Paris: arguably the most famous city in the world for food. Yes, Paris is the city of light and all that, but at the end of the day, the Parisians are primarily ‘gourmands’ : they like to eat just as much as they like to love, and therefore, always.
When I arrived in France almost two weeks ago, I dreamed of replicating the Julia Child experience – going to the outdoor markets to meet the vendors, sampling and meandering through stalls, creating and fostering a relationship with the food that I eat and with those who sell it. One can dream…
But in reality, this dream still pervades in France. The outdoor markets are open every day (except Mondays, when you have to buy something random from a supermarket), and when I’m running to the subway, I always want to stop myself and watch the mountains of apricots overflowing from the stalls. Even if I have an American accent, and even if I’m almost always too tired to speak either English or French, my efforts to speak French and interact with the vendors help to cultivate international and alimentational (or culinary, if alimentaional isn’t a word) relationships.
Here, food is everywhere: I eat with others outdoors, in cafes, in restaurants, in foyers (the French équivalent of dorms), and even in small jardins, or parks, that I come across when I have nothing better to do than sit, relax, and take a bite out of fresh peach or pan au chocolat. In my neighborhood, there is a bakery on every corner, a normal butcher, a halal butcher, a cheese shop, an artisan bakery, a bakery that won a prize for best croissant in Paris, two normal supermarkets, a supermarket that sells only frozen food, a supermarket that sells just organic food, two bars, and a lebanese restaurant five minutes from the front steps of my foyer. Oh, and a park where a team of firefighters runs in front of me every morning on their way to a lunch consisting of wine, saucisson, and bread. And the Seine? Ten minutes to the left when I run at a moderate pace and don’t get lost in the streets, which have more curves and ideosyncracies than a flip-flopping politician. So basically all I need is right before me, no more than a quick dash away.
I live in the 13th arrondissement, a neighborhood where there are not many bobos (bourgeois bohèmes, like ‘hipsters’ in the United States). There are families who promenade around Parc de Montsouris during the day, ladies who are draped in colorful batik cloths, old men who drink a petite tasse of coffee each morning while simultaneously reading Le Monde and people-watching. The walls are splattered with street art depicting the transmogrification of girls into birds, phrases like “Let’s Dance!,” and outcries against the recent European Union austerity measures. The cobblestone streets curl into each other, framed by similarly curling latterns. It’s not a pretentious arrodissement; there aren’t flip-flop-wearing tourists everywhere, and the food is plentiful, good, and cheap. I can also see the tip-top of the Eiffel Tower become a dazzling, sparkling flame from the roof of my foyer when I climb up the ladder, which may or may not be off-limits to residents.
Some nights after making dinner with the girls in my foyer, I’ll go up to the roof with a cup of tea and just listen to the noise of Paris get softer and softer as the light dims and la Tour gets brighter and brighter. Other nights, I’ll go to bed and hope that the pigeons don’t decide to start cooing until after 8 o’clock in the morning. Most of the time, they ignore my silent pleadings and act as an annoying substitute for my alarm clock and start clucking away around 7 :50 am.
In my foyer, posters from the French Department of Health are plastered on the walls of the communal kitchens that say that it is important to eat ‘something with milk (like cheese, for example) and bread each day.’ I have taken this adage to heart, and my fridge is consequently either filled-to-bursting with food-stuff that I bought from the market that day, or is starkly empty, because I put off walking one minute from my foyer to go and get something to eat. Kind of similar to how people complain about how far away Stimson is after a long day, when in reality, it’s maybe 100 meters away. But anyway, I try to make sure that I have bread at least twice a day, cheese at least once a day, and some coffee with my breakfast and after my lunch because when in Paris, il faut manger comme les Parisiens. And so far, with the miles of walking and running that I do daily, the advice from the French DOH seems to be working fairly well for me (and has been extremely délicieux).
Until next time : Alors, à plus tard !
A Cobbled-Together Market Lunch :
1 baguette (de céréales, and from la boulangerie)
1 cœur de bœuf (a kind of heirloom tomato)
1 small wheel of chèvre/crottin
a demi-kilo of green grapes
Cut the baguette in half, making sure that the pieces are still connected at a seam. Slice the tomato and cheese into small pieces, layer between the pieces of baguette. Eat the sandwich and finish it off with a good handful of grapes (or a kilo of mirabelles if you happen to be in France).
Categories: Goucher Eats