Thursday, October 4, 2012

Food & Imaginary Life

Isn’t it a delicious cliché to be awakened by scent of freshly baked bread wafting through the window, ticking your nostrils? I squeezed my eyes shut and opened them, pleasantly surprised to find that I was still ensconced in the arms of Paris. He waltzed me across the room and I was enamored.

Here at my friends flat, I tossed away my computer-and-navy-pin-stripe-suit-along-with-my-deadlines-cold-tuna-sandwiches-subway-rides-and-aerobics-classes as if they were no more than a pot of wilted daisies or a scorned lover. The list of simple pleasures I had planned for my stay in Paris ranged from decadent and lazy to demanding and intense. My mind, as usual a bit overly organized or even manic, raced until I was suddenly distracted by the scents emanating from the street below. The scent of warm bread emerging from a brick oven made me quite hungry. 

I puttered about the apartment, the wooden floorboards creaking under my weight, into the kitchen. I paused before a basket of fruit, the colors vibrant and welcoming, and picked out a peach. Warmed by the morning sun, its ripeness was sensual and I giggled as the sticky nectar flowed down my chin. There were fresh coffee beans in the freezer and a glass pitcher of milk. Breakfast was as simple and honest as a child’s mischievous smile.

Ever the delightful host, my friend had left breakfast for me. The croissants fought with the hunks of cheese for space on the blue ceramic plate, both overflowing onto the table. Hmm, small slices of impressionist art transposed into the quotidian. I threw open the French doors in the living room and laughed at the cliché - Mansard slate roofs and clay chimney pots dotted the horizon.

I made a genuine effort to study a bit of grammar but quickly grew bored. Tossing aside my books, I ambled outside to a small restaurant, Camille, for lunch. The air was brisk but I preferred to sit at an outdoor table. Groups of people sat in carefree, laughing groups, shuffling sunglasses-cigarette-cases-and-café-crèmes on the rickety wobbly tables.

The Eiffel tower could be seen in the distance but I did not bother to take a photo and left my camera tucked away in my purse, hoping my imagination would help me recall my brief stint in the city of delicacies. There was a sudden cacophony of voices passing my enclave on the street corner and I marveled at a group of women. There was nothing remarkable about either their attire or their beauty but I was intrigued by their arrogance as they strode past, with hips swaying and a resounding click clack of their heels echoing in the cobblestone street. Their sensual-chic-and-elegant manner and confidence were contagious and I made a mental note to myself to only wear heels going forward, regardless of how uncomfortable they might be. Learning to sway my hips might prove a bit more complicated. 

I felt a vibration in my pocket and, empowered by the scents of this hypnotic city, shut off my blackberry. Taking another sip from the wine glass that seemed to never be depleted of its resource, I had to restrain myself from laughing as any stress that had insisted on traveling with me cross continent, melted away. So this is what it feels like to live in Paris.

Leaving Camille and walking towards the river, I came across a small patisserie tucked away at the end of a deserted street. The first step in becoming not-an-obvious-foreigner-who-slaughters-the-language-but-an-outwardly-enviable-woman-who-adapted-to-French-life would be to eat my way through the city. Perhaps I could nibble a bit from all the stands and cafes I passed? Could my waistline assume such a challenge?

After having had engaged in a seemingly innocuous flirtation with the baker, I sat outside on a park bench to relish every morsel of my pain au chocolaté. Despite his octogenarian status, crooked teeth, and corpulent belly, he had managed to seduce me as he flirted outrageously, spicing his flow of compliments with oohs, ahhs and mon chéri. I suppose his scintillating ability to create a masterpiece out of chocolate, butter and eggs had helped as well. .

I meandered down a path, the blurred lights garlanding the narrow passageway, and came across a market. While it is a novelty in NY find asparagus spears lying in stacked bundles side by side juxtaposed by baskets of ripened cheeses and barrels of bitter-sweet apples, here it is an assumed luxury for the life of a Parisian. I was not immune to the constant sensory assault that was Paris and found myself tasting-pinching-licking-drinking-sipping-crunching all the tidbits to which I was invited by the boisterous vendors.

I had no schedule, no appointments, no commitments and so I wandered the streets, enjoying the serendipity of not having plans other than to devour the myriad of tastes, sights and sounds which quite confounded the senses.

Flipping through a magazine I came across an advertisement for a cooking course and was intrigued by the idea. Until I remembered my inability to cook even the simplest of dishes without producing a bowl of slop coupled with my fear of being chastised by a presumptuous chef in French. Bah, as the little train, I mumbled to myself “I think I can I think I can” and walked to the school, almost hoping that the class would be full and I would be liberated of this silly endeavor.

Quite shyly, like a lumbering mountaineer entering a room filled with debonair men in tails, I peeked into the classroom. Alas, the chef and teacher was a sweet and approachable man who welcomed me into the room with a grand sweep of his arm.

Seated at one of the tables was a man of exceptional allure, whose eyes flashed with both mischief and promise. 

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