Sunday, January 22, 2012

Plus ça change...

La Potiche started this blog writing about the Daily Life. Le Prof weighed in, in his inimitably Duboisian way, to preserve the mystery of sacs. "Oh look, we have created enchantment!" And it's true! There is a great deal of mysterious enchantment to be gotten by the performance of everyday tasks and the observation of everyday things in an unexpected place. Imagine this scenario, which we played out our first night in Paris: what would you do if you had a pot of pasta boiling over on the stove?

a. Turn off the heat.
b. Remove the lid.
c. Move the pot to another burner.
d. Panic and wring your hands, because French pots and French penne and French water and French stoves are entirely too mysterious and enchanting to be understood!

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose. (The more things change, the more they stay the same.) I hear that that's meant to be an expression of more-or-less bitter resignation. But for Le Prof et La Potiche, it has been a good thing. In our first days of head colds, travel exhaustion, and linguistic idiocy, the presence of familiar things and routines has eased our culture shock, while leaving us relaxed and ready for the appreciation of all that is wondrous and new (to us) here.

Chores here are a mixture of the humdrum and the exciting. Our vacuum is mysteriously efficient. Our toilet cleaner is mysteriously familiar. Our microwave, which is also somehow an oven, mysteriously opens from the top. What's up with that, Professor? Our washing machine is also a dryer, and it takes four hours to efficiently (?) dry two towels. In Brooklyn, we are accustomed to going out in the morning for a walk, during which we run errands and buy our groceries at the co-op. On our street in Paris, there is an organic grocery with familiar bulk foods bins, whole grains, herbal teas, and even my usual brand of tampons. The store also, enchantingly, sells bottles of dirt-cheap delicious wine, jams made of fifty different fruits (mirabelle ET reine claude plums), and raw mare's milk. The eggs are kept at room temperature, in that way of a people (that is to say, the members of the Economy of the European Union) who know where their eggs come from and don't wash off the protective coatings along the way. A nicely kept egg that won't kill you is an enchanting thing.

Le Prof interjects, "'I keeelled a man,' says the little egg." In Paris, all the eggs sound like Rossano Brazzi, who was the real reason we came to Paris. In South Pacific, Rossano Brazzi played Emile de Becque, who, in his native FRANCE, keeelled a bad man, who was a booolly. Every day, and especially on enchanted evenings, we are inspired by Rossano Brazzi.

Speaking of bullies, last night we went to see the Metropolitan Opera's new baroque pastiche, "The Enchanted Island," broadcast live in HD to a cinema in Montparnasse. They took The Tempest and bits from A Midsummer Night's Dream and set them to arias from Handel, Rameau, and Vivaldi. For all of you in New York, or with the chance to see a rebroadcast: go see it. It is robust, glorious fun; one of our fellow audience members commented, approvingly, of one of the leads, "Il est silly!" (he's silly). It was lovely to see our old friends Joyce, Danielle, and Placido in such fine form. Also, there was the most gorgeous use of Zadok the Priest ever. You know, Zadok the Priest.

Le Prof et La Potiche have been Met subscribers since 2004 (long before Le Prof was un prof or La Potiche was une potiche!!! More on that, in a later post), and during that time, have seen a wide range of bad behaviors both in the opera house and at the movie theater broadcasts. Opera-goers tend to be vigorous, passionate, irritable people between the ages of 36 and 106. We have witnessed bullying, yelling, scolding, grabbing, slapping, and the sneaking in of food. It is all part of the fun, till somebody gets hurt. We have engaged in none of that behavior except for the sneaking of Opera Snackies, usually chocolate, which can be eaten swiftly and silently without crumbs and hidden under one's playbill, and which hurt only us. We were nervous about doing this in Paris, where people might, we thought, enforce anti-outside-food rules with similar vigor, passion, and irritability. But were we ever surprised! No sooner had we sneaked our two little tarts out of their box, than we looked up and saw people all around us pouring champagne into real glasses that they'd sneaked in, opening plastic containers of homemade tabbouleh and green salad, unpacking dessert tarts and quiches and sandwiches. Six or seven women opened up their tiny handbags, pulled out whole baguettes, like rabbits from top hats, and started tearing at them with their perfect teeth (this is where the rabbit simile ends, I suppose). And we felt sad, because the tabbouleh and baguettes were beautiful, while our tarts were not so beautiful. They were, in fact, cheap-ass tarts bought along the way in St. Germain from a boulangerie that was not on La Potiche's list of Boulangeries Approuvés! Le Prof et La Potiche felt so bad that they decided to reserve the right to speak of themselves in both the third and the first person, even in the same sentence, whenever we so desire.

This morning, Le Prof et La Potiche set off on their Daily Errand Walk. This, mes amis, is our Daily Errand Walk:


View from Pont Royal

"Shall we take the shortcut through the Louvre?" we say, every morning. The only answer is, "Duh." We will never get sick of the shortcut through the Louvre.

Then we say, "What is that?"
White-faced primate, I think, escaping from Louvre

It is one of the mysteries of Paris, not that there is a large white singe escaping from a window of Louvre, but rather, that only one other person on the internets seems to be remarking upon it.

Back home in Brooklyn, Sunday mornings are for walks to the greenmarket. So, today, we walked to the greenmarket. And we bought juicy pears. And a savoy cabbage. A sac full of mâche, which we may report on later. A pot of forest honey. A sac of spinach. A sac of dried green flageolets, which we may also report on. A ripe raw milk cheese, handmade by a farmer named Agnès, from the milk of a Jersey cow. I can't remember the last time I knew what kind of cow my cheese came from; I am particularly fond of the doe-like aspect of Jersey cows.
Sunday market haul
A bunch of parsley, which we forgot to take with us. A bag full of clementines, which were not grown in France. Then we walked the two miles home, bought a baguette from the other award-winning boulangerie a block from our apartment, and went home. We will not get to some of that food till tomorrow, but le Prof ate half the cheese for lunch. It had a strong smell and a flavor like fresh white cheese--very interesting and strange to us. Tonight for dinner we ate the spinach cooked with green lentilles de Puy and caramelized onions, topped with fried eggs. We also ate a DELICIOUS slice of tart from the good boulangerie: apricots and pistachio paste, the apricots so juicy they soaked through the wrapping paper--but not through the buttery crust. YUM.

Not all the street markets in Paris are actually farmers' markets, and not all the food is organic. This stuff is, though. And it all clocked in at about $20.


  1. Yes! I miss you guys and imagine that I am there with you on this trip, invisibly trailing you around the city.

  2. Stop! Stop! You are making me so damn hungry. But I'm happy Paris pleases you so much.

  3. I've read it all and gotten hungry over the pictures and need to shut it down and get to work now, but Zadok is still playing. I'll look at that pointy building again.

  4. So glad you're reading! It makes us feel a little less lonely and a little more fabulous.