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Les livraisons

Mailbox #paris

There is one thing that strikes fear in the hearts of all Parisians. It’s not a letter from the tax office, being body-checked by those seemingly fragile little old ladies pulling their shopping carts at the market, or learning that a model for Christian Louboutin moving in upstairs from you and installing brand-new hardwood floors: It’s getting a notification that there is a package, somewhere for you – that’s got your name on it.

If I had a bag of dried sour cherries of California dried apricots for everyone that offered to send me something that I was craving from abroad, I’d be knee-deep in sticky, shriveled up dried fruits. (Which is possibly a good thing, come to think about it.) My Inbox and social media streams are filled with helpful folks offering to send me everything from San Francisco coffee to felt-tip pens. So much so that I’m considering doing a post about my fondness for gold buillon, but am concerned that in spite of the value of the cavalcade of gold ingots that will be coming my way, that I’ll be spending an inordinate amount of time wrangling with the shipping company to get them to me. And it’s just not worth it.

When I moved to Paris, a Frenchwoman who works for an appliance company told me; “Daveed, you need to be standing at the door, with the door wide open, and your name written across your forehead” for something to be delivered. And I didn’t believe her until I was leaving my apartment a few times shortly afterward and found a missed delivery sticker on my door, with nary a knock or ring of the doorbell to announce its previous presence, just a few centimeters away. Yet so far, so very, very far from my grasp, as the next few weeks would prove to me.

Sometimes I think it’s a vast conspiracy by brick & mortar stores to sway folks away from online shopping. However those shifty folks have set up ‘relais’ points, shops and drop-off spots in various neighborhoods that accept your packages so you just go in and get it. Those work great, but they’re quite limited as just a few merchants work with them. And the guy who runs the store near me, which is such a mess it’s hard to tell what exactly he does sell in there, doesn’t even ask for ID. So I’m not sure I can trust him with all the precious metals and gold Rolex watches that I am anticipating after this post goes viral.

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The French Dictionary

mushrooms

Someone told me that the English language has more words than the French language, which I don’t believe – although to be honest, I’ve never counted. I know English can be kind of kooky at at times, but I don’t think we have multiple words for the same things, from a dozen different words for sinks, to a panoply of words for helmets, depending on what vehicle one is sitting on when wearing it.

poisson

However I can attest that there are, indeed, fourteen verb tenses in French versus six in English, which is why I always get my derrière whooped when I play Scrabble in French. According to my handy book of French verbs, many of the verb conjugations are ‘mood related’, to express how someone feels. So je suis (I am) becomes je sois, because you or more to the point – I just absolutely, positively, have to be.

pêche

And then there’s the fact that even in one particular tense, like when talking about the present, each verb is spelled differently. Whereas in English, we say I think, You think, We think, They think – spelling the word “think” exactly the same way – in French, each pronoun determines the way the verb is spelled, which changes each time. So it’s Je pense, Vouz pensez, Nous pensons. And yes, I did have to consult my book of French verbs to make sure I got those write. Er, I mean, right. (Gotcha! And you were about to pull that “grammar police” alarm. I told you English can be kooky, too.) So if you want to know why the French are nervously pulling drags off cigarettes, it’s because of the stress of conjugating all those dang verbs.

mammals

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The Scofflaw

sofflaws

Most people probably don’t think of hard liquor when they think of France. But nowadays it’s hard to pass one of the many cafés in Paris which features les happy hours and not see a round of mojitos on just about every table. From the looks of things, they’ve become more popular than wine or beer. Unfortunately most are not very well made and as cocktail fans know – and even those of us that only occasionally imbibe – that there’s a definite art to making mixed drinks. And it’s curious that many of the world’s great spirits, such as Lillet and Noilly Pratt vermouth, are French. Yet few people in Paris know what they are and I recounted the mix-up that happened when I ordered a Lillet at a café in Paris in TSLIP.

cocktail glasseshomemade grenadine syrup

On the other end of the cocktail spectrum in Paris are places like the Hemingway Bar at The Ritz, famous for its Martini (as well as its hefty price!) and the myriad of excellent cocktail places that have sprung up in the last few years. Although my days of being able to drink four or five martinis and still be able the function the following day are in my past, with all the talk about the terrific cocktails being poured around Paris, I’ve been finding myself craving cocktails like I used to, albeit in more prudent quantities.

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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

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Le casque

bike helmet

One of the great things about living in Paris is that it’s a pretty good city for bicycling. It’s relatively flat, the city has installed a network of bike paths, many one-way streets have been accommodated with a special lane off to the side for bicyclist going the other way (provided you don’t mind the terror of seeing a car coming at you full-speed, head on), and in spite of what’s between those previous parentheses, Parisians actually respect bicyclists. Even though pedestrians n’existe pas, I think that comes from the fact that a lot of drivers are actually cyclists themselves, or were in the past.

But unlike America, where people like to do things like see how close they can sideswipe cyclists, just for fun (often with a “Hey, the road is for cars!” – before speeding off, chuckling at how clever they are), bicycles are just a natural part of the streets and roads in Paris. One does need to be careful, though, because people in Paris drive like they walk, and there doesn’t always seem to be much sense of order to it and spatial relationships are…well, sometimes those n’existe pas as well.

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L’évier

sink1

One of the things I absolutely insisted on in my kitchen was a huge sink. Since I spend roughly 11 to 18% of my day standing over it, considering some women spend a fortunes on tall shoes, and there are men who spend a lot of money on fancy, oversized watches – and vice versa – I thought I was entitled to a big sink. However finding one was a whole ‘nother story. Long gone are the days of “French farmhouse sinks” and any that you are likely to find are either still firmly installed in French farmhouses – and aren’t for sale – or the ones that are for sale are only available in America and England.

I didn’t think it would be so hard to find a big, simple, white sink of generous proportions, but it took me two months of searching and walking past sinks with decorative curls and swoops carved into them, which are marvelous places for gunk to collect. And perhaps to hide any bits and crumbs, there were no shortage of sinks in colors like aubergine (eggplant) or citron vert (lime green), or with basins so tiny that they would barely hold a regular-sized dinner plate. I finally tracked down the one company in France that makes the one large sink that is sold here. And, as is often the case, there was a rupture de stock and no one seemed to know when they’d be available again.

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Ice

ice water

My new refrigerator has an ice maker. After living in Paris for close to ten years, I’ve kind of gotten used to not having ice-on-demand. And when out and about, I’m now used to being served drinks with just one puny ice-cube bobbing sadly on the surface of a tepid drink. So now, when I go back to the states, I’m always a little overwhelmed by the oversized glasses filled to the brim with brisk, frosty, cracklin’ ice cubes. Because I’ve rounded the corner of converting to some of the European habits (although the 5hr cycle on my dishwasher still baffles me – what the heck is going on in there?) I sometimes have to slip into that “Can I have water with no ice, please?” mode, which pegs me squarely in the minds of American waitpeople as one of “those” customers.

But the glacial movement that’s spread across North America doesn’t seem to be reserved just for France; it seems that there is a European conspiracy against the chilly beasts. One I got used to no ice, I really stopped giving ice much thought. But when visitors come, they would always want me to ask the café waiter for some extra ice for their drinks. Then the glass of ice arrives, with a long spoon, which they shovel into their drinks, scraping the bottom of the glass so as not to miss one single drop of the still-cold water.

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3/4

rose and strawberries

One of the things about the French that’s pretty well-known is that they certainly enjoy their wine. While statistics point to declining sales and consumption, I’d still dare to say that wine plays a very important role in French culture, as well as an integral part of its cuisine. And for that second one, I’m especially grateful.

I like wine, and being from California – and working in restaurants all of my life – I’m certainly no stranger to the pleasures of “the grape.” But even though wine has been simplified in America to boost consumption, such as wines with fruit-flavorings (I guess ‘grape-flavored’ wine isn’t enticing enough), there still is a bit of elitism associated with le vin. Yet in France, wine is no big deal and the wine aisle at the supermarket is just as big, if not bigger, than the mustard, coffee, paper towel, vinegar, sterilized milk, pasta, cereal, baby food, jam, and rice cake aisles – combined. It even threatens the yogurt selection in terms of scope, variety, and flavors.

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