This is the last entry I write about food, I promise...
... Well, maybe the last entry I write purely centric on food. And in which I talk like a valley girl.
As anyone who's looked through the France photos of le blog knows, I can't help but photograph the ridiculously beautiful pastries here. I mean, the amount of effort put into making the tiny pastries clearly justifies their price. One can normally tell with the tiny gold-plated chocolate letters or rose petals or even pearl-painted sugar bonbons used to decorate the damn thing, but who knows what the quality of the ingredients were used to actually make the crust, the cake, the frosting?
I'm proud to say that the delayed gratification I suffered through my entire trip in France has paid off; the first macarons into my mouth were purchased from Ladurée, which all you really need to know is a fancy schmancy gourmet patisserie that sells considerably overpriced sweets.
Ah, bare feet. The only way to enjoy these babies along the Seine.
From what I've come to understand, you can't really not get macarons when in France. That's almost like saying you were in Maine but didn't get lobster, or you were in Italy but didn't get pizza and pasta, or you were in New York and didn't get pizza, or you were in Australia and didn't get kangaroo meat, or you were in Chicago and didn't get hot dogs (and pizza), or you were in Argentina and didn't get steak, or you were in Las Vegas and didn't get venereal disease.
This will be the only time in my entire life I get a shopping
bag of this quality, this big, and with so little in it.
These macarons took me at least an hour to eat. At least. I was told that one should take his/her time in eating these bits of heaven, and I can only say it's true.
So, very, very true.
Fancy packaging. Anything less than 8 comes in a paper bag,
which was a total surprise. If you pay a little more than twice as much,
you get a fancier, more circular box.
I debated between buying a dozen or a half dozen macarons. With at least 36 flavors rotating on a regular basis, how can I possibly choose? Considering each macaron cost 1.70€, or about 2.08 U$, choice is crucial. As Host 2 has told me, however, that Ladurée is a brand name for a reason. Ergo, you can't really go wrong...
A dream come true!
Taste the rainbow.
1: Café | Coffee
If a movie or tv series were made based on my life, one would immediately see a closeup of one of my eyes contracting after the very first bite of this macaron. As with all of the macarons had in this one sitting, the two biscuits were incredibly crisp on the outside, moist and probably freshly-baked inside. And the creamy stuff in between? Unexpectedly incredible. In the U.S., if something looks that good and is sandwiched between two biscuits, it's most likely to be made of mostly pig lard and sugar. Although the stuff between these macarons might be made of the same thing, it actually wasn't too sweet, too coffee-y, or too heavy. Actually, you might even say it was unsettlingly almond-y.
2: Réglisse | Liquorice
In short: this didn't taste like liquorice at all. Maybe an Oreo (a gravely American understatement), but infinitely better than an Oreo could ever taste. If liquorice did taste like this, I would certainly eat a lot of it. I guess that doesn't really say much, considering I do already eat a lot of it.
3: Vanille | Vanilla
This resurfaced non-existent memories of my mom baking in the kitchen for my birthday ("Why should I make you one when I can just buy one from Jewel Osco?"). And that's what this macaron tasted like; birthday cake. Smooth, warm, creamy.
4: Chocolat Pure Origine du Ghana | Chocolate Pure Origin from Ghana
I didn't know that Ghana was known particularly for its chocolate, but after biting into this one, I can see why. Almost like home-made chocolate brownies (but better), if I ever had the chance to experience homemade baked goods.
5: Citron | Lemon
Few things actually taste like lemons. Additionally, few things taste like the feeling of lemon juice squeezed out of the fruit. In this case, Laduree has somehow captured true lemon flavor and its freshness, something I experienced only once in my life: when a friend and I had a lemon sucking contest in a buffet restaurant that almost made my gums bleed.
6: Pistache | Pistachio
It's absolutely nutty how well this tastes like the green, green snack. Not very experienced in the world of nut flavorings, I like to think that the creamy, delicately sweet, and overly almond-like taste does the Ladurée theme-colored macaron justice.
7: Menthe Glaciale | Iced Mint
I originally thought that this was a very American idea, given its unnaturally blue hue and vaseline/vick's vapor rub-colored filling. But tasting it is like eating a baked version of the mint leaf. Unlike the Girl Scout Thin Mints or the Peppermint Patty, this dessert tastes like real mint. Like, almost-plucked-right-off-the-plant real. Or this-isn't-a-dream-like-Inception real. I guess the only non-real detail about it is the color. But that's forgiveable.
8: Framboise | Raspberry
So wonderfully tart and juicy. Like eating real raspberries. But warm, like a raspberry tart or cake. Or toast covered in jam as an after-school snack. Not temperature-wise-warm, but it just makes you feel warm. Is that what love is like? Could this be love? I berry much think so.
In summary, I would make a terrible food critic because I love everything I can stuff into my mouth... Yeah, think those dirty thoughts. But it's incredible to actually taste how well Ladurée captured the taste of each of these macarons. As mentioned, they have the name for a reason.
The strange thing about these desserts is that you do feel satisfied after eating them, however many you eat. Almost as if it's an effort to eat another one. Almost. With most desserts, there's an unsettling feeling in the stomach and tongue that makes you ask yourself, Could I really have another slice? But with these macarons... You leave very satisfied. And happy. Like, I was actually smiling while eating them.
They are, of course, mass-produced in one location and sent out to all the other shops in Paris, but I can't help but think that the secret ingredient must be love. Or preservatives.
I do slightly regret not getting more. This means I didn't get to try the rose, cherry blossom, chocolat banana, chestnut, blackcurrant violet, or orange blossom ones... But I guess all I really have to remember was the time I consumed sixteen dollars' worth of desserts in one sitting, and I'll be fine.
With only four days left in Paris and eight days before I return to my hometown, I can't help but feel reasonably unprepared to re-enter the United States.
[ ] Consume my first macaron from Ladurée.
[ ] Consume as many macarons from Ladurée as possible.
[X] Watch the end of the Tour de France. LIVE.
[ ] Learn the lyrics to one French song before I leave. OR, translate the lyrics to one American song into French (I've already begun work on Katy Perry). In all honesty, this was how I should have been learning the language.
[X] Travel to other French towns outside of Paris.
[ ] Recreate ADELE's "Someone Like You" video along the Seine and the Pont des Invalides.
[X] Successfully wander and drag my feet across each of the 20 arrondisments.
[ ] Buy tickets to Charles de Gaulle Airport.
[X] Find appropriate cake(s) for Host 2's birthday party.
[ ] Trap the mice living in the apartment with a humane mouse-trap (trap 1, trap 2).
[X] Visit as many famous graves in the Parisian cemeteries as possible.
[ ] Have one last night of tango and ballroom dancing along the Seine.
[ ] Find a Parisian romance. Note: Probably won't happen.
[ ] Update this with as many profound entries before my return.
[ ] Partake in Guinness in the Dublin Airport (and thus crossing off another thing on my bucket list).
[ ] Figure out what exactly it is I'm doing for my End of the Year Presentation.
[ ] Present said presentation in front of other Fellows who I'll meet for the first time.
[ ] Discuss the next move post-life-changing-experience with other Fellows and Fellowship Director/Office Staff.
[ ] Despite newly developed tolerance for stressful situations, panic for lack of concrete next moves.
[ ] Overcome said panic attack, then make incredible plans to work, travel, study, or all at the same time very, very soon.
Notice how, very similar to one year ago, how many boxes are unchecked. You'd think that some things revolving around organization, goal-setting, and motivation to accomplish them as soon as possible would have changed during a year like this, but...
... well. I guess you can't expect someone to become a model of perfection over 365 days.
In the meantime, enjoy a melange of deliciously incredible gourmet food I've eaten.
I didn't have this, but I wanted to point out that one liter of this cognac
The first time I ever recall touching the french language was in Mr. Thompson's Introductory French class in sixth grade. Firmly believing that I would never use it, I immediately dropped it at the first chance I got [after the final exam, C+, thank you very much], and never considered learning it again.
I've learned, over the course of the last two and a half-ish months I've been here, that a) one does not come to Paris to learn French, and b) the best place to learn any language is at the dinner table, in a debate, and in bed. I have the unfortunate news to report, however, that regardless of the French phrasebook I bought in Buenos Aires, my repertoire of sentences I can [somewhat] confidently say can only get me tickets to the metro, food in a restaurant, and a finger wagging in the direction I want to go...
... usually a highly offended and confused look from the person to whom I'm speaking.
Which, in my case, was enough to get by for two and a half months.
Dedicated with wonderful gratitude to my hosts, dance partners, and complete strangers who spoke with me, I present a list of the most interesting things I've learned to say in French, and their translations.
And, of course, the responses I've received when speaking them.
Je m'appelle Joshua. Je suis enchanté ! or Enchanté ! My name is Joshua. Iam enchanted! or Enchanted!
Interestingly, this is not the first sentence [or second, third, fourth, etc] that I use upon meeting someone. Maybe after the second or third meeting is when I finally get to introduce my name. The enchanted part is in response to said stranger introducing themself. And until then? I attempt to explain [in English] what it is I am doing in Paris.
Je suis un étudiant pour le danse.
I am a student of dance.
Not EXACTLY my reason for being in Paris, but at its basic, basic, basic core... Vaguely close enough.
J'habite à Puteaux avec un ami. I live in Puteaux with a friend. Not to be confused with I live in dirty whore water with a friend.
Also not absolutely necessary information people need to know, but I like to attempt to impress the Parisians with what I know how to say. Unfortunately, the only ones who ARE impressed are female and older than thirty-five.
Je suis désolé, je ne parle pasfrançais. Parlez-vousanglais ? I am sorry, I do not speak French. Do you speak english?
My default phrase when a flurry of French words are thrown in my direction. Although the person to whom I am speaking normally responds in English [or even Spanish], it's at this point Host 2 will appear out of no where and whisper in my ear, 'You've already said too much.'
Voulez-vous danser avec moi? Would you like to dance with me? Voulez-vous guider ? Would you like to lead? Je voudrais guider. I would like to lead.
The dance basics. For either partner or solo dancing, these have gotten me incredibly far in all the classes I've taken.
Combien coûte une tablette de chocolat ? How much is that chocolate bar?
I buy a lot of chocolate here. A lot.
Je voudrais ... un vin rouge, un vin blanc, une carte, une baguette, un croissant, peroxyde d'hydrogène, etc. I would like... red wine, white wine, metro tickets, a baguette, a croissant, hydrogen peroxide, etc.
Je cherche... I am looking for...
Being the demanding American I am, I've also gotten considerably good at stating what I want.
Merci ! Merci beaucoup !
Thank you! Thank you very much!
Bonjour, bonsoir, bonne soirée, Bonne nuit.
Hello/Good day, good evening, good evening, good night.
However, being the gentlemanly son my parents raised me to be, I've also learned greetings and farewells. Interestingly, I might not normally speak to things that can respond. As a mnemonic device, I greet and say farewell to nouns [sheep, macaroons, Paris, stars, plate, cheeses, etc.] as I learn their translations. Bonjour, mouton! Bonsoir, fromage!
Où est ...? Where is...?
The problem with learning how to ask something in another language is that you REALLY have to understand the answer. Unfortunately, whenever I ask for the nearest public toilet, the museum, a particular road, or even a monument, I receive a barrage of French words and a series of hand gestures that I can only assume to be French sign language. So I simply nod and walk in the direction of their last hand gesture. This, of course, only gets me more lost and late than I originally intended, but hey, at least I got directions in French.
It is beautiful.
I once wanted to comment on the atmosphere, the ambience, the aura of the dance room I was in, and I thought that this was what one should say in French. However, as a friend explained to me, 'Yes, that is how you say it. But no one in Paris would ever say that, because we complain about everything.'
I once was asked by a Parisian to say everything I knew how to say in French, and these came out. And with each one, he immediately knew to which song I was referring. 'Ah,' he would say, 'Like Edith Piaf,' or, 'Like Carla Bruni.'
Ah, l'été parisien, c'est romantique.
Ah, the Parisian summer is romantic.
The same Parisian heard me say this, and responded accordingly: 'That eez, ah, like we say, ah, a cliché.'
Ah, c'est trop américain, ça. Ah, it's too American.
Host 2 noticed that I tend to shut my mouth and look in the other direction when in the presence of other loud Americans. When I asked how to curse the Americans in French, this is what I got.
Ah, c'est une autre grosse américaine. Ah, it's another fat American.
I learned to say this only because I had crossed paths with a fairly petite American girl who complained LOUDLY at 5 in the afternoon: 'I AM SO HUNGRY I JUST WANT DINNER NOW.' When I asked how to curse the Americans in response to her complaint, this was the translation I got.
Le fauteuil m'étend les bras. The armchair reaches its arms out to me.
Possibly my favorite phrase, I wanted to learn how to say, 'I need to sit now,' but a dance partner said that this was the more Parisian thing to say. Apparently.
The idea of going to a Gay Pride Parade had terrified me for a very, very long time. Having gone to only one last year, I assumed that overly feminine men and overly masculine women would tromp around in heavy costumery or almost nothing at all. I assumed that everyone who participated in the parade must have been absolutely out of their mind. After all, who would ever walk for 6 plus kilometers in incredibly hot weather and body glitter?
So, of course, when the opportunity to perform in Paris' Pride Parade this year came around, I threw caution to the wind [such was the nature of this year] and agreed to be part of Aquahomo's dance float. Doing so would prove my assumptions wrong [another assumption in itself], or at least attempt to, and embrace everything the gay culture had to offer.
Instead of articulately describing what and who I saw, I present to you several handfuls of snapshots. You'll find realizations at the very end.
What's a queen to do when her float stops playing music?
Start singing herself.
Ah, c'est le fin! A la Bastille!
One major highlight: Watching Kazaky perform LIVE.
... Sadly, without heels, oversized scarves, or onion heads.
Reunited with a tango professor from Buenos Aires at his workshop in Paris!
Here's what I've learned from performing in the Pride Parade:
In a world laced with criticism and disapproval, only the brave love partaking in the occasional demonstration/protest to piss off some a**holes. The Pride Parade doesn't focus solely on being gay, or lesbian, or trans, etc. It's all about taking the time to realize the many facets that make up the jewel you are, and embracing them. You might focus on one, two, or twenty things that you identify with, and spend an entire day parading around in a caricature of that/those facets. And in doing so, you own who you've become.
Yes, there might be 60,000 people oggling you and taking pictures and making videos like you're the albino giraffe at the zoo, but you'd be surprised how much you don't notice them, or even care. Not when you're doing the things and showing off the person you most love.