mardi, septembre 12, 2006

Peruvian Food and French Books

Finally! More on both elements of the above title in a moment...

There were several lessons learned today, and the first was: if your first "meeting" for the day involves setting up a NetGear ADSL modem to work with a NetGear wireless router, cancel everything else. The Paris-boss (rather than my Chicago-boss, Val) came to the residences today with a replacement ADSL modem to fix one of the two wireless networks in the building. It was, of course, nowhere near as simple as it should've been, and we spent ages changing one setting and then testing, then changing another setting and testing, and then... Thankfully, once everything was finally up and running, he gave me a ride to the Centre in his car. Good god, is he a Parisian driver! He drives with that mixture of insanity and sang-froid that I both fear and admire.

Work was a relatively short day of rather straightforward IT support. I also took advantage of the lunch break (everyone else was gone anyway) to skip out and get some sushi at a restaurant around the corner. I got the Chirachi (Chirashi) combo, which was nice but the fish was sliced rather thin. Although the fish was mostly of good quality, you don't get the meaty portions of fish you get in N. America. I suppose I shouldn't expect fantastic sushi in Paris. That's sort of missing the point.

At some point while at work, I realized that today was September the 12th, which means yesterday was 9/11, the 5th anniversary of the attacks on the WTC. I found it somewhat surreal that the date had passed me by; in France, there was very little to be seen or heard about it in my everyday walking around the city. On my way home tonight, I finally saw a magazine cover with a photo of the collapsed twin towers, but little else. If I had been in the US, I would've been reminded every hour on the hour by all media outlets of the significance of the day. There would've been memorial ceremonies in public places. Ribbons tied to things to profess various feelings about the consequences of that day. Instead of moments of silence in Paris, there was the silence of everyday traffic.

And now, to the upbeat part of this post! One of the lessons I learned today comes in two parts: 1) it's really hard to find Peruvian foodstuffs in Paris; and 2) but it pays to ask around. Yesterday, I had asked a friendly columbian guy working at the front desk in the residences whether he knew where to buy decent ají (hot peppers/chiles). In particular, I didn't just want a selection of jalapeño or banana peppers. I was looking for a place where I could get poblanos, chilakiles, habañeros, and most of all peruvian varieties: mirasol (amarillo), panca, limo, rocoto. Nothing cures homesickness like food from a country you weren't born in! Well, I'm not actually homesick (this is Paris, after all), but it's kind of funny that "home" in Canada for me also includes food from Peru. Anyway, today this same person told me that he had checked with some mexican students, and they said they just used sweet green peppers, and then added a couple of little thai chiles to make is taste like mexican chiles. Hmm, workable but unsatisfactory.

Thankfully, I had also been doing some research of my own, which culminated in my afternoon at work. The day before, I had done a google search and found an old news article reporting that Hédiard, one of the most chi-chi specialty grocery stores in Paris, was carrying Peruvian specialties in recognition of Peru's distinguished culinary traditions. I immediately went to the Hédiard page and emailed their customer service adress with a plea for information. This morning, I got an email back, saying that, alas, they no longer carried Peruvian foodstuffs, but they had worked in tandem with a Peruvian traiteur(like a restaurant with an emphasis on to-go food) in Paris. The email included a link to the traiteur's website, Casa Picaflor, and the site listed all of the usual Peruvian suspects: all the hot peppers, soup and sauce mixes, even lúcuma powder! I gasped with such delight at the news that the doctoral student in the office across from me looked over to see what was wrong. I haven't made it to the store yet, but that's on my schedule for tomorrow...

My other big event for the day was that I finally went to Gibert Jeune to buy some French-language books My plan had been this: since I'm in France, why not read "French theory" in the original? I know it sounds masochistic, but I'm a doctoral student, it's how we work. I was also excited to take advantage of the livre de poche (pocket-book) culture here in France. Most books, from recent fiction to scholarly essays, are also published in small, hand-sized formats that fit into a jacket pocket or a small bag/purse. Moreover, they're priced at much lower levels, and Gibert Jeune stocks used books alongside new ones. So I spent about 250€ in total on 21 books of "theory" classics, including a ton of Foucault, Lyotard, Deleuze & Guattari's two-volume work, Lefebvre, Durkheim, de Certeau, Attali, and Bergson (and a few others). It was a bit of an ordeal getting the books, however. Gibert Jeune is so big, it actually sprawls across several locations around the Place St.-Michel in the Latin Quarter. There's one main 5-story store that includes some basic history, poli-sci, fine arts, literature, stationary, and pocket-books, but then there's also a humanities and social sciences store, a technology and medicine store, a foreign language store, etc. I made two stops and left with both arms heavily laden with books...

...And then I got on the subway. It was the same experience I had on the bus yesterday. This time, I planted myself in a corner of the subway car with my bags between my legs and the wall. I was safe and secure. And then some guy with a large guitar piles in (along with 1521392342084 more people) stands right in front of me and presses his ass right into my crotch. From what I could gather, this was not flirting, this was "It's crowded in here, so I'm going to momentarily suspend my French Personal Space Bubble and sqash you." I also think part of it was "It's really hot in here and my deodorant failed; perhaps you'd like to share this moment with me."

On the way home, I went by the boulangerie, books still in hand, and got a baguette (mmm! the afternoon batch!) along with a round "rustic" loaf. At home, I put my newly bought books onto my shelves with a certain satisfaction. I'll admit it, I'm a nerd. There's a reason I'm at U of C, after all. Dinner was the entire baguette (it was too good to stop) spread with hot mustard, rillettes, and cracked peppercorns. And then I took this picture of dusk from my window:

4 commentaires:

Mark a dit…

What, no Merleau-Ponty? No Lacan? No Asterix?

Baguette for dinner is awesome.

LMGM a dit…

Actually, I didn't get Merleau-Ponty because there were no copies ofThe Phenomenology of Perception. And I just passed the Lacan shelf and left it for another, less happy day. As for Asterix, I have no excuse. I'll have to go back.
On the other hand, I did get a book on Merleau-Ponty—a sort of Cliff's Notes—as well as some Frantz Fanon and a book by Jacques Attali on Foucault. Should be fun?

Travis a dit…

Yeah, while you two are trading stories about the vagaries of LMGM's selections, I was laughing/commiserating with Luis. The man with the guitar reminds me of countless people (all men) who would pile onto the trains in deep lower Manhattan on summer afternoons. I'd often be returning from fieldwork-related stuff in Brooklyn. Inevitably, my short stature would reveal its disadvantages when some, er, gentleman would raise his arm to hold one of the upper rails and thrust his armpit into my face. Breathe deeply....

LMGM a dit…

Yes, France is full of a strange combination of very tall and very short men. I attribute this in my own simplistic way to the mix of Northern (Gaulish) and Southern (Latin) French people in Paris. Whatever the reason, this means that 50% of the men on any given métro car are attacked by the armpits of the other 50%. However, everybody else seems to have a certain olfactory mettle that I don't have. I try to suppress a face (and usually fail) and then look around to find everyone else completely unmoved.