27 March 2020

Hearts within


Façade of a small house in the 11th arrondissement covered with hearts, now symbolic of le confinement.

26 March 2020

Persian rice


...is very nice.

With home-cooked meals on the table every night, I've been varying cuisines, veering from my usual repertoire of what I call "Mediterranean-French," influenced by much time spent in the South of France, living in Spain and of course, my father, who loved to cook - and loved to cook Caribbean rice, its crisp gratin at the bottom the most coveted bit.

Back when I was at college in the U.S. a group of Iranian students, homesick for their favorite dishes, would get together and prepare feasts almost every week, and no matter what else appeared on the table - exotic salads, roasted meats, flatbreads from scratch - one dish, Tahdig, was always present, and always stood out. For this crunchy buttery rice dish I took the liberty of adding dillweed, an ingredient whose odor brings back a flood of memories associated with those days, and with this cuisine. On this night, the rice paired perfectly with caramelized souris d'agneau (below), chopped parsley salad and a full-bodied AOC Côtes du Rhône. BPJ


***

Recipes in April newsletter

25 March 2020

Soupe du jour


With le confinement in force we've been making a different soup every day.

Above: soupe de poisson à la provençale with its grated gruyère, garlic-paprika rouille and croutons

***

Recipes in April newsletter

23 March 2020

Staying connected


Cellphones are indispensable but living in Paris I've learned, more than once, that one never knows when a sector's wi-fi, taken for granted, will go down, and worse, how long it will take to be up and running again. That is why we decided years ago to always keep a ligne fixe - landline - just in case, and for emergencies. And right now, as most commerce is closed and many have fled the city (meaning: neighbors are scarcer than you think), it is important to have some kind of communications backup to turn to.

In our Montmartre quartier with its vibrant café lifestyle, the sudden lockdown produced withdrawal symptoms in some, made not that much difference for others and, as the French are self-declared individualistes - as they are quick to point out - le confinement seemed to have changed lives little.

Even so, during these times it is more important than ever to stay connected, and connect with those who might find themselves living alone. In a neighborhood café we frequent, almost every afternoon around the same time, seven days a week, a small group of elderly pensioners would occupy a few tables in "their" corner, cajoling over pots of tea and coupes des glaces - multi-favored scoops of ice cream - discussing everything from the day’s politics to why a splash of Pernod enhances any fish soup. Among them: two sisters, a retired monk (do monks retire?), a once-famous French singer's music arranger and a former Russian dancer. All regulars, they'd descend at the same time from nearby senior living facilities and shared apartments. As I'd work away on my laptop I'd look up, and there they'd be, reassuringly, day after day, some with canes, some nodding to me as they'd pass my table in single file, others planting the now forbidden bises on each of the owner's cheeks. But now, the sudden closures have put an end to it.

In France, most in this advanced age group don't have or use computers. They've never been on much less seen a group video chat unless their grandchildren set one up and today, along with those with pre-existing medical conditions, they find themselves at the top of the French Ministry of Health's "most-vulnerable list." Those in retirement, senior living and nursing homes have been abruptly cut off from outside visitors and, confined to their small rooms, they've yet to receive that promised ipad. A simple phone call can make a significant difference. BPJ

21 March 2020

20 March 2020

Most essential


Not long before our stay-at-home orders went into effect I met a friend for a drink on the Left Bank. We got into a conversation about the infamous toilet paper panic buying in the U.S. and I noted that a friend in Brooklyn informed me that TV therapists have been attempting to explain this behavior. While supermarket chariots in Paris have been fuller than usual, we haven't seen toilet paper hoarding. So I turned to the bartender who'd been listening and asked her, if she could name the one item that the French are stocking up on more than others, what would it be? Without hesitation she said, "Butter." We all laughed and you know something, I agree. You should see our freezer. BPJ 

Above: salt-studded hunk of butter from Brittany on counter at L'Avant Comptoir, Carrefour de l'Odéon


18 March 2020

Love in the time of corona


 Above: in France, boulangeries remain open

***

As countries across the globe restrict travel, close their borders and put cities and towns on lockdown, most everyone will be huddling indoors for what might become a long haul, perhaps as much as four months. France is starting with two weeks, with a wait-and-see clause in reserve.

Already, on an ecological level, we are seeing what might be: satellite images show large metropolitan areas from Wuhan to New York spookily pollution-free. In Venice, the water has cleared up, and fish have returned to the canals, something not seen for decades. Our Montmartre apartment, thankfully on a side-street with a great choice of food shopping (and a Thai takeaway) just downstairs, overlooks a quiet interior courtyard with trees, and while we usually wake up to birdsong, this morning sounded like we are living in the countryside. Maybe we needed this.

For couples and families, being confined together brings its own challenges. At the end of last week, as glasses clinked at our now closed local café one last time, ideas were shared of what to do and what not to do, in the hopes that when this all blows over, we will all be better off for it.

What came up again and again: respecting each other's space - harder to do than it sounds. Obvious culprits: leaving a mess for the other(s) to clean up; high noise volume - whether loud phone chats, late night TV or Pavarotti belting out "Nessun Dorma" with windows flung wide. We agreed that lots more cooking at home will be inevitable, and that immune-boosting soups and cutting out sugar, which lowers the immune system, made sense. It turns out that for now, meal deliveries will stay in operation - Deliveroo, Frichti, UberEats... - and should be left at the door to respect social distancing.

Before/after-the-lockdown photos of thin-to-obese have been making rounds, but as France is not a country of snacking, fridge-raiding or pancakes and popcorn, that part will be easy.

Habits to acquire: removing shoes upon entering the home, using cleaning products that disinfect surfaces, door handles, on/off switches, daily; keeping a gel soap within easy reach near a sink, and of course washing hands, surgeon-like (farther up the arm). Even in buildings with cleaning crews we talked about a need to take individual responsibility for wiping down banisters, elevator buttons, street door handles. The virus clings to metal and glass surfaces such as change, cellphone screens, elevators, supermarket checkout counters... for hours. It even clings to our clothes.

We see this as an opportunity to catch up on much - books, side-lined projects, films (providers such as Orange are offering its customers free unlimited movies til the end of March), organizing closets, shelves and our neglected cave - as well as reconnect. It's a time for cuddling, massages, parlor games (chess anyone?), long talks, soul-searching.

A post on Instagram said, "Your grandparents were called to war. You're being called to sit on your couch. You can do this." We can do this. Happy hunkering. BPJ





17 March 2020

Sole man #2





Christian Louboutin - L'Exhibition-ist

Ends July 26, 2020

***

Tomorrow:
Love In The Time Of Corona

Now that France's lockdown begins today at noon (Parisiens woke up to a memo on our cellphones from the French Gov't.), domestic life won't be quite the same. As dear friends in the U.K. half-jokingly wrote, "Divorce will surely follow." Or for some, there will be more babies. I recall hearing how, when light bulbs were introduced in India, the birth rate suddenly plummeted.

Being holed up with one's amour needn't be that different from being snowed in together in a mountain cabin or entwined in an isolated country farmhouse, which we happily chose to do until not that long ago, though the key word here I suppose is, "chose." So as everyone around the world hunkers down - we're all set with masks, gel/soaps, plenty of firewood, water, coffee, tea, good food and drink, books, music, films, computers, candles, bubble bath and other essentials - we are grateful for our many loving friends, family, and for each other. And for skype. Already the virus is making us realize how connected and vulnerable we are in our humanity while at the same time, as our boulanger put it, "Isn't that something. We are all nationalists now." BPJ

14 March 2020

Sole man


Starting Monday more photos from the hallucinante Christian Louboutin exhibition at Palais de la Porte Dorée.

  

13 March 2020

Comfort pastries


All over Paris boulangeries and pâtisseries are busier than usual churning out delectable breakfast viennoiseries for take away.

Above: variety of croissants, pains au chocolat, escargots...

12 March 2020

Brighter side


An umbrella sky, this time in pink, cheers up flaneurs and flaneuses at The Village Royal.



Optimism signed: Patricia Cunha

Ends May 3

11 March 2020

10 March 2020

Tea and tajine



Hot mint tea poured tableside and savory lamb tajines brighten a rainy day.

Tea Room
La Grande Mosquée
39 rue Geoffroy-Saint-Hilaire 75005 

9 March 2020

Adieu Monsieur Haffmann



A section of rue Berthe and rue Androuet in Montmartre has been eerily turned into a 1940's film set of Paris under the Occupation.

"Adieu Monsieur Haffmann"
Director: Fred Cavayé

Based on the play by Jean-Philippe Daguerre 

[filming begins today]