We Anglo-Saxons have no cuisine but meat and potatoes. Cowboy food. Our one culinary contribution—and it’s not a bad one—is fish and chips. But how much fish and chips can you eat?
So when an Anglo gets to Paris, he trembles. (I cannot speak for the stronger sex.) Of course Greece has spoiled me for good. The olive oil. (I put olive oil on everything; I put it on French fries.) The garlic. The roast brains and kidneys, topped of course with olive oil. And the fruit, my God, the fruit—two meals of it a day.
Right now it’s fig season. Figs don’t travel, so you can’t have them unless you’re here. Royal figs, native to Attica and the islands, are unknown even in Thessaloniki, and are an ecstasy on a par with the stronger drugs. Almost certainly they were the forbidden fruit of Paradise; you can’t eat them without feeling guilty.
But occasionally one must interrupt one pleasure for another, and go to Paris. Which I did yesterday—in in the morning, out in the evening, scooting past potential bomb sites—for a meeting. And it was sort of a relief: from hundred-degree Athens to seventy-degree Paris. Heat is my proper habitat, but a change is nice. From sun to a dark sky: it kept threatening to rain, but it didn’t. And a chance to wear my jacket!
Before the meeting I found myself in the magnificent Place de Rio de Janeiro and succumbed to the urge to have something at the Valois, across from an entrance to the Parc Monceau. Vistas of pleasure all around. What other city has such harmonious buildings on a human scale? Venice, I guess.
Congratulating myself (as when do I not?), I partook of a foie gras de canard mi-cuit with quince and pimento—exquisite! un-uneatable!—a brioche pur beurre and a glass of white Bourdin Samur 2014 (big deal).
|From the Pont des Arts: La Seine et moi, L'Institut et moi, le Louvre et moi. "Moi, moi, moi"! Ah, oui.|
Since last I was here they have renamed the adjacent pavement La Place Sartre-Beauvoir. We have come from the upscale to the boho. Here gather the extravagantly garbed, the extensively tattooed, and bored middle-aged intellectual women with loose wind-blown gray hair and jeans. (See In Praise of Older Women.) The Quartier has heroically resisted gentrification, and offers a sidewalk show of shabby artiness worthy of the struggling Wagner, the broken Wilde, les clubs de bebop. One feels at home, but not young. (How could one?)
Ah, but the food! Les Deux Magots comes across with millefeuille de tomates et chevre frais—disks of tomato, fortified by their own skins, in alternate layers with disks of chevre, very agreeable—as a prelude to magret à l'orange, orange duck breast (we started with duck; let’s stay with duck), the purée maison (mashed potatoes with a great deal of butter) and two glasses of Bourgogne Petit Chablis, big deal, but they pour you a full one at Les Deux Magots, which is a mark of royalty. It was a gorgeous experience. (See Gorgeousness.)
In both cases the waiters were sweethearts. On the other hand, when your waiter goes off duty and his replacement hovers over you, you can get something more predictable. (See The Marquis de Sade, Father of Modern France.)
All too soon it was back to airplane food. "Just coffee, thanks. All right, I’ll have a little of that wine. OK, what is that, cream cheese? Dark bread? OK, dark bread. You know, you’re a good-looking girl. Do you act? No, you should act. I’m a filmmaker. Here’s my card. Take a look at my site and email me."