Borgers with No Borders.

our lives, our loves — through our earthly adventures.

Archive for the category “Paris According to Me”

Dreaming of a White Christmas…

… I am NOT.

The snow storm in Paris last Wednesday (08 Dec) caused so much chaos, it was unbelievable.  The news said that it was the most snow the city had experienced since 1987.  The airport temporarily closed, flights were delayed, the buses of Paris stopped running.  The traffic was horrendous, the streets empty with shoppers and tourists.  While I… squeezed myself into the sardine-can-metro to make it to a teacher’s appointment at my daughter’s school.

This is how it looked while I was waiting for her to meet me.

Then of course we had to URGENTLY rush to get her a pair of high-heeled shoes for her piano recital on Saturday… which left us slippin’ and slidin’ through the slush of the Parisian streets.  I must say though, it was a good day for shopping because everyone else was (intelligent enough to stay) home!

It took us 30 minutes of waiting at the Bus Stop until we gave up.  We literally slid to the closest metro thereafter, let four trains pass us by (refusing to have our noses stuck on the windows!) before finally squeezing ourselves in.  I had a whiny daughter who was clad in her fashion-before-comfort shoes, close to tears because she was convinced her toes were suffering from frost-bites.

But we made it home, safe and sound, defrosting ourselves with a bag of chips to calm our frustrated nerves.

Whoever dreamt of a White Christmas was surely not living in Paris.  🙂


Sinking in the South of France: Nice, Part 2

As if our 4-hour lunch followed by a 2-hour nap was not enough … life kicked in once again at cocktail time!  Whoa!  Isn’t this just the perfect vacation ever?

Hubby woke me up and literally pulled me out of bed to make sure I do not miss a beat with the action in the kitchen.  Starting with this:

… and this:

Yep.  That’s my dream kitchen in the background — with my dream stainless steel drawers, stainless steel cupboards, and that massive industrial stove!  If that kind of equipment doesn’t make you a great chef, I don’t know what will!  I could easily see myself setting up camp in that kitchen anytime!

And you know what else was shining in this stainless steel splendor?  This thingamajig, which was roasting a cuchon. Indoors.  Wooooooooooooow, right?

So, the indispensable champagne glasses started to clink while le cuchon was cooking.  (Wait.  Do you see that uber long nail-looking thing on the left side of the awesome grill — just waiting for a kebab to happen???)  Wooooooooooow again, right?

A roquette salad (picked from their garden!) with freshly carved pata negra (in case you missed it, check out picture #1 again!), artichokes, and those crunchy flower-shaped tomatoes from Italy called “Merenda’s.”  Some very baby carrots on the side of le cuchon … and roasted potatoes drizzled with garlic.  One bite and again, I thought I had died and went to heaven.  🙂

How can such simple cooking result in a meal that is one you will remember forever?  Someone once said that along with a Chef’s ability to put flavors and textures together, is his successful choice of using only the best quality ingredients.  I couldn’t agree more.  When you have the best quality of pork, carrots, potatoes, … down to the best grain of salt, butter, and olive oil — there will be very little reason to fail.

Truly, simple home cooking … at its best!

Sinking in the South of France: Nice

It was 4AM when we said goodbye to the still-rather-chilly weather of Paris.  We packed hubby’s SUV with our suitcases, a load of munchies, crepes, sandwiches, and fully-charged ipods.  We were driving 900 kilometers, estimated to take about 8 hours, and end up in the South of France:  Nice, Provence for the most part, with side-trips to the Gorges du Verdon (the Grand Canyon of France), Grasse, and Avignon on the way back.  St. Tropez was also on our list of places to go to — but we did not manage this, as you will find out in my later posts.

I was never an outdoorsy camping-lover, give-me-my-tent kinda girl.  I need my proper toilette, standing mirrors, electricity, and a crisp and fluffy duvet on a clean bed.  Accommodations is one of the three most critical ingredients for a sure-fire vacation.  Then comes the food — and the company — not necessarily in that order.

Nice had all three of these ever-present.  Especially the Food part.  For our first night, we stayed at the beautiful home of an old friend of my hubby, who used to be a 2-star michelin chef at one of Nice’s most prestigious hotels.  I love his story, but I will try to keep him out of my ramblings to protect his privacy — and hopefully, he will not mind my showing off a bit of his treasures:  his home, his kitchen (now, my dream-kitchen!), and his beautiful garden with his stone/brick pizza oven.  It was during these first 2 days that I witnessed the great chef at work, and ate the most amazing meals.

We had our lunch in his garden — and for the first time, I tasted “socca”  which is a specialty of southeastern French cuisine, particularly in Nice.  In northern Italy, it is called “farinata.”  Basically, it is a thin flat cake made from chickpea flour baked in an oven, generously seasoned with black pepper, and eaten hot with your fingers.  Ours were of course made a la minute — using his garden stone oven.  One bite of this and I thought I had died and gone to heaven.  My soul was longing to just stay in Nice — grow old, get fat, and die eating soccas.

The Master at work. Note the wooden stool -- at the perfect height to watch the miracle that happens in that oven.

Slicing the socca while I watch with my mouth agape, in total awe.

The French treasure their meal times.  Which is probably another reason why they don’t get fat.  They eat very slowly — savoring every dish, taking good breaks in between, and sipping all sorts of wines that go perfectly with each dish.  Our lunch took something like four hours — and indeed, it was an event in itself.  From the soccas, to the fresh pizzas with Provençal olives, Poilâne bread drizzled with only the best olive oil, a very fresh Daurade (which is “sea bream” en anglais) served with baby flowering courgettes — which again, I had never seen or taste before.  It was stupendous!  🙂  Here’s a picture of my half-eaten plate — photographed after I realized I had jumped into it even before taking a proper picture!

Daurade with Flowering Provençal Courgettes

By the time we had finished our fish — it was time to move to another part of the house because it was getting a bit too chilly.  So off we went to the poolside for our dessert:  a simple (but tres delicieux)  Fresh Strawberries (seasoned with lime zest) served with the best Ginger Ice Cream ever, freshly whipped cream, and strawberry purée.  Can you taste the lovely combination of flavors amidst an ambience like this?

After lunch, we were all too full and half-asleep … so we retired into our cozy “apartment” (still at their home!) for the much needed nappy-nappy.  And if you don’t believe how beautiful our surroundings were, all the way up to our bedrooms, here’s how our room’s terrace looked:

Cozy little garden by our room for afternoon nappy-nappies.

How can you go wrong with a 4-hour lunch with amazing food, great company, and extraordinary accommodations?  Life could not get any better.

Oh the good life ... a glimpse from my daughter's shoes. 🙂

My best part of Nice: Off the beaten, crowded, seaside rush.

Cuddling great company.

Stay tuned for more on our Southern France expedition.  🙂

Loving Lourdes.

I have a Bucket List for Ma Vie à Paris.  A bucket list that requires checking for the next couple of years during our Paris assignment (if all goes as planned).  And this weekend, I got to tick one of the items on that list:  Visit Lourdes (pronounced as “loord.”)  Check.

Lourdes is located in the South of France, in the Midi-Pyrénées region, very close to the border of Spain and France.  I was originally supposed to go with my family — who were sad victims of the airport closures while the Iceland volcanic ash spread all over Europe’s air space.  They cancelled their trip all together, and I was left with two unnamed first class tickets on the TGV.

I tried not to dampen our well-structured plans  and tried to stay optimistic.  As my mantra goes —  “There is a reason for everything.”  It didn’t take much to convince my six-year-old to come join the fun (tried to make it sound like Disneyland for people who pray), and invited Ani (who was only too happy to visit a place she had heard so much about from all her Catholic friends.)

By 7:30AM, we were all comfortably installed in our little cabin, whose charisma lasted for but a very short moment.  Apparently, the chaos of panicky travelers trying to reach their destinations muddled up the records of TGV — and there were passengers with the same seat numbers, all hustling to make their way to the South where they could get on a plane to continue their journeys.  Our train didn’t move until one solid hour past our scheduled departure — and we just sat there, not amused by the added 60 minutes to our already lengthy 6-hour journey.

But it eventually moved… and we enjoyed the comfort for about 3 hours or so …

… until an all-French announcement said something about having to switch trains in Bordeaux.  “Voie 3” was all I barely understood — and before we could figure out what was happening, the train stopped, sput us out into another train that screeched to a halt.  Then… madness.  Where do we sit?  Which cabin?  Which seat?  Do we all have our belongings?  What ever happened to those First Class tickets I paid for?

Epic Fail.  Downgraded to the barracks, with nary a seat.  We managed to hop into just any cabin on that train that screeched by, before the doors were shut.  It was chaotic.  Everyone was scrounging for a seat, and the passengers who were originally on THAT train were looking at us like we were train-jumping-gypsies.  All seats were quickly filled up and we ended up in that little passage way between the door to the cabin and the metal luggage racks.  There we were — standing, squatting, and finally sitting on the floor for whatever time was left between Bordeaux and Lourdes.  Great.  We were off to a great start.

Here we are trying to make light of the situation, pretending that the train floors were not the filthiest surfaces on earth. (Take note of my teenage daughter’s huge effort to “just deal with it.”)  We had been reduced to refugees aboard the speedy TGV.

Yet again … we eventually made it.  We easily found a taxi, checked-in at Hotel Roissy — a simple, basic hotel with a great location, a mere 100 meters from the Sanctuary’s main entrance.  We walked down the streets that were studded with shops selling everything and anything made to relate to Lourdes:  from hats, to rosaries, to all sorts of shapes and sizes of bottles for Holy Water.  We intended to go to a restaurant claimed to be one of the best in Lourdes for paella — but when we got there, we were told it was closed.  No reason.  Just “fermé.”  Sad.  Lesson learned:  Research the restaurants first before going on a trip.  We soon found an alternative — which proved good enough for the intense level of hunger we had — and left like four satisfied piggies after their trip to the market.

Then, we walked through the St. Michael Gate to enter the Sanctuary.  Suddenly, the feeling of peace just enfolds you.  And when you are greeted by a site like this … you forget the 7 hour train ride, the grime on your jeans, and the total waste of money on those tickets you purchased.

Suddenly, your problems disappear and you are almost ashamed of all the whining of the past 3 hours.

Peace, enchantment, spirituality, wonder, and thanks.  Repeated feelings that moved each of us through the 24-hours that we were at Lourdes.

We joined the Torchlight Marian Procession at 9:00PM — which was the one experience that affected my daughter the most, I think.  She had never been to one before — and I am sure that her heart was touched as she witnessed the unified praying of the rosary in at least 6 different languages, the candles, the hundreds of sick people in wheelchairs and beds being pushed and pulled by volunteers and nurses.

My poor little boy was so tired towards the end of the whole ceremony that he fell asleep while sitting on top of Ani’s feet, amidst the sea of people who were praying and singing.  We all went to bed that night exhausted, but with quiet smiles on our faces.

The next day, we went to the Baths — which to me, was the most touching of all.  I cannot put into words the intensity of the emotions that just enveloped me.  Without much planning, we ended up in the Baths at the perfect time — when there was hardly a line, despite the hundreds of pilgrims we had just seen the night before.  The women helping at the Baths were totally amazing — I could feel  their inner goodness, their faith — just dying to be shared with all those filled with hopes in their hearts.  The tears from my eyes just kept trickling down as the women took my little boy, quietly coached him to pray to the Blessed Virgin, and to walk through that Bath before they plunged him down into the water.

He wriggled for a second from the cold, for sure — but in a matter of seconds, he was dry and warm again, no towel required, all set to get back into the clothes he had just removed.  Amazing.  Totally amazing.

For me, this experience alone is worth every minute, every penny, and any hardship of one’s long journey to Lourdes.

The rest of the day was spent filling up our 2-liter bottles with Holy Water from the Water Way, visiting and praying at the Grotto, the Crypt, and the St. Pius X Basilica.

IB filling up our take-home stock of Holy Water at the Water Way.

St. Pius X Basilica

There is always a miracle waiting to happen.

All four of us left Lourdes feeling a tad bit lighter, and a whole of a lot more peaceful — with renewed faith in our hearts.

And I am sure, that all the wishes and prayers that were whispered to our Blessed Mother were already heard and answered, even before we stepped out of those gates for the last time to catch our train back.

Helpful Links for would-be Visitors:

Official Site of Lourdes Sanctuary

Lourdes Magazine

Hotel Roissy

Hotel Padoue (beside Hotel Roissy, which looked a bit newer, slightly more expensive)

Not Quite the City of Love

This is the second time in the past six months that I’ve cursed quietly about what a blasted city of no-love this City of Love is.  Paris.  It’s not always the City of Love — because it does have its very dark side:  Petty Crimes.  In the past six months, my 16-year-old daughter has been mugged two times.  Doesn’t that just blow you away?

The first time, she was with 2 other boy friends in a Bus Stop, sitting, and waiting to catch the bus — in one of the most posh arrondissements at that.  Five teenage boys (about 15-17 years old) surrounded them and demanded for their money, cellphones, and watches — with a long sharp knife and a huge-spray-of- something as their weapons.  That’s at 5:45PM, Winter Time (as in bright skies!), along huge and busy Avenue du President Wilson.  For a measly EU30 snatched from the three of them, these punks have tarnished the beautiful picture of charming Paris.  My daughter and her friends managed to make it to the Police to report the incident — but only after my daughter had gotten over an anxiety attack, utter shock, and painful panic.

The Police were very impressive though — and the kids spent a good 4-5 hours at the station, making their statements and describing the assailants.  They were even shown videos of the Metro (where the muggers ran to after the incident) and books and books of photos.  But at the end of the day — how does one sift through millions of young boys in when they almost all look identical in their hoodies, sneakers, and shoulder bags?

Again, last night, on her way home from a cinema at about 11PM, along with 4 other girl friends, they were once again molested IN the metro by 4 other young boys.  Stroking their hair, dirty-talking, grabbing private parts.  The thing that bothers me even more is:  How can everyone else around simply watch what is going on, and not make a move to help (especially if they are locals)?

A friend of mine saw an old lady thumped, then her hand bag pulled away from her — again in the metro.  She was (or at least looked) French.  People were passing by … and didn’t do one thing.  They just let it all happen, and walked away — like they didn’t see a thing.  Indifference?  Fear?

What is it about all these petty crimes in Paris?  Are there not enough policemen around — especially fielded in Metro Stations and Bus Stops where most of these sort of crimes happen?  If these young boys are not apprehended for these cheap-thrills of theirs … what’s to stop them from moving onto bigger and bloodier tricks as they get older?

And tell me:  What can a mother tell her 16-year old daughter?

She loves Paris because she has learned independence here.  She is able to move around easily — but when there is this constant fear of being attacked … then where’s the fun in that?  I realize that the same things could happen in London or New York, or any other big city for that matter — but.  If you’re making Paris your home for a few years… there’s always that wishful-thinking side of you that makes you crave for just slightly safer environments.  Especially for a city that claims to be one of the world’s most visited.

If you are on the same boat, here are some pointers that I hammer into my daughter’s head, hoping she will not be a magnet for any more of this B*llsh*t.

1.  Dress decently.  A 16-year old need not dress like a grandma — but if you are flaunting your legs (no matter how tightly-clad they are in leggings or tights), or your chest — you are looking for trouble.

2.  Be extremely sensitive to what is going on around you.  Teenagers have a tendency to be totally oblivious to the world around them.  They put on their ipod earplugs/sound-cancellation ear muffs… and goodbye world.  THAT, to me, is scary.  They are transported to another world with their music, and all hell could break lose two feet away from them and they would still be nodding their head to the beat.  Scary, right?

3.  Don’t be loud.  And if you are, go easy on the English.  I read that most of these petty crimes are targeted towards tourists.  So, if you’re looking a bit lost, or if you are being boisterous in a foreign language — these are obvious signals that you are NOT French… and you become an instant target.  (Which is why I never look at metro maps in public.  I write out my route on a piece of paper, which is less obvious than a glaring Metro map.)

4.  Look confident, look strong, and look people in the eye.  If you look like an innocent pussy cat who walks slow on a busy street — believe me, you will stick out like a sore thumb.  Blend with the crowd, look local, heck — walk like a man!

And my last and forever advise to my daughter is — to always remember to pray.  At bedtime, before she walks outside the door, when she feels scared, when she sees a suspicious looking person … whenever!  God always listens to prayers — especially when they are made by children — and I know that He will listen.

Since the first time she got mugged, my constant prayer has always been to keep my children safe from harm.  And from all the evils that surface in this supposed City of Love.

Rungis: Food Tripping

On April 9, I crawled out of my bed at a very ungodly hour.  Three in the freakin’ morning, when the whole of Paris is either fast asleep, or still partying.  For people my age, it would be the former.  But I woke up (thanks to two alarm clocks set!), took a wake-up shower, downed two cups of coffee, and jumped into a taxi I hired for a 4:15AM pick up.

Along with a few other mothers from ISP, I joined a tour to Rungis, the world’s largest wholesale market for fresh produce.  This was where the old and famous “Les Halles” was relocated.  Officially opened in 1969, spanning 600 hectares of land, strategically located close to Orly Airport (7 kilometers from Paris), and at the intersection of France’s railway system.  This is where the restauranteurs, hoteliers, and gastronomic gods purchase their goods.  So while the rest of Paris is either sleeping or partying — there is hard-core work going on in Rungis, where the action begins at 12 midnight, and ends at 6AM.

The tour was totally amazing.  The whole area was almost like a town in itself — with buildings dedicated to each produce.  In fact, we had to take the bus to move from one to the other:  Seafood, Game, Fruits, Vegetables, Cheese & Dairy, Flowers.  Truly a feast for a chef — and for me, a feast for my very hungry eyes.  Fortunately, the tour ended with a yummy breakfast at 9:30AM — which then allowed me to go back to my bed after, to dream about all the insatiable things France can offer.  To me, and to the rest of the world.

The Rungis Tour reminded me of two things:  (1) That I was indeed lucky to be here in the Food Capital of the World; and, (2)  That my French still sucks big-time, I understood only about a quarter of what the French tour guide was rapping.

Sharing with you snipets of the trip.  Watch out for the skinned rabbits (lapin) and Miss Piggy peeping from out of the box.  🙂  Salivate at the foie gras, the agneau de lait, and the sumptuous cuts of beef.  Probably a must-watch for those who need that extra push to turn vegetarian.

Rungis Tour Operator:  (in French only)

Tangram Voyages
2, Les Grands-Champs 54330 Saxon-Sion
Tel: 0892 700 119

I Flaked. Dimanche Repas: Semaine 8

I flaked.  I know.  I regret.  One cut.  Last week.

It was a cook-less week for me, save for some Red Velvet Cupcakes that I had to make for my son’s class — in celebration of his 6th birthday.  Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting, from a very interesting blog of someone who makes cupcakes for a living.  Red as Red can be.

I’d like to do this recipe again with the right american ingredients on hand — since I had to substitute buttermilk with natural full-cream yoghurt.  I also could not fathom how the recipe called for 2 oz of food coloring — which seemed like an awful lot!  I used half of that, and my cupcakes already looked like aliens from Mars.

Instead of keeping warm in my kitchen at home, my little boy and I hopped on a TGV — and made our way down to Paray le Monial (Bourgogne) — for some fresh country air.

I had to make good on a promise to visit an old friend of mine who was practically a neighbor during our old Surabaya days.  She now lives in a 6-hectare land with a little farm house, 2 horses, 3 sons, and a half-finished swimming pool.  Their home is work in progress — totally made by their very bare hands.  Every brick, every layer of paint, every plank of wood was laid down by her and her engineer husband.  Something I really admire and respect — since I don’t think I could ever do the same.  Country living is one thing, and manual labor is another.  They don’t necessarily have to go together, do they?  🙂

For the first time in my life, I imagined myself living in similar surroundings.  With neighbors not any closer than 200 meters, supermarkets with prices that didn’t make you gasp, and shop-keepers who you could actually converse with.   Somehow, this trip made me believe that I might just be able to survive  in the countryside.  I always thought I was a City Girl.  But this trip was different.  Or perhaps it was I who was probably different.  (“Older?”… a little voice whispers inside me.)

It’s a simple, stressless life.  Quiet, fresh, open, and friendly.  Even in France.  Minus the rush and the harsh realities of big city living.  It could be age … but the magnetism of the peace and space of the country suddenly revealed a perspective I had never really experienced before.

My son loved every minute of our trip.  Well, for someone who has lived on an island for practically the first 4 years of his life… it is difficult not to love the outdoors.  Even in Paris, in the dead of winter, he refuses to wear slippers, socks, or shoes when he is home.  His feet need to be free, he says.

I went back to Paris a changed woman.  With a new skill.

The little voice inside me might just right.  🙂

3 Best Things about my Holidays in Paris

This must be the second time in the last TEN years, that I have spent Christmas with my DH.  Christmas is always quite busy at his work place… and I end up running off with the kids to go “home” — where Christmas is the biggest event of the year.  The decor, the christmas carols that start playing in September, the gift-giving, the frenzy.  For me, it beats no other occasion in terms of spending time with the family… and having an excuse to eat like it was your last Christmas.  🙂

DH gave me a whole year’s notice (since Dec 2008) to warn me that I was staying put this Christmas.  And so, like a good girl, I stayed in Paris — and was thrilled because my dear sister came all the way from home to visit me.  🙂  That is like Mohammad coming to the mountain.  And I love her for that.  (Her spending Christmas with us is, of course, the very very bestest thing beyond this list of 3!)

It was not so bad though… my first Christmas in Paris.  And here are 3 good reasons why:

1.  Eating Christmas Log cakes never meant much to me … until Paris.  Here, they take these logs very seriously.  They are called les bouches de Nöel which turn out to be a design competition of who comes up with the fanciest, most chic, most memorable Christmas Log of the Season.  Mind you, they don’t quite end up as logs anymore (I mean, how creative can you get with a log?) — but some do manage to retain the general shape with great success!  And with designers like Kenzo or other grand chefs teaming up with grand chocolatiers and patisseries… you can imagine what price you could end up paying for these designer logs!  One that I saw reached a whopping EU280 — enough to buy me a handsome pair of boots!  🙂

If you don’t believe me, check out  some of the most spectacular logs this year right here.

Here is the one we happily ended up with, and set on our dinner table.  I thought it was pretty special, delightful for my 5-year old, and surely gastronomically pleasing for my DH’s meticulous palette.  It even turned out to be quite reasonably priced too!  It was one of Lenôtre‘s interpretations of le bouche de Nöel.

2.  The next wonderful thing about spending the holidays in Paris still has something to do with — yeah, you guessed it.  Food!  Well, ok.  They didn’t say “T’is the Season to be Jolly” for nothin’, right?   Christmas Holidays AND Food AND Paris.  Could not get any better.  Turns out, apart from the christmas logs — the French also make a big deal out of the Epiphany.  Alack!  Another new discovery for me!

On the feast of the Three Kings (or the Epiphany), again, most patisseries and chocolatiers whip out their own rendition of the “Galette du Roi” (The King’s Cake).  In the old days, tucked into the galette, was a little bean (these days they use ceramic cars, toys, cherries, or whatever small thing that seems exciting to discover within a cake).  Whoever finds the “bean” gets to be King or Queen of the Day — and he wears the crown that comes free with the cake!  How fun is that?!

So.. who ever said that eating would cease on January 1?  Non, non, non — bien sûr!

We were lucky enough to have been given a Galette du Roi from one of my favourite patisseries (Carette).  The flakiest layers of pastry, filled in with frangipane (almond paste) with crusts crumbling down as you bite into it, coffee in hand.  Heaven!

I found the bean not only in one Galette but in the two galettes that we had at home!  Guess that means I’m having one heck of a foodie year, don’t you think?  🙂  I passed on my crown to my little prince… which he happily accepted.

3.  The third best thing about being in Paris during the Holidays is… THE WEATHER!  It is so freakin’ cold… you would have no inclination to get one foot out the door!  And this could be a good thing, you know.  For one, I was able to cook quite a bit — proud to have managed making Paule Caillat‘s most revered  Tarte aux Pommes au Sucre Roux. Her pate sucree, goes against all the normal rules of pastry-making… and yet ends up as the most delicious, buttery, sinful crust you will ever taste.  (My stumbling block was the center of the tarte… when I didn’t have enough thinly sliced apples to construct the center beautifully!)

Anyhow, quite proudly, my Tarte aux Pommes was inhaled by willing family guinea pigs in two sittings.

Hmmmm.  So it seems… that all three points have something to do with FOOD after all!

Voila, mon amies!  Holidays well spent… my first Parisian Christmas.  🙂

With this, of course, comes the many resolutions.  I’m thinking… should I write it down here for all to see?  Maybe not.  Just know that two, in my long list of about five, include:

– cooking Julia Child recipes alongside (cyber-ically speaking) my old college friend (who lives in the U.S.) once a week. We are currently working out the rules and guidelines of this serious affair… but you will surely hear all about it in the blogs to come!); and…

– paying more attention to this very neglected blog of mine.

So join me, cheer for me, and inspire me to stay true to at least these two resolutions!

Here’s hoping you all have counted your blessings in the past year… and have started a new slate for the Year 2010.

Bonne Annee 2010!

Credits: JPhillips 2 Many Photos template, TReed's X-Treme Acrylic Alpha

Foodie-Not-So-Goodie #1: L’andouillette

I always considered myself an “easy” eater.  I can eat everything — except oysters.  Or so I thought.  Last night, my brother’s friend from San Diego came to Paris for a few days with his family… and we arranged to have dinner together. Being an ex-hotelier, with a vast background in Food & Beverage, it was quite a feat to decide where to bring him. His choice: either a typical French Brasserie or a good Moroccan restaurant with great merguez sausages.

We ended up in Julien, a beautiful old brasserie with a floral glass roof created between 1925-1930.  One cannot get any more french than this.  Escargot, Confit du Canard, Crêpes Suzette… the works.  We scroll down the menu and find that they are serving Andouillettes AAAAA.  Now, I have tried to order this at least 2 times before, in various other french brasseries, and each time, the waiter said, “Uhhmmm… non, non, non.  Mayy-bee?  Iz bettr? … You shooz somtin els?”

Each time, I believed the waiter and went on to order something else!

But not this one evening of celebration with my brother’s Grade-2-best-friend, Mr. F&B Man.  He was actually dying to have les andouilletes!  So I thought, well… if he is practically LOOKING for it all over Paris, and is just DYING to have it… then it must be good!  I also took notice of the 5 A’s beside the fateful word “Andouillettes.”  I figured — hmmm, that probably shows how premium this Andouillette must be!  He gets not only one Grade A, he gets 5!  So, voila!  We will have two of les andouilletes, s’il vous plait.

Chat, chat, chat… and suddenly, yay!  Our food! The waiter ever-so-gently lays the plate in front of me, and I see him from the corner of my eye, almost looking like … “Well, let’s just see how THIS goes!”  And just as I examine the plate before me, I get this whiff of… undescribable odour.  Like something I smelled once too often in the slimy metro stations of Paris.  Absolutely foul, offensive, and down-right repulsive.  Yep.  It was my bloody andouillette, nicely propped on a bed of french fries.  My order, plus my “seatmate’s” order  … the stench just doubling up in strength!

GAK.  I discreetly turn my head away from my plate to gasp for some air.

My daughter is happy with her Confit du Canard… and I try to be a good example by eating whatever it is that I order.  So, I try to be mature about it, and nonchalantly slice the sausage.  Unlike what is normally characteristic of most sausages, this one didn’t cut neatly into one slice.  No sir-ee!  When I sliced THIS sausage, the insides sort of crumbled, and on to my plate rolled these tiny little pieces of chitterlings.  Yes, chitterlings.  Otherwise known as:  diced lumpy pieces from the intestines of a very stinky pig.

I maintain my composure and quickly shove the chitterlings into my mouth, just like any mature adult would do.  Why prolong the agony, right?

Double GAK!  A real one this time.  I must have turned pale because I put my hand on my mouth, thinking that I was literally going to throw up!  I am not exaggerating.  This was N.A.S.T.Y.!!!  It tasted just as bad as it smelled!  Geeeeeeeeezzz, Louise!!!

I looked at my brother’s friend, Mr. F&B Man, and he was happily chomping on his andouillette — savoring every chunk, every flavor, every scent of it — just like it was an old friend.

I swallowed hard, very hard, and … just like a mature lady… I looked for the closest waiter and said, “Monsieur, un Confit du Canard, s’il vous plait.”

Believe it or not, Mr. F&B Man took my little piece of untouched andouillette… and wiped his plate, and mine, squeaky clean.  Now.  That’s what I call Superman!

P.S. Remember those 5 A’s?  Google will tell you that it is an acronym for “Association Amicale des Amateurs d’Andouillette Authentiques.” In English:  The Friendly Association of Authentic Andouillette Lovers.  Are you freakin’ kidding me???  I know what Club I’m not joining!

Another P.S.  Just to complete our education on l’andouillette:  During the colonial times in the U.S., hogs were slaughtered in December, and the preferred cuts of meat were reserved for the master’s use.  The remains, such as fatback, snouts, ears, necks, bones, feet, and intestines, were then fed to the slaves.   Cheap food, right?  The wealthier masters (to me, smarter!) though considered these inards so inedible that they were buried as garbage!

Uh-oh.  Garbage? I won’t even go there.  Nor the Swine Flu.

Morale of the Story: The Waiter knows best.

Next time you see something like this, pinch your nose and slowly walk away… just like any mature person would do!  🙂


La Liste

To all my fellow anglophones out there, this song might not make sense to you… but it’s a cute and catchy  song which was introduced to us by our dear French teacher.  Why?  Well, because its lyrics are just full of … … imperative verbs!  LOL.  We had to listen intently to the song and pick out all the imperative verbs:  find out their definitions, conjugations, and and and…!  If anyone is up for that challenge… start hunting for all 38 of them!  LOL!

And I am sharing it with you, because I do find it so frenchy indeed.  Also because I’ve been having this mental La Liste of things I would like to blog about as life has indeed been rolling on this side of the world.  Maybe this sudden rejuvenation has also been caused by the coming of spring?  Yeah, for sure!  No more heavy winter coats, no more brain-freeze-moments, no more icicle toes.  I feel the sun again!  🙂

So… let this refreshing and loving song be the start of more stories to come:  La vie à Paris!

À bientôt.  (See you!)

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