Tag Archives: Paris

Window Licking

 

TartThe French have a name for it, that is, for window shopping in pastry shops: Léche-vitrines, translation: “window licking.” Well, if I left my imprint on store front windows in Paris, they certainly made their imprint on me. For, ever since we returned home I have never stopped thinking about tarts.

We are boating now in British Columbia, heading out The Strait of Georgia toward Homfray Lodge in Desolation Sound. Before we left The San Juan Islands I ordered a tart pan from Williams Sonoma, and any day now our contractor will be receiving the package for me.

Sometimes we need to walk away and let go, particularly my husband who has been on the site of our remodel every day of the week, every week, since mid May. We’re in good hands here with him at the helm, and our brother-in-law, Tug Yourgrau, who has mastered navigation. The house is in capable hands with our contractor, and whatever gets accomplished will appear to me, when we get back, like magic.

I’ll be starting from scratch with my tarts. I saw them as paintings in Paris, and only knew how they tasted through others. But if baking is anything like other arts, it is probably hard to taste your own tarts anyway.

I intend to make tarts for breakfasts. Tarts for entertaining. Tarts for the neighbors who have put up with all the construction and allowed us use of their parking spaces for the many trucks involved. Tarts for any new friends I make on island. And if all goes well, a tart table at the weekly Farmers Market in Friday Harbor amongst other bakers, produce growers, purveyors of fresh pasta, lavender, sea salt, oysters, grass fed beef and lamb, as well as goat cheese makers.

I’m thinking that baking is for me because I’m a recipe follower. I never learned to cook at home. Growing up, I was the runner for whatever ingredients my mother was missing in whatever she was making. Seems I’d just hop off my Schwinn with one thing in the wicker basket, and she’d send me back to town for another.

Then when I went away to school, the feminist who ran the school assured us, “If you can read, you can cook.” So as the years went by, I bought a lot of cookbooks and made some beautiful meals by following recipes.

Somewhere along the line my husband took creative control of the kitchen, and I was almost back to the girl on the bicycle. I knew to stand out of the way. But if there’s one thing he doesn’t touch it’s the dessert.

So I am going to master tarts.

I’m thinking baking works with writing. One can’t wander far when it’s in the oven. And this is berry country. It all adds up.

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Paris Piece II

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We were going blind living in that small dark hotel in The Latin Quarter. Not really blind, but accustomed to night blindness any hour of the day. It didn’t much matter as every morning we dressed in black and went out. Into the light. Perhaps the only couple in Paris wearing sunglasses. Coming from Seattle, we are accustomed to that.

Back to Paris: if I were transported there in my sleep, I would wake knowing where in the world I was. I was aware of that every minute of every day.

The word for tourist, translated from Greek, is “the lucky invited.” Note to self: remember that, always, when traveling.

Our city treks took us primarily to cathedrals and museums, and it didn’t take long to find our preferences in both. Notre Dame is gothic and dark, and the Musee du Louvre, vast and heavy. Following the arc of the history of art, we were drawn to the light. Impressionism, Pierre Bonnard, Edouard Vuillard, and Claude Monet.

Monet’s immense water lily canvases had moved from the Jeu de Paume over to L’Orangerie since I last visited Paris. Surrounding an oval room with a circular sofa placed in the center, the series was meditative then and meditative now. Nothing in life has changed before these paintings.

In the city I considered neighborhoods built around squares as the most desirable places in which to live. Looking up at their tall graceful windows, I imagined their views of parks and people and green. Living in a painting, what could be lovelier than that?

Then boating on the Seine, riverfront residences replaced all of that for me. Old cities such as Paris were designed to be approached from the water. Suddenly I wanted to go down the river and see all of Europe this way, traveling in all that light.

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Paris Piece I

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It was not enough to pack all black for Paris. My husband and I checked into a boutique hotel in The Latin Quarter in which everything was designed to be as dark as night. Black carpeted floors, black upholstered walls, window treatment: black-out drapery, of course. And a night sky ceiling for all the time one spends in bed.

This is the reason women should make the reservations.

Every day we go out, we experience difficulty finding the hotel again. It’s not that way with other sites in Paris, we return to the Orangerie and the parks and markets again and again. But The Seven Hotel, I suspect, moves around by day. It makes sense.

The couple beside me at breakfast converse without words. I suspect everyone here is a spy. My husband, a James Bond fan, has to be in heaven. From now on, for the duration of our stay, I will call him James.

While I grope around with night blindness, James has the lighting mastered. Intricate overhead switches, over the bed, turn on the lowest possible level of light in stars in the sky (our ceiling), and with a little more intensity—all low, mind you—the Lucite “floating” furniture. The bed floats as well. Small room/ big bed. Picture yourself in a spacecraft at night, when the sun is on the other side of the earth from your craft.

Mirrors help enormously. Stepping out of the shower and unable to find bath towels, I looked up and spotted them in the mirror. But how I do my make-up daily is anyone’s guess.

James turned fifty-eight here this week. We were quiet about it, of course.

The last time I was in Paris was with my sister right after college. I won’t tell you how many years ago. But this I know in Paris: I am still the same age here, with all of my life before me. Didn’t need make-up then, and maybe I don’t now.

Now how many places on earth can make you feel like that?

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Goodbye to a Market

Warning: I’m in a dirty rotten supermarket sort of mood.

A sad thing happened this week in our Queen Anne neighborhood of Seattle: the dear little Metropolitan Market closed its doors. Let me say, Metropolitan Market was one of the reasons we moved here. We drew an area about six blocks around “The Ave” and confined our house hunt to that. The idea was to live where we would always walk to town, whatever the weather, and no matter how old we may grow to be. We had found our village in the city. “Why drive, when you can walk?” is our motto, and Metropolitan Market was central to our lifestyle.

Now I don’t know what is coming in, but I do know that recent development in town would have it that every block look the same. Metropolitan Market was different, mid-century architecture, impeccably kept, the staff most personable, produce you could trust to be organic (vs. the supermarket trick, or so I’ve heard, of replacing an empty organic bin with the other variety), and the foods they made, the soups, cioppino, sushi, Dungeness crab cakes, and bakery goods, splendid enough to go on the finest dining table. It was where we all placed our order for fresh turkeys every November, and could find quality kitchenware, chocolates, magazines, and even literary journals. Outside, a plant stand to rivel any street corner in Paris. Come to think about it, Metropolitan Market was our only local nursery too. Now I really am depressed.

Plus I have just come back from a very crowded Safeway where the music is sick, the loudspeakers are loud, the prepared food is fried and the like—although nobody eats like that except maybe the construction workers on their breaks (the ones who are tearing the town down). I don’t know who is employed at Safeway or where they come from, and as for the floral department, their way with plants is to dye phalaenopsis orchids blue.

I simply have to find a way around supermarkets. Something I can walk to, such as the bucolic farmers market on Thursdays. Come winter, move downtown and shop Pikes Market? Everything that is anything is so much further now and it’s time to go from carrying totes to using that cart I bought. A rainproof canvas shopping cart, bright red so cars can see me on gray days. I haven’t taken it out yet because I have some things to work out. My cart questions: do I push it or pull it? Do I push/pull it down the aisles and put the groceries I want to buy into my cart, and take them all out at the register, or will I look like I am shoplifting and be apprehended? Or should I fold up my cart and put it in the grocery’s shopping cart when I arrive?

Didn’t I know this would happen? A long time ago, after my first marriage fell apart, I lived in NYC for a year. I wish I could tell you it was marvelous: The Met! Lincoln Center! Central Park! But it wasn’t. Not that year. I was half crazy with a broken heart, and Central Park wasn’t even considered safe in the daytime. I don’t know if you could call it a phobia exactly, but I developed an irrational fear of bag ladies that year. Not a loathing, more of a trembling. An apprehension that it could happen to me. I knew that there had to be a story behind each and every one of these ladies, and my best guess was that some man had left her in the lurch. I am not sure if I ever got over this fear per se, but I up and moved to California. And now, here I am, thirty-something years later, further up the coast, and about to take up a cart myself. Didn’t I know it?

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