides.
Mixed with anchovies and pasta or made into an omelette, this super-simple preparation heightens the nuttiness of the zucchini in less than 5 minutes. Now, what to do with all those condiments?
The best part about the weather heating up is the complete shedding of all sartorial grey. I have recently taken a liking to the 86 bus, which crosses smack dab in the middle of Paris. It keeps me more in tune with the colors and dynamics of the city, unlike the zombie slog fest of the Metro. I can attest that lIterally overnight, the boots and parkas transformed into vivid color, legs, and fluid trails of fabric. It’s not even just the girls with their sheer tops and microshorts, even the chic little old ladies are sporting a little shoulder. Although I was scolded at an apero last weekend for sporting bare legs (“T’as pas froid? T’es sûre?”), Paris has officially begun its season of pleasantry. And it’s just one big communal sigh of relief.
The April showers turned into May showers. Come on June! Kick out the precipitation and bring in the picnics! But enough about the weather already.
I just committed the terrible sin of running errands in my nightdress. A real Franco no-no. In a culture which firmly separates the public from the private, flip-flops, pajama pants, and convenience clothes are only found behind locked doors. Needless to say, I did dress up my nightgown with a French touch, one of my husband’s v-neck sweaters. I’d like the think it was California casual with Midwestern roots. Anyway, the moment I left my flat (with all my Crocs and Snuggies padlocked behind me), I felt the first ray of premature summer sun hit my ankles. And so it begins…
My parents are in town. Fortunately, this time around, they made it clear that they do not want to visit the Eiffel Tower. Phew! Luckily, they have the curiosity and American enthusiasm to make a trip to the local Monoprix interesting. “Cher’s coming to town? When’s she just gonna go away!” My dad exclaimed while pointing out Monoprix’s pas cher (translation: not expensive) promo.
Nevertheless, I was still searching for a few news things to discover with them. So I packed up some côte de boeuf sandwiches (thanks again, leftovers!) and we headed out to the Chateau de Chantilly, about an hour North-Northeast outside of Paris. Luckily, the unpredictable weather gods graced us with a pleasant afternoon to discover the fairytale castle, its immense collection of French historical paintings, and its expansive manicured gardens designed by Varseille’s landscape designer André Le Nôtre. My parents enjoyed it so much, they properly embarrassed both myself and mon mari qui fume with a public rendition of “Chantilly Lace” by the Big Bopper. If you choose to take your parents to Chantilly, it is a cinch to get to by train. So whether it is your first time in France and you do not have time to make it all the way to the Loire Valley or Cher tickets are sold out and you are looking for something else to do on a Saturday, Chantilly is a historical hop, skip, and a jump away.
Artichoke season is upon us. I can’t help but pick them up these beauties from the farmer’s market. Partially because they still remain a mystery to me. What’s one to do with that exoskeleton of tough scales? I know, I’ll watercolor it!
I must admit, I am still mastering the art of artichoke carving and preparation. But they will get my asparagus treatment, splitting them in half and baking them with a welcome smattering of garlic, lemon zest, parmesan and breadcrumbs. I need your help, dear readers. Please send me your favorite artichoke recipes!