Recently in Whining category

TGIF (aka DMCV)

fudge

Although it doesn’t quite translate, Dieu merci, c’est vendredi – or as I’m going to say in English, Thank God It’s Friday (TGIF), because it’s been quite a week. (On a related note, I was recently informed by a French friend that a 4-day weekend is not a vacation – it’s just a few days off, or a pont (bridge.) But even though I took an actual vacation, it’s been tough getting back up to speed.

fig cake

Since we all live in a 24/7 society, as you likely can attest to, just because you go away doesn’t mean you can “get away from it all.” There is always something to deal with; urgent recipe questions (It’s funny when people say something food-related is “urgent” – unless there is a famine or a natural catastrophe…or another disaster of similar proportion, I’m not sure it quite qualifies as “urgent”), paperwork, sorting through pictures, and dealing with travel arrangements, including the all-important act of making sure you have a decent seat on the plane home.)

can we talk?

Then there is a pile up when you get back; stuff that needs to be dealt with right-away; a backlog of mail, correcting typos and grammatical errors in blog entries, accepting invitations, declining invitations, writing back to the response you’ve gotten after you’ve declined, reading and responding to the response asking if you’re available another time, figuring out why teenagers would congregate in the alcove down the street that smells like pipi, realizing that there is a near-urgent need for you to restock your butter supply, and testing some recipes that have been on your mind for your blog.

Green figs

The fun of having a blog is that you get to try to share recipes that you find interesting. I try to put a mix of original recipes, recipes from recent cookbooks, a few oldies but goodies from cookbooks in my collections, and occasionally one from a cooking magazine that catches my eye. Along the way – especially this week – there have been a couple of goofs. The King Arthur Flour company always presents a hilarious round-up of their test kitchen goofs each year on April Fool’s Day. But since I can’t wait that long, I decided to share a few.

I was recently inundated with a few barquettes of fresh figs that I bought at a local flea market, where all of the vendors seemed to be from the countryside (who, as this map points out, Parisians consider paysannes, or peasants.) Call me a paysan, but I happen to like them regardless of what other’s say or think, and as I picked up a number of vintage jam jars, I also was able to trade valuable jam-making tips with some of the friendly men and women selling their wares.

Oberkampf flea market

One guy had three barquettes of figs and because he’s not Parisian and in a constant hurry, he had to count out each fig, one-by-one, speaking aloud about what kind of price to come up with, and how he needed to charge me per-fig. (We have a lot of fees and stuff in France, so at some point, I guess we shouldn’t be surprised when there is a per-fig surcharge.) Um, okay. He slo-o-o-wly told me about the history of each fig as I stood there hyperventilating because of the all the bargains that were being snapped up around me, and my shoulder ready to fall off with my bag-full of heavy glass jam jars and the Saint James marinière (striped sweater) that was almost new and was a mere 50 cents, which I got so I can look a little more French. Although I’d have to stop shaving for three days if I really wanted to complete the look. (I also saw a hipster wearing a half-length cape the other day, and I’m not ready to go there, either.)

almond batter

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The best 5 euros I’ve spent in Paris

Bowling!

I had kind of a crummy day yesterday. I was invited to a restaurant opening that didn’t go as I had hoped. It was something that was a new concept for Paris, based on something uniquely American. And while people here are very good at embracing “concepts”, I almost felt the need to remind people that having a restaurant and serving food are about: 1) Serving guests, and 2) Having good food. Get those two down first, then everything else is gravy.

My initial clue should have been the people working the door. Their first question was – Who was I writing for? And then, Where was I going to place my article about them? (They seemed pretty disinterested that I had a blog…um, #egoshrinker) So after spending close to an hour sitting there, waiting, and watching the attractive young women next to me get their table set up with bread and different spreads, I decided to split because I had other things to do – namely, eat. So I stopped at Kayser bakery, picked up a loaf of levain bread and went home to make myself a grilled cheese sandwich.

(Interestingly, as I was leaving the other place, I ran into chef/owner Gregory Marchand of Frenchie who I told about my experience and I could see he felt my pain. Then mentioned he’ll be soon making similar items, and I was happy to know that I will at some point soon, I will be able to get my fix at his place.)

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Smoking

cigarette butts in paris

You probably don’t like looking at that picture above. And I hear ya. But that’s what some of the streets look like in Paris. It’s something that’s become such a problem that the mayor of Paris has decided to try to tackle the issue, and I share his concerns, although progress is evidentially slow-going. But what confounds me, as well as others, is why do so many people in Paris smoke? And why is the number of smokers increasing in France, when the US and other countries are seeing a decline?

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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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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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Its Time Has Come?

Minute Minder

I can’t say I ask all that much of a kitchen timer. All I want is something that if I set it for, say, eight minutes, that after that period of time has elapsed, it was alert me that the period of time I set it for has elapsed. And for the life of me, I can’t figure out how to set the timer on my new oven.

I have a personal, some might say – slightly unnatural – relationship with each and every timer I’ve ever used. When I was baking professionally, a Minute Minder was there all the time – it’s slightly elongated ring was the constant muzak of my life. But it wasn’t annoying because the gentle *ding* didn’t jolt you out of baking reality, but was just part of the music accompanying the meditative process of baking a batch of cookies.

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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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