I don’t know any songs about Paris in autumn. It’s been raining for a while now and I think I know why. There are no trees on my street so I cannot report if the leaves have transformed just yet. Woe is the city dweller. Nevertheless, there is something about the crisp autumn that makes me long for the monochromatic Midwestern falls I know so well.
But I did smile seeing an overflowing crate of pumpkins proudly displayed at the farmers market this morning. And they all had triangular eyes and zigzag frowns spray painted on. But now I just need to get my hands on a hayride, a scarecrow, a corn maze, and a long-lost caramel apple.
A few months back, I was at the wedding reception of mon mari’s best friend. Although i had a few fleeting conversations about New York and its amazing ‘energie’ with the other party guests, I was stuck in that buffer zone of not clinging to the people i had already used all of my Pringles jokes on and targeting who my next victim would be. So I did what any normal expat in search of inspiration would do, i propped myself up next to the cheese platter. Time went by. Champagne came and went. I was both invincible and completely invisible to the soiree. Victory was mine! Until the host of the evening, the ever sociable best friend of mon mari spotted me out. “You know, Jessie”, he whispered discretely in my ear. “If you want, I can happily introduce you to some people. Although I often think otherwise, you cannot make friends with a plateau de fromages.’ Before I could translate “Try me, bro” into French, I knew I was thoroughly busted.
Unlike America where everybody says “I love you!” and inclusion is a virtue, I am still teaching myself to be a bit more proactive in social situations in France. If not, it will be just me and the cheese.
I have got a lot on my mind these days. My two big projects for la rentrée include one with a popular potato crisp which comes in a cylindrical can and the other is an illustrated editorial on the wonders of tropical fruit. Fruit is fleeting, but Pringles are forever. I’ve got enough Pringles cans in the kitchen to set up an artificially flavored bowling alley. It is too bad cantaloupe is not a tropical fruit; I’m in need of a bowling ball. When life gives you Pringles, what do you do? Pringles-ade was regrettable attempt in molecular gastronomy.
How often do you get invited to take a sneak peek into the largest food market in the world? I got a call last night from a top secret client. Nothing too top secret, but much more interesting to assume so. “Wanna go to Rungis?” “Uh YES!” “Ok, I’ll pick you up at 3:30am.” A few hours later, 7 miles outside of Paris, en route to DisneyLand and Ikea, we were strolling the immense meat pavilions. According to my top secret associate, because most supermarkets order directly from suppliers, only about 5 percent of the meat consumed in Ile-de-France (Paris and its surroundings) is actually purchased at Rungis. Most buyers in the morning hours are butchers, marchands, and restaurants selecting their prime carcasses. Then they are split, trimmed, and sent off on their merry ways. Even arriving at 4am, the beef sector was already wrapping up its sales for the day. And the butchers were taking their apero by 6am.
We Chicagoans are responsible for both the Blues and the meat. Blame it on the Chicago girl in me, but I just had to gush that I came from the Meatpacking city of the USA. But much to my chagrin, none of my collaborators had even heard of Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle. But I am happy to report that Rungis’s carcasses were no comparison, everything hung up properly or carefully sous-vide. Now that I know where Lady Gaga does her shopping during fashion week, sadly there were no sitings.
So by 8am, Rungis was just a memory. I walked out of there with no blood on my shoes and no appetit for anything other than my morning pain au chocolat and a big old nap.
This is usually what happens every Sunday morning on our way to the market. Today was no exception. We had some Franco-American friends expected for lunch. And pancakes were well-received from both parties. To spruce them up, I picked up some strawberries and mirabelle plums from the market, a nod to the fleeting summer. Mixed with some quartered figs, it was an unexpected accompaniment to our flapjacks. Like most things, just add bacon…
Sunday Afternoon Sour Creme Pancakes
Time: 20 minutes
Yield: about 12 pancakes
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup oats
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sour creme
3/4 cup milk, plus 1 tablespoon
1 teaspoon honey
1/2 vanilla bean, split and scraped
1.) Stir together flour, salt, baking powder, and oats. In a separate bowl, mix sour creme, milk, eggs, honey, and vanilla bean. Fold wet ingredients into dry ingredients until just combined.
2.) Melt 1 teaspoon butter in a nonstick skillet over medium-low heat. Ladle in pancake butter, creating 3-4 pancakes. Cook 2-3 minutes until bottoms brown and bubbles form on top. Flip pancakes and cook for another minute until golden brown. Wipe out skillet and continue until all the batter is used. Serve with maple syrup, butter, and seasonal fruit.
There is so much love for Paris in the blogosphere and beyond. How about a little negativity for once, people! To truly uncover the enchanted Paris of real French people, we must be more negative. A big part of living abroad is occasionally dealing with a colossally, irrepressibly bad day. I am talking about the kind of day where I don’t have a red balloon to follow or there is an unromantic downpour en route to an important rendezvous. Whenever I lament over a bad day with people stateside, I am promptly reminded that I should have no worries living in my glittering Never Never Land. This is promptly what inspired a new spinoff of thefrancofly.com, Paris, Overrated. It will visit every last institution in the City of Darkness and question why it is just so very bad…
I cannot understand how people can mistake French people as being sophisticated. They never stop cutting their fingernails on the Metro. If I lose an eye to their poor public grooming, then the joke is surely on me.
How can cafés slap a WIFI sticker in the window when it isn’t even free??? “Oui, allô? This is the 21st century calling! I’ve got important poking to do! ”
Their dogs are too pure bred! Come on, someone throw me a Golden Doodle!
Don’t people know they are listening to Christmas music when shoe shopping in the middle of July? Damn you France, how would you know I whip out my coin purse the second I hear “Little Saint Nick“…
At the end of the day, all these French women are trying to emulate Coco Chanel. That is, like, so 100 years ago.
I’ve never cared much for dog poop anyway.
Yes, the buildings are majestic, but at the end of the day, they are all just so old!
After 5pm, every other person is carrying a baguette. Way to break the clichés, Parisians! But wait, isn’t cliché a French word?
A few months back, I was catching up with my friend in a café. Right as the second glass of Bordeaux turned into the giggles, my friend’s glass knocked over, completely destroying her beautiful suede shoes. Not only did our table get a roaring round of applause from the after-work crowd, a glass of white wine was promptly delivered to us. According to a very generous spectator, white wine apparently does wonders on red wine stains. We doused her soaked shoes with another glass of wine. Although I would not recommend white wine as a miracle stain remover, we quickly learned that my friend’s shoes could hold two glasses of wine much better than we could. Made in France; you get what you pay for.
Writing my blog and for other Paris sites, there is always so much pressure to find the best, newest, coolest, untapped hole-in-the-wall. I would love to continually be on the cutting edge of the latest tiki torch Brazilian jazz lounge. But being an expat and feeling like a stranger for so long, I’m more interested in becoming a local somewhere. I would like to have the power to be both recognized and left alone in a place that I love.
Every Wednesday, I have a little time to kill in the 6e. So whenever I can see the Tour Montparnasse, I know Le Select is not far away. As the other legendary brasseries have been scooped up by conglomerates, Le Select is one of the only family-owned brasseries left in the City of Lights. I love how every cup and saucer is stamped with an illustration of their facade, the little silver pitcher of hot water than accompanies their café allongé, and the dark chocolate sidekick to every cup of coffee. There is always a solid mix of local geezers with morning papers and a few loud Americans just ‘taking a look’. And a rare occurrence in any Parisian institution, a women at the door always cheerily welcomes guests upon arrival.
Since Le Select was certainly good enough for Hemingway, I could not resist using the occasion to be creative and test out my new Bamboo Stylus, my lost-lost pen to our new ipad. This is a pen that shan’t be lost!
Yes, Le Select is nothing new; it is almost 100 years old. But for one hour every week, I am a small part of it. Maybe it is just me, but I would much rather have that than a 15 euro mint julep mojito in the latest underground tiki torch Brazilian jazz lounge.
Before moving back to France, I was living in Astoria, Queens. I must admit that Astoria is much more Greek than I. Whenever I sleepily trekked home from the N train, the blue and white murals of the Parthenon always made me smile. Fig trees and grape trellises covered in caution tape peppered the front yards. My landlord, Paxos, enthusiastic since I posted my last name in masking tape on the mailbox, never passed me in the hall without hounding, “You speak Greek?”. But thanks to the local Greek fruit market down the street, I was thrilled to find Bonne Maman jam in the European foods isle, sharing the shelf with the other nostalgic foods without nutrition facts. I would preach the wonders of Bonne Maman plum jam, spoon feeding it to my roommate. These were the days I was especially missing a lunch hour longer than 15 minutes. Whether on top of my Greek sesame bread for breakfast or snuggled up to my Greek yoghurt for dessert, my precious Bonne Maman was always a friendly reminder of France.
Although I have not tried the whole Bonne Maman collection just yet, no daily bread is complete without a little daily jam. I am up for the challenge.
Click here to find out how to turn this Indian summer’s harvest into confiture.
If I can still find apricots at the market, I can always trust Ruth Reichl on how to make a better apricot jam.