Disappointment can take many forms.
Some people are unhappy with their lawmakers. Others experience unemployment, infidelity, natural disasters, wrongful arrest, declining stock prices, or social injustices.
And then there’s the poor folks that face cultural challenges on a daily basis, and have to deal with disagreeable bank tellers, reams of bureaucratic paperwork, and a France Telecom form promising a refund, but with absolutely no information on where to return it to.
I’ve got bigger problems around here. Much bigger.
I am so glad I’m not on a low-carb diet. If I was, I’d have to move.
Seriously—if I couldn’t eat bread, I would shrive up and die. The only thing keeping me from doing that is constant hydrating myself with wine. Luckily, that’s another one of the other things around here that I don’t need to avoid.
When I told Romain’s mom that we didn’t have bakeries in the US like they have in France, she couldn’t believe it.
“Ooohh?…” she wondered aloud, “So where does everyone get their bread every day?”
I can’t remember the last time I saw a real, live squirrel.
Yes, yes, I know. I live a city. But when I go out into the French countryside I just don’t see them there either. I never realized how much I missed the little rascals until I was back for a visit to the states and there were hoards of squirrels going about their business everywhere, from the wilds of Central Park to the streets of San Francisco.
Fresh bread is a given, an integral part of life in France and lining up daily at your local boulangerie is just another task one does during the course of your day. For me though, it’s a little more complicated. I’m no longer content to get the bread from the bakery just across the street from me and I’ll spend half a day hunting down grainy breads near and far, a type of bread I’m hopelessly partial to.
I have a knife block on my counter armed with a sharp, ever-ready arsenal of knives for almost all kitchen purposes. There’s a nice, long bread knife, several fancy Japanese knives, a terrific 3-inch paring knife I bought in 1983 at Columbus Cutlery in San Francisco that I lost my first week at Chez Panisse and found it ten years later sitting in a silverware bin, a jumbo Martin Yan Chinese cleaver, and a flexible boning knife, which we used to simply call a ‘boner’ in the restaurant.
(Which we did simply because in our juvenile fashion, we got a kick out of asking our fellow cooks, “Can I use your boner?“)
But the one knife I reach for 97% of the time in my 4½-inch Wüsthof serrated knife. I bought mine at a cookware shop in Ohio that I was teaching at. And when I saw them at Zabar’s in New York last week for only $7.99, I started thinking what a fabulous little knife this baby is and how dependent I am on mine.
Dirt cheap, I’ve had my handy little knife for about six years and it’s still as sharp as the day I bought it. (Actually, it seems to get sharper and sharper. Either that, or my other knives are getting duller and duller.) I use mine for everything: slicing crusty baguettes, tomatoes, perfectly-diced beets, cutting up fruit, and a gazillion other things. It does every job with the greatest of ease and its small size also makes it fabulous for space-challenged cooks.
Update: After decades of great service, mine finally bit the dust as it was no match for a large block of well-aged slab of cheese. This particular knife has been discontinued but happily, Wusthof has replaced the knife with the Silverpoint “Brunch” knife.
Related Links and Posts
Kitchen Cutlery (Amazon)
I’d like to introduce you to someone you may not have heard of: Véronique Mauclerc. But I hope on your next visit to Paris, or if you live here, you’ll make the trip to see her gorgeous and very special bakery.
Early each morning at Véronique’s boulangerie in the 19th arrondissement, the bleary bakers start mixing the organic flour at 2am after torching-up the wood-fired oven, only one of four in Paris (and there’s only two people that know how to fix it in the city.) So if you’re wondering what you’re doing in the middle of nowhere, it’s because an oven this special just can’t be moved.
And what a magnificent oven it is! As the morning continues, and perhaps the coffee kicks in, the bakers start adding wood until the temperature of the oven’s just right for baking bread, 275C (about 530F). Then each hand-shaped loaf is baked off to crackly-crusty perfection.
Her incredibly beautiful oven can hold up to 100 loaves at a time, but you’d never know she could reach such capacity when you see the small, carefully-crafted loaves of bread on display in the bakery, which is listed as a historic monument in Paris.
As you probably have guessed by now, I’m quite different from the other Parisians. Aside from my less-than-stellar command of the language and a rather bizarre desire not to walk right into others on the sidewalk, I don’t buy that many baguettes.
It’s not that I don’t like them. (Baguettes, I mean—although I like Parisians too…except when they walk right into you.) It’s just that we eat so much bread around here and I have a preference for heartier, more rustic breads, often loaves riddled with seeds, and heavy with les multigrains. And lately Apollonia Poilâne has been spearheading efforts to wean Parisians off baguettes too, although from the looks of things, she’s not having much of an impact: Locals still line up before lunch and then return before dinner for their fresh, crackly baguette at their local boulangerie.
Did you know the word ‘baguette‘ means ‘stick’ or ‘wand’ in French and if you want chopsticks in an Asian restaurant, you ask for “les baguettes, s’il vous plaît”? And I can’t tell you how many dinners I’ve been to where the discussion about which bakery, and where, has a better baguette caused nearly violent disagreement. There’s even a contest with a Grand Prix in Paris to come up with a winner every year.
Here’s my list of Ten Great Things To Eat in Paris – things that I think you shouldn’t miss!