Wednesday, September 26, 2007

sooo french

There was a woman at the French Consulate in San Francisco that Liam and I began to call 'So French.' She was hot, helpful, and once wore a pink off-the-shoulder sweater with the words 'so french' across the front (we assume it's a brand, but ourselves are not French-enough yet to know). She would smile sweetly at Liam, beckoning monsieur Carey over to say hello. She would ask us our wedding plans. She would tell me that my application would be denied if I showed this and accepted if I showed that. She was kind about speaking English and she smiled. I miss 'So French.'

I knew the process to get a carte de sejour (residency card) would be annoying. As a former Los Angeles USD teacher, I thought 'I've had my fair share of wasted institutional days' and yet, nothing prepared me, not even Liam's sister's stories of the same nature, for our two hour wait at the police station yesterday just to find out I did not have the right paperwork to apply. *
With my birth certificate copy en route from my mom (why do you need to see a birth certificate when I have a passport showing US birth? "We need to see your parents' names" can it be a copy? "a copy that is stamped by a translator is acceptable" are you sure we really need this? "not necessarily, but sometimes."), and our new landlord, a sympathetic ex-pat, writing us up a lease, we went to a covered market to find something for dinner.** Looking for something so good, so French, we passed a fruit stand with fraise des bois.

I have never had these european sweeties, so although they looked as though they had spent time navigating the residency card with us, we purchased them anyway (to the tone of 4.80 E = $6). I popped one in my mouth at home and found the texture to be weird and taste so sweet and fragrant it was as though someone made a fruit based on a candy. I decided to put them in a bowl with some Activia (Liam's favorite french yogurt that is really plain Danon and promises to make your insides regular if you eat it for 15 days. I think it recently made it's US debut? It was named 'Bio' in a previous French life.) and found some sugar/vanilla grinder that the owner has and sprinkled that on top - Voila!- it was a fantastic dessert with the fragrance captured in the creamy yogurt and the crunchy sweetness on top. Dare I conclude - a sweet ending to a long day, and soooo French.

*"So French" told me to just bring the same paperwork I showed in the US to France. Unfortunately, in France, they want none of the same paperwork and asked for others I didn't have.
**We are now stringing a cord across the tiny kitchen to use the kitchen unit with the burners. In fantastic news - we move into an apartment in the Marais in another week that has a full kitchen and stove (and tub) - unfortunately, at the expense of a bed, but more on our sofa-bed future soon.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

market daze

Bienvenue a Paris! Fresh out of the freeze of Iceland, I was thrilled to find myself at the tiniest of organic markets in Monparnasse on Saturday morning - armed with an Oaklandish tote bag and a desire for a fresh salad after days of eating travel food, I bought the first few things I saw for a salad - cucumber, pear-shaped tomotoes, long brilliant strings of haricort verts and of course, pre-roasted beets. Boring as it may look, it was the kind of market salad that can sustain a gal after eating several portions of fried fish in Massachusetts and Rhode Island (come on, I had to eat my last clam roll!)

My eyes lit up most today though when we visited the market closest to our short-term rental, referred to (in its covered version - it has open and covered each day) as 'remaining a colourful Arab and North Arican enclave closet to the Bastille' (Marche Beauvau). It was incredible in the sense of it being more crowded than Berkeley Bowl on a Saturday morning with the sellers hawking their vegetable wares. The best buy was an enormous celery root (pictured below) - as big as a canteloupe. I was in a constant negotiation - can I touch? Can I not touch? Does Liam need to order in French for me or can I handle, "une corgette, framboises et radis s'il vous plait" At which point, the seller spoke to me in English.

I am cooking on a two-burner stove top that sits on an 'oven.' This evening it conveniently cut the electricity in the entire apartment as I cooked both pasta and boiled the celery root at the same time. Thank god Liam had made friends with the upstairs neighbor and helped him put wires into a long tube to run from his kitchen to the basement (don't ask, don't tell) so that when the electricity went, we were able to borrow a flashlight and attempt to find the fuse box, which proceeded to keep blowing because the cooking unit was still plugged in. We have determined now that it is unsafe to run both burners at the same time. The apartment we're staying in is a fantastic apartment in all respects, except, I guess, the kitchen part. I am hoping to go on more culinary adventures this week - tried a saffron macaron today (tried a chevre but it fell to the ground before I could put my greedy mouth on it) and hope to do more in the coming days. I also hope to be less jet-lagged and back to my regular, funnier, happier self when we've been here more than two days, but wanted to share the market highlights from today.

Friday, September 21, 2007

icelandish food

When my sister writes to me about picking berries or apples or peaches in an orchard each weekend in upstate New York, I get a bit jealous. Living in the Bay Area, I have few complaints, but I do miss the New England/upstate NY orchard scene. How glad was I then, to receive the cutest jar of purple raspberry jam in my bridesmaid's favor bag for her wedding this past week.

Liam and I had disagreed about bringing back apple jelly from his family at Christmas (we just had carry-ons), but now that we were travelling 2 bags a piece, I was all about putting the jam in my check-on. Little did I know, this purple raspberry jam from Hurd Orchards would save us in Reykjavik.
We arrived in Iceland freezing and exhausted and stunned at every corner at the prices, despite the fact we'd researched and budgeted as such. To spare the day-to-day details of prices and whining and impulsive-decision-making, I will say that it was the bread we bought at a local bakery with the organic Icelandic peanut butter (above with jam) and gift from my sister that made our forays into the intense and icy and volcanic world of Iceland that much more warm. We slathered both on the pre-sliced bread with a knife we borrowed from our hostel, I mean hotel (bright and clean and nice staff and our room is pictured on the website), and found ourselves savoring both jam and pb -not in an ex-pat 'i cannot find peanut butter anywhere' way (it was our 2nd day out of the US), but in a completely yummy way.

Iceland is intense and amazing and with the food so expensive, this was a good choice. We saw curry for $30 a plate, an upscale restaurant serving a bagel with cheese for $15, and teas were never less than $5/each. Our best meal was 'cheap' vegetarian food at $25/person for a plate with falafel, green salad, rice, and tomato sauce - good place - a Naestu Grosum (reviews linked). Most of the food on our plate was quite good.
In an infuriating sidenote - we were turned down at Einer Bar. When the waiter said, in front of an absolutely empty living room, 'we are fully booked' and I replied, 'fully booked?' he affirmed and walked away. We then found ourselves back at a Naestu Grosum. Alas, we were thrilled to be en route to Paris (they did have fantastic tea in the Reykjavik airport though ... I do have to end on that note).