31 March 2020

28 March 2020

Le traiteur

In Paris, the neighborhood traiteur - translated into English as "caterer," similar to a deli but not quite the same  - along with supermarkets, boulangeries, and butcher shops, is remaining open during the now prolonged confinement. These surveyors of prepared dishes to take away date to the middle ages when homes lacked kitchens. 
French traiteurs are said to be frequented primarily by a discerning elderly clientèle, and feature delicacies from entrées to desserts, making them an overlooked - and welcome - meal alternative. A google "search nearby" around an address should reveal where they are hiding - but be sure and call first to make sure they're still in business! - BPJ

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 of the pot 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. Fast forward to Paris, and 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 - click to enlarge), chopped parsley salad and a full-bodied AOC Côte 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 almost every day.

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


Recipes in April newsletter

23 March 2020

Staying connected

Cellphones are indispensable but living in Paris I've learned, and more than once, that one never knows when a sector's wi-fi, taken for granted, will go down or 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, 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 on their own. 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 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. When I'd look up from my laptop, there they'd be, reassuringly, day after day, some with canes, some nodding to me as they'd arrive hobbling past my table in single file, others planting the now forbidden bises on each of the owner's cheeks, and each other's. But now, the sudden closures have put an end to it.

In France, so many 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.  (Update 2022: just like with Viagra, the age has been lowered to infants and apparently everyone is "vulnerable"). Those in retirement, senior living and nursing homes have been abruptly cut off from outside visitors and, confined to often small apartments, they've yet to receive that promised ipad. A simple phone call now and again could make all the difference. - BPJ

21 March 2020


Place du Tertre, bustling cradle of portrait painters, artists, cafés, galleries and tourists, yesterday.

20 March 2020

Most essential

Not long before our stay-at-home orders became de rigueur I met a friend for a drink on the Left Bank. We got into a conversation about the now legendary 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: a salt-studded hunk of butter from Brittany
L'Avant Comptoir de la Terre
3 Carrefour de l'Odéon 75006

19 March 2020

18 March 2020

Love in the time of corona

Boulangeries remain open.

As countries across the globe restrict travel, close 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, some claim that waters are running clear as fish return to canals, something not seen for decades. Our Montmartre apartment, thankfully on a side-street with a great choice of food shopping (not to mention 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.

For couples and families, being confined together brings its own challenges. At the end of last week, as glasses clinked one last time at our now closed local café, 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 other(s) to clean up; high noise volume - whether loud phone chats, late night TV, Pavarotti belting out "Nessun Dorma" or thumping rap tunes 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 will be left at the door to respect distancing.

Before/after-the-lockdown photos of thin-to-obese have been making rounds, but as France is not (yet) a country of snacking, fridge-raiding and pancakes and popcorn, this remains to be seen.

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 of sinks and of course washing hands (think Lady Macbeth) but 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. It's believed that the virus clings to metal and glass surfaces - change, cellphone screens, elevators, supermarket checkout counters - for hours. And to clothing.

We see this as a chance to catch up on much - side-lined reading, projects, films (providers such as Orange are offering its customers free unlimited movies til the end of March), organizing closets, shelves and neglected caves - as well as to reconnect. It's a time for cuddling, parlor games (chess anyone?), long talks, soul-searching. 
One 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 #3

Christian Louboutin - L'Exhibition-ist

Ends July 26, 2020


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." While for others, 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 ti chéri 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, firewood, water, coffee, tea, good food and drink, books, music, films, computers, candles, bubble bath and other essentials - we are grateful for the many loving people in our lives, and for each other, as well as for skype, zoom, whatsapp.... Already, the virus is making us realize how connected and vulnerable we are in our humanity. - BPJ

14 March 2020

Sole man #1

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

Place Émile-Goudeau

A small square around the corner from my first apartment in Montmartre on rue des Trois Frères.

10 March 2020

Tea and tajine

Steaming 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]

7 March 2020

Low key

With apprehension surrounding the coronavirus, this season's Fashion Week was noticeably low key.

6 March 2020

The flower vendor

For years this man has sat outside a metro entrance selling flowers.


Update July 20, 2020 - Eyes without a face:
  Months later, the same man, wearing a mask

5 March 2020

4 March 2020