Saturday, April 4, 2009

Paris, awaken me





We all arrive at a time in the course of our pursuits when we must look up in search of new horizons and new inspiration. And my mouth has been grousing lately (at least to me) about needing some new data inputs in the flavor department. It’s been saying, ‘hey, it’s been a long winter, and it’s time to wake up again.’

I am a relative late-comer to the pleasures of Vietnamese cuisine, but I find that its simple honesty and vibrancy remind me of other great cuisines that have been slowly born out of an ancient agrarian, peasant tradition. Like the Italian cuisine to which I devote my work, and also the foods of Mexico, the Near East, India, and of countless other places. And since we are here in a great city, I want to take advantage of some of the ethnic food to be found. A brief conference with our friend Denise (who lives in Normandy, but makes regular forays into the city) convinces us that Chinatown is a must, for both a meal and some grocery shopping.

The lunch is a delight at Le Bambou on Rue Beaudricourt, right in among plenty of other worthy establishments. (‘Chinatown, Ave. d’Ivry, the 13th, Paris.’ Write that down.) Light, clean flavors and the kind of exciting spice that makes my mouth insist, ‘do that again.’ I want to keep building up the level of heat and flavor in the mouth. My soul demands it. It feels like I am trying to open up a heavy wooden chest encrusted in layers of weariness and numbness. The chopsticks must serve as my hammer and the spice as my chisel, and I must keep at it until... something is revealed inside me, or I arrive somewhere else.

The shopping is just a short walk from the restaurant, up Ivry. The mission is a Thai-style soup with Coconut and Shrimp, and everything is there at Tang Freres, including chicken bones for fresh soup stock. (It was .65 euro for a single carcass, which was perfect for my purposes. I didn’t want to use a cube and I didn’t really have time to deal with a whole chicken.) There was even a small package of spices specifically for Pho-style soup. Ginger, Galanga, Lemongrass, Lime leaves, chilis, mint, basil, sprouts… I could barely wait to get back to the apartment.

PS. Here’s a thought: I believe that boredom is an invention of the modern world, and that its sufferers are largely the perpetrators of their own condition.

--Caleb

6 comments:

Chris said...

oh man oh man. you make me hungry.

Noёlle Smith said...

hmmm, I truly hope this note finds you still in France. The news of the earthquake in Italy made me think of you both, as I often do. Strange as that may seem. Kiss Paris for me, soon I plan to see her again.
Noelle

Alex said...

Ave. d'Ivry is right in my old Paris stomping grounds. I lived in the 13ieme when I was a student in Paris and loved being next door to Chinatown, such as it was. Thanks for the postcard.

autumnleaf said...

reading your travelogue is like tasting Spring...we are new to your culinary clan and have yet to savor what we have only read about. We were hoping to visit Woodstock the third week in May and hope that, with your safe return, we will be able to delight in your art...enjoy April in Paris....

Deirdre and Caleb said...

Ciao a tutti! We have not been able to post much because of poor connectivity in the wilds of Calabria, but I'm posting a bunch now, and will again at the end of next week! Thanks for haning in there! Deirdre and Caleb

Deirdre and Caleb said...

Ciao a tutti! We have not been able to post much because of poor connectivity in the wilds of Calabria, but I'm posting a bunch now, and will again at the end of next week! Thanks for haning in there! Deirdre and Caleb