This is what it looked like outside my window before I decided to take a walk yesterday.
No one was really prepared for that much snow ('that much' by Paris standards).
and certainly not cars. The roads were in a general state of disorder as cars slid around in the dirty snow. I saw a fancy Mercedes being pushed by five or six police officers with it's rear tyres spinning furiously, and I saw a young woman break down in violent sobs in the middle of a busy intersection with sheer exhaustion from pushing her scooter that had stopped working. It wasn't all bad, but that was when I stopped talking pictures.
I heard a couple of girls giggling and singing, "I'm dreaming of a white Christmas..." at the top of their lungs while crossing the street, and I saw several kids and puppies enjoying the wet, heavy snow on their walk back home from school.
This year we get to enjoy two Thanksgiving meals. Last night's dinner was a pot luck, to which I had agreed to bring cranberry sauce. I fretted a bit about finding fresh cranberries after having so hastily volunteered, but I easily found some at La Grande Epicerie.
I added some sugar, fresh orange juice, zest, and finely minced ginger to the cranberries, which cooked down to a delicious sauce.
I'm looking forward to our second Thanksgiving dinner this evening. I realise that not everyone who reads this blog celebrates Thanksgiving but for those that do, I hope you have a good one. I, for one, have much to be thankful for.
I know, last night's dinner didn't photograph well, and I haven't been to Japan, but we cooked dinner with a couple of Japanese friends last night, and it was pretty exciting. Ingredients included kimchi, tofu, soya milk, fermented rice paste from making saki (not sure what it's called), a delicately flavoured herb that I didn't recognise (it was like a fennel bulb but much smaller and really quite different), shitake mushrooms, and sea weed. We made the unformed looking tofu in the center of the pan at home using the left over soya milk and a small sachet of nigari (magnesium chloride) that came with the soya milk. I've made paneer several times before but never tofu. I told you, it was pretty exciting!
We also scraped a little of this Japanese orange (mikan? mandarin orange?) into our bowls after serving ourselves. The flavour was exquisite. I'm planning to use the leftover fruit to flavour a simple chocolate sauce to go over vanilla ice-ceam for dessert tonight.
Most mornings start with a cup of tea (sometimes a cup of coffee) and a croissant (often times a pain au chocolat). For an entire month, I have been buying croissants and pain au chocolats the previous evening. What a fool! For one whole month!
Last week, I was inspired to take a walk in the morning, and I came back with the most delicious croissants. Buttery and flaky on the outside, soft and light on the inside. So much better than when I had been buying them in the evening.
Yesterday, the air was cold but invigourating as we walked to the boulangerie in the morning. Our reward for getting nicely dressed before our morning tea - a perfect pain au raisin. Never again will I buy in the evenings.
It rained all day on Diwali, but that didn't dampen our spirits. We met up with a few friends for a late lunch at Krishna Bhavan. We shared a few plates of the samosas and onion bhajjis while we waited for our main order. I got a masala dosa and chai to follow. It was a satisfying meal but let's just say I still haven't eaten a fantastic masala dosa outside of India. I would go back to try their thali but would skip the samosas and bhajjis. If you like chai, I recommend it. It hit the spot.
We wandered around a bit, familiarising ourselves with the neighbourhood. I stocked up on spices and would have bought more but the store was very crowded. Next time.
We bought some sweets to celebrate Diwali and then headed south along Canal Saint-Martin, eventually stopping by at Louis Vuitton to check out the Diwali lights.
I have to say that being in the store was strange because I am not typically one to make a beeline for the Louis Vuitton store on Champs Elysees but we went anyway, took it all in and headed home after a long day.
Trying to get a metro back to our apartment, our tickets wouldn't work. Yes, they were valid. We were trying to figure out what the problem was when a woman started talking to us. Assuming that she was asking us to hurry up and get out of the way we tried to move, but she very kindly let me pass with her through the ticket gate, on her ticket. She even held the door open for my husband to pass. When I thanked her and tried to explain that I couldn't understand why our tickets didn't work, she said pas grave. She didn't really have to help us, but she did.
Several friends and acquaintances shared their experiences about Paris with us when they heard that we were moving, and I've had much time to reflect on their comments. I've even read a few books about the various cultural differences. I have to say that so far Parisians have been nothing but nice. You know, in their culturally different sort of way, but always nice. Every person that I have spoken to has tried to understand 'my' French and assist me. At the markets at grocery store, on the street, at the boulangerie. Nothing but nice. I know, now that I've said it, it's going to bite me in the behind, but the kind lady in the metro made me do it.
This is a photo from last year in India. No rangoli for us this year but we are going to the Indian neighbourhood at Gard du Nord tomorrow to soak in the festivities. The plan is to try the vegetarian thali at either Sarvana Bhavan or Krishna Bhavan. I'm also hoping to stock up on spices and other Indian treats. And if we have the time, we might check out one of the Louis Vuitton stores; we hear they are decorating for Diwali this year. Diwali in Paris!
I have never been in any country for more than six weeks where I couldn't speak the language with fluency. That either means that I know a lot of languages or that I haven't been to many countries! Well, I can speak English and two Indian languages fluently, and I used to have basic French on my resume. But since moving to Paris I've decided to scratch that off the list. Seems like four-year olds here can manipulate the language better than I can. I hope to put it back on the list at the end of our time here - perhaps I'll speak better then.
I share this with you so that you can better imagine first, the surprise and then, utter confusion I experienced at Le Bon Marche a few weekends ago. We were wandering the store gawking at women toting Hermes handbags, browsing through the books, sniffing at perfumes, and in general being flabbergast at the prices, when we stumbled upon a fairly substantial crafts section in this fancy-pants store. Knowing the French shop-keepers' dislike for customers touching their wares, I cautiously walked the small isles, not touching any of the yarn or the extensive and luxurious Liberty of London fabric that they had. I noticed red TBM signs with 20% off marked on several of their yarns. [I didn't know at the time, but TBM=tres bon marche=sale, in plain 'ol English. I googled it after coming home. Yes, google is a verb.]
Anyway, as I was picking out some yarn for a scarf, I notice the saleswomen taking away some of the TBM marked yarn. It wasn't very organised, as they didn't target all the sale stuff, but most of what was in the larger bins and not the yarn on the shelves. It was only 6-ish in the evening and the store didn't close for another couple of hours. I was tres confused. Why were they putting up all the stuff already? on a Saturday, when people would be coming out to shop? When I inquired, the saleswoman told me (I think) that I had two minutes before the TBM was over. What?! So I hurried along, still confused, picked out yarn, and successfully bought some on sale.
Here's what's I got:
Of course, for a red beret to be worn with flair in Paris. Not sure which pattern to use yet - suggestions welcome.
I cast on immediately for a scarf - 26 stitches, 2x2 rib. I've long since finished making it but haven't blocked it yet. It's over 5 feet long and is cosy, squishy, and WARM. It is the only scarf I've ever knit for myself, and I'm certain that I'll wear it a lot this winter. Modeled photos to come.
Also on the needles, but the yarn was not purchased at Le Bon Marche -
Knee-high socks that I started in India using Trekking XXL; 60 sts on US 0 needles, toe-up, short-row heel. I finished the first sock and I cast on for the second in India, but turned the heel this weekend, and it's time to knit the increases for the calf. I can't remember exactly what I did on the first sock, but it should be easy enough to tell by looking at the completed sock.
Tweed Beret from Interweave Knits Winter 2006 using recycled yarn; I unravelled one of my husband's sweaters that shrunk pretty badly years ago. The beret is not slouchy enough - I didn't check gauge - and I think I'm going to frog it.
So that's what I've been working on. If anyone can help solve the mystery of the hurried end of TBM, feel free to enlighten me. Till then, I shall remain a confused desi in Paris.
I've had the opportunity to travel a fair amount this year but I haven't yet managed to sort through all the photos, ponder over my journal entries, or even try cooking some of the tasty dishes I tried along the way. With moving around so much and with most of our stuff in storage, it is hard not to feel a bit scattered. So this is a first in a series of posts that details some of my observations and thoughts from this last year of travel. I thought I'd start with Paris.
Parisians might think this next statement bold. Or even absurd. But Paris sometimes feels a whole lot like India. Big city India. Not like New York or D.C. but more like Bombay or New Delhi. I think it serendipitous that my husband and I spent so much time in India before our move to Paris - "good training", as we like to say in India.
A few observations -
Let's start with the greve. Within two weeks of being in town, there were people protesting on the streets. I had only ever read about French strikes in the newspaper and watched reports on the news. But this time I stood in the middle of the rue and watched hundreds of people protesting. In India, we like to protest a lot as well. We have morchas for everything from Bt brinjal to movies about child brides. Effigies are set on fire and cinemas are torched. Liberty.
What about all the merde? Parisian sidewalks are full of dog poop. Some stretches more than others. I've seen several posters encouraging pet owners to pick up after their dogs, and I hear there's a new law, but there is still a healthy amount of dog poop waiting to be stepped on. Especially by the unsuspecting new-to-town-ers. Just so you know, I haven't stepped in any yet. My 'training' in India has paid off. In Bombay we had to deal with not just dog poop, but big cow patties. And yes, sometimes human poop too. Moving on..
People like to walk straight into you on the sidewalks in Paris. Sometimes they are unarmed, but other times they come armed with prams carrying little children, fabric carts carrying groceries, or parapluies waiting to take out an eyeball or two. They just don't step aside.
A couple of weekends ago, there was a hand scribbled note in the elevator up to our temporary apartment. It was written in French but we read it and chuckled. It went something like this "...no heat, the lifts don't work, expensive parking, and now, no water...", and then it said that the apartment's management sucked. We felt bad for the person who wrote it. We unlocked the door to our apartment only to realise that there was NO running water in our flat as well. Not in the loo, not in the kitchen, not anywhere. It was Saturday afternoon. The problem was not fixed till 4:00 PM on Monday. Wow, that even beats our experience in India!
What? No, I'm not complaining. Just saying - I feel right at home. Shopkeepers seem like they don't really want to sell you anything, no one smiles at you (initially, anyway), and women wear their hair long. Meme en Inde. I've fallen in love with Paris - with all it's cliched beauty and it's not-so-chic side.
Halloween is not very big in France. At least not in Paris. So no costumes or trick or treating for us. We did enjoy a three-day weekend and some nice weather, though. The Salon du Chocolat was tempting, but as much as I love chocolate I didn't feel like standing in queues to taste some this weekend. Instead, we took a long walk and ate lunch out on Saturday, wandered the stalls at the local market and ate dinner with friends on Sunday, and enjoyed a lazy, relaxed Monday at home.
I made ricotta gnocchi with browned butter for the first time for dinner on Monday night. It was a big hit - a lot easier than I expected, and very delicious! Before I forget, here's what I did -
250 gms of whole milk ricotta
1 egg, beaten
1/2 clove of garlic, finely minced
1/3 cup grated Comte (I didn't have any Parmesan at hand)
about 1/2 cup flour (and more for dusting)
Combine all the ingredients except the flour.
Slowly add as little flour as possible - enough to bind the mixture together but not too much, otherwise the gnocchi will become dense.
Working on a well floured surface, mix together gently. Cut into four pieces.
Using your palms, roll the mixture into a cylindrical tube about 1/2 inch thick.
Using a knife dusted with flour, cut into 1 inch pieces. Shape pieces using a fork.
Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add salt. Put in 12-15 gnocchi at a time. Once they float to the top, they are cooked.
For the browned butter sauce, I didn't have any sage, so I used basil instead.
Toss gnocchi in sauce, sprinkle parmesan cheese, and enjoy.
I've made a lot of fresh pasta but I had never made gnocchi before. It was light and fluffy, and so much quicker than I had anticipated. I'll definitely be making some again soon.
I found this tiny leaf by our shoes while cleaning the apartment. A little bit of fall love this Tuesday morning. Have a fantastic day!
Yesterday started off dark and cloudy but I set off with my camera anyway. I started my adventures with a Metro ride to the north and wandered all the way south, well beyond la Tour Eiffel. The camera started to feel heavy towards the end of the day but Paris really isn't a very large city - perfectly enjoyable to explore on foot. The sun came out and I truly had a wonderful time. Here are a few shots -
Not really sure what this is...street art?
Porte Saint Martin, I think.
Pit stop - falafel sandwich at the famous L'As du Fallafel.
No photos of my sandwich; I needed both hands to wolf it down.
Writing on one of the ponts crossing the Seine.
I stopped by Pierre Hermé for my first macarons, which were overwhelming to pick because there was a queue, and I couldn't see the different kinds available. Anyway, I picked a couple of the Infiniment Chocolat and a couple of the Infiniment Caramel, knowing that I couldn't go wrong. They were perfect! They made it back safely to the apartment but again, no photos, since we ate them too quickly after dinner. Maybe next time.
I had several nicknames growing up; Curry was one of them. My move back to India with my husband inspired Curry Made - a space to share my latest handmade creations, photos, travel adventures, and a little bit of this 'n that. As of October 2010, we find ourselves in Paris, from where I will continue to write. I enjoy reading your comments, so don't feel shy to say hello. Namaste.