It's true. Especially when you are traveling and don't have room to carry anything. And it's even better if said thing is edible and you can carry it in your belly and not in your bag. Like chocolates. Oh, chocolates.... So many to choose from. I was happy to find Patisserie Demoulin just down the street from where I'm living. I'd read about it a few times but never been. It's a classic - having been there for over 40 years. And it's cute. With a thatched straw roof decorating the outside it almost seems odd sitting on Boulevard Voltaire - out of place in time and space on a stretch of street that is ruled by strange pawn shops and dry cleaners. The first thing I got was an almond croissant. Wow. It was almost too buttery for me to fathom... and lord knows I love butter. That didn't stop me from eating the whole thing but it did leave me wondering whether or not I should have.
I then moved on to a small chocolate chip financier with a dollop of chocolate in the middle. Now THIS was devastatingly delicious. I was sorry it was over in three bites. But I savored those three bites to the max. You know when you close your eyes and revel in the flavor / texture / sensuality of something? It's pure bliss. That moment when nothing else matters and all thoughts cease to exist? And then it's gone. Sometimes it lingers around a while reminding you that there are pockets of time you can dip into. When the world pushes against you and you can palpably feel the pressure on your skin... It's a meditation of flavor.
Days later I remembered the tiny box of chocolates I bought. Sitting on my kitchen counter looking nonchalant with it's modest twine tied around it. Four chocolates awaited. One bite... (oh, this is good).... two bites (wow, what is this?).... three bites (should I be sharing these with someone?!).... four bites (here comes Duncan).... And then they were gone. My petit box of chocolates savored to the last bite. Every bite was a cosmic burst of pure genius. That melt in your mouth divine feeling that calls upon your every sense.
Another petit package awaits.
This one isn't edible but delicious in a whole other way. I stumbled upon this jewel box store while out wandering around a few months back. It's black walls are lined with glass boxes that house the hand crafted jewelry. Corpus Christi is it's name. Tiny sculpted wings, skulls, arrows, feathers.... it's the kind of place you walk into and just want to buy everything. I can't help myself... I love jewelry. I love the stones (and all the properties they bestow on you), the craftmanship and the way it has the ability to transform my mood. I guess it's like food in that way to me. A shift in perception. An appreciation of beauty. A moment carved out in a busy world. The oxymoron of my life, pastry chef / fashion model, plays out seamlessly. Things that don't seem to go together find common threads and co-exist beautifully. I'm often asked about this. People wonder how it works. Transformation, meditation, a lifting of the mundane. A quest for magnificence.
And now thanks to Joshua I can soar like an eagle through this game of life. I love my new necklace. And I love petit packages. The anticipation of what awaits inside is always so much fun.
Everyone assumed that since I was living in Paris I was soaking up all the glorious cafes it has to offer. People aren't joking when they say that everything changes when you have kids. It's actually an understatement. Planets collide and nothing is as it was. Layers upon layers I try to create some semblance of a life. If we create the world around us then why am I choosing to create such a stress riddled life? Or do I really have a choice when I live with a toddler?
No, I'm not sitting at one of those cute round tables sipping on an espresso and smoking a cigarette. I'm pushing a stroller down a bumpy cobble stone street, starbucks in hand, trying not to spill it everywhere (which is truly impossible - it ends up dumping all over me, the stroller and the ground) as I hurriedly make my way to a park or some square before he starts screaming bloody murder. I get there - coffee cold and mostly gone at this point - and all he wants to do is find some dangerous object and hit me. REALLY?! When did I create this life? I didn't dream this up and go traipsing into the sunset with Duncan chasing behind me with a metal pipe. That wasn't what I had in mind....
There's a reason people have kids and move to the suburbs - because it's EASIER! And there's a reason people don't travel the world with their kids - because it's HARD! People tell me all the time how wonderful and amazing it is that having Duncan hasn't slowed me down. They say it enviably (if they have kids that have 'slowed' them down) or with total enthusiasm (if they don't have kids and see it as proof that they could do it too) but either way the reality is: it's hard. Sure it's an amazing experience - but will Duncan even remember it? Probably not. Traveling takes you out of the usual, trivial details of your life. But sometimes those trivial defining details are crutches to hold on to that help you through. Through the muck of the daily grind. I like the vision of myself running through a field needing no crutches at all. Endless opportunities and directions to go. Free as the wind. But that's not the case. With toddler in tow, things are not quite that boundless and light.
I ventured into a cafe with Duncan the other day. It was empty. I thought it would be safe. I quickly ordered a cafe´ and found a corner to try to contain him in. I anxiously awaited my drink while trying to entertain him. He was amused at the new surroundings. Things were looking good. I gulped down my coffee (luckily only two sips and you're done) and while I glanced outside to see if my friend was there yet, Duncan walked across the booth seat to the bar, picked up a glass and threw it. Why is that their instinct - to throw things? Cause and effect? I don't know, but thankfully the glass didn't break. I scooped him up, paid the bill and was on my way. I don't think we are ready for cafes yet.
The world moves fast. Life moves fast. Things are constantly changing. I hold on to this thought for a thread of sanity. It's all phases to get through and on to the next. Sometimes I stop and wonder "Is this really my life? Is this really what I have to deal with right now?!" The answer is yes. It's what I ordered up. It's my greatest lesson. My greatest meditation. And my greatest source of happiness. Things are like that. Double edged swords. And to find that middle ground between the ups and the downs is really the greatest gift you can give yourself. And really the only way to survive with a toddler.
Where do I begin.... Anyone that knows anything about food (or should I say sweets) in Paris knows about Angelina's. The famed, the amazing, the sublime... Angelina's. I've been coming here for 20 years and it has never failed me.
The place to start, I suppose, is the African Hot Chocolate. It is assuredly unlike any other hot chocolate you have ever tried. Thick, rich and perfectly balanced. With an intense chocolate flavor not for the faint of heart. The best part is that it's served with a side of whipped cream - so you can be in control of diluting it to you liking, changing the drink back and forth from strong to creamy as you drink it. Imagine. A carafe of drinkable chocolate - a bowl of fresh whipped cream - served to your table in an atmosphere of gilded gold. There are few things better in this world.
The other thing they are rightfully famous for is the Mont Blanc. This is a desert I would normally not be fond of. I don't like meringue - in any form. I'm appalled at the big clumps of it being sold throughout France (and Miami - it's also loved by Cubans). But it works so perfectly here that I'm able to transcend my dislike of it and embrace it. So this is what a Mont Blanc is: meringue, vanilla whipped cream and chestnut puree (that's the noodle looking stuff on top). It's a perfect balance of not too sweet, creamy, crunchy, smooth, earthy, can't stop eating it until it's done divineness. Did earthy throw you? The chestnut puree has that sense of frolicking through the forest, not quite sure what it tastes like, fluffy, understated magnificence. That's what I mean by earthy. I'm not sure if the whole thing is an acquired taste of sorts, but I have come to love it.
Anything else that you order from here will be great. It may not have the exact finesse of Laduree (which will be another post) but it will be delectable and bring happiness to your life in that moment. Wandering through the streets, past the Louvre, through the Tuileries... life is grand. How can you argue it when you've just tasted the decadence of the angels?
I asked myself this question the first week I moved to Paris. After seeming to go through baguettes so easily I wondered if there should be some limit on my baguette consumption. I'm not usually one for restrictions - the sheer thought of it makes me want to do the opposite, just because. But I wondered if there was a time and a place. A friend advised me that the baguettes would let me know when I had overstepped my allotted consumption, and though I do believe in strange happenings, I don't bank on my baguette talking to me. So, I carried on about my baguette eating days and forgot about the question of limits - I was living in Paris after all.
You can tell a lot about someone by the way they eat their baguette. Biting the end off just after buying it is so irresistible.... fresh out of the boulangerie it begs to be bitten. I wondered if this was rude - somehow lacking in manners. With baguette in hand it somehow didn't matter what the rest of the world thought. What's that Wayne Dyer saying - "what you think of me is none of my business" - yes, that's how I choose to walk through the streets of Paris eating my baguette. Then there is the matter of once you have it home do you cut it with a knife or pull it to pieces with your hands? One little bit at a time. Cutting it implies some sense of order. Some deeper plan. Some boundaries of control. Who doesn't wish to make order and sense out of this life that we live? But cutting my baguette isn't going to help me with this matter, I quickly realized.
The best thing to do really is let Duncan grab the baguette from it's bag. He always seems impressed with it as he wanders around munching it's perfection.
It can't really be thought of as a 'loaf' of bread. Or so I told myself. I found comfort in seeing people walking through the streets with four baguettes in their bags. Who were they going home to? How many people lived at that home? Or was it all just for them? We were taught in culinary school that the shelf life of a baguette is 7 hours. It seems to go hand in hand with French culture. They buy fresh food daily. None of this buy for the week mentality. And so I concluded that the baguette can and should be bought freely without a thought as to how many is too many. Other people around me didn't seem to have this question - and even if they did - it wouldn't be any of my business to judge, right?
VANILLE. It's intoxicating to me. Whatever form its in - Perfume, tea, ice cream... I could happily eat only the vanilla side of a black and white cookie. I don't drink coke, but make it vanilla coke and I'll have some. It makes everything better. It's like taking a happy pill. Smother me in the scent and taste of vanilla and all is right in the world, if only for a few moments.So imagine my delight at grabbing this vanilla yogurt pot from the grocery store. Just your typical grocery store and just a typical french yogurt. But dear god. One bite and I was holding onto the kitchen counter for stability as my knees buckled out from under me. It couldn't have been more sublime. I wanted to dive into that little pot of bliss and drown myself in it. Instead (seeing as the pot was quite small compared to my body), I ate the whole thing promptly. There is a thin line between the joy and the ordinary. Things float by all day long. Depending on how we look at them can change our whole day. Our whole life. A moment spent swooning over the explosion of taste in our mouths can alter our outlook on everything that follows it. Time stands still. Other dimensions open up.
The next thing I picked up while running around town was this little vanilla yogurt drink. Again, nothing fancy, nothing special. Could it be true?! It was like melted vanilla ice cream swishing down your throat. I gulped the whole thing down while wondering how Americans could have it so wrong. All it takes is some real vanilla beans and some real yogurt. Realness seems to get lost somewhere along the way. Bouncing back to a time when things slowed down. To savor a moment, a day, a week. Things hurry by at lightning speed. I wonder if there is a vacuum bag full of unexperienced moments that have passed me by. A failure to grasp, understand, hold on. But holding on is a useless act as well. Perpetual motion. We are all in perpetual motion.
And here I am. Standing on rue St. Michel. Wondering where all these people are going in such a hurry. In the blur of humanity I wonder if in these moments I will remember. Remember that all is right in the world. That nothing can take away this moment. And though things float by at feverish speeds there will always be this moment. To savor.
I've waited a full 18 days since moving to Paris to buy butter... and now I'm making up for lost time. I LOOK for things to put it on.... Baguettes, croissants, crackers. And I'm one step away from eating it by the spoonful (which I really might as well be, if you saw the amount spread on my baguette). It's that good. Maybe it was the way I was raised... I'm not sure (I won't go into those stories right now and taint the beauty of the butter). People may argue that a croissant can't possibly need more butter - (do you know how much is already in the dough?!) and those same people will say that having toast with peanut butter & butter together is disgusting (I once had to listen to a friend explain how gross her x-husband was for doing just that - I was shocked to hear she would think that it was anything but truly divine). And the great thing about butter in Paris is, you can buy any kind and it's amazing. I tested this thought out by buying a fancy butter I stumbled across in a great cheese shop (more about the cheese place at a later date...) and lo and behold I actually liked the supermarket kind better. Go figure. Maybe it's because I'm American. No, but really - it wasn't a true fair comparison because one was salted and the other unsalted (it was how I rationalized buying the second one) and I like unsalted better to begin with.
I found myself the other night eating spoonfuls of rice, butter and a sprinkle of salt. So satisfyingly delicious. Try it the next time you're feeling lost and alone in the world. I swear it helps. Oh, the joy of butter.