As a component of my September self-promotion blitz, I broke down and personified thefrancofly™. When Facebook loses its interest, what better way to create one’s idealized self than through a self-portrait? And invent some dream sunglasses and trim off a few extra holiday kilos at the same time. I need to draw people more often! After a week of indulgences over the vacation, Body by Bretagne is not becoming past August. But unlike people (and myself), sandwiches will always be more forgiving. Allez, back to the beef.
This being the first Sunday of the month, do not forget to check out a selection of Paris’s museums for free. Find the complete list here. We have our eyes set on the Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature in the post-brunch hours.
Long before thefrancofly had pictures, illustrations, or Paris as its backdrop, I was working as a costume production assistant in New York. Glamorous moments, yes. Knee-deep in snow in one of the brutalist winters to date, where no boots were waterproof enough, about to pass off a bowl of chili to my boss on set, Phillip Seymour Hoffman walked over and asked, “You gonna eat that?”. “No, it’s just keeping my hands warm,” I murmured bug-eyed. Completely frightened, I handed the paper bowl of chili off to Phil and I skipped away as quickly as I could. But for every moment like that, there were weeks were I was lugging around garment bags and Starbucks orders to unknown destinations in New Jersey. Nevertheless, at times like those, I was thinking fondly of Paris. But I had no idea how I would ever make it back. Or let alone, what I would ever do if so.
But what started out as a few foodie musings direct from NYC has morphed into an illustrated snapshot of my new transcontinental exploits in Paris, France. Thefrancofly has transformed into a tremendous creative outlet, reigniting my passion for both writing and illustration. With wider eyes, I am appreciating the beauty of Paris a little more every day, a city in which since most recently I only had lukewarm feelings for. And if anything else, with so many wacky transitions (the phonebook of paperwork, the sky-high price of peanut butter and low-tech downgrades), thefrancofly has become a wonderful source of catharsis, making this new world a little bit funnier and a little easier to swallow.
So dear readers, if the sentimentality has not lost you already, I just want to say thank you for joining me along the way.
Over the vacation, one of my foodie dreams came true. Foraging for mushrooms! Nothing gets this city girl more excited than an outdoorsy hunt for something that draws the line between delectable and deadly. So far so good, I have lived thus far to say so.
After our culinary adventures in Nice, we spent the final leg of our vacances high in the mountains of La Cévennes in South Central France. We were camped out at a friend’s grandmother’s home. Luckily, I already have a sentiment for old, musty summer homes. As a kid, I was first acquainted with mildew and shag carpeting at my grandparent’s groovy Michigan farmhouse. But flash-forward to 2012, imagine a turn-of-the-century, 3-story roadside hotel. The stairs are laced with Grecian keys. The walls are ripe with tropical fruits. It was all a little too reminiscent of The Shining. But who needs to sleep on vacation anyway, right? Nevertheless, our days were spent seeking out swimming holes, ‘borrowing’ currents from the neighbors garden, and an intensive ping-pong tournament in site of Rio 2016. Although outnumbered, I am happy to report that team America did just fine.
Although a rainstorm would usually put a damper on our summer fun, it promised a new crop of mushrooms!
A cork board in our host’s kitchen proudly collaged photos of cèpes, porcini mushrooms even bigger than portabellas. Local gossip insisted that mushrooms were left and right, just waiting to hop into a sautee pan. Flaunting my American optimism and my hankering for an amazing omelette, I insisted we take along two baskets just in case.
But after two afternoons of hunting, foraging, seeking, and/or destroying, the only thing in our baskets was a single pied de mouton, or hedgehog mushroom. Like all things French, it was treated with egality. It got chopped up into tiny bits and thrown into some fried fingerling potatoes. Tant pis.
Many thanks to the frog behind thefrancofly, mon mari, for the delicious snapshots of the hunt.
P.S. Thefrancofly is now on Pinterest! Share your favorite foodie illustrations with all your friends, both virtual and real.
Although I intently packed my watercolors with high hopes of capturing the many hues of the Côte d’Azur, I have fully embraced both my idleness and writer’s block. Viva les vacances! Grammar-be-gone! Me lazy. Nevertheless, because I cannot say it well with words, here are a few snapshots of a few Niçoise discoveries.
The zucchini flowers are in bloom! And they fry up beautifully. Find beignet de fleur de courgette, legumes farcis and other traditional Niçoise specialties at Le Safari (1 Cours Saleya 06300 Nice).
Along with coming to the realization that I will never be as glamorous as my 70-something mother-in-law and resident of NIce, she has been more than generous with sharing her secrets to aging flawlessly, eating impeccably, and inviting me to sneak a peak into her Mediterranean kitchen.
Despite her disapproval of my self-inflicted summer bob, here is one thing that is mother-in-law approved. Stock up on zucchini flowers and the freshest fish at the Marché de Libération, specifically these little macarels at Poissonerie Gris.
Purple green beans? I beg your pardon!
Another seasonal treat from the Marché de Libération were these tiny mara de bois fraises. Intensely sweet and bitingly acidic, they were a strawberry reawakening . Surprisingly enough, although France is home to the best pastries in the world, yogurt and fruit are the most common ways to finish off a well-balanced meal. In my dream world where baguette has nutritional value, I would eat profiteroles everyday for dessert. However, these little beauties were a perfectly satisfying addition to a well-rounded dinner of fried fish and heirloom tomato salad.
Yesterday, we got up early and perused the crowded stalls of the weekly Cours Saleya flea market. I have been in the market for a wedding ring since mine split in half shortly after we got hitched. Not the best metaphor for marriage, but so far so good otherwise. At the market, an antique aquamarine rock jumped onto my finger and my husband could not resist. “It’s the same color as your eyes,” he cooed. Although my eyes are green, I was undoubtedly charmed. Sold. Since we had neither a proper proposal nor an engagement photo session, I indulged in a Titanic “Heart of the Ocean” moment overlooking the sea from the Parc de la Colline du Chateau.
Speaking of that little Eiffel Tower notebook, I recently rediscovered it while unpacking our new place. Like rereading any record of angstier years, I’ve needed to take a deep breath and forgive myself before looking back on my original thoughts on French guys and macarons. The shame! The SHAME! Although this is going to be either extremely entertaining or the most nauseating act of self indulgence ever, I thought I would share a few tantalizing and/or sickening reflections from my one-way flight to Paris and a live running commentary…
July 28th, 2008
“I’m ready to get this show on the road! Of course, I’m nervous. (translation: what do I need to do to get this plane to turn around?) There really is no rhyme or reason to this adventure (Except for exploiting my youthful metabolism with culinary explorations in gourmandise) . Instead of living vicariously through Audrey Hepburn or buying other people Eiffel Tower knickknacks inspired by dream-inducing cities, (By the way Carol, thanks for the journal!) I decided to do it for myself (Oh shit!). When I tell people about my adventure, I get squeals of jealous joy especially from those belonging to the female gender. (Some things haven’t changed) Much of these squeals of joy are followed with the assumption that I will marry a French dude and stay forever (Sweet foreshadowing, sweet irony). But all I can think about is how badly I want a Diet Coke right now (Baby child, how American you once were! Now I only drink red wine ’cause that’s far Frenchier). If only that punk-ass brainiac on Oprah didn’t have to drop the bomb about how unsanitary airplane ice cubes are. (Good news, I’m still cynical! And I still always regret watching Oprah) I don’t really know what to expect from this year. (Or four) I hope to learn French. (‘Voulez–vous coucher avec moi ce soir’ was not the best start)I hope to pick up journaling again. (ex: Dear Diary, let me tell you all about my first French French kiss. Cue in nausea.) Geez, I cannot even imagine blogging. I can only imagine the pressure! (4 watercolored posts a week? Are you crazy?)I worry enough that people don’t understand the irony of my Facebook profile, let alone my actual thoughts! (And we are vomiting)Excellent, just timed my nap perfectly to catch the beverage cart!”
Voila! An illustrated taste of our new souped-up kitchen! And just a glimpse into our new pseudo-Scandanavian love nest. Since this is my first time living in an all-new place of my own, I have taken an obsessive-compulsive reacquaintance with cleaning. And the thought of packing all of Paris into our crib for a housewarming has me reaching for the Ajax. Nevertheless, the past week has been a marathon of calm, mini-housewarming events. Much to my chagrin, a housewarming does not translate directly to chauffage de maison. Instead it translates to pendaison de crémaillère. After grilling my husband about its origins since we packed our first cardboard box, I finally got an answer this evening. But like a lot of things in France, it goes way, way back in time. From what I can understand, pendaison de crémaillère is the hanging of the chain which holds a pot of soup over a fire. Straight up Medieval double, double toil and trouble! That sounds like a big old mess. I’d rather turn up the heat and call it a chauffage de maison.
In celebration of the 14th of July, we attended an apero on the 6th floor of an architect friend’s place in Belleville. It was younger crowd than usual. And every single one of them was an architect. But I was feeling confident. My outfit was banging and I brought fleur de sel brownies which always gives me a leg up on friend making. In America at least.
It went on like any other apero. I bought myself some time at the buffet and put out my feelers, scanning the crowd for a little eye contact and resulting chitchat. No luck. Luckily, I became well-acquainted with a friendly couple named Tarama and Blini. But it was only a matter of time before the fireworks erupted far in the horizon. In the nick of time, “Firework”, Katy Perry’s fist-pumping anthem of self-esteem came on. Her Swedish songwriters sure tugged on my cold heartstrings as I watched the Eiffel Tower blowup in the distance. Come on Jessie, just “ignite the light and let it shine!” “Boom boom boom!” You too can be brighter than the “moon moon moon!” I said to myself as I mussed up a little courage to confront the second half of the soiree. I refilled my drink.
Seconds later, as the last firework fogged up the Parisian sky, Dionysis and the little-g party gods were with us as the whole flat erupted into a collective, full-throttle dance party. Damn, these architects could flail. They could even dance to Celine Dion. Somewhere between “No Diggity” and “Wannabe”, I became fast friends with a 20-year old Danish Erasmus student. She pulled me close as we were jumping around to House of Pain, “I have a question. How old are you?” “I’m 26.” ” You seem like you are finished with partying. Why aren’t you drinking?” At this point, I already drank a whole bottle of wine and dug deep into my 1990s subconscious to recite every word of Shaggy’s “Mr. Boombastic” by heart. How dare you tell me I’m not fun! Yes, Joni Mitchell and collecting digestive teas can lead to an equally interesting evening. But those things are reserved strictly for Sunday nights. Defeated, my husband and I returned home. As my hangover carries onto its second day, I accept the fact that my idea of fun™ is not exactly the same as it was when I first arrived in Paris 4 years ago. But Shaggy will be with me for life.
Greetings from the McDonald’s near our new place! Excuse a whiny American for a moment, but we still won’t have internet for two weeks. The horror! The HORROR! And my watercolors ran away with my sanity. It’s about to get real interesting here. But nothing pumps me up in the morning better than a McCappuccino and a hair whipping response to Carly Rae Jepsen. And that Bruno Mars sings with such conviction! I’m lovin’ iiii..nevermind.
Allez, must seize the day! Drawer organizers must be ordered and door handles must be handled.
We are finally moving into our new place today! Since we’ve been packing for nearly a month now, our life has been scattered into unfindable fragments. Note: food styling tweezers don’t do a thing for eyebrows. Anyway, the shell of our old apartment looks like a run down store-front art gallery in Belleville. Too bad we already ate all the canapés.
Helping my husband pack up his life, the only skeleton in his closet is his backbreaking collection of photo books. Needless to say, after a long winter and spring of hachis parmentier and projectfreetv, we definitely made up for lost cardio.
Despite a brutal cold and a metal pipe in the trachea, I am now relishing in the raspy voice of my dreams. If you don’t know me, I have a distinctively high voice. Like “I’m sorry, if your mother home?” kind of high. Let’s just say somewhere between boy soprano and Sarah Jessica Parker on helium. To finally have a voice deeper than my elementary English students is a thrill. But my voice is slowly creeping back. Bummer, no need for that vanity electrolarynx.
So, farewell the grimiest apartment I have ever know. You were also the happiest. You will not be missed, but you will be remembered.