premier repasSeptember 27, 2006 at 1:32 pm | Posted in food | 2 Comments
In his collection of essays, Paris to the Moon, Adam Gopnik explains that there is nothing quite like that first meal in Paris after a long absence. Doesn’t really matter what it is — trout, green beans, steak frites — even the most ordinary of foods produce such extraordinary flavors in France that you can’t really help but swoon.
So what was my first meal after my being gone for so long? Eh — I’m afraid I kind of screwed it up. We got off the plane dizzy with jet-lag, went straight to the apartment, and slept twelve straight hours. When we woke up (with a jolt, at 1 am, as alert as if we’d been shot up with amphetamines), it was too late to go out for anything proper, so I boiled up some macaroni and plopped on a spoonful of tomato-basil sauce from a jar. It was quite nice, certainly better than any chef-boyardee concoction we might have gotten at home. But not exactly the kind of thing to send one into paroxysms of delight.
So what came next? A pita grecque in the quartier latin — delicious and filling, but once again, not really French. I was still missing my experience.
Then the next morning, finally shaking myself awake at a semi-reasonable hour, I walked to local supermarket (although by American standards, the super in this market might seem to have been intended ironically. It’s about the size of your average convenience store.) to pick up the makings of a simple lunch. Jambon de Paris, a little box of Camembert, and a package of butter… On the way home, I stopped into the boulangerie and bought a baguette, already fantasizing about the perfect little sandwiches I would assemble once I got back. Should I start with the sandwich jambon or the sandwich fromage? And what combination of mustard and mayonnaise should I employ?
All for nought. At home in my kitchen, I tore off a good section of the baguette, too impatient to hunt around for the bread knife. I split the bread open, began spreading on the butter, and… that was it. The minute I smelled the creamy sweetness of real French butter, I was done for. I folded the bread closed and sank my teeth in — perfection.
So, there you have it: my heavenly first Parisian meal was a tartine au beurre. I never even made it to the cheese.
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