Saturday, September 12, 2009
La Vie Quotidienne
So what do we do, now that we're here? Well, what we don't do is go to wonderful restaurants every day, as we've done virtually every other time we've been here, even extended stays. This stay, not to mention our budget, is so extended that we've actually got to cook and eat in.
This has been challenging for several reasons:
(1) the dishes and implements and equipment were, how shall I put this?...not pristine. Everything we tried to use needed to be run through the dishwasher first or scrubbed clean. Yuck. The rest of the apartment does not appear to suffer from this problem, and has beautiful ironed linens, waxed antique cabinets, etc. Friends who know the owner describe her as très raffinée. Maybe some very unhygienic squatters were in here before we arrived.
(2) While there are lots of jars of spices and seasonings, most of them are unlabeled and I'm not good at identifying them by smell. Maybe they're not ordinary spices; I wouldn't want to combine the wrong things. Do eye of newt and cumin go together?
(3) There's an electric stovetop which, as a gas girl all my life, I find frustrating to use. Also, the only burner that seems big enough and hot enough to heat a big pot is in the back and reaching over the boiling water to stir the stir-fry doesn't seem very intuitive. Ouch.
(4) I'm afraid to take on the oven until I find the manual online. Having turned it on once by accident I couldn't figure out how to turn it off. As for how to set the temperature, go know. The only manual for anything in the kitchen is for the microwave. I could have figured out to push the jet start button without it. How to cook a roast and not accidently clean the oven would be a more useful bit of information. I'm just saying.
Oh, I did say I wasn't going to kvetch again, didn't I? Sorry.
The Sunday market around the corner on Boulevard Richard Lenoir is incredible. So far it has supplied us with very tasty fat little cherry tomatoes, beautiful lettuces, lovely little thin haricot verts, hot and not so hot peppers, little potatoes with the dirt still clinging to them, and carrots with tops so fresh and lacy green you want to put them in a vase on the table. The fruit has been a little less consistently good and I've discovered quickly that not all the stands are equal. All this bounty has been reasonably priced, and the the two proteins I've tried so far, chicken tenders and merguez sausage, were excellent. I 'm sticking to simple menus for the moment. We're still trying out the local boulangeries; I think I've found my favorite, but we've haven't hit them all yet. The cheese, of course, is the cheese. Formidable.
Yesterday we walked across the river and had lunch in the restaurant at the top of the Institut du Monde Arab in the 5th arrondissement. (OK, we do eat out sometimes.) On the way we peeked into some courtyards where the heavy street doors had been left open for a few minutes. There are treasures hidden in there.
One of the streets we took was once the channel of a river called the Bièvre, which flowed into the Seine. The medieval tanning industry was set up along the Bièvre and the noxious by- products of tanning finally so polluted it that it was filled in. All that's left of it is this street. I love how you can often see the old name carved into a wall near the newer official name plate.
It was a gorgeous sunny day and I took a lot of pictures from the terrace of the Institut.
The view was nearly as good inside.
The striking building was designed by architect Jean Nouvel and uses a typical Arabic window design called moucharabiehs, whose diaphragms open and close according to the light. Quite wonderful to see.