French weekend

fig

Like New Yorkers, Parisians swear they would never live anywhere else. But once the summer – or the weekend – rolls around, everyone can’t wait to make a sortie toward the nearest exit.

leaving paris

After fighting the usual traffic to get out of the périphérique, we took an exit and were shortly in the countryside, where the skies are big and clear, you’re surround by wheat fields and rows of sugar beets, and you can feel yourself unwinding as soon as you roll down your window and catch a whiff of the fresh air.

charcuterie

We wanted to extract every last bit from summer, before the fall weather kicked in. And figured it was our last chance to put on casual garb, sit around while watching the leaves getting ready to drop, and to catch up on some reading. And, of course, eat.

baguette

I was disappointed to find out the apple tree that I raid every year, because it’s always loaded down with apples, hadn’t produced a single specimen this year. So there would be no apple jelly. Then we took a drive to where I gleaned some wild plums a couple of summers ago, and found that they’d cut down the trees and there were nothing left. So there would be no wild plum jam this year, or any year in the future, unless I get lucky again.

pizza truck

People keep asking me about the world’s newest profession: “Are there food trucks in Paris?” – and while there are a few at present, and I gave my ideas for a few new ones, they’ve existed in the form of pizza trucks, across the rest of France longer than they’ve been in Austin or Portland.

white truck

And in addition to selling pizza, speaking of getting lucky, the world’s oldest profession is represented by white trucks which dot the roadsides out in the country. And if you whiz past one, and aren’t sure if it’s a working woman or not, a small Peugeot or Citroën parked just right next to it is usually a good sign. Or if they’re not working (at the moment), there’s often a few candles lit up on the dashboard. Good to know, just in case folks are hungry for something other than pizza. Take that Austin and Portland.

(Although I’ve noticed that both trucks seem to use similar themes in their marketing schemes. Coincidence?)

French seeds Café clown

There are other quirky things you might come across in the French countryside, like clown puppets hanging in the corner of the local café (what the…?), and beautiful seed packets in the local corner stores.

to honey producer

And I advise you if you’re driving around and pass a sign for something like locally cultivated honey, you make a stop.

beehive linden flower honey (tilleuil)

The beekeeper showed us his old-fashioned ruches (hives), making sure we didn’t have any problems in case we got stung. Then we tasted the tilleul (linden flower) honey, which was more complex than his others. And since I’m a fan of dark, brusque honey, I picked up a jar of that. Which would do, in lieu of a jar (or more) of wild plum jam or apple jelly in my larder.

coffee cups

Another quirky thing that I’ve learned about Paris, at least according to my Parisian other half, is that people like to scavenge through things here. There’s a public garbage can across from where I live in Paris, and I swear it’s in some guidebook or something. Because people of all ages – and seemingly spanning every economic class – swing by throughout the day and rifle through it.

I don’t know what’s in there (although I do see a few dogs owners walk by with their pooches and drop in tied-up little plastic bags, so I can vouch for one thing that I know for sure is in there..), but they just can’t help from poking through it. When I mentioned how odd it was that almost everyone passing by can’t resist digging around through that trash bin, he told me that it’s très Parisienne. So check your guidebooks for your next visit because perhaps you’re missing something. (And I guess, so am I.)

dechetterie

We went to the dechetterie (dump) in the countryside to haul a few things for the family. Before we could drive in, they checked our identity cards (and my passport), because I guess they need to know who is dropping off garbage and debris there. I’m mean, you just never know who is going to drop off a broken blender or cardboard boxes.

picking from the dump

But lest you think I am oblivious to hidden treasures, at the dump I find these curious two espresso cups, probably from the 1990s, as well as a miniature pâté mold, about 6-inches long, and Romain couldn’t understand why I wanted it. I guess when you’re around things like this all your life, and they’re as common as custard cups are in America, you don’t really pay them a second thought.

nectarines marinating beef

My favorite part of the French meal is the apéro, the time that comes actually before the meal, when little treats and something to drink is poured. We had Champagne because, well, does one really need an excuse to open a bottle of Champagne? There wasn’t anything in particular to celebrate, except that maybe we were about to grill up a monstrous and juicy côte de bœuf, seasoned just with sea salt and pepper, and a slick of olive oil someone brought back from Spain where they had held out on vacation until the last days of August, when they had to come back.

côte de boeuf

When I lived in California, I grilled anything I could. For one thing, there were a lot less dishes to wash up afterward. But more importantly, I loved standing over the first and charring everything that I could, from vegetables to toasted garlic bread. Although I rarely bought beef in America, it’s not France unless there’s beef involved. And they like it so rare it jiggles almost a little uncomfortably in the middle when sliced.

côte de boeuf

I added a touch of America by making a salad with blue cheese dressing. But I added a few cherry tomatoes for the quintessential Parisian touch.

Champagnebeef - côte de boeuf
côte de boeuf salad with bleu cheese dressing

It’s funny because people were surprised when I just popped the ripe figs right into my mouth, and asked why I didn’t peel them first.

green figssculpture
bootsfig skin

Because it’s becoming more well-known around here that I’m actually sharper than I look (or so I’d like to think), I replied, “Do you peel bread before you eat it?” Which pretty much assured that I wouldn’t get any further queries on the topic.

chairs

As the weekend ended, we said goodbye to the countryside, packed up the car, and headed back to Paris. I didn’t have any plums or apples, but I had some bunches of fresh sage and savory to tide me over until next summer. Well, more likely, at least until fall.

paris sign

88 comments

  • Love your comment on the Parisiens rifling through trash :P Its something I could not understand but a sight i see almost every monday morning in my quartier!

  • While visiting relatives in Milan earlier this year, they took us on a day trip out to Certosa di Pavia. I saw the young women standing on the side of the road on the way there but didn’t open the topic for discussion until we returned. Yes, they are companions for hire, yelling greetings to all who pass, in the broad daylight. Apparently they multiply in number as the evening progresses but I didn’t see any small trailers nearby, at the ready for transactions.

  • Looks like you had a nice last gasp before la rentrée!

    “…a few dogs owners walk by with their pooches and drop in tied-up little plastic bags…”
    I am so jealous!!! If only people here in Nantes did the same!!

  • Awesome meat!

  • Love the grilled beef steak!

  • Good on ya for “telling them off” about the figs! I remember when mom used to make fig preserves, there would always be a few overripe ones just for me… mmmm…. How I miss the sun soaked fruits and veggies from home… and not the counter ripe fruit here… :P

  • Just an anecdote- in my little (wine-producing) Swiss village, a couple of weeks ago, at the playground, a 2-year-old, informed by her mother that we were going to mine for a drink (of water!) and then going home, said “On va faire l’apéro?”

    A true daughter of the village! ;)

  • You don’t peel figs,but you do take the inside skins off of broad beans? Well, to each his own…..

    There is a wonderful chip-van in Dunkerque; I have had some lovely merguez and chips from it over the years.

  • I would have taken the pâté mold too. Just like I always bring home the clay yogurt jars from France. Everyone there just throws them out and I just love them (and the yogurt inside too). Oh and your steak and salad looks so good. A perfect dinner! Feeling carnivorous.

  • I just got back from Barcelona and one evening walking back to my hotel on a little side street off Las Ramblas someone had put out objects by the trash and painted “Art Trash” on them. Every few yards there was another grouping of art trash along with the garbage bags. There were even paintings on some of the objects which were mostly cast off furniture or old windows and doors. Had to photograph them and in the morning of course they were all gone — picked up along with the trash. I was in Barcelona for a week and looked for the art trash every evening, but never saw it again.

  • Do they really use the old fashioned hive? Fascinating if they do!

  • Funny thing. We live in the country (well, Jarnac) and once all renos are done, we plan to take the TGV to Paris for the odd weekend.

  • I’m reading your blog in my hospital bed in northern France, where I have had my knee replaced this week. The standard of care has been superb but the food…no so good. Not BAD but institutional, lacking imagination, seasoning and freshness. So all this talk of grilled beef, blue cheese dressing, fresh figs and local honey…I’m dribbling on to the iPad. At least I hope that’s dribble and not an untoward side effect…

  • Ohhh this looks gorgeous! And makes me wish I was still back at our place in france. I got home last week and I’ve been missing everything about it since. We grilled a delicious cote de beouf last week too. Charolais beef in our region is just amazing. (and your peeled fig story made me laugh! I’ve peeled my peaches ever since I was a little girl thanks to the teachings of our friends out there! Its a funny habit of the French)
    What a lovely au revoir to the summer

  • phanmo: Well, I’d say some of them pick it up. And the others…

    joanne: Yes, they do use that hive, but the others hives are mostly newer ones. (I thought it was a funny contrast, that they were using a modern day bottle to feed the bees sugar syrup). They did have a great collection of old beehives that they showed us.

    Christina: I think that perhaps it might come from the times when Paris was a city of scavengers, when people had less. And may be a holdover? I know it happens elsewhere, but seems to be across many economic lines here. I do know people throw out a lot of stuff in Paris – and you can find good stuff just tossed out on the street – I found a beautiful 60s set of metal office drawers recently. So I guess I’m one of them : )

    Laura: I’ve seen people peel tomatoes for salads here, although I’ve never asked them why. I’ve gotten some really funny looks eating potato skins, too.

  • You mentioned that your apple tree did not produce any fruit this year. I read somewhere that if you do not remove some of the immature fruit and allow all the apples to ripen, the next year the tree will not produce fruit because it has used all its energy the previous year.It’s worth trying this method next year just after the blooms fall off and you can see a tiny apple starting.Hope this works.

  • I see a lot of people going through my recycle bin sitting on the curb the night before the trash is picked up but nobody has opened my big trash bin yet. But I am in SC, everyone is really “proper” here :)

    Those green figs go down easily without peeling. Your weekend sounds like a good one before the fall comes around.

  • I have so enjoyed all of your blogs. They are fun to read, a visual treat and always give me the wants! Figs seem to be a love/hate fruit. I am of the former. While in France serveral years ago I remember having a wonderful fig tart. Do you have any fig tart recipes in your repertoire?

  • joan> actually France had some terrible weather this year, including late temperatures below zero and a very damp summer (spring too :/..). that’s why there’s almost no fruit from France this year, this is very bad condition for the trees to fructify. the cherries are at 13€ per kilo (17$) and they are coming from Chile :/…

  • Women plying their trade from vans on country roads? I have never heard of that, although, of course I am aware of the certain streets in various Euro cities where they hang out for hire, mobile prostitution vehicles out in the country seems so funny to me. A definate case for me, at least, of you learn something new every day.

  • Ah David, your photographs are nearly as lovely as your descriptions of your travels and the products of your recipes. And, although we here in Austin and probably Portland too, do think we invented the food truck, I’ve yet to see one offering anything other than food! As fate would have it, we’re grilling a cote de beouf tonight here as well, although summer for us is far from over. Our fig tree is drooping from the weight of the figs and I’d gladly send you some if I could. I don’t peel them either although I do peel tomatoes.

    Thanks for such a wonderful blog.
    Claire

  • Loved every last inch of this post! What a nice, relaxing weekend. Though I’m not sure quite what to make of the (frightening) clown puppet, fig peeling and garbage rooters. I guess garbage rooting is pretty similar to down n dirty flea market scrounging, though, when you think about it!

  • Down here in the south, the women ply their trade without the vans. A sad sight, most of them are Eastern European sans-papiers.

    That beef looks gorgeous! And I too was told off just last week for eating a ripe fig without peeling it first :)

  • Love photos, I envy your relaxing weekend filled with good eats!

  • Thank you for this wonderful post – it was relaxing just to read it. About apple trees – I have the same problem with our tree at our cabin (Northern Arizona). Last year it was full of apples, which resulted in many, many apple tarts. Well, until elks came in and ate them all right off the tree. This year, we have a special sprinkler system to scare off the elks, but hardly any apples either.

  • You sure Le Lebovitz’s garbage isn’t in some hardcore foodie guidebook?

  • some of my best props were found at the local dechetterie.
    it’s like a flea market, sans the pushy salesmen and noveau-riche yuppies

  • I was transported to Paris and the French countryside, if only for a few moments. Thanks for the impromptu vacation! We live in a rural Virginia county south of Washington DC. It’s hard to believe it would be rural 50 miles from the Capitol, but it is. We have a convenience site (dump) 15 minutes from our home. People often set aside anything that may still have value or a use and allow others to take it home. If you can’t find something at the dump – you haven’t lived here long enough!

  • That sounds like a lovely way to spend the weekend. Utterly relaxing. And since my Mum has a glut of apples ripening on her trees, I think your apple jelly is in my future. Thank you for the inspiration.

    If you ever get the chance to go down to the Pyrenees, check out the mannequins that are costumed and placed around the villages around Campan. (It’s a beautiful part of the world) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Campan

  • Peeling figs seems like an utter waste of time. Great comeback with the line about bread!

  • David your 2008 baba ganoush was the first that came up in a search during a shopping trip knowing I had eggplant at home. It was spot on and awesome. I look forward to reading your posts from then to now.

  • The combination of a witty narrative with enticing and original photographs is irresistible. David, you get better with age!

  • If you are interested in the concept of scavenging, be sure to see the Agnès Varda movie “Les Glaneurs et les Glaneuses.” It is a masterpiece.

  • After receiving a gift of insanely hot peppers yesterday, I wracked my brains trying to remember where on my walk I had seen a tree loaded with large crabapples. luckily it was in a public park. Grabbed my stepstool and went to harvest, and now have a big batch of hot pepper crabapple jelly in my larder. :) And it only cost me the sugar.

  • I have only had dried figs, which I love. If I want to buy fresh figs, how do I know if they are ripe? ……I just happened to start reading your book.. and am enjoying it…love the blog too

  • In the very southern tip of California, we have twice-a-year Bulky Trash days, which has a big following of pickup trucks from both sides of the border. We here throw away fine stuff, some of which, properly recognized and repurposed, are now ornamenting our garden. I swear Stuff occupied the middle of the sidewalk as we were walking our dogs. What could we do but pick it up? We set out our own recyclables knowing it will go to whoever’s quickest. Poo goes in the trash cans.

    We leave this week on a car trip, and after reading your post, I vow we will stop at every farm stand between here and Santa Rosa. Onward to the honey!

  • The French underestimating you is funny :) Thousands (millions?) of readers crack up at your humor and wit every day while the French miss the punchline. Their loss!

    I was considered funny in America too, but in France I have learned that smiling too much or being nice is a sure fire way to be esteemed an idiot. You might want to keep a straight face and act blasé for a bit.

  • Great that you were able to take stuff AWAY from the dechetterie up there. Down here in a corner of the Loire, it is forbidden unless you are a friend of the guy who manages (?) it – or so it seems. Breaks my heart to see lovely ceramics and perfectly good ceramic kitchen sinks smashed at the bottom of the containers.

    And my apple trees are burdened with way too much fruit while there are indeed less mirabelle plums than usual and no wild bullace/damson plums at all. Blackberries galore and more on the way (you are welcome to come pick)! Proves again that every fruit has its climate niche.

    As for peeling fruit in Europe, most Dutch are peelers too, even apples. I was told this was to avoid consuming pesticides, but surely not on figs! My argument that you also miss out on a great deal of flavour and vitamins was deemed unimportant. I suspect that it also has something to do with being ‘refined’ and well bred, to distinguish yourself from the coarse peasants. Then I’m happy to be counted a peasant when it comes to eating.

  • JenniferB: There was a program on French television a while back about pesticides and peeling fruit, and they essentially said that you’d need to peel away about one-third of the fruit to get rid of pesticide residue on apples. I’ve seen people peel nectarines, too. I only peel peaches, because the fuzzy skin is often tough. (And feels wooly in my mouth!)

    Thea: Santa Rosa? Pick up some of those delicious Santa Rosa plums for me – I love those.

    Chzplz: I know in Sacramenta, California, they harvest the sour oranges in the park across from the capital and make “Capital Hill Marmalade.”

    Maya: People throw away so much stuff – not just at the dumps, but on the street. I routinely pass furniture..not just the broken Ikea stuff, but lovely old wooden chairs, beautiful iron railings, and so forth, that people just toss away. The problem of dumping stuff got so bad (and is bad for the ecology) that the city of Paris started a publicity campaign of showing things like old refrigerators tossed away in the middle of the forest, etc..

  • Brilliant !!! So simple and beautiful….Thanks Dave for the travelog…

  • Actually some of us do peel bread before we eat it! My co-workers used to call me “the anti-crust”.To me the inside is the best part! Growing up either my mother or the family dog would eat my crusts thought the dog is the only one that used to beg for it!

  • I’m trying to figure out what cut of meat that is? Do you know, or know what it might be similar to? Looks Good !

  • It seems like a glorious weekend to me. And your finds at the dump would have made my day!

  • If I could find CHAIRS like the ones in the last photo in a dumpster, I’d dive right in. They seem so lovely AND practical to me, but tell me, are they comfortable?

  • I wanted to “dive” into each photo and just be there….thank you so much for making it all and always so vivid….

  • Thank you for this, David. It reminds me so much of when we would escape San Francisco for the wine country to the North and especially to the Cheese Factory between Petaluma and the ocean. Fresh French Bread, wonderful cheeses and a couple of bottles of good wine and we were all but in heaven. That now seems a lifetime away. But you brought all of the best of it back so I need to go out and buy a bit of the Oklahoma Blue, a bottle or two of the local wine and a few of the locally made sausages – and, yes, there is very good local honey. Not quite as exotic or civilized as France, but the home ground.

  • I feel like a came along..
    Fabulous adventure
    Thanks!

  • Counting down to next week’s exodus from England to Spain via France. Taking a turn off at Toulouse to Sonnac-sur-l’Hers and Chez Maison Bleu for the overnight stay. Look out sun, here we come!

  • I think a French person almost fainted once when, while eating my and my French husband’s potato skins, I told them we pay for those in restaurants in America! They couldn’t understand it.

    And as for the trash, I’ll admit I love having a look around our building’s trash room. People leave bags of amazing things – clothing with store tags or dry cleaning tags still on them even! I didn’t know you could take things from the dump, though! My French family always told me you are not allowed to check things out at the dump. Maybe they just never even considered it. ;) Scavenging after brocantes can lead to some neat finds, though.

  • David, I wonder if they checked your IDs at the dechetterie because of theft issues? I know that I have heard of there being big problems here with stealing copper and other metals. But even then, it isn’t like they would know your name or anything?!

    And didn’t you ever Dumpster Dive in the States? I sure did.

    Thank you so much for yet another wonderful happy-inducing post. :)

  • The first time I made babaganoush was after your blog about your very smoky eggplant. It has become a favorite of my family and guests. In the summer I cook out of doors as frequently as I can so a to not heat up the kitchen. I have a single burner next to the BBQ that I use with my stove top smoker. It doubles as a baker if you balloon some aluminum foil over it. I did eggplant in it and it came out great. Last time I made it I added some wood chips to the smoker to enhance the smokiness from the open flame charring. It was fantastic. The smoke flavor was beautiful. Do you have a place to grill in your apartment?

  • Ha! I have that pate mold’s very big brother, purchased some years back at a market day somewhere in the French countryside (I probably have a photo somewhere). I use mine to do chicken with 40 cloves of garlic.

  • First, thanks for all the great ideas you post. We just returned from travels in Europe, and though France wasn’t the focus of the trip, Paris was our entry and departure point so we scheduled a few days at the end to tool around the city. Therefore, it’s officially your fault the amount of cash I dropped at G.Detou, A, Simon, and Dehillerin… Happy purchases all; merci!
    Now, down the street to raid the neighbors neglected fig and apple trees. In my town, the question isn’t “do you peel a fig?” but “what is it and why would you eat that?”. Sigh!

  • re:white trucks, I really thought they were food trucks, how naive and lol.

  • My best friend in high school was French and I was always amused by how she and her family peeled, with a fork and a knife, every piece of fruit before putting it anywhere near their mouths. I, however, was in the process of being raised by my crunchy granola mother to wash and eat fruit out of hand in order to benefit from as many vitamins and nutrients as possible. So I ended up adopting both ways and applying each as necessary. For peeling things like peaches at the table I can go Euro-style with the best of them, but I am not at all opposed biting directly into a fat slice of watermelon, juice dripping down my arm. My French friends would never have done that without a knife and fork!

  • PS: FYI, it is the practice of feeding bees highly processed sugar syrup instead of providing them with fields of natural nectar from flowers that has weakened their immune systems to the point of the now global Colony Collapse Disorder. Processed food weakens the immune system of us all actually…but loved the article!

    It is truly quirky that there are hooker trucks! Wild…

  • Great post David, always so enjoyable to read. I’m off to France again tomorrow and hadn’t heard about the white vans – excellent little bit of trivia to pass on!

  • You’re making me hungry! I had the good fortune of living in Paris for a year, and miss it – and its culinary treats – tremendously. Reading your blog is like taking a mini-trip back to France each week. Mille mercis!

  • The cote de boeuf looks so good! I hardly ever order beef in restaurants here because it is always too done. I ask for my steak extra rare, seared on both sides, raw inside, and mooing and walking to my table, and if I am lucky I get what I want… Another thing I miss here is la bavette. Impossible to find for some reason.
    Your weekend trip sounds like so much fun. Thank you for sharing it. Time for fall. I used to really enjoy that time of year when the trees in the streets of Paris turn to gold and the children on their way to school or home drag their feet through the piles of dead leaves – at least we did when I was growing up. It may be another thing of the past! Your blogs are so vivid. It is almost like being back where I spent the first 24 years of my life.

    • I love côte de boeuf and it’s always a treat to be able to grill one over a real fire and get that nice crust on it. I like my beef saignant (medium rare), but my French other half likes it “Bleu froid” (nearly raw, cold) in the center. I’m not a beef expert but I think bavette (if you’re in the US) is called “hanger steak” – or skirt steak – and is popular in Mexican cooking, so perhaps you can find it in a Hispanic market or at a good butcher.

  • I love that quaint little statue! .. and I am quite fond of this post, envious, too.

  • Believe it or not, my husband found a KitchenAid stand mixer sans bowl and attachments on the exchange table of our local “convenience center” (garbage/recycling center). I was so happy, because it meant he wouldn’t be using my 40-year-old Kitchenaid to mix grout anymore! I bought a new bowl and paddle and he was good to go–I kept the new pieces, of course!

    David, I look forward to your blog and newsletter, checking my iPhone app every two or three days to see if you’ve posted a new one. Keep ‘em coming!

  • I think it’s lovely that you take on your “Frenchness” with ease but there’s always that bit of American you take with you everywhere. I think all expats are similar in that.

  • I love the comparisons between the American and French way of living in current times. Curbside finds are the best! How could you go wrong with picking up a perfectly useful piece of furniture that someone no longer wants.

    This post is so funny and informative. I love your keen observation of street signs and questionable white trucks driving on a country road.

    What is your favorite type of honey “miel” there?

    • I am a big fan of dark, almost bitter honey, and prefer chestnut (chataigne) and buckwheat (sarrasin). Both are somehwat harder to come by; a lot of the buckwheat honey in France is imported from Canada – so when I see any from France, I grab it! There’s a fellow at the Anvers market that has it, or if I go to Brittany, I try to pick some up – the best is from Madame Prigent. There are roving Marchés des Producteurs and I love the honey from Chantal Boyer-Lambert as well.

      But most markets in Paris have a honey seller, and there are honey shops in Paris and elsewhere, and most let you taste and decide which you like.

  • David I bought a carton of fresh white currants today- can you tell me what to do with them?

    thank you,
    Johnette

  • Well, I am the New Yorker who thought I could live nowhere else…. Until I did.

    That was an odd question about the figs- peeling? Although my mother (born in Paris) taught me to eat figs in another very peculiar way:

    -Break fig in half, lengthwise, and shmoosh the two halves together. I believe this releases the juices, especially in a slightly unripe one.

    I get odd looks, but I have tried eating them just “as is” and they just don’t compare. So she clearly knew something about eating fresh figs and I put up with the odd looks.

  • When I grow up I wanna be like you! Damn! I am grown up. Well, then I guess I’ll settle for enjoying you and your writing. A true pleasure. Thanks.

  • beautiful everything, beautiful beef especially. it is funny to think of parisians rummaging through the trash. i’m sure they look sophisticated as they do so. :)

  • Hi David!! You always manage to write about exactly the thing I’m craving or experiencing any given week in Paris…. It’s uncanny! This year we have tons of bio green figs in my father-in-law’s orchard in the countryside outside of Paris, the amount is completely overwhelming for one little me, and I hate to see them gaspillées!! Would you like me to gather some and bring them to you? I have more than I can handle and certainly am not set up to make confiture on a large scale or anything. There may be some delicious pears as well, they looked nearly ripe last week! Let me know, it would be my pleasure. :)

  • Hi! Loved your post…I recently read your book The Sweet Life in Paris and immediately called my best friends and told them to go to the bookstore STAT. :) this was such a fun surprise! Looks like I now have another wonderful blog to follow! Your writing is so quirky and witty, it makes for an entertaining afternoon (and evening as well as half the night).

  • About the mobile brothels, once on the train from Geneva to Lyon there was a lady who kept sauntering through the carriage with a certain smile. My husband said she was a prostitute at work. That can only mean doing it in the toilet!!!

  • Hello David! Your other half and I agree on how to cook steak: bleu, raw, and cold inside, which of course nobody in Palm Desert, CA understands, particularly the bleu part, except the staff in a high end French restaurant in town called Cuistot (not a very elegant term which clashes with that first class facility actually owned and run by a French chef). I have tried skirt steak and flap steak, easily available here because of the Mexican population. OK, but a little thin and not quite as flavorful as bavette. Try to slowly go toward bleu steak a little at a time. You won’t believe the difference in the taste of the meat. Your friend can attest to that. As for hanger steak, the butcher in my grocery store told me that because it is a small piece it gets ground along with whatever else they use for ground beef. Such a waste!

    I always look forward to read about your experiences in my old homeland.

    • I always find that I can’t chew meat that’s completely raw/too rare (although I like steak tartar, that’s always cut into tiny pieces) – and it’s very hard to cut as well. I prefer medium-rare, like Jeffrey Steingarten, who wrote a very interesting piece called “High Steaks” (it’s in his terrific book, It Must’ve Been Something I Ate), and talked about how to cook meat, and to what point to cook it, so it tastes the most flavorful.

      But, of course, it’s all personal taste – so enjoy it however you like it!
      : )

  • “you can feel yourself unwinding as soon as you roll down your window and catch a whiff of the fresh air”

    That’s how I feel whenever we drive up the coast past San Fran to Mendocino. That cold sea air makes my whole body relax and I don’t have a care in the world.

  • A friend of mine calls picking through the trash for useful things “Dumpster Hanukkah.”

  • Umm… prostitutas. We were following the Piero della Francesca Trail (Renaissance painter) in Italy (I love his art; husband loves a day trip) from Montepulciano to Monterchi and Sansepulcro. Had I not read the sequel to Under the Tuscan Sun, I wouldn’t have recognized right off the prostitutes on the side of the road as being just that. No white trucks; I don’t know where their pimps were. We did see some negotiating with prospective clients on the side of the road.

    Nevertheless, we would have figured it out when one of them flashed us. Why me? I’m the girl!

  • Congrats on the bon mot. LOVE it!
    As for me, it’s a constant diet of l’esprit de l’escalier. Sigh.

  • Hello there. Looked like a very nice weekend. You said that you made a blue cheese dressing for your salad (or I assume you made it ?). May I ask you to post this recipe ? I love blue cheese dressing and miss it so much in Paris, and I mess around making disastrous attempts at what I would call the same. Yours looked very light and I was wondering how you got it like that – and if you might share ! Thanks !

    The recipe is linked in the post, via a hyperlink. I’ve linked to it again here as well. -dl

  • Lovely post David, -fall is almost upon us here in the northwest U.S. also. Love the photo of ‘whizzing by’ the white truck, I had no idea there was curb side ‘service’ in France. Your photo of the countryside made me realize how similar all country settings are anywhere in the world. And oh, the ‘bee’ honey sign! I would’ve been very tempted to yank that thing down and start running as fast as I could. It is so cute! This also reminded me to tell you that your bleu cheese dressing is the best I’ve ever made.. Actually I was shocked that there was so much bleu cheese in it! If you feel like posting a recipe for the pickled turnips, I would be interested. Love your writing, and your humor. Blessings.

  • I so enjoyed the words “…jiggles almost a little uncomfortably in the middle when sliced” (yes, that is how I like it) and “Do you peel bread before you eat it?” Very nice, you are an artist with words and food!

  • David, in Spain the law says that anyone passing an accessible crop can take what they can hold. It is from a time when people were often so poor they went hungry (might be that time again). Does France have anything similar?

    There is oodles of honey here by the way, hubby picked up a Kg for €3.20 the other day and says it is nice stuff.

  • I see that “dumpster diving” is alive and well in France! Recycling in its most unique form. Never know what one might find.

  • Hello again David! I checked the book you mentioned (IT MUST HAVE BEEN SOMETHING I ATE), and I found that there was too much info about eating bugs. Yuk! However I learned something about tuna. It is a good thing that Amazon lets customers read a little about the books before buying them! Pickles sound good. I will make some. Keep writing!

  • Just read your book, today! What an enjoyable afternoon sitting in the garden while reading here in San Jose. Alas, I had no chocolate in the house. Thanks for a great read.

  • Nothing like a trip in late summer…

  • David… If possible….Would love some Berlin restaurant suggestions. In advance, thx so much