At Last! The Frenchie Food Post!

I’m sitting in a pair of rose pajama bottoms and a tank top, drinking a cup of coffee from my favorite pottery mug, listening to the terrifying sounds of Cthulhu in my walls, and I can’t tell you how good it feels to be home typing on my blog. In theory, blogging from an iPad sounded like a great idea. (We’ll have less to carry! You won’t have to be paranoid about your computer!) But in practice, it was like trying to blog on a Speak N Spell.

Anyway. We’re back. I’ve been suffering from jetlag and other issues…but I’ll cover that later. This blog is all about the food. Frenchie Food.

FRENCHIE FOOD

 

Now, I have to say, we never ate at one of those fancy schmancy places. We had a chance to eat at Gordon Ramsay’s restaurant at our hotel (The amazing Trianon Palace in Versailles) but we just couldn’t stomach spending $200 Euros on one meal. That’s like a MILLION dollars or something in American money. We just couldn’t do it. Plus, we were too busy.

Mostly, we stuck to finding little cafes that had both French and English printed on the menu. And there were thousands of them. Some better than others. You can tell that Paris is a home for beleaguered world travelers because there are restaurants everywhere to serve them.

TWO THINGS I LEARNED

 

1) Brasserie is a CAFÉ, not a bra shop. I’m relieved because a baguette simply couldn’t cover my cha chas. Two baguettes maybe could. And a croissant. But then I’d be attacked by pigeons.

2) Bathrooms in busy downtown Paris restaurants are gross.

After we figured that out, we were on our way to eating. Here are some highlights:

REAL FOOD

There’s just plain more REAL food in Paris. Like things aren’t packaged and ziplocked and flash frozen and reconstituted. They’re like REAL. Freshly squeezed orange juice for breakfast every morning was a revelation. Sandwiches made on bread they baked that morning…amazing. Eating a crepe made fresh before your eyes…awesome.

SWEET & SALTY

 

 

Sweet things are less sweet; salty things are less salty; there’s more vinegar and less sugar in mayonnaise and ketchup. I think this goes back to the food being real. If food is real and less processed it doesn’t need tons of sugar and sweetener. In fact, we’re sure they used real SUGAR and not corn syrup. One taste of a dense glace (ice cream) and you’ll be astounded that the ice cream you’ve been eating from your freezer isn’t real at all. It’s like discovering that you’ve been celebrating Christmas all wrong and it’s way more awesome!

FRENCH LIKE MEAT AND SAUCES AND FRIES

 

Now I don’t know if this was for tourists, and I think it probably was, but it was like every French dish (beef burgundy, baked chicken, sausages) came with fries and a salad. No salt on the fries. And there was a lot of meat, everywhere. For a girl who waxes vegetarian 70% of the time, that was a lot to stomach. Literally. And every salad had the same dressing on it—what I like to call the…

INTERNATIONAL SALAD DRESSING

(See above picture of the sandwich and salad.)

Every salad had the same dressing wherever you went, with slight variations. There were no options. The dressing basically (from what I could taste and from asking) had Dijon mustard, olive oil, lemon, salt and pepper, maybe some garlic. I’m going to whip some up soon.

BREAKFAST BUFFETS ARE GREAT

 

Best breakfast buffet was at the Trianon Palace of course, but all our hotels offered pastries but also cheese, vegetables, smoked fish, etc. I don’t feel as freaky anymore for eating curry for breakfast.

VARIETY

A surprising thing to me was that I started to miss the variety of food at home. Every menu we saw was pretty focused with few choices. I sorta like the menus here with cuisine from all over the world served at one restaurant. And I would’ve liked some smashed garlic potatoes or some other kind of side dishes.

GOOD, BUT I CAN’T EAT LIKE THE FRENCH FOREVER

There’s a diet book for women called something like “Eat Like The French and Lose Weight”. I can see why. With sauces that are so rich, salads topped with sliced beef, pates served at breakfast, you don’t need to eat A LOT. After a while, I just wanted some plain old rice, or a taco or something. I couldn't eat like the French, but I sure could hang out at a cafe and just watch people like they do.

 

THE MORAL

I’ll take some ideas home with me. I’m going to start baking bread again. Maybe buy an ice cream maker. I’m going to make crepes with eggs and ham and cheese. First cook the crepe, then cook the egg RIGHT ON TOP OF THE CREPE. Magic! Then you fold it all up. Crepes aren’t just for Nutella and strawberries and crème, apparently.

As soon as my stomach gets back to normal, I might also cook some beef burgundy or escargot. I know HOW to do it, I’m just usually too LAZY to do it.

First things first though: Kealoha is going shopping today for a bag of oranges and then we’re toasting our return home with some good, pure, REAL juice.

Bon appétit, or as we like to say in our house, eat up ya dirty bastard*.

*We only say that when my mom visits. Just cuz, ya know, humor.

Random Thoughts of Paris

SKINNY PANTSMen, women, children and dogs all wear skinny jeans/pants. Kealoha and I have decided to buy a matching pair in red so we will look like Parisians when we get home. Parisian sausages that is.

PEOPLE IN PARIS ARE IN GOOD SHAPE You don't see a lot of what I call "Starbucks Bellies" in France, though with all the Starbucks chains popping up, this might change in five years. So they can get away with skinny jeans FOR NOW.

GRAFFITI There's a ton of graffiti...huge words painted on bricks and buildings, especially evident when you're on the train. It's a little sad. I hate that people have to paint tags over beautiful structures to announce that they exist. Booooo.

NOTRE DAME It's a big dirty church and the gargoyles on the side of the building have wide, open mouths that are terrifying. They look like they're screaming. (Or that they're Death Eaters from "Harry Potter")

20120723-101357.jpg The church itself is worth seeing. Apparently there are gypsy pickpockets everywhere, but unless they look that Japanese tourists, I never saw one.

PARISIAN MEN LOOK A LITTLE GAY This is a compliment. Now, I could be over generalizing, but the French men I've seen regardless of age are just plain cool and I want to ask them for fashion advice. They wear loafers and sweaters wrapped around their shoulders and if they wear jeans, they have a nice buttoned shirt tucked in.

20120723-101851.jpg The only French man I saw wearing stripes and a beret was our friend Frog, and he did it ironically just to mess with us, though I wish he'd also carried a baguette.

BLOWJOB The French word for blowjob is (I have to write this phonetically) is Le Peep. When I heard this, I said "That's cute but it sounds so small." I wasn't making an assumption, merely stating that the word itself was adorable.

BATHROOMS ARE RARE It's hard to find bathrooms here. So I've stopped drinking water and am mostly dehydrated. In this way, Paris reminds me of New York.

LIFE IS SLOWER It seems like things are more relaxed here. People don't seem to rush. Everyone sort of looks like they're strolling. It's lovely. I'm trying to slow down too, but it's hard.

BRING SNACKS If you have low blood sugar, bring snacks. You won't find snack stands and convenience stores every two feet. There are lots of crepe stands and they're very cool. There are no refreshment stands in the courtyard waiting to get into Versailles. We waited for an hour and fifteen minutes in the sun and I got sunburnt, had a blood sugar crash and needed to pee so bad that I tackled an elderly woman to make it to the bathrooms in time. The elderly woman said something lovely to me, but it was in French which just sounds lovely so she might actually have been swearing at me.

VERSAILLES I need a whole blog about this. The palace is packed with tourists to the point that if you're claustrophobic you'll have a major panic attack.
20120723-100951.jpg Was the house worth it? I think so. But I have to say, walking from the palace to the gardens outside, seeing the fountains and hearing the classical music....I can't express how beautiful this was. Have you ever seen something so beautiful that your heart hurts a little just at the sight? It was THAT beautiful. Besides when my kids were born and when Kealoha and I got married, I can't remember a more beautiful moment than seeing the grandeur of the Versailles gardens for the first time.

20120723-101223.jpg It has maybe convinced me that there is a little magic left in the world.

Blame It On The Beaver

Let me just say that last night ended in a spectacular evening with new friends over wine and then Kealoha and I emerging from the subway to find the Eiffel Tower in lights behind us. I'm saying that straight up here so that you know this blog has a happy ending.

20120722-111653.jpg It had a miserable beginning though.

I like to take things personally, mostly because I'm extremely self-centered. So I've taken these random Paris train changes as an attack against me SPECIFICALLY. (I've never claimed to be rational.)

I think I'm having so much trouble with getting around here because I feel like there's this intricate rule book that I can't figure out, nor do they want me to. For example, Kealoha and I went back into Paris to meet friends for drinks. We were going to have a light dinner first so we left around 4:30. It's a short 20 minute train ride to the center or Paris from our hotel in Versailles. OR SO THE GUIDEBOOKS SAY. You know what? GUIDEBOOKS LIE.

First we had to walk 20 minutes to the station, which took a half hour. Then we waited in this massive line for a half hour to buy tickets. Then we waited on the train for another 20 minutes or so until it left. So maybe we wouldn't have a LEISURELY dinner, but that was okay. The train stopped at every stop and waited for about five minutes, so while the actual time to Paris was 20 minutes, it took about an hour. THEN the train stopped. We waited along with two other couples. A pubescent conductor came upstairs and said "this is the last stop. Time to get off."

"But we still have three stops til Norte Dame!" Kealoha said in disbelief.

"It is because of The Beaver. Just follow the bananas." The conductor pointed to yellow footprints on the ground. WTF? I felt like I suddenly stepped into a Eugene Ionesco play. Someone was about to fill the station with chairs and not tell me what the fuck was going on.

We followed the bananas, got on a random bus, waited and then finally the bus took off and drove for a while then dropped us off somewhere. Our twenty minute trip took two and a half hours. Then we couldn't find the place where we were meeting our friends.

We stood in this touristy area surrounded by neon lights and gigantic pictures of clams with people all around us and I just started crying. Kealoha, I have to say, took care of us. He found us a place to eat, listened to me bitch, got more directions from our friends and a half hour later, we met four wonderful people that we've chatted with online and through blogs and tweets. (To give you an idea of these people, their screen names were: Frog, The Muffin Man, and Cutest Midget--even though she's not a midget at all. She's totally my height.)

We told them our tale of woe and they nodded and Katia (who runs a cool food blog and had a podcast for 6 years) said "Ohhhh...it's because of The Beaver."

I blinked, wondering if I was to blame for this. "What KIND of Beaver, exactly?" I didn't want to point to, you know, my own, ehm, beaver...but I was really confused.

Then she explained about the tunnel under Paris and they need to repair it or it could bust wide open and they call it The Beaver construction or something because beavers build dams. I thought BEAVERS were hairy with big teeth and ate things. (I'm talking REAL beavers here, people.)

After that, it was all glossy streets and twinkling lights and wine and comments like "You do yoga, don't you, Tanya?" to which I responded: "No. I just wear yoga PANTS."

Our friends walked us to the right station and we made it back to our hotel after walking down cobbled Parisian streets and being serenaded by happy drunks.

A strange night. A beautiful night. Fucking beavers.

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The City of Love and Heartburn

20120721-152452.jpgFor the first time since arriving in Paris, Kealoha and I are properly relaxing. We're sitting outside at our hotel in Versailles listening to funky jazz and waiting for our drinks. Kealoha has ordered a Mai Tai with real Cuban rum and he's so excited he actually giggled.

So far the trip has been a combination of emotions: stressful, exciting, exhausting, confusing, infuriating, and it's all left me with a mild sense of heartburn. I am not the refined world traveler I thought I'd be. Okay. I didn't think I'd be a great world traveler but I didn't know quite the extent of how LOST I'd feel at times. Not just physically lost, but just out of sorts.

We've done a lot of walking so far and trying to figure out the train system and the RER was a little humbling. The train makes random stops and we still don't know how or why. But we managed to find our way to Norte Dame and the Louvre.

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There's so much to write and say but I'll have to save most of it for later posts or use in a story. A couple of things I've noticed. Traveling to famous places is interesting because you sorta expect a place to make you feel a certain way...like I thought when I walked down the Seine I'd feel like I was in Woody Allen's "Everyone Says I Love You" where the sidewalk is wet and glossy looking and the lights are flickering like Christmas trees and music swells in the background. In reality, I didn't realize I was walking along the Seine until I checked a map later. I thought it was just a random river.

20120721-162334.jpg What I'm saying here sounds depressing but I don't mean it that way. See, a place is just a place unless you fill it with your own story. Paris is just Paris until Kealoha and I have an experience that becomes a story. When we went to "Shakespeare and Company", Hemingway wasn't there but Dom the Cellist was expected.

20120721-162511.jpg There was one place where a story spoke to me. It was a bridge covered with locks. People who are in love take a lock and write their name with their loved ones and then lock it onto the bridge. Seeing all those locks brought me into the love story of Paris. But really you can make any place a love story, even your hometown.

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I am having a terrific time and today in Versailles has been relaxing and beautiful. Tonight we're meeting friends for drinks and then more exploring to come. Every moment here, I feel a little more connected, a little bit less of an outsider. Of course this mojito I'm drinking helps.

More blogs to come. I've got to talk about the food too. And I'm still trying to figure out why our cabbie was listening to Tom Jones and Barry Manilow. I'm starting to think that all cabbies are quirky like that, universally.

My Inner Neurotic Surfaces AKA Release The Kraken!!!

I know many of you will be totally surprised by this, but I am a slightly, wee-bit of an anxious person. Shocking, right? Yeah. Okay. Not at all shocking.

Usually, I keep my anxiety in check by making complicated To Do Lists, blogging, and every once in a while standing in front of the refrigerator and gnawing on frozen cookie dough like it’s an ear of corn.

 

But when I travel…yeah…that Beast pretty much breaks free of its chains and goes all “Roooaaaar” and then stomps on miniature cities. (I think I might be mixing metaphors here, like splicing Godzilla and the Kraken, but that’s what my Anxiety is: a mutherfucking MONSTER.) Actually, here's a scene from the classic film SINBAD that captures how I'm feeling. (I'm the Cyclops.)

   

We leave tomorrow and I’m so anxious right now that I’m THRUMMING. And not in a Fifty Shades of Grey way. No.

It’s like I have not just PMS but Super PMS, like my bitch-factor is wearing boots, a cape, and carrying a trident. (I’ve always wanted to carry a trident.)

 

 

I’ve tried to gently warn Kealoha. In my mind I said: “My love, I’m feeling a little bit anxious about the flight and travel and being surrounded by French people and possibly eating offal without my knowledge. Please just help me through this and let’s find me some anxiety meds.”

What I said in actuality, out loud in a snarky voice “You know they drink wine in France.”

“Uh, yeah.”

“So just, you know, don’t order a rum based drink like you do without the banana flavors or blue color or whatever. Please, for god’s sake, just order WINE.”

Kealoha: blink blink blink.

 

I need to chill out. I already finished off the wine in the fridge yesterday. I may have to have Kealoha take me out for mojitos on an empty stomach.

He says he still loves me. Let’s hope that’s true after the honeymoon.

I can do this. I can totally do this.

 

Breathe breathe (choke on a gnat, spit it out, do shot of a tequila and) BREATHE.