Spring in Centre County. On Tuesday, the 10thof April, it seems like winter will never leave. The snow is like icing on a cake … but with no calories. No shovels. No salt. No plows.
A yellow daffodil bends into the green foliage under a shawl of snow, hunched like an old woman.
My sister Lisa’s sculpture, the focal point of the pentagon garden, is a black etching above a veil of white on her rarely snowy birthday.
Saturday, April 14th, “spring has sprung” and temperatures reach the 80s. On a bicycle ride I picked up a hanging pot resting on a FREE pile along the road.
No matter where you live, there is beauty around every corner. It is up to each of us to embrace our locale. And no one does it better than Clotilde Dusoulier in her new cookbook, Tasting Paris: 100 Recipes To Eat Like a Local.
I’ve only foraged through a few of the 100 but already my book is sprouting torn strips of paper marking 23 I want to try. But recipes are just the icing. The cake of Tasting Paris is Clotilde’s description of everyday Parisian life, unlocking some of the mysteries of the City of Lights.
The first time I saw Paris was in the summer of 1971. I was a sassy 17-year-old who ordered and actually drank a “Cognac and Coke” on the train ride from Amsterdam to Paris. Three of us graduated high school together; the fourth was my girlfriend’s kid sister, to keep us out of trouble. We stayed in a friend of a friend’s small apartment, up three or four winding flights of stairs (horror of horrors, no elevator!).
I remember a burlap drape instead of a door to the bedroom, a teensy kitchen with a refrigerator smaller than my suitcase, and a dingy sitting room. But then, we were hardly the epitome of sophistication.
We bought our bottles of wine from the neighborhood Chinese restaurant, complained to ourselves when a restaurant served Coca-Cola without ice (!), and practiced the French command for “Get away!” (“Va-t-en!”) when guys made advances—but all I could do was giggle. We got scolded in the Jardin des Tuileries for walking on a patch of manicured grass, and the Mona Lisa was sooooo small.
I was determined not to fall in love with Paris. That was so cliché, and I so wanted to be a rebel.
But I fell hard. The mansard roofs on the Haussmann apartment buildings. The Seine booksellers and barges. Baguettes and Brie. La tour Eiffel. The frills and thrills of Paris.
The last time I saw Paris was through the pages of Tasting Paris. As I read Clotilde’s Welcome and Brief History of Parisian Cuisine, and each of her recipe introductions, beginning with Le Matin (Morning) and ending with Tard Dans La Nuit (Late Night), I began to understand Paris.
Apartments are small, so Parisians developed a café culture. They often socialize at outdoor cafés or wine bars, mingling over café au lait or Côtes Du Rhône. Refrigerators are petite because Parisians go to the market several times a week and cook what is fresh. Bakeries are plentiful because Parisians love their baguettes and croissants. A stale nub of this morning’s baguette is ground into breadcrumbs and sprinkled on mussels on the half-shell or poached eggs. Leftovers of a loaf of artisanal bread are tucked under a blanket of Comté and voilà, Soupe a l’oignon gratinée. Nothing is wasted.
Next time I see Paris, I’ll taste it with new eyes and a new appreciation. Laurie Lynch