Kitty travels Afar and Afield
Lady Liberty upon my first visit to New York in 1961:
New York today
The new World Trade Center slices through the clouds like a silver blade
Musings on New York and elsewhere9/11 Memorial
Grazing New York: Harlem Shambles, Eataly, Murray’s Cheese, FishsEddy, Grand Central Market and more
Rodin and Gertrude Stein
Walking through Brooklyn Heights
Overheard in Flushing, NY
Dia de los Muertos in Escondido, CA
A hop to Avalon on Catalina Island
Recipe: Pumpkin Garbanzo Bean Soup
Mail order gifts
Moroccan pastries made in the USA!
How to help Sonoma winemakers recovering from the fires (après les incendies de la Californie du Nord)
Classes and presentations
News of Morocco and beyond
Art Buchwald’s famous column on Kilometre Deboutish (aka Miles Standish) explique pourquoi nous celebrons Thanksgiving, le Jour de Merci Donnant (voir ci-dessoous.)
Afar and Afield in New York City and
Return to New York
As always, it seems I just wrote my last edition of the Kasbah Chronicles, but two months have already gone by. So Happy Thanksgiving! It is Thanksgiving eve and 85 degrees. I love a little chill in the air, and even snow on the ground at Thanksgiving. But not in these parts.
This afternoon I remain bemused and befuddled at the administration’s decision to remove restrictions on the importation of African elephant trophies from Zimbabwe and Zambia, and allow more big game hunting there. Can anyone explain to me how a country in ruins like Zimbabwe can honestly manage its conservation program? Fortunately, I just heard the edict was rescinded (maybe??)
I am not here to dwell on politics but rather on my bucket list. The first destination is New York. One of my goals was to say “thank you” to the Statue of Liberty. This I did, from the deck of the Circle Line. Without her welcome and acceptance, I wouldn’t be writing to you today. My mother, brother and I were immigrants, and this is the original trunk we arrived with, on board a Yugoslav freighter loaded with cork, and in the WORST storm I have ever encountered.
By the time we entered the bay, Lady Liberty was bathed in sunshine, just like this!
The statue viewed from the Circle Line in 2017
My other mission was to visit the 9/11 Memorial.
What a stunning building
The enormity of the destruction of the site, the number of lives lost, the evil cunning and planning of the perpetrators along with the heroism of first responders took on a larger-than life dimension as I stood in the footprint of the building. Hundreds of visitors from around the globe milled about in a hushed atmosphere that added to the poignancy. A wall of remembrance displayed images of the victims, and these, coupled with individual bios. So many personal tragedies on display.
New York for me also holds bucketsful of happier memories. I lived in The Big Apple for a few months in 1965, to work at the NY World’s Fair. At that time, there was nothing more exciting for a wide-eyed 18 year old than to occupy the cashier’s cage and collect entrance fees to the fake Tower of London that sheltered fake Royal Jewels. . . in Queens, NY!! That’s when I fell in love with NY.
The city has evolved, and the BIGGEST SURPRISE was its cleanliness. My last visit, which probably took place 20 years ago, showed a New York in decline with dirty streets, crumbling buildings, and graffiti everywhere, including the subway. No more graffiti in the subway. Incroyable!
I had the good fortune of staying with my friend Vivian, a seventh-generation New Yorker, who lives in Harlem, an up and coming section of town. We walked across Barnard College (and cooled our heels a Max Caffe, a college hangout), ambled through CCNY, saw Hamilton’s home (yes, that Hamilton), which occupies a prominent hill in Hamilton Heights.
Trendy restaurants like Maison Harlem and Ponty Bistro with its French-speaking Senegalese waiters, and superstar chef Marcus Samuelsson‘s Streetbird Rôtisserie (www.streetbirdnyc.com) have all turned into gastronomic destinations. Vivian, a superb cook, shops at the famed Harlem Shambles butcher on Frederick Douglas Boulevard where we purchased merguez and a rosy breasted organic chickens as plump as a poulet de Bresse. What a thrill for me to stand under the marquee of the fabled Apollo Theatre! wwwapollotheatre.com. Harlem is a cool place!
Now onto more serious things:
I did manage to dash into several museums: The Rodin exhibit at the MET was as crowded as Grand Central. I wanted to see the Moroccan courtyard built by Moroccan artisans. It was a bit of a letdown for our own centuries old riad courtyard at Dar Zitoun is three times the size. The Museum of the City of NY was an eye-opener, with a tour led by a passionate docent who delighted in divulging some of the city’s darkest secrets. One day, we stumbled upon an Ai Wei Wei installation, a mesh “Arch” with two cutout figures, occupying the center of the marble arch at Washington Square Park. My favorite remains a discreet bronze statue of Gertrude Stein, holding forth in Bryant Park, behind the NY Central Library. Gertrude and I became well acquainted (on paper) during my graduate studies.
Food was never far from my thoughts, bien sûr. From Mario Batali’s lively EATALY (www.eataly.com) to the Chelsea Market, that soft scallion bun at the Chinese bakery next to the subway station on Flushing’s Main Street, and a gargantuan croque-monsieur at the Chinese-run Tous les Jours bakery, also in Flushing, NY delivered.
I am not a fan of Mario Batali’s but his idea is a great one: Across the street from the Flat Iron Building, he has assembled all foods Italian under one roof. Each stall features a specialty, from prosciutto and artisanal hams, to wheels of parmesan, fresh seafood, hand made pasta, and pastries. Ordering at EATALY, where the posted mantra is “LIFE is too short not to EAT WELL” is in itself a New York experience. Take a seat in the eating area, until a waiter appears.
Waiter: “Talk to me.”
Me: “Excuse me?”
Waiter (brusk but pleasant, sort of): “Talk to me.”
Me: “OK” (as I finally grasped his New York speak.)
His final words when we paid the bill:
“Just another day in paradise!”
We nibbled at a generous platter of sliced prosciutto, pâté, freshly baked bread and fig preserves, and the price was very fair. Contrast that with the nearby Chelsea Market, which I found on the tacky side with its dozens of touristy boutiques lining tunnels that were once a Pillsbury Cookie Factory. My native New Yorker friend led me along Ladies’ Mile (search the origins) to Fishs Eddy (www.fishseddy.com) a very early precursor of Sur la Table, with kitchen gadgets galore (pricey!!), Murray’s Cheese (www.murrays.cheese.com), the heavenly, decades-old cheese emporium on Bleeker Street in the Village. The counter at 8PM was as crowded as on a Saturday morning. Onto nearby Joe’s Pizzeria, another New York institution and, which, according to Vivian, makes the best pizza in New York, and for good measure, the Grand Central Market and its cascades of luxurious edibles inside the station. Phew.
Vivian works in Flushing, so off to Flushing I went, on a graffiti-free subway! Eavesdropping there was a challenge since hardly Chinese and Korean prevail. As I was waiting in the doorway of Modell’s Sporting Goods (Gotta Go to Mo’s), a Flushing institution, an elderly Caucasian couple walked past me:
OVERHEARD in Flushing:
Old man: “Why should we pray for him? NO need to pray for him! He doesn’t care about anybody anyway!” Sporting a pensive look, the old lady continued shuffling her way through a tide of Asian faces…
We capped my visit with a hop to Brooklyn, where I had never been. We explored Brooklyn Heights, a yuppie haven of tree-lined streets and nannies pushing strollers past historic Pilgrim Church. Jacques Torres, the chocolate king, maintains a storefront here, near the very first Hagen Daaz ice cream store. A highlight was a walk along riverfront The Promenade and wilderness preserve towards the famed Carrousel. All this and the location for Moonlight, the classic movie featuring Cher, where I gazed upon the very same view of Manhattan she did.
This will warm the cockles of your heart
Kitty’s Pumpkin and Tomato Soup with Garbanzo Beans
1 medium onion, finely diced
2 pounds butternut OR Mediterranean squash, peeled and cut into chunks
4 stalks celery, coarsely chopped
5 medium tomatoes, peeled and quartered
2 tablespoons tomato paste
15 sprigs cilantro, tied with string
1 cup drained garbanzo beans
1 teaspoon cumin
2 to 3 cups chicken broth
Milk to thin soup, optional
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
A touch of cayenne, for serving (optional)
In a large saucepan or soup pot, combine the broth, squash, celery, tomatoes, and cilantro. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium, and cook until vegetables are tender, 20 to to 25 minutes. Let cool. Discard the cilantro. In a blender or food processor, blend the vegetables and the garbanzos
In increments, adding the reserved broth a little at a time to obtain a smooth, thick puree. Return the soup to the pan. Bring to a simmer. Add more broth or milk for a thinner soup, and heat through. Season with salt and pepper. Serve hot.
Meanwhile back in San Diego County:
I flew home in time for the Dia de los Muertos, The Day of the Dead celebrations, which is turning into an ubiquitous multi-cultural ritual in our border city. I joined in at the Escondido Center for the Arts where, alongside dozens of other families, I created an “altar” to honor my mother, which, according to custom, contained one of her favorite foods: calisson cookies from Aix-en-Provence. Keep an eye out for tbeir upcoming Nikki de Saint Phalle exhibit (San Diego’s collection of her sculptures is much more impressive than what I saw at the Pompidou in Paris years ago.) I am now a docent at the California Center for the Arts and am thrilled that the center is holding an exhibit of Niki de Saint Phalle’s artwork from January 13 to March 4, 2018. Don’t miss this! Did you know she was a “local?” You are in for a treat! http://artcenter.org/museum/
A quick trip to Avalon on Catalina, allowed me to catch the Chihuly exhibit at the newly opened Catalina Island Museum. The show is over in early December, but the museum is worth the detour. As we did last time we were in Catalina 2 years ago, we lunched two days in a row at Blue Water Grill. The waterfront restaurant still offers the best value for the money on the island, and the location couldn’t be more idyllic on a sunny day: watching the waves lap at the shore through the slats in the deck as you savor an assertive Caesar salad or a bowl of addictive poke. I had no idea this was a California chain until I complimented the chef on using chermoula, the classic Moroccan marinade. I haven’t tasted their paella yet, but judging from the other dishes, it is sure to be a winner. A new Blue Water Grill is now open in Carlsbad (where Fish House Vera Cruz used to be.)
Kitty in the media: Edible Flowers
Modern Salt is one of the most literate food blogs:
Classes and presentations:
Great organization if you are a food buff.
January 20, 2018: Free and Open to the public
Tagines and Couscous: a history
10AM; San Diego Central Library
LIFE, Mira Costa College
Presentation and book signing
Poway Library, Poway CA
A taste of Morocco
Mint Tea and Minarets: a banquet of Moroccan memories
MAIL ORDER GIFTS:
While in New York I met up with Mehdi Menouar, an enterprising young Moroccan businessman and founder of MESKA SWEETS, that produces REAL Moroccan pastries in New Jersey, and distributes them by mail order (www.meskasweets). I can vouch for the classy packaging and authenticity of flavors. Mehdi and his wife employ a team of bakers turn out mignardises from gazelle horns, chebakia (honey coils), feqqas (biscotti), and almond cookies according to traditional family recipes. Great gift, corporate or personal. The company contributes 5% of its proceeds to educate underprivileged Moroccans (in Morocco).
Help a Sonoma winery destroyed by fire
Ancient Oak Wine Cellars (ancientoakcellars.com)
was entirely destroyed in the Santa Rosa Fire. “On Redwood Road, there is nothing there, just flat blackened earth”, told me the mother of winemaker Melissa Moholt-Siebert. “Their website is the best place to order wine by the case or bottle,” she adds. Should you wish to contact her directly, go to: email@example.com.
http://www.montemaggiore.com/product/Holiday-Special-2017 makes and distributes fine wines in Northern California. Read their enlightening blog about the fires: http://www.montemaggiore.com/blog/Effects-of-the-fires-on-2017-wines
For aspiring authors:
Annie Lamott is a wonderful author who writes for and about writers. This is worth a look:
Anne Lamott: 12 truths I learned from life and writing | TED Talk | TED.com. https://www.ted.com/talks/anne_lamott_12_truths_i_learned_from_life_and_writing
News of Morocco and beyond:
The new Yves Saint Laurent Museum in Marrakech:
Casablanca, the movie, memorialized: https://www.wsj.com/articles/commemorating-a-battle-and-bogie-
The French are coming (encore une fois)! The French are coming! https://france-amerique.com/fr/once-again-the-french-are-colonizing-quebec/
And on the subject of memorials:
Thanksgiving: Le Jour de Merci Donnant:
reprinted from the New York Times
The dinde is dandy, so let’s give thanks
By Art Buchwald
Published: Thursday, November 27, 2003
One of the most important holidays is Thanksgiving Day, le Jour de Merci Donnant. . . . “Le Jour de Merci Donnant was started by a group of pilgrims (Pèlerins) who fled from l’Angleterre before the McCarran Act to found a colony in the New World (le Nouveau Monde) where they could shoot Indians (les Peaux-Rouges) and eat turkey (dinde) to their hearts’ content. They landed at a place called Plymouth (subsequently a voiture Americaine) in a wooden sailing ship named the Mayflower, or Fleur de Mai, in 1620. But while the Pèlerins were killing the dindes, the Peaux-Rouges were killing the Pèlerins, and there were several hard winters ahead for both of them. . . .”
Our lives have taken on a different turn since I wrote this blog in late June. My mother left us on July 11, 2017, two days before her 94th birthday, July 13th, 2017.
Her last two months were spent at home, with us. It was a privilege to be able to take care of her, and to be with her until the end. This photo was taken on her 93rd birthday. To you, maman. To us. I miss you.
The Kasbah Chronicles
June and July 2017
A FRENCH ESCAPADE (Part 2)
Vienna and Nice
(Part 3: Unforgettable Toulouse and more Paris)
Luxuriating in chocolate decadence at Demmel’s,
HOP from Vienna to Nice
Mes vols HOP!
Lunch in Ventimiglia
. . . and much more
News you can use
My favorite salsa for summer
Bookings for presentations
News of Morocco and beyond
Les News en français
Le Riad au Bord de l’Oued
(Mint Tea and Minarets: a banquet of Moroccan memories)
Dateline: Vista, Vienna and Nice
A little French verse, “Le bonheur est dans le pré, cours-y vite, cours-y vite, makes me appreciate my own backyard, but it doesn’t stop me from sharing my far away French, Viennese, Italian, and Toulouse adventures. Here is part 2: RETURN FOR PART 3 NEXT MONTH!
A visit to Vienna was inspired by three books partially set in that fabled city: The People of the Book (extraordinary), The Hare with Amber Eyes (superb), and Monuments Men (inspiring to say the least). I had forgotten how “compact” Europe is! A little over an hour’s flight took me from Paris to Vienna, and I was still in the same time zone!
Since I was staying a little out of the city center, I had to take the train, then the bus to reach the pulsating heart of Vienna, the pedestrian only Stephanplatz, site of St Stephan’s Cathedral and its multicolored tiles (www.stephansdom.at.) All well and good and beautiful, but absolutely swamped with tourists.
To escape the crush, I ducked into Restaurant Haas and Hass (http://www.haas-haas.at.) behind the cathedral and sought refuge under a colorful umbrella. The “traditional” noodle soup and smoked fish platter the waitress recommended were rather tasteless and overpriced, but the intimate courtyard was an ideal spot for lunch. That same evening, my hosts, my cousin Helene and her husband Dr. Rainer Claus, an indie publisher himself (https://sites.google/site/editions sonnberg,) longtime Vienna residents, knew just where to take me for an authentic Austrian tafelsptiz. This cross between a French pot-au-feu and a Chinese hot pot is the specialty of Plachutta on the Wollzeille (http://www.plachutta.at.) We spent a balmy evening on the terrace, retrieving various cuts of beef and vegetables from the delicate beef broth, and happily consuming Viennese sausage and sautéed cabbage. Love that Viennese tradition!
Again to evade the hordes on St Stephan Square the next day, I turned my back on the nearby Lipizzaner horse stables, the Sisi museum, and stores spewing authentic Austrian souvenirs made in China. I lusted after more sausages. I followed the wide pedestrian mall past the Vienna Opera house to the Naschmarkt, a market in business since the 16th century. (http://www.naschmarkt-vienna.com)
Up and down along the Naschmarkt’s bustling aisles lined with dozens of stands offering Turkish pastries, Turkish preserves and otherwise exotic dumplings, spices and fruits. But where was my sausage? I finally stumbled upon a REAL Austrian sausage maker.
Casting aside my half-nibbled candied hibiscus blossom, I binged on an enormous sandwich oozing mustard. Well, half of a sandwich anyway. Nothing like fusion sampling! I must admit that the sausages in Milwaukee (WI), our quintessential US German city, were tastier than the one in Vienna. No matter. The experience was worth it.
I needed to walk off massive amounts of calories, and retraced my steps towards St Stephan Square and a plaza lined with tour buses. A barker lured me with a “Wanna go to the Schønnbrun Palace?” Why not? A chat with him revealed we were both from Casablanca. That was good for a 5 euro discount! The tour highlighted the royal bedchambers with their gilt ceilings, and hand-painted wallpaper but the poor emperors’ totally public way of life was in no way appealing. As I stepped outside the palace, a lone mime in Mozart costume was singing Beatles tunes. I captured my selfie with “Mozart.”
I decided to forego a slice of the “original” sacher torte at the Hotel Sacher, simply because a line of hungry tourists snaked out the door. My heart and my stomach were set on pastries, so upon returning to Vienna’s navel, the platz, I sought out Demmel’s, one of the world’s best-known pâtisseries.
The establishment seemed more gentile, the sort of place your grandmother would take for tea. The glassed-in pastry kitchen is a brilliant idea, allowing patrons to watch pâtissiers at work, on the extraordinary pastries and confections on display around the store. Their artistry made my mouth water, and I settled into one of the intimate salons with a chocolate soufflé smothered under a calving cliff of whipped cream. Bliss!
But the Côte d’Azur beckoned, with a flight on HOP, the new low-cost French airline operated by Air France (www.hop.com). The attendants actually offer you the day’s newspapers and free drinks! Incroyable!
I mentioned in my previous edition of the Kasbah Chronicles that I took this trip to reconnect with childhood friends from Morocco. In Nice, Joelle, my “best” pal in école maternelle, was waiting for me at the airport. Though we hadn’t seen each other in 40 years, we resumed our conversation as though we had just parted ways the day before.
Joelle is also a terrific cook, and treated me to a platter of fromages and fine charcuterie (which she purchases in nearby Italy, funnily enough), canard confit and foie gras. How can I describe the ethereal flavors of her Consommé de Foie Gras, made of the most delicate chicken broth and the lightly poached foie gras peeking through. AMBROSIAL!
When in Nice don’t miss the beautiful Chagall Museum. The airy showcase holds some of the artist’s most colorful works. Or a ride along the Côte d’Azur (aka the French Riviera). The famed stretch of coastline stretches from Toulon to the east, to the Italian border to the west. Nice, its largest city, lies barely 29 kms from the Italian border. Indeed, many Niçois, including Joelle, frequent the weekly market in nearby Ventimiglia, Italy. Prices are lower, even though in euros.
Did I mention my lunch? The dish of home-made tagliatelle with vongole (clams) at Trattoria dei Pani, Via Roma, 16, was so subtle and light, unlike any I have eaten in the States. Was it the Italian air? I barely refrained from licking my plate.
No passport! No border! An empty building marks the spot. It is uncanny how you know you are in a different country as you cross the non-existent line. Apart from signs and sounds, a sort of Italian laissez faire in the air contrasts with the sterile high-rises of Monaco, or, as I dubbed it, Manhattan on the Med. This is the place where billionaires like to hang out? They can have it! Laguna Beach, Santa Barbara and La Jolla have it all over Monaco’s narrow, quasi-impassable winding streets and concrete high rises.
Joelle filled my belly with champagne, more foie gras, and a memorable tartiflette (scalloped potatoes and cream dish buried under a blanket of melted Reblochon cheese.) I practically waddled back to the airport, to catch my flight to Toulouse. And the “Ville Rose” (Pink City), a revelation to me, merits a Chronicle unto itself. Come back for the next installment!
From my book, Couscous: Fresh and Flavorful (Chronicle Books, 1999) a favorite summer recipe:
Couscous Fritters with Fresh Corn and Tomato Salsa
2 large, ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded, finely diced, and drained
2 ears sweet corn, shucked and cooked (about 1 1/2 cups kernels)
15 sprigs fresh cilantro, finely chopped (about 1 1/2 tablespoons)
2 tablespoons finely diced onion
1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon ketchup
3/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup broth
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup couscous
1 egg, lightly beaten
Vegetable oil for frying
Fresh cilantro leaves for garnish
In a medium bowl, combine the tomatoes, corn, half of the cilantro, the onion, lime juice, 1/4 teaspoon of the cumin, the ketchup, and salt. Set aside.
Prepare the fritters: In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the broth, chili powder, butter, and remaining salt. Bring to a boil. Add the couscous in a stream. Stir once. Cover and remove from the heat. Set aside until the couscous is tender, 12 to 15 minutes. Transfer to a medium bowl and combine with the egg.
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees F. In a medium skillet over medium-high heat, pour vegetable oil to a depth of 1/2 inch. Heat until a pinch of couscous sizzles instantly. Place the couscous mixture, in 1/3 cup increments, into the skillet. With a spatula, flatten into croquettes 3 to 3 1/2 inches in diameter. Fry until golden brown, 6 to 8 minutes on each side. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels to drain. Keep warm in the oven. Top each fritter with some salsa and serve!
Classes and presentations:
I am available for talks and presentations on edible flowers or Moroccan cuisine and culture
Books for sale: Need a gift? I’ll sign and send one of my books!
News of Morocco:
The modern Moroccan art scene is alive and well. Thanks to His Majesty Mohammed VI, Rabat now has its very own museum of modern art, a first in the Arab world. Learn more this is a very informative site. Artist Mahi Binebine and http://www.kawnculture.com
This was all over the news. I have travelled this road to Marrakech since childhood and look at what they unearthed.
You have to love this man: The Book Rescuer
Links of interests:
Cookbook lovers, head to:
. . a selection of cookbooks on Classics Cookbooks.
This collaborative exhibition draws from the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego’s (MCASD) permanent collection, featuring works by beloved California artists.http://artcenter.org/event/california-connections-selections-museum-contemporary-art-san-diego-2/
Food find, in Rancho San Diego (about 50 mns from Vista) but worth the drive:
I have already told you about Sahara (2990 Jamacha Road, El Cajon), a family-run, Middle Eastern restaurant in Rancho San Diego. Fresh and home-made are key words here. We rarely drive far afield from the North County, but we regularly make our way to Rancho San Diego to fulfill our craving for their hummus and pickles, mouth-watering chicken tikka sandwiches, flatbreads baked in a stone oven, and excellent kibbe. Other Mid Eastern business occupy the strip mall including Pistachio Delights and Pastries (2999 Jamacha Road, Suite 102, El Cajon) where you will find a plethora of Mid Eastern pastries from baklava to knafa, freshly baked on site, and sip Turkish coffe.
North San Diego County readers:
Are you aware of the online newsletter, The Vista Press? The informative newsletter covers Vista, Oceanside, Carlsbad, and more. Send in your local news! Yours truly will have a periodic byline.
Kitty is selling: I will send you pictures and prices via email:
Vintage Moroccan dagger made of carved bone inlaid with colored stones. Black woven silk rope.
Authentic Moroccan tagine pots, small and medium size (no shipping for these)
Vintage lamp base bought in Casablanca (red copper) about 24 inches tall, shaped like a vase.
Etched box with domed lid bought in Casablanca.
Copper (red copper) cooking pot with handle bought in Casablanca
and much more.
Until next month,
Ah! Ces Parisiens! Love and French water keeps you going!
The Kasbah Chronicles
April/May 2017 Edition
Part 1 of 2, or perhaps 3!
A FRENCH ESCAPADE
Part 1: Paris and Normandy
Rediscovering Paris and Normandy
La Gare Montparnasse: An urban playground!
Les Passages Couverts de Paris
Le Salon du Livre 2017
AU SECOURS! HELP! A cell phone quandary
A Note from Kyrgystan
News of Morocco and beyond
POKE in Paris?
Update: Le Riad au Bord de l’Oued
(Mint Tea and Minarets: a banquet of Moroccan memories)
Dateline: Paris and Normandy
The Kasbah Chronicles were on hiatus for a month, when, this being a banner year for me, I took myself to France for three weeks. It was time to reconnect with aging family members, and with grade school chums from Casablanca, and meet up with girlfriends, one of whom I hadn’t seen in at least 40 years. As “best” school pals would, we simply picked up where we had left off.
Since my cousin lives ATOP the Gare Montparnasse (the rooftop is a public park!) I had plenty of opportunities to step inside the gare. This is what I observed:
Quelle idée géniale! Two cyclists powering their cell phone while on an exercise bike. I burst out laughing and the two cyclists thought I was the nutty one. And then, there was a public piano:
I joined the line forming in front of Chez Paul sandwicherie inside the main hall. This I did, once, twice, three and four times over the course of a week. I had just stumbled onto one of Chez Paul’s internationally known sandwich shops. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul. I was instantly hooked with a CRUNCHY baguette sandwich filled with a generous helping of jambon de Paris. And his fresh Tarte à l’Abricot. Chez Paul operates franchises in Casablanca, Qatar, Koweit, and Portugal among others. Best of all, you will find Chez Paul inside the terminals at Charles de Gaulle airport, a most appealing alternative to the overly priced and tasteless pseudo Chinese, Italian, or Japanese fast-food.
The other craze from Paris to Vienna to Toulouse is sushi! Every hole in the wall restaurant features sushi on the menu (A sushi and a dim sum bar at the staid Galeries Lafayette? Oui madame.) And POKE. POKE?! Hawaii’s national dish! In that regard, I ask the same question I do about argan oil: Argan argan everywhere, but where does it come from (a tree traditionally is endemic to Morocco’s southern regions.) How can the world’s oceans produce ENDLESS amounts of FRESH RAW FISH??? Je ne sais pas. Make sure you know its source. http://www.ozy.com/good-sht/how-paris-put-its-spin-on-this-hawaiian-dish/
Non merci: When in France, feed me cassoulet, a butter-logged croque-monsieur, frites, fresh baguette, a squishy baba oozing with Martinique rum (such as the one at the Brasserie Montparnasse, where the waiter brought us a liter of rum, and told us to finish it off by pouring the contents on two babas.) Our waiter was a transplanted Camerounais! Who said Parisians were unfriendly?
Les Passages de Paris:
My first “retrouvaille” was with my dear friend Roselyne Rahoule, who happens to be our neighbor at Dar Zitoun (and in former times, in Casablanca.) Roselyne had planned a special day that included browsing through Les Passages Couverts de Paris. What a treat. Les Passages consist of a series of nineteenth century commercial “alleys” bisecting buildings, and topped with gorgeous glass domes. Most of them grace the right bank near the Grands Boulevards. Up to 150 passages existed in the late 19th. https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Passages_couverts_de_Paris and http://www.lexpress.fr/diaporama/diapo-photo/tendances/voyage/paris-top-10-des-plus-beaux-passages-couverts-parisiens_1239783.html
What a perfect stroll on a rainy Parisian day. The sumptuous Galerie Vivienne which took more than 2 hours to explore, with unique boutiques, and Pakistani, Moroccan, Thai, sushi bars, and yes, even an authentic Parisian bistro. A real bistro lunch of Noix de St Jacques in garlic butter and Magret de Canard at Le Café du Commerce (caféducommerce.com) provided the icing on le gâteau. Among the most enticing boutiques was Emilio Robba’s (emiliorobba.com) magical display of artificial plants and flowers. In nearby Passage des Panoramas, the charming Hemingbird (sic) lured us inside with its delightful paper goods. We got to chat with the owner, who, wouldn’t you know, hailed from Chile! Merci Roselyne for these memorable retrouvailles (her husband, Abderrahmane Rahoule, is one of Morocco’s best-known contemporary artists.)
Paris’ annual LIVRE PARIS, Salon du Livre de Paris, book expo, beckoned a day later. Emmanuel Macron, possibly France’s next president, made a brief appearance. More important, I met with a publisher regarding my French translation for Mint Tea and Minarets, Le Riad au Bord de L’oued. Hope springs eternal. I am determined to see that book published in French! Among many treasures I obtained a brochure listing the Federation du Village du Livre en France, villages and towns all over France that specialize in bookstores of all genres.
My next retrouvailles took me to Normandy to meet up with Pat, who was our neighbor in Casablanca in the late 1950s. With Pat and her husband Jean Dominique I discovered Caen and its environs, where my friends Pat and Jean-Dom took me on an aerial tour of the Normandy beavhes in their home-built ORION plane. An excursion to remember!
Behind the Tour Montparnasse, a stone’s throw from the Gare, lies the atelier/Musée Bourdelle, a new one for me. Antoine Bourdelle was a sculptor who created many a public monument. http://www.bourdelle.paris.fr/ The unusual juxtaposition of Bourdelle’s work and Balenciaga’s signature BLACK evening dresses proved arresting. http://www.bourdelle.paris.fr/fr/exposition/balenciaga-loeuvre-au-noir (until July 2017)
Buses: I used the Flexbus and the Ouibus to get from Paris to Normandy, and return from Caen to Charles de Gaulle airport. JUST NINE euros (about USD12) buys a two-hour, relaxing bus ride from Paris to Caen, or return. Depart from the somewhat off putting La Défense, or Porte Maillot. You can even purchase a ticket online. Check out the bus companies’ websites.
Metro: The Paris metro is overcrowded and lugubrious, yet the most convenient means of transportation. I got lost in the underworld maze of the Gare St Lazare, and I wasn’t the only one! So I latched on to a school of equally aimless lemmings, got on the wrong train, did an aller-retour only to return where I started from, only to locate my exit on the opposite side of the corridor. TAKE THE BUS! A Metro ticket buys you a seat on any bus. What a relief to remain above ground and catch glimpses of the Eiffel Tower, the Champs Elysées, the Opera, and the Louvre MOBBED, MOBBED, MOBBED, with tourists. Thank goodness I didn’t feel I had to visit it once again.
CELL PHONE quandary:I have an iPhone, but I am very slow on the uptake. I purchased a Verizon plan for 30 days’ overseas service. I managed to connect to my cousin’s wi-fi in Paris (I travelled with 3 phones one for Morocco, one for Chile, and the iPhone.) “Non, neither the Moroccan nor the Chilean cell phones will work en France,” said the friendly techs at Darty dept store. SO I purchased a fourth phone for local use. “Can you sell me a sim card for the phone?” “Ah! Non, so sorry, for that you have to go to the ORANGE (phone co.) store on the Rue de Rennes.” Half an hour’s walk and 2 miles later, I staggered into the Orange Store, exhausted, ready to cast all my phones in the Seine.
Classes and presentations:
I am home for the summer and Fall. I would be happy to schedule a presentation, either on Moroccan cuisine and culture, or on edible flowers. Short lead times are OK with me! As you know, I have given these to schools, museums, universities, cookbook, garden, and book clubs. Send me an email for information.
Next time: Vienna, Nice, more Paris, and Toulouse
Suite au prochain numero, stay tuned!
Dar Zitoun, Our historic riad, the subject of my memoir,
Mint Tea and Minarets: a banquet of Moroccan memories is now up for sale.
Renamed Dar Azema for marketing purposes.
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