Searching Through Paris
The hardest thing about living in France (aside from speaking French) is that most of us Americans here expect things to be like ‘back home’; corn-on-the-cob, Office Max open on sundays, and cheery customer service.
I tried explaining that uniquely American concept of, “The customer is always right” to a French friend, and he just kept giving me this blank look as if I was explaining how aliens were impregnating Republicans in an effort to achieve global domination through procreation.
It seems like everything that I look for, I can’t find. Whatever I’m looking for, will surely elude me.
The good news is that everyday staples like…
…are easily available.
But I wanted to make Meg’s Pickled Onions a few weeks back. I couldn’t find white wine vinegar at any grocer. Last night’s risotto almost didn’t happen either…I couldn’t find Arborio rice and, naturally, the local Italian épicerie was (still) closed for vacation.
For the past few months, I’ve been considering an all-out search for a Cake Carrier.
Now, that’s not something that one searches for everyday. Perhaps you’ve never searched for one. Maybe you have.
But I knew it would take a bit of work; I began to gather my strength and prepare myself.
Sometimes takes me hours to prepare myself to do simple daily tasks, like going to the bank here. It’s exhausting. Or having a key made. Or choosing just the right baguette.
And never mind the amount of mental preparation it takes me to enter a French department store…the frenzy!…the jostling!…les resquilleurs who the cut in line!…(although when I try to do it, I always seem to get nailed.)
And just in case you think I’m picking on the French (I’ll leave that for the US government), it’s a chore to find exactly what you’re looking for, no matter where you live.
Don’t believe me?
Where can you find a Cake Carrier where you live? You probably wouldn’t know where to look either, whether it’s Portland or Peoria (and searching the internet doesn’t count. No cheating.)
Now imagine me mètro-ing around Paris, frantically searching for something that I didn’t even know the name for in French.
(And for some unknown reason, my otherwise excellent French dictionary doesn’t provide a translation for something so important, so vital to one’s existence, as a ‘Cake Carrier’.)
So imagine my surprise when snooping around the enormous BHV department store and finding this cloche de gâteau!
And to top it off, it was only 9 euros!
(If Emile Zola referred to Les Halles as; “The Belly of Paris”, I’d dub the BHV; “The Digestive Tract of Paris” since everyone in Paris needs to go through it at one point or another. And no one comes out exactly the same way as they went in.)
But a Cake Carrier is not something one can easily do without, thank you very much.
If you think it’s not an essential item, you try schlepping a carefully-frosted cake on the steamy mètro, dodging the crush of Parisians during rush hour and see how your cake (and you) fare.
And speaking of baking essentials, here’s something I’ve re-discovered that I tucked into my suitcase at the last-minute when I returned last winter from the US…and you should discover them too:
These are the best!
Oxo tools don’t have a lot of bells-and-whistles: they just work.
These are the best measuring spoons I’ve found. They’re affordable, well-designed, and…if you put liquid ingredients in them, you can rest them on the countertop without them spilling or tipping over.
Sometimes it’s the small things in life that make a baker happy, and these measuring spoons are one of them.
And sometimes it’s the bigger things, like my new cloche de gâteau .
Now I gotta scour Paris looking for corn syrup and pecans in preparation for “Celebrity Foodblogger Survivor” for Katrina disaster relief.