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appreciation – La Gourmandista

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Etiqueta: appreciation

We are leaving Paris soon: What’s behind the exodus?

It’s official, now. We are leaving Paris soon. The expatriate adventure will come to an end but, just like Howard Koch in Casablanca, ‘We will always have Paris’, and just like Sabrina, Paris has become my hometown.

As I heard the news I have got to admit tears filled my eyes and I started travelling the city with tons of nostalgia, even though it was still months away. It is here where we have become stable, where we have conquered our own Everest, where we have made it work.

Now, we are to go back and re-learn many things. Yes, we will be nearer to those who have been far away and who, may or may not had a chance or the necessary will to come visit us. But we have all changed, so we will actually get to meet each other once again.

Cartons will again be made, and things will be either given away or sold. It’s time to dust everything we put away when we came to the City of Lights to become Parisians and start a new cycle, for our French episode is coming to an end. As I write these lines, my thoughts are interrupted by all the memories we made, by all the friends we were lucky enough to meet, and who hopefully will continue to share moments with, and even get the chance to show them a bit of the place where we grew up in and which we had called home until we came to this enchanting city.

 I dare to call it enchanting because it has completely transformed me. Someone once told me –and I may have already written it somewhere in here. A true Parisian is not he who is born in Paris, but he who transforms himself in Paris. I have come to stop thinking that La Bamba, Bésame Mucho, and La Vie en Rose played by the accordionist on the metro is romantic, that black is the perfect color  to wear when the sun leaves Paris and installs itself in Nice and Barcelona, and that good food can be found everywhere, that it’s a matter of finding good quality ingredients from the ‘terroir’.

It’s been quite an adventure in all aspects of life. I have learned a lot, so much that I see myself in front of the mirror and I am amazed of what has been achieved. I am amazed of how individuals have become what the French call ‘une famille recomposée’, and although we are still working on that, I think we are on the right track. As a working girl, I always thought homemakers didn’t do anything but drink coffee and go out shopping. Yet, I have found that, at least in this country, there is a lot going on for a homemaker, since residential help is a luxury in these latitudes, for example. Anyhow, before the end of 2015 I will be back in the land of piñatas and mole poblano starting a new chapter as well as a whole bunch of projects.

In the meantime, there’s still a lot to do here… and we’re running out of time.

A night with one of the world’s best chefs, Massimo Bottura

It turns out that language skills at an international school environment can always come in handy. Yes, I know it sounds pretty obvious and I can see more than one of you say “Duuh!” before your screens. Yet, sometimes one cannot see it as evidently, ’cause it’s the natural surroundings… Sorry! Now, while classes are taught in French, it is really comforting to have a fellow interpreter reassure me while taking notes, but I cannot deny that there has been a whole lot of culinary vocabulary that has been learnt lately. Yet, when one is the rookie and gets asked to volunteer at an event because your mother tongue is that of the attending audience, it makes one start to feel as part of the institution. And that is precisely what happened.

Merely a week after classes had started, and while I was just making my peace with the sharp knives, and cutting off the heads of fish and poultry, I was invited to help out as the interpreter in a Demonstration Class a chef was giving to an Ibero-American group of Ambassadresses. It was a very unique experience, for I have to say, I hadn’t done any interpretations in the last 5 years or so, and I was not completely sure how it would go… products get different names in different countries. I prepared myself as much as I could. I read the list of ingredients of the recipe the Chef was preparing, looked them up to confirm I had more options than just my Mexican vocabulary. The ladies arrived and the class started. “We” cooked scallops. All of them were very attentive and writing their notes, asked questions the chef meticulously answered one by one. A brief comment about the wine pairing from our head sommelier for the dish came about. Accolades for everyone… even for the rookie. I have to say it made me feel really special. I arrived home and shared the joy of my day. For me, it was a great honor that so early in the adventure they would allow me to volunteer to help out with something I knew I could do.

Yet, the best was to come. An email arrived in my inbox inviting me to the presentation of a book as a “thank you” for just giving a hand and two hours of my time.

It turned out that he is very well known and admired by most. To me, it was just a name. I have to be honest, big name chefs were not my thing until THAT DAY, actually. I accepted the invitation because some kind of bell rang in my head. The name, the restaurant, something, I cannot say. It was like I knew but I didn’t. Then, I talked to my friend and she was more excited than I could. So I read, I investigated a little but I kept my mouth shut. Then, I was impressed! 3 Michelin stars, and the 3rd best restaurant in the World. Wow! Now I was excited, now I was ready to go. It was just like getting ready to go to that big concert you have been waiting for a long time to happen, only you didn’t know the band was coming to town.

I took the metro and arrived to the address shown in my e-invite. Seemed very discrete. A bodyguard looking man approached me with an iPad and said: “Name?”. I answered. He let me go in and wished me a good evening. The staircase made one get in the mood of the club as you descend. Photographs on the wall. Very artistic, I thought. Finally I make it to the Reception. I am directed towards the event, only, I am a bit early. I decide therefore to get a drink and wait patiently. I take my time and observe everything in detail. I think this is a nice place to come afterwards to have a drink with those I love, and though I haven’t done it yet, I know it’s in my “Paris Bucket List”. My thoughts travel. Finally, it’s time. Familiar faces start showing up. In a few minutes the place is packed and he is greeting as many people as humanly possible. We were all excited.

The event started. I thought it would be formal. He IS a Celebrity Chef. But no. He is probably one of the most easygoing persons I have met with such a career. What he did was awesome. I felt like a child who goes to the bookstore for storytelling on Saturday afternoon, only I had a glass of Champagne and it was closer to bedtime, hahaha! He started talking about his first steps as a cook, how he created his dear Osteria Francescana, how his famous deconstructed Lemon Tart was conceived, but mostly he talked about his passion, his traditions, and obviously his book.

A strong faith of mine is that being humble and kind are the two most valuable features in a person. Mr. Bottura has got them both and it made me for a moment not think how big he is for Modern Gastronomy around the world. It obviously all came back when I had a bite of Parmigiano Reggiano with his very own balsamic vinegar reduction.

As it all finished and I was headed home, tears started rolling down my eyes. I couldn’t believe my luck, my fortune. After all, I was following his advice: Live life like if it is a dream!

Grazie mille Massimo Bottura !

Thank You Le Cordon Bleu!

Goodbye 2014

Come January 1, we expect great things to happen in our year. With age, we try to be more realistic. We stop dreaming as much with the unimaginable and, at least for me, I try to focus on what it can be seen as achievable. In my mind, after 20 days have already passed by from that evening when we said farewell to the year that ended December 31, I smile and briefly remember as much as possible of what I made happen. Definitely, one for the books… or better said, for memory lane. Many kilometers were walked, flown, and ridden within different corners of the world. New places were discovered, and just as it should, new faces came about and others left.

The year started in Belgium if I recall correctly in the middle of quite a firework performance. We had our frights during that 4-day stay, not all of them worth it, but we came back home all safe and sound with everything we were supposed to.

Then, as the Spring started to arrive, my warmth factor started to need Vitamin D and as I have done in the last few years since I became an expat in France, an escape was necessary to sunny Mexico. I like to think I bring back with me the first rays of sun of the season. Many encounters with some that I hadn’t seen in only a year, but with others that I hadn’t met with in around 30 years. Oh, dear, that sounds like a big number, hahahaha!

So much for the sun, he left again, and so did I. A brief escape for a tiny bit of Germany to come before my eyes. What a beautiful place! Small, picturesque, but big enough to call it a city. So many things to see and visit… but definitely the best was the cathedral. Many had told me about it, but I think I stared in awe for at least half a minute before I could pronounce a word.

The Summer arrived later than it was expected, nonetheless, yes, it is the best season of the year in this latitudes and our most favorite visitors came back. It is true that the more life provides us with, the more we want. It was our first chance to get together under the sun, to do picnics, to walk until late at night, and the two weeks came to an end too darn fast. Kiss n’ cry, again, for the third time in the year. This loving thing hurts…

Back to School season and in France it is not just school, but everyone goes back to their main activity, and this year it was time for me to find a new project and set the scene for it to become a reality. The year was soon coming to its end. What a marvelous one it’s been!

A new book with 365 blank pages was to be delivered and it would be up to us to make the most out of them and make them shine, even more than the previous one.

Meeting In-Person after Being Online Buddies

Soon it will be 30 months after the big move to what people around here call The Most Beautiful City in the World. I honestly think the statement is quite egotistical, though I cannot deny it is a very beautiful metropolis, nor that I have come to meet new and old friends like probably never before. I have realized that whenever we are static in our hometowns -including myself- we generally get together with the same group of people. It is only when someone we truly care about is abroad and lets us know he or she will be visiting that we arrange otherwise. As life starts making us turn right or left we leave people behind, and sometimes we don’t understand why or when we stopped seeing someone we are or maybe were very fond of.

Like I said in my prior post, Getting Together with my Good Old Friends, as well as in the beginning of my text, this city has allowed me to meet with many people, but the truth is it has given the word ‘visitors’ a whole new dimension, and all of you who have come have brought something to our lives.

I have been introduced to former business colleagues and clients, as well as friends from when we were young. They have come from many corners of the globe, not only from Mexico -evidently, but also from other places from within Latin America and Europe, Africa, and even Asia. Colleagues with whom we might not have shared much more than a cordial salutation in the morning upon arriving to our desks have come and have shared with us a bit of their Parisian adventure. Friends have advised us with plenty of time in order for planning to take place and write the adventure together; they have also shared a bit of their vacation, and that pampers the heart quite a bit. Family has jumped into the airplane and have been dragged by our ecstasy to show them around every corner possible of the city. And last, but definitely not least, there have been those people who we have never met in person but with whom we share a friend, a family member, or a virtual connection via the Internet. And this is exactly the ones I shall highlight today.

It is now more and more common to electronically meet friends. I am sure my parents and grand parents would think my generation is literally nuts for planning coffee, drinks, or a touristic visit with someone you have actually never met before. And to an extent it sounds a bit insane, but then again, it has become a new way of meeting people. Hasn’t it?

We started following each other via Twitter. Acquaintance of an acquaintance of mine who I met also through someone else… the circle of life. She used to live in Sceaux, where she was studying her Master’s Degree, and which is located just outside Paris. Not many people know this place, so my attention was called upon immediately when she recognized my photograph from the local park. Months passed and we exchanged brief messages through the social network. She advised having plans to come visit and start working on her Ph.D. It was a splendid opportunity to meet and chat. Face to face and in the same time zone. I thought it sounded like a good plan.

We met for breakfast at a very Parisian tea house right across from the Tuileries. I arrived a couple of minutes after she did. We clicked. We couldn’t stop talking. Nothing in common per se, but everything in parallel that made us even more curious to get to know each other. We met several times during her visit. We had never met before, and today I have a whole story with her. She’s now part of my dear friends. Is that crazy or should we have met before?