Monday, October 15, 2007

Habits Like Beets

There's a particular song about habits that has been running through my mind these days.

As I walked the four miles to my French class Thursday (metro strike)- first crossing the Seine, then past Notre Dame, and finally through the Latin Quarter and Luxembourg Gardens, I thought - this is a habit I can get used to. Earlier in the morning at the boulangerie (after shrugging my shoulders when an Italian woman turned to me for help to tell the boulanger she wanted two of each macaron and I secretly imagined that everyone took me for a hip young French woman who cannot understand the needs of Italian women but obviously still has a true heart of gold and is just commiserating in her own Frenchness with the boulanger...), I walked home with a pan au chocolat so crispy and buttery with about 27 layers on top and melting chocolate inside and thought - I can get used to this habit for sure.

After class, I stopped at Au Bon Marche to buy baking powder to whip up our favorite biscuits with pepitas -- trolling through tea aisles and peppercorn counters, thinking about the moment in French class where suddenly I could understand 90% of what my instructor was saying.. I almost started to feel at home.

Later that night, there was even molten chocolate at this tiny chocolate shop recommended by new friends and a quick walk back across the Seine to our new home so lovely that I've considered proposing Thursday night Hot Chocolate Night (like Thursday Night Out on North Street that I had with my dad growing up, except that chocolat chaud might beat out root beer lollipops at England Brother's every time).

But it's the beets that got me thinking. I love beets. In Oakland, I bought beets nearly every week, tucking them into foil pouches and leaving them be in the oven for an hour while reading or cleaning or emailing. In Paris though, these beets defy my expectations, they change my habits - they come pre-roasted.

Now, I don't miss knives lying around looking all bloody from testing for doneness, and for the time being, I can exist without greens to saute with golden raisins and brown butter over pasta, but there's something about the fact that I didn't 'cook' them, that I didn't bring them from bitter dirt root to pure sweetness on the table, that I can just put some butter, maple syrup (Canadian) and lime juice in a skillet and make them into glazed beauties on our dinner plates, something that feels a little bit like cheating, like I dropped an old habit that was good for me because a new one was just so darn easy.

And yet, I should not complain about the ease of pre-roasted beets when we've just gotten a bank account after one bank wouldn't let us open an account together and then magically, another does. Or groan about how long my carte de sejour takes when it was approved (Conversation in front of us as I'm waiting to get approved when one woman comes to another for advice "I would let him in" our woman says "I don't think we should" replies another, "Well, if it were me I'd let him in" says our woman).

Then again, I am the girl with a New England soul walking to French class in an orange dress and brown boots and short hair that got lots of compliments in the Bay while the French women swirl around me in charcoal and black with their long hair hanging past their whimsically tied wool scarves. Who am I to question the arbitrary nature of how things are done in my French experience? Maybe I should simply be grateful that we just have an account here now, count the moments crossing the Seine at dusk or the first bite of maple glazed beets as wins. While the ease might not wipe out the old habits, it doesn't hurt to appreciate some new ones as well - maybe the lesson is that in France, you don't always need to work hard to get something worthwhile.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

"I am the girl with a New England soul walking to French class in an orange dress and brown boots and short hair that got lots of compliments in the Bay while the French women swirl around me in charcoal and black with their long hair hanging past their whimsically tied wool scarves."

exquisite; the world awaits your first novel...

lola said...

beautifully written post. more, more!!