Time for rebirth, recommitment, and ratatouille.
|My walk home down Rue Montmartre|
Something about spring is always a reminder of just how much there is to do, and just how little time I have to do it. This has been especially true this year, as Paris sheds its wet, grey winter coat for daffodils and crocuses, shyly turning their faces toward the sun, and perfect spongy green buds appear on every tree. The urge to frolic about is everywhere: in the Tuileries, where about 5,000 dogs spend the afternoon giving each other (and small children) canine hickeys while ice cream vendors line the walkways, doling out
testicle-sized portions charming cones of carmel salée; at work, where our café pauses have moved into the gardens of the Palais Royale; walking newly discovered neighborhoods well into the mild evening. Even the grouchy bibliothécaires at the BnF appear more at ease. On my winding route to work, restaurants' sunlit tables on their little metal legs and open-doored boulangeries smelling of flaky croissants and lemony tartelettes beckon. It takes almost all of my self control to walk inside and take a seat at the library, and by the looks of the crestfallen students around me, pulling their sweaters back on as they open their books and computers, I don't think I'm alone.
|Tick Tick Tock!|
All of which is to say that the research clock, which has been gently whirring away in the background, is now a loud, faulty pacemaker of a thing. Three months! it screams when I lay down at the end of a less-than-productive day. 2 months! Finish! Finish! Vas-y! (Spoiler alert 1: I am never going to finish).
If anything, it seemed like an inopportune time to go back to the blog, when there were 10,000 reasons not to be harnessed to a computer. But while
sitting outside and eating a savory, buttery Breton galette working diligently through nineteenth-century texts at l’Institut National d’Histoire de l'Art, I realized that I’ve learned a tremendous amount and still wanted to share aspects of my life here. If for no other reason, I can look back on them when I’m a depressed suburban soccer mom wondering what the hell happened as a textual and photographic record of the year.
|Spring on the Seine!|
The months since November have been marked by great academic and creative transitions. A change in university advisors has given my research a fresh new direction, and helped me become a more understanding and flexible student. I've gotten better at navigating the French library system, and learned a few of the tricks to getting the sources that are suddenly, inexplicably "inaccessible" on the day specifically set aside to view them (spoiler alert 2: should you find flirting objectionable for any reason, crying in fact does work). Grace à those hour-long French lunches – and my colleagues' tremendous patience – speaking colloquially has become much easier. Meanwhile, I've learned a tremendous amount from a family of poets and writers through groups like Spoken Word in Paris, The Other Writers' Group, and Ivy Writers Paris.
In the next few weeks, I’m hoping to cover the following, and more: research and research institutions, being Jewish in France, French politics with the upcoming election (and more generally, some French policies vis-à-vis American ones), why I am a hard-core rive droite enthusiast, Paris' rich poetry scene, and plans for making France, and her food, a long-term part of my life.
|The Place des Victoires,|
perfect for an evening stroll home.
In the spirit of recommitting, I wanted to share something I've felt deeply all along, because – while completely contestable – it's one of the reasons I've loved this year. Paris feels safer than many of the U.S. cities I've experienced, including St. Louis and Detroit, two of the nearest and dearest to my heart. Is this in part because my mentality about walking around at night like a real grown up has changed during this year? Yes. Absolutely. Am I still hella cautious and aware of my surroundings? Yes, especially after a few missed metros and harrowing walks home. But after multiple friends, both male and female, agreed with this sentiment, I thought it was worth mentioning. What are some reasons? I asked a friend who was staying in Paris for a week of research. She felt that, at its core, the issue came down to gun violence and gun control (gun control in France is very restrictive). And while I think that is part of the answer, I also think that fear, and specifically fear of the other as a national mindset, has a great deal to do with it. In the span of one month, there have been at least two polarizing hate crimes committed in different areas of the United States, a siege on woman's reproductive rights in more than 5 states, and partisan attacks based on fear tactics rather than fact. While France is certainly not above any of these – given the recent shooting in Toulouse and its direct effect on French politics, and violent acts often committed with anti-immigrant sentiment – walking around the city well into the evening does have a different feeling to it...and dare I say, one I could get used to.
On a happier note, from the kitchen...
Everyone and their brother knows how to make ratatouille, but it is one of my favorite dishes:
Makes 4 servings
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 yellow or red onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
5 sundried tomatoes, cut into strips or diced
6-8 green or black olives, pitted and minced
1 tsb. of the following: basil, thyme, oregano, rosemary
2 bay leaves
1 medium eggplant, peeled and chopped into 1/2 inch cubes
2 zucchini, or 1 zucchini and 1 yellow squash, cubed
2 green, red, or yellow peppers, diced
1 1/2 cups of white or red wine (drinking from the bottle whilst cooking greatly improves the recipe)
2 14 oz. can diced tomatoes in juice
As much shaved, grated, or crumbled cheese as you want (chevre, ricotta salata, pecorino, manchego, parmesan, gruyere, emmental work best)
In a large soup pot, saute the onion, garlic and herbs in the oil over medium heat. As they are browning, add to them the olives and sundried tomatoes; saute for another minute or so and add the tomatoes in juice, wine, and eggplant. Leave the mixture uncovered at a simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. Throw in the zucchini and peppers, and simmer for another 15 minutes or until everything is tender.
Top with cheese and serve with bread, brown rice, faro, pasta...any grain.