petite anglaise

July 17, 2007

palace

Filed under: good time girl, miam — petiteanglaise @ 1:04 am

I find a new purpose for my macbook!!!*

If ever, dear reader, you feel just a smidgeon uncomfortable after ploughing through a five course meal in a palatial hotel in Lisbon (cheap deal, I hasten to add, and I’m not sure I quite strike the right tone with my ripped jeans…), I can wholeheartedly recommend setting a warm macbook on the offending tummy for at least half an hour. It’s working wonders as a digestion aid. Truly, it is.

In the meantime, I try to have a foodie conversation with my friend Meg, who is one of those people who – when she can be bothered to actually blog – is able to write reviews of restaurants without resorting to clichés like “doesn’t the foie gras melt in your mouth?” or “don’t these oysters taste of the sea?”

The conversation goes something like this.

“Well, first of all I had this kind of amuse bouche thing, which was a very small piece of beef on toast with some spready goat’s cheese, nothing special really. And then there was a filo parcel-thing with slices of fig and proper goat’s cheese with rind on, inside. And I think the leaves on the side were watercress, they were a bit peppery, and there were pine nuts: grilled ones. Next I had a swordfish medallion with a crispy crust made of prawns and things, and some squid on the side and some unidentified vegetables, a bit like the ones you put in ratatouille. And then a quail stuffed with a special white sausage, on top of some spinach. And it had an egg on top. A quail’s egg. And a sprig of lavender. Which had made the egg taste a bit dodgy… And then…”

I don’t think I need to go on, do I? If I have any writing talent at all, it is most definitely not of the food critic variety. There were more incidences of “and then” in that last paragraph than in the whole a whole page of the Da Vinci Code.

Eating, I can do. Describing the eating experience, I cannot.

So – to cut a long story short – I’ve popped over to Lisboa for a few days while Tadpole is spending a second week of quality time with her mamie and papy, and I am suitably excited about the prospect of meeting long time blog buddy Lucy Pepper for the first time, tomorrow. The point of this trip was that it should act as a carrot of sorts, to help me through the pain of finishing tweaking the book (yes, it’s not quite over, but nearly, I hope) and to tide me over until Boyfriend and I escape to the Cyclades for a fortnight at the end of August.

I cannot begin to describe how confusing I find the notion of having someone knock on the door to “turn down the bed” for me. At 6pm. But give me time, and I’ll have these luxury ways off pat. You’ll see.

*Permission to use opening line format obtained from JonnyB.

May 24, 2007

pic-nique

Filed under: good time girl, miam — petiteanglaise @ 11:39 am

Do you blog? Are you in Paris on Saturday 9 June? Do we look like the sort of people you would like to spend quality time with?

Details here, including email for signing yourselves up…

September 24, 2006

on the menu

Filed under: miam, Tadpole rearing — petiteanglaise @ 11:08 pm

Tadpole and I walk hand in hand up the rue de Rebeval, bound for home and, as usual, I try to extract some meaningful information from my daughter about what she has been up to that day.

Our conversation goes something like this.

Me: “So, what did you do at school today sweetie?”

Tadpole: “Er… something nice”

Me: “Something nice. I see. Did you draw some pictures?”

Tadpole: “No.”

Me: “Read some books?”

Tadpole: “Yes.”

Me: “What were the books about?”

Tadpole: “Er… I can’t remember.”

Me: “And what did you have for lunch?”

Tadple: “Chips. And chocolate.”

It is like extracting blood from a stone, pulling teeth or trying to establish whether Mr Frog has a girlfriend. A meeting with her maîtresse last Saturday was enlightening: we were told that all children tend to be reluctant to discuss what goes on at school with papa and maman. Maybe the school day is so action packed that it all becomes a blur in her tiny head. Or she so enjoys having her own little jardin secret that she resents my trying to peep over the top of the hedge. Whatever the reason, it is clear that nothing more is forthcoming.

I have a fair idea of what a typical day comprises: play, some supervised activities, lunch, storytime, sleep, a stint outdoors, and the fascinatingly named motricité sessions held in the school hall. This appears to be a typically French, scientific sounding word for PE, which includes circuit training and teetering about on stilts made from upturned buckets with string handles.

There is however one part of Tadpole’s day that I can spy on from the comfort of my own home. Canteen lunches are detailed on a very helpful website. There is week 38 in all its glory. Accompanied by an illustration of a dragon flying through the sky with two suitcases in his hands. Chips and chocolate indeed. On the day in question the menu was, in fact:


Betteraves (beetroot)
* * * * *
Rôti de dinde (roast turkey)
Gratin de blettes (gratin of ??????)
* * * * *
Petit-Suisse (sort of fromage frais thing)

The mind boggles. My very own Little Miss Fussy has been busy eating things I don’t even have the wherewithall to translate. My first thought on “blettes” was cockroaches – until, happily, I realised I was confusing “blettes” with “blattes”. Extensive web research yielded “Swiss chard”. Now let me see, I may have tasted it once, in Nice, in the filling of my ravioli niçoise, but until I looked on google images, I couldn’t have told you whether it takes the form of a bean, a root vegetable or a leaf. Tadpole eats Swiss chard? Swiss chard gratin? My daughter, the same child who refuses to mix peas and carrots (canned) in the same forkful? Who invariably turns up her nose at any item she has never tasted before? And which sadistic dinner lady dreamt up the idea of feeding beetroot to 3 year olds? Clearly one who won’t have to wash their clothes afterwards.

I suppose I should be thankful that Tadpole appears to be getting a balanced diet, something Jamie Oliver would no doubt work himself into a lather of enthusiasm over.

Later that evening, I decide to give the interrogation one last try, fortified with this new information.

Me: “So, did you have some beetroot for lunch? Some little purple squares? Some betteraves?”

Tadpole: “No, I had chips and chocolate. And cereals. And after, I had a strawberry milkshake!”

I can’t help giggling. Not only is she maintaining her barefaced lie, but now the little monster is embroidering around it, adding increasingly implausible embellishments.

Tadpole: “Mummy! Why you laughing?”

I snort apple juice out of my nose.

Tadpole: “Is it because I talking rubbish?”

August 31, 2006

missing in action

Filed under: city of light, good time girl, miam — petiteanglaise @ 12:50 pm

I take my seat with a group of girlfriends at L’Apparemment Café, an old haunt of mine deep inside the Marais, opposite the Musée Picasso, where you can choose from a long list of mouth-watering ingredients – sun dried tomatoes, artichokes, fresh marinated anchovies – to build your own salad. Except it is Sunday today and I had completely forgotten that on the day of our Lord they serve only brunch.

This would be perfect if I hadn’t already ploughed through a copious Pain Quotidien brunch the day before, a major blowout involving lashings of praline spread, confiture de lait and other sinful concoctions which, if they didn’t taste so good, might as well be applied directly to the thigh area with a palette knife.

Waving my healthy salad goodbye, I settle in for the long haul: juice, coffee, a boiled egg, mountains of crusty bread, pancakes with maple syrup, a cheese platter (the French always seem to add a random unnecessary savoury dish into every brunch menu, which I never have room for), fromage blanc and blackberry coulis… and conversation.

“I can’t believe you snogged two guys on the dancefloor last night. Seriously, you are a menace to society!” My friend blushes, as she has only just arrived, doesn’t know the other ladies present particularly well. She should be used to me by now.

“No”, she says, recovering her composure remarkably quickly, “they were the menace to society. Fancy reaching your mid-thirties and not knowing how to kiss. Appalling. One of them had a technique like a washing machine. His tongue went round and round in a clockwise motion, then suddenly went into reverse and swept round and round in the other direction. It was so, well, mechanical.” She shudders at the memory.

All this talk of domestic appliances calls to mind the last person who chatted me up: a Darty man who delivered my new cooker. Granted, I indulged in a little eyelash fluttering, but only because I wanted him to take away an old refrigerator left in the apartment by my predecessors, and that wasn’t strictly his job…

The result was ten or more messages left on my mobile in semi-literate text speak before my suitor finally drew the appropriate conclusions from my resounding silence.

“Men just seem like too much trouble right now, I don’t even have time to do all my own stuff, let alone take anyone else into account,” I say, almost thinking aloud. “Mind you, I kind of wish my favourite toy hadn’t gone missing when I moved.”

Because, yes, of all the things that could have inexplicably failed to materialise when I unpacked my boxes, it had to be that. I live in fear of it turning up at an inopportune moment (say, during a visit from my ex-mother in law).

Embarrassment potential: critical.

August 24, 2006

one lunch, or two?

Filed under: city of light, miam — petiteanglaise @ 8:22 pm

I am woken by a text message and realise that

beer + ill advised gin based cocktail because it was cheap in happy hour + beer + beer + beer + ?

is a disastrous equation which can only = feelings of nausea and throbbing pains behind the eye sockets.

The text message invites me to lunch. At 2pm. At the “Zéphyr”. It is 10am. The idea of eating food, even drinking water, is uninviting at this juncture, but I dare to hope that things may feel a little different in four hours’ time. And the message clearly reads “buy you lunch”. <a href="Le Zéphyr is rather nice, in that artfully shabby, old fashioned sort of way which Paris does so well. It’s even within walking distance of my house, which is a thoughtful touch. Such an offer cannot be refused. I text back “ok”, hoping my inability to type anything further will not be construed as rude.

Shortly before 2, I make a triumphant dive for the one available table on the raised decking outdoors. The sky is making a respectable attempt at blue, although experience over the past two weeks has proved that caution should be exercised. I inspect the awning overhead: it wouldn’t protect us from one of the bibilical style deluges Paris has been subjected to of late, but is better than nothing.

I take out my book and find my page. The fact that I have reached a section written in a sonnet sequence does not make it ideal hangover reading, but I perservere, wishing I had brought a Voici from the stack Mr Frog’s mother so thoughtfully brought to Paris. My friend calls to announce his lateness and I hunker down in my seat, unperturbed. It’s a nice spot, the sun is (almost) shining and I am determined to savour my well-deserved screen break. I don’t have a clue I have been waiting for almost three quarters of an hour until the waiter comes over to warn me that his lunch shift is almost over.

I panic and call my friend, and after some confusion – the menu seems to have changed since he last ate there – I order us both a steak and he promises to appear in time to eat it.

Ten minutes later he phones back (apparently not for the first time, but my phone is vibrating quietly in the depths of my bag, the sound indistinguishable above the grumble of passing traffic.)

“Hi, where are you? I can’t see you anywhere.”

“In Le Zéphyr, sitting out front!” I reply, craning my neck, seeing no sign of him on the pavement. In any case, the terrasse is now almost empty, I really shouldn’t be too difficult to spot.

Suddenly I realise what has happened here, and suppress a violent urge to bang my head against the window. Repeatedly.

“I’m guessing that there is more than one Zéphyr in Paris, am I right?” I sigh.

Indeed I am. My friend is at the Café Zéphyr, halfway across town, at Bonne Nouvelle. He doesn’t have his motorbike with him today. He could never manage to get here in time to eat his steak warm. This is officially A Fiasco.

As I reassure him, through gritted teeth, not to worry, that it will be fine, I’ll cancel his order, the waiter appears, bearing two plates.

The phrase “there’s no such thing as a free lunch” springs cruelly to mind, as I start to wish I’d never crawled out of bed in the first place.

August 16, 2006

chopsticks

Filed under: city of light, miam — petiteanglaise @ 10:52 pm

I glance down at my watch, startled to see it is already way past two. Time for a change of scenery; an hour or two outside my own head. I grab a book, at random, from the teetering tower by my bedside, find my purse, and, noting the ominous colour of the sky, arm myself with an umbrella.

The rue de Belleville is a wasteland of shuttered shops and extinguished lights. Welcome to Paris in August. A whole city to myself, with the exception of the most obvious tourist traps, but much of it closed for business.

I hesitate outside a shabby looking Thai joint with a seven euro lunch menu which I have never eaten at before, usually favouring the flashier Thai further down the hill, which pulls in the crowds on the strength of a favourable review in the ’98 Routard.

A little girl with sleek black pigtails, presumably the proprietor’s granddaughter, captures my attention. She darts among the empty tables with her older sister, shrieking in a language I do not understand. She must be Tadpole’s age, give or take a few months. Momentarily overcome by a rush of tenderness for my own absent daughter, I picture her sleeping on her belly, fingers curled into a fist in front of her face.

I choose a window table, amused to see I am seated directly opposite the famous trompe l’oeil advertising hoarding. A perfect reading spot.

Opening my book I plunge into the first short story and am slowly but surely reeled in, the sound of the girls playing receding as I become increasingly indifferent to my surroundings. When my food arrives, I am brought back to reality with a jolt, but luckily have the presence of mind to request cutlery, so I can keep one hand free to turn the pages as I bring forkfulls of beef and lemongrass salad to my lips.

An hour later I tip the owner and set off back home, resolving to eat out alone more often. With regular practice, maybe I’ll be able to master book in one hand, chopsticks in the other.

There’s something worthwhile to aspire to.

se mefier.jpg

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