Thursday, 2 July 2015

I walk until

We ate Paris. There is no way around it. We turned the city of love into the city of a love for food.

It already started on the train ride to Hamburg: all I had were some delicious cherries and a chocolate flavoured milk, still bought the evening before in Denmark. The cold had not left Germany yet, so I was dressed warmly in jeans, sweater and leather jacket. Upon my arrival in Paris, the layers had to come off. Finally, it was hot.

The first night was spent reuniting with an old friend and her fiancé, in the city by coincidence. We bought a baguette and cheese (and wine), headed to the Ile de la Cité and sat down amongst Parisian youngsters also enjoying the heat, the river and some impromptu jamming on a guitar. B and JH and I just fell easily into old conversation, caught up on gossip and contemplated our futures. After having spent six weeks in Nantes shooting a TV series, both of them were ready to go home, and as she said it, be around 'our people'. By my mense. Another friend, also from SA but now in Toronto, posted something about how all we are is the communities we surround ourselves with. I don't know what it is, but we all seem to have a strong sense that were we are is not home. We long for long dinners that end in the kitchen at 4AM, for cheap wine, for boerewors and braais, for speaking Afrikaans, for fresh fruit that doesn't cost an arm and a leg, we long for our people.

But how do you reconcile wanting to be there with also wanting more than that? I don't miss the crime, I don't miss having to have a car, I don't miss enormous shopping malls and traffic and fear and poverty and politics and problems. Yesterday I went to a free film screening at the university and at 1AM cycled home all by my lonesome. The impossibility of this at home! This nomadic lifestyle is walking the line between missing home but knowing there are other choices one could make.

Choices like what to eat next, haha. The rest of the week was spent hanging out with my friend L. Even buying groceries together was a tiny adventure: we went to Lidl, but getting there involved walking through a couple of streets where it seems all the hair and nail studios of Paris have lined up. They cater for African hair, so we weren't really eligible for getting our hair done. But even more fascinating were the guys hanging out in front of the salons: fit young men with gold chains would approach women on the street to get their nails and hair done. What would the job description be? Hustler? Nail-pimp?In Lidl itself we were treated to the spectacle of an older couple (75ish) being accused by a younger lady of being inhuman, and then shouting at one another whilst the rest of the store looked on. Not a bad start to the week, I think.
Lidl lunch. 

Our culinary tour took us to L'As du Fallafel, which was a lot of garlicky sauce with a couple of fallafels tossed in a pita bread, and which L really liked and I really did not. After having stalked Jamie Oliver's head pastry chef on Instagram, I insisted on going to L'Éclaire de Génie, which has fabulous looking éclairs and barquettes with wonderful flavour combinations. L wanted some froyo instead, but as we found none in the Marais she settled for a McFlurry. I should have maybe saved my 7€ and gone for a McFlurry, too, since the berry barquette was somewhat disappointing.

There was a queue of 30 people at l'As du Fallafel, and at the place right across the street just one lady.

Éclaire de génie. 

We explored the Marché des Enfants Rouges (oldest market in Paris), which hosts an arrangement of food stalls, but as we were there rather early we didn't sample anything. Instead, we headed back to our quartier to get some ice cream at Baci Bisou, a place near the Quai St Martin. I got fleur de lait and noisette topped with Nutella and white chocolate (all in mofos), soooo good.

We tried some really terrible spring rolls (none of the Chinese eateries we saw make them fresh, they are pre-deep fried and then heated up in the microwave), some decent baguettes, some great pains au chocolat, a great Mars cheesecake at Berko and probably some things I can't remember right now.

Berko cupcakes

Food choice for other Fête de la Musique attendants quite obvious...
On Sunday night we were exhausted from the Fête de la Musique, and the place we had intended to go to was already closed. Instead we ambled into a Pakistani/Indian place called Sheezan which turned out to be the best thing we ate all week: the prices were incredibly affordable, the food authentic and well-spiced and it was a very comfortable atmosphere to eat in, almost like being in your mother's kitchen. Also, they had mango lassi, so I was pretty much sold from the get-go.

Mango Lassi
Lamb Korma
Our last supper was at a Mexican joint whose name I can't recall. They have a set meal where you can choose three different tacos or tortillas with a drink, or a burrito. The tortillas are either with maize-meal or normal flour, and were well proportioned. Sadly they got my order wrong, so instead of the tortilla with nopales and cheese I got mushrooms and cheese, but they were tasty nonetheless. I remember eating nopales (cactus leaves) only once before, when our gardener in Mexico showed us how to prepare them and made a delicious meal. I mean, it must be quite a feat to get an 8-year-old to like cactus leaves.

Viva Mexico cabrones.
It was good to be back in Paris, blanketed in anonymity, free to disappear among the crowd.

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