samedi, mars 28, 2009

I do not like this, sam I am

So this was an all-around shitty day, although I had the pleasure of seeing Janine, a friend from Berlin, for her birthday—the one ray of fun in the whole evening.

I started out the day by waking up later than I had wanted and feeling sluggish. I tried to get some work done, but my brain just didn’t want to kick in. I had very little to eat at my place, and so I ended up walking to the Alimentation Générale across the street and buying junk food, which had the unsurprising effect of making me more sluggish. All in all, I didn’t get much done.

Then I went out to see Janine for her birthday at an “English”-style pub near Etienne-Marcel, stopping by Le Pin Up to say hi to Fantômette as she kicked this latest edition of her monthly residency. Drinks with Janine were great, although I spent less time talking to the birthday girl herself (who was obviously in demand) and more time talking with a friend of hers from Lille, who was really sweet.

Near closing time at the pub (2h00), we settled up the bill only to find that there were three unclaimed pints. We did the math and figured out that it was probably a couple that had left much earlier, which didn’t leave Janine very happy, as she ended up covering the remaining pints.

From there, we headed over to Le Pin Up, where things started going downhill. While Janine was upstairs getting shots, I ordered a round of “Bubble Le Pin Up” drinks, which were a mixture of vodka, champagne, tons of ice (too much, in my opinon) and flavoured syrup. I ordered them with violet syrup, which is sort of the trademark drink of Le Pin Up, but when the drinks were poured, the drinks had a pink hue rather than a lavender one.

I asked the server if he had put the right syrup in the drinks, and he got very defensive and snippy. I tasted one and said that it tasted like raspberry, and got more aggressive and snarky, insisting that he hadn’t made an error, taking out the bottle of violet syrup and waving it in front of my face, and implying that I was too drunk to tell the difference.

Janine was here trying to celebrate her birthday and Fantômette was concentrating on her DJ so I decided to do the very French shoulder-shrug “whatever” gesture and not complain about it to either of the girls. Nonetheless, I’ll have to tell Fantô about it sooner or later, because I’m not paying 12€ per glass for shitty service in a painted-over root cellar. There are plenty of places in Paris for me to pay 100% too much for watered-down drinks, and many of them employ servers that are at least civil. Thus begins the LuisInParis boycott of Le Pin Up.

I had to make it over to On Cherche Encore… before the end of the night to say hellp to PanPan and Aclank, since the former was celebrating his birthday, but that I was held up by the fact that I discovered my cell phone to be missing. I searched everywhere around where I had put my belongings, and I didn’t see it anywhere. I distinctly remembered pulling out the phone to check the time at the pub around midnight, so the only other place it could be was the pub. Janine (bless her soul) walked over with me to the pub and helped me knock on the window, where we were able to get the attention of the staff as they were closing up shop. They insisted that they couldn’t find the phone anywhere, so I had to continue with my night with possibility of me having lost my phone (and all of my contact information with it).

I biked over to On Cherche Encore at top speed, but when I got there it was already the end of the night and both DJs had stopped spinning. I tried to ask if they were still serving drinks at the bar—I could really use one at this point—but the guy at the bar was apparently the second asshole bartender of the night, brushing me off dismissively before I could even say anything.

Again, I chose to pretend that I was in a good mood while I made small talk with my friends and bade them goodbye (and I was certainly happy to see them, so I didn’t want to give them any other impression), but I soon found the performance tiring and headed home, hoping tomorrow would be a fresh start.

vendredi, mars 27, 2009

Fantômette's B-day (part 2) at L'Hotel des Sens

After sleeping in a bit in preparation for a big night out, I headed to the market to buy a roast chicken (which has now become my fortnightly treat to myself) and then proceeded to feel very, very full. I barely ate anything else for the rest of the day.

I took care of some administrative stuff and also did some work on the revision of chapter two, but I also wasted a large part of my day trying to get my internet connection working again. It seemed to be a server-side issue, so all of my attempts were really for naught. The thing just came back online spontaneously.

Later in the evening, I headed over to a friend’s place near Châtelet, where they were hosting a little apéro in preparation for our night out. I met a few new people, got to talk to a few other friends, and had a surprisingly in-depth conversation with one friend about the music of Steve Reich.

I also had an interesting conversation with one friend about “party friends.” Arguing against the notion that “you don’t make real friends in nightclubs,” he told me about how he met his current close friends, all of whom he got to know at nightclubs and many of which were perfect strangers that he spontaneously engaged in conversation. I’m going to have to corner him for an interview one of these days…

So…… Hoooooo @ L’Hôtel des Sens

OK, I’ll admit that the name of the event doesn’t translate well into English, but you’ll have to trust me when I say that it was a big hit. This was apparently the last “regular” night at this location, which is returning to its usual function as a swinger’s club.

The evening itself was pretty much a non-stop series of intense conversations with friends and strangers (plus a fair bit of drinking), so I’m not going to recount everything. Nonetheless, here are the highlights.

I had a long conversation with a girl that I used to see in the techno scene back in 2006-07, but who was pretty absent from this scene this past year. I remembered her as being adorable, effusive, tactile, and talkative—all of which was still true. She was still really interested in my dissertation project, we talked about that a length, as well as more mundane topics like how much she hated her current job, the difficulties of relationships between people of different ages, and so on.

Right as we were finishing a conversation on tactility and touching norms in nightclubs, Julie Dragon appears in front of us. She was apparently going to do a burlesque / striptease / fire-eating act in a few minutes, so she was walking around the floor, throwing fake rose petals while wearing 3-inch stilettos and a bright read leather corset. My friend gave her a playful pinch on the butt, and Ms. Dragon did not like that one bit. She turned around, still smiling, and proceeded to rip my friend a new one for touching her. My friend apologized, saying, “Look, I thought you were a guy [i.e., drag queen], and they generally react differently to that sort of thing.”

That explanation didn’t go over well, either, but she (my friend) had a point. She had a set of assumptions about what sorts of touch were welcome, permitted, or at least tolerated, based on the nightclub context, the composition of the crowd, and the gender-expression of the person in front of her, while Julie Dragon had her own set of assumptions and expectations that were influenced by the fact that she saw this setting as her workplace. Both of them saw their expectations put into question in this interaction, although Julie Dragon had the institutional weight of the club (as an employee for the evening) on her side.

What was also interesting (and unfortunate) was how this totally deflated my friend. She was angry, hurt, embarrassed, confused, exasperated, several other things, but mostly there was a feeling of disappointment that the tenuous and vaguely-defined interpersonal links that hold a crowd together had evaporated so quickly.

A couple of hours later, I was dancing downstairs and this guy approaches me and says, “Hey, I know you! We’ve met before somewhere…” It took me a few minutes, and then I recognized him as the boy from Toulouse that I met at Batofar nearly six months ago (not the one I made out with, but the one that constantly appeared to be getting it on with his friend). I managed to remember his name, his occupation, and even where he was from, which seemed to impress him. I told him about how the night that we had met at Batofar had become an important ethnographic anecdote for my research, which he found pretty amusing.

As some random girl started rubbing up against him and he got nervous (he has a girlfriend at the moment), we talked about male-male tactility again. He pointed out that he and his male friends would get frisky with each other precisely because there wasn’t the (perceived) danger of cheating on your girlfriend, having an unwelcome advance turn into accusations of sexual aggression, or even have casual flirtation be mistaken for a promise of sex. “On se chauffe, et c’est tout” he said (“We get each other hot, and that’s it.”), claiming that these homosocial/erotic/sexual/whatever interactions allowed him to have fun and experience certain kinds of sensual pleasure while avoiding the risks associated with heterosexual courtship. Of course, there’s the risk of being mistaken for homosexual, having his tactility be read as desire (probably why this happens mostly between friends), or even letting the playful eroticism spill over into a more sincere homosexual encounter (Boys Gone Wild!™), but those were risks that somehow seemed affordable to him and other Parisian boys like him—which marks a pretty big difference with most American/Canadian guys I see at clubs.

By 5h30, I was tired and ready to head home, but every time I did, one of my friends physically dragged me onto the dancefloor and stuck a drink in my hand. I did eventually manage to escape their attentions and get mysef on a bike back home, but boy was I wrecked.

jeudi, mars 26, 2009

Recipe: Arroz Chaufa

Well, I’ve been promising a number of people a certain recipe, and it’s time to finally put it up here. I still intend on photoblogging this the same way I did my aji de gallina a couple of years ago, but that’s not happening right now, that’s for sure. Anyway, before starting the recipe a quick aside: in contrast to yesterday and the day before, I actually had good luck with fish, resulting in delicious roasted pink trout.

Arroz Chaufa (Peruvian-Cantonese Fried Rice)

Note: I’ve translated a few terms into French for my Francophone friends.

Also, you should start marinating the pork the night before if you can, as the pork takes on more flavor and becomes more tender if it has many hours to soak.

And also, chaufa (like other kinds of fried rice) reheats very well and is often believed to be even better the day afterwards, so this is a convenient recipe for potluck dinners and other events when you want to prepare the dish in advance.


  • 1kg or so of pork shoulder roast (or some other lean boneless roast); you can also replace this with chicken, tofu, or seitan (gluten).
  • Brown sugar (cassonade) to taste (at least a 250g/ 1 cup)
  • Soy sauce to taste (I use 2 parts light soy to 1 part dark soy)
  • 1 tablespoon of ginger, freshly grated
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 3 cups of rice, white and long-grain
  • 2 bunches of green onions (also called spring onions)
  • 6 eggs


  1. Trim off any excess fat or skin (which you can later fry in a pan to extract the lard and use in frijoles refritos) and cut the meat into strips about the length and width of two fingers. Try to cut across the grain of the meat for more tender pieces.
  2. Place the in a large freezer bag (sac congélation) and add the ginger, garlic and sugar. Add the soy sauce(s) until the sugar has just barely dissolved. The marinade should be very sweet. If you’re wary of tasting a marinade with raw pork in it, you can prepare the marinade in another bowl and then add it to the pork afterwards.
  3. Push out as much air as possible and seal the bag and place in the fridge. This must sit for at least two hours, but ideally you should start the marinade the night before preparing the dish.
  4. On the day that you’re going to make the chaufa, begin by preparing the rice. Put 3 cups of dry rice into a large saucepan with 4.5 cups of water and a bit of salt, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer partially-covered until all the water has disappeared.
  5. When the rice is ready, transfer it to a wide casserole or tray, separate the kernels with a fork, and leave it to cool and dry out a bit (this makes for better texture; if you like, you can make the rice the day before as well).
  6. In a hot frying pan with a thin layer of oil, lay down the pieces of marinated pork in one layer until the pan is full, leaving some space between the pieces. After 3 or 4 minutes, turn over and continue cooking. After 4 minutes, pick the largest piece out of the pan and cut in the middle. The center should be white or light pink and firm.
  7. Remove pieces from the pan and place any remaining uncooked pieces into the pan and fry in a similar manner.
  8. Once all of the pieces have been cooked, pour the marinade into the pan and boil over high heat until it thickens into a light syrup (when the bubbles begin to pile up into a mousse). Remove from heat.
  9. With a fork and a sharp knife, cut the pieces into small cubes and place into a large bowl. Pour the thickened marinade over the pork cubes and mix to coat.
  10. Clean and trim the green onions, remove any wilted layers, and then slice thinly.
  11. Finally, it is time to assemble the fried rice. Have a clean non-stick pan (a well-seasoned wok also works) and a heat-resistant spatula or wooden spoon. Around the stove, arrange the rice, meat, and green onions near you, with the necessary serving utensils. Place the eggs nearby, with a clean bowl and a fork for whipping the eggs as you work. Also, have the bottle of light soy sauce and frying oil open and within easy reach. And finally, have a large clean bowl ready for the finished rice.
  12. The rice is prepared in batches, so you will repeat the next steps 6 times.
  13. Heat the pan until it is very hot. Spray or pour just enough oil to cover the bottom of the pan lightly, and then add 1/6 of the meat to the pan.
  14. Reheat the meat, stirring constantly, for about 30 seconds and then add 1/6 of rice into the pan. Break up any clumps of rice and mix well.
  15. As the rice cooks, crack one egg into the bowl and beat lightly with a fork.
  16. Add 1/6 of green onions to the pan, 2 dashes of soy sauce, and mix quickly.
  17. Create an empty space in the center of the pan, add a bit more oil, and pour the egg into the middle. Tilt the pan until the egg covers the center of the pan and runs into the rice at the edges.
  18. When the egg begins to turn opaque and coagulate on top, push the rice back on top of the eggs and wait for 30 seconds. Then, break up the egg with the edge of your utensil and mix it into the rice.
  19. Transfer to your serving bowl and repeat the previous 6 steps.
  20. Serve and enjoy!

mercredi, mars 25, 2009

Fishy Failures, Part 2 (plus a concert)

So, a continuation of my fish-related woes today.

While I was teaching at l’Ecole des Chartes in the evening, I got a call from a friend, who had an extra ticket to a show by Jamait a French musician in the chanson française tradition. But the show was starting at 20h00 and I wasn’t going to get out of class until 19h00, so I was in a big hurry to get home, eat something, and head out to the concert.

Thankfully, my friend decided to go to the concert after the intermission and told me to show up at 20h30 instead, so the prospect of me showing up on time became a bit more realistic. Nonetheless, I had to eat quickly. “Thank goodness I made that ceviche yesterday!” I thought. More than 24 hours later, the acidic lemon and lime juices should’ve properly pickled the shark and caused the flesh to become more firm.

Alas, alack, that wasn’t the case. If it’s possible to imagine, the pieces of shark had actually become both gelatinously-soft and inedibly-chewy. It was the weirdest sensation, like eating marshmallows and rubber at the same time.

Anyway, I had read online that shark flesh gets soft when it’s beginning to go bad, so I decided that I must’ve been sold bad shark and gave up on it. I won’t tell you how much money I lost on that kilo of shark meat. Grrr.

And so I made it to the concert venue, La Cigale, in time to meet my friend and catch the second half of the concert, although I was feeling pretty hungry through the whole thing.

The concert itself was interesting. The artist, Jamait, is a bit of an anachronism, performing a 1950’s-era musical style, dressed in Depression-era attire, with contemporary emo-pop, fist-clenching emotionalism. I found the overwrought performance style to be cringe-inducing, but his lyrics were sometimes quite good and occasionally clever. I was amused by one song, “OK, tu t’en vas,” all of which can be paraphrased as “OK, you’re leaving me. That’s bad and I’m sad. But on your way out, can you take out the trash?” On the other hand, I found the melodies to his songs overly formulaic; they all sounded very similar to each other in contour and rhythm, and they all resembled the canonic repertoire of French chanson too closely. It was like I had heard all of these songs before.

Besides all of that, Jamait’s band was excellent. They weren’t always playing styles that I enjoy, but I was really impressed with their technical skill. The bassist at one point pulled out a contrabass and provided an echo for the singer’s melancholy song, perfectly mimicking the sliding inflections of the singer’s voice.

After the concert, we were both deathly hungry and already in the Montmartre area, so we went to my favourite salad place, Le Relais Gascon, and had massive salads covered in fried garlic-potatoes. So delicious.

mardi, mars 24, 2009

Fishy Failures, Part 1

Since the spring quarter students still haven’t arrived, I took advantage of the low traffic to work from home. Yay!

I headed off to my neighborhood market to buy my provisions for the day. At one fishmonger, I found shark meat, which got me all excited. Although ceviche, considered a national dish in Peru, is usually made from corvina (a type of sea bass), ceviche de tollo (shark ceviche) is a particular specialty of the capital city, Lima. I’ve only had proper shark ceviche a few times in my life—every time thanks to my mom finding some at her local fish market—but I’ve always adored it. When it’s properly made, it’s firm and a bit chewy, but full of flavour.

So imagine my confusion when I got home and opened my very expensive package of shark steaks and found that the meat was all floppy and soft. The shark skin had the usual sandpaper-like texture and underneath the skin was a thick layer of cartilage, but the muscles inside were so soft and squishy that they were nearly gelatinous. Cutting it up was like trying to handle half-set Jell-O™. Nonetheless, I finished making the ceviche marinade and threw it in the fridge, hoping that the acids would firm up the shark flesh. More on this tomorrow.

I also bought a fish called vieille (“old lady”; Ballan Wrasse in English), which interested me because it had pretty, brightly-coloured mottled patterns on it and yet it was only 3.50€ per kilo. I wondered what would make it so cheap. Was it full of bones? Too tough? Smelly?

That night, I roasted the fish on top of a bed of root vegetables and celery. As I was waiting for it to finish cooking, I looked up the fish on the web to find the English translation. In the process, I came upon a site that reported that some people found the flesh of ballan wrasses insipid. Hmm, that wasn’t a good sign, but I’m not one to shy away from seafood.

When I took the fish out of the oven and put the first forkful of flesh into my mouth, I immediately opened up my laptop and looked up the definition of the term “insipid.” While I had always taken “insipid” to mean something like “facile” or “stupid” or “simple,” it actually means “lacking in taste or character.” This is pretty much exactly the problem with this fish. The flesh is so soft when cooked that it doesn’t so much flake as disintegrate, it feels oily and pasty in the mouth, and it tastes like absolutely nothing. Seriously, this has less taste than unseasoned tofu. Even smearing it with gobs of super-hot French mustard didn’t do much to improve the taste. So, next time (if there is a next time), I might fillet the fish and marinate the fillets in something very, very flavourful and a bit acidic. Bleah.

lundi, mars 23, 2009

You is my candy ho

[If you've ever read Happy Noodle Boy, just replace "candy" with "elf" in the title to understand where this came from.]

After a relatively unexciting (but frustrating) day at work, I headed off to my favourite chocolate/candy shop in Paris, à l’Étoile d’Or by Denise Acabo. I’ve described this place before on this blog, so I’m not going to repeat my description of the store and it’s delightfully eccentric owner. Suffice it to say that I left with:

  • 100%-cocoa Bernachon chocolate
  • Bernachon’s caramel-filled chocolate bar (Kalouga)
  • One of the last “Porcelana” bars from Chocolat Bonnat
  • A bar of Bonnat’s amazing 65% “half-dark” milk chocolate bars
  • Candied violet petals
  • Candied acacia petals
  • A stack of caramels from Monsieur Guénin (the softest and richest caramels I’ve ever had)

So, yeah. That’s how I roll when I go candy-shopping in Paris. And let’s not get started with the macarons.

dimanche, mars 22, 2009

The world's most un-halal curry

So my plan today (after getting home at 10am this morning) was to relax for a bit, play some video games, and then make some awesome curry. I had gone to my neighborhood outdoor market on Friday to get some ground meat to make a ground-lamb or ground-chicken curry, but—this being France, after all—the only thing that the butchers had pre-ground was pork. Fine, I thought, pork is tasty, too.

The results were predictably delicious, if also unbelievably fatty. I’ll be eating bean curries and fish for the rest of the week to make up for this, no kidding. Thankfully, I hadn’t been eating all that much today, so this massive dose of pork still balanced out with my daily caloric intake.