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!
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?
One of the major differences between New York and Paris is the pockets of greenery scattered about Paris. Once getting past heavy, Haussmanian doors with ubiquitous door codes (the right of passage to reach any French person, place or thing), the majority of apartment buildings hide a small garden, most likely amidst parked bicycles and garbage cans.
When I met my husband, I was instantly taken by his own private petit jardin. (“He’s got a car, an accent and a garden! Instant upgrade!”, exclaimed my 2009 self). Living on the ground floor, it fills our apartment with clean air and a terrific breeze from the nearby forest, the Bois de Vincennes. And it allows me to indulge in an urban impossibility, compost. As of late, it is a bit unkempt. Case in point, winter rolled around before we had the chance to cut the grass. Ideally, I would love to plant sweet pea seedlings. However, as any photographer/stylist duo, we utilize gardening simply for impromptu photo shoots. In my one-track mind, dress-up always trumps gardening. Trim a branch, strike a pose.
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!
I’m still in the French Alps. Remember I mentioned eating 5-course meals gracefully? Well, I thought raclette, being a single-course and all, would be a good breather. Mind you, it was my first time. But alas, at the end of the day, it’s just a glob of melted cheese. Poured on top of potatoes, accompanied with charcuterie, it is hearty, mountain food at its best. But I feel like I really should have skied or chopped wood beforehand to truly enjoy it. It’s a good thing we did not order a cheese fondue for the first course. After 4 days of eating 3 courses (onion tarte, boeuf bourguignon, caramel tarte) at lunch and 5 courses at dinner (veloute de cepes, escargot, filet de lotte, fromage, royal chocolat) my moderation is finally sinking in. Does this mean I’m becoming more French?
Anyway, I love a multi-course meal. It’s always been treat since I first discovered the soup, salad, entree, jello/rice pudding option at the local Chicago Greek diners of my youth. However, after 5-courses, I am usually on the brink of explosion. And what’s a proud member of the clean-plate/waste-not club to do? But here is what I have learned from experience. Although everybody loves a generous plateau of Alpine cheeses to choose from, choose either cheese or dessert. Or eat a small portion of each. Incorporate vegetables when possible, if given a choice. Stay hydrated during the day. And move around as much as possible. I’m starting to feel a bit of empathy for food critics…
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.