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 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…
Terraces and cigarettes. Rosé and the summertime. Radishes and butter. Radishes and butter? Yes! As a Ranch-dipping American, this came as a bit of a surprise to me . (How does one butter a radish? Have the French found an excuse to dip things into butter now? I admit to sneaking single-serving Country Crock packets under restaurant tables as a kid, but this is absurd!) In France, butter is the assigned spouse to radishes, with a sprinkle of extramarital sea salt just to keep things interesting. Although everyone does it differently, according to mon mari qui fume, the butter to my radish, the radishes are cut into four parts which create the surface area for the butter. The beauty of the pairing instantly makes itself clear; the smooth butter flatters the crisp, occasionally spicy radish. Give it a try! Anyone know where to get some Country Crock around here?
I am a real foodie now! I’ve started buying locally and seasonally. Farewell, sweet bananas and pineapples from faraway. See you sporadically! However, I made a recent discovery. Over Christmas vacation, we spent a few days at a friend’s cottage in the mountains near La Cévennes. The only fruit in the house were tiny kiwis no bigger than my thumb. And they were local, harvested just nearby. I always assumed that kiwi’s acidity and zippy vitamin C meant their origins were more tropical than domestic. But as winter fruit, they add a bit more variety to the apples, clementines, and grapefruits that fill the colder months. But since Spring has sprung, I should scrap this watercolor. It’s completely out of season!
Does this discovery come as a surprise to you, too?
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.