4 December 2020

A taste of Istanbul

Looking back....

  "There were spices destined for recipes handed down from grandmother to granddaughter, from generation to generation. There were spices for dishes yet to be conceived, and spices whose odors triggered memories buried for years... The sheer quantity and variety on offer were enough to make heads spin faster than a Whirling Dervish, and all the usual staples were present: coriander, cinnamon, allspice, ginger, flame red paprikas, golden turmeric, saffron, green cumin, ground coconut, black, red, green and white peppercorns, curry mixtures, licorice, dangling strings of dried eggplants, peppers, dried fruits, dates, chilies and okra; pastries galore, boxes, bags, tins and bins of rose waters, rose buds, oils, henna, natural sponges, herbs, seeds, beans and nuts of every persuasion and hue, including Turkey’s famously flavorful pistachios."

 From, "Turkish Delight on a Moonlit Night" © Barbara Pasquet James


Adjectives describing the ancient Ottoman city straddling the Bosphorus are as plentiful as the vendors selling pomegranate juice on almost every corner. But due to political upheavals and other factors over recent years, tourism in what was one of the world's most vibrant destinations, just a 3-hour flight from Paris, has dwindled dramatically. And that is unfortunate. Having had family based in Beyoğlu for two years, the district of narrow cobbled streets on the European side that bulges with hip cafés, restaurants and tons of ambiance, we were able to enjoy this city like locals. Forever in search of a gastronomic discovery, I especially loved exploring the fish markets with their small tables set up under bridges, the wood-pit rotisseries and Turkish coffee enclaves but mostly, wandering through the spices and food markets on the "Asian" side, which has a totally different feel. - BPJ

  Above: food stalls in Istanbul's ancient spice bazaar Misir Carsisi a.k.a. The Egyptian market
Below: tea rooms along market passageways; simit, a twisted bagel-like bread covered in sesame or poppy seeds; women rolling out yufka, Turkey's paper-thin national flatbread;
classic Hagia Sophia skyline from a boat

3 December 2020

A turkey in Turkey

 A week ago today marked Thanksgiving, which isn't a holiday in France, so it usually gets put on hold until the weekend, as ours is almost every year. Because of the weekend option we are sometimes invited to more than one Thanksgiving dinner, a small perk, I suppose.
This exquisite turkey, weighing eight kilos and just out of the oven, was left to repose for about an hour before being carved so its juices could be redistributed. Ordered two weeks ahead from an organic farm, it had been brined overnight before being roasted, and reminded me of the Thanksgiving turkey we had in Istanbul a few years back, high on a terrace overlooking the Bosphorus with postcard views of the city skyline at sunset.
That was the first time I'd ever had brined turkey and it was a game changer. The guests were from all over the world, and while everyone was working their way through appetizers of Turkish mezze and French hors d'oeuvres that covered a terrace table, inside, traditional Thanksgiving side dishes and pies were being laid out, making it a truly international feast. - BPJ
Merci Tom Paris

Looking back - fooding and spice markets in Old Istanbul

2 December 2020

Iron maiden

The Eiffel Tower is scheduled to re-open Wednesday December 16, 2020.

 Above: previously published photo given a vintage postcard makeover

1 December 2020

Bookstore blues

Passing a small Montmartre librairie I was struck by the lineup of morose suggested book titles.

30 November 2020

Le culte

 The Basilica of Sacre Coeur on a November evening.


Yesterday an English friend asked about the use of “culte," a word that turned up in "déplacements pour se rendre dans un lieu de culte" on the latest ramped up attestation that everyone has to fill out to justify why they're outside.

In French, all religions, Catholicism in particular, are referred to as “cults” - a term which takes many a native English speaker aback as it carries with it undertones of sects, of secret rites and dodgy rituals.

All it means is that since Saturday, attending religious services is now allowed. - BPJ

28 November 2020

A French Thanksgiving

"Turkey?" they laughed. "What a charming idea!"

In America, there's nothing more enticing at Thanksgiving than a perfectly roasted juicy turkey, its skin crackling, its meat falling from the bone. The odor alone that's been wafting throughout the house for hours as it bakes is saliva-inducing, and when it's finally placed on the table with a flourish, ready for carving, it's not unusual for grateful diners to break into applause.
Until recently, no Thanksgiving would be deemed worth its weight in stuffing without it but vegetarians and vegans, whose ranks have swelled to a force to be reckoned with, have made the turkey-less Thanksgiving not so uncommon. 
As a concept, Thanksgiving is understood and even embraced by the French, though there might be an unspoken skepticism of a meat considered a trifle too "bon marché" (cheap) to serve up to guests and, to some, best suited for dogs and children - unless it's the prized black-plumed dindon de Bresse, available at Christmas.  
So should a French friend insist on hosting a Thanksgiving feast, you may find yourself wondering, after the first two courses, where's the turkey? (Où est la dinde?). And that is when you discover that your eager-to-please hosts have taken it upon themselves to eliminate the traditional bird altogether and serve up a sensational substitute that, while well-meant, misses the mark.
As the meal winds down you may also notice, much to your dismay, that there has been a second casualty: the pumpkin pie, "an acquired taste" you are informed matter-of-factly. But then, a dessert that looks like it jumped off the pages of a French cookbook materializes, and you forget what you're missing. - BPJ
Menu (above):

- Apéritifs
- Morilles (a wild mushroom) quiche
- Breast of wild pheasant with cracked pepper and fruit
- Goat cheese toasts as the cheese course
- Apple soufflés

27 November 2020



The dome of the Basilica of Sacre Coeur dominates the Montmartre skyline.


Autumn in Montmartre