Week Thirty-Seven in France: Rose ice cream and a home-brewed IPA
This week's blog post is both a food diary and a real diary, documenting my feelings as the protests for George Floyd and against police brutality gain even more momentum in the United States. You may not care about my opinion or my actions, and I'm far from an expert, but I believe that the more we all talk about the movement and the impact it's having, the more power and influence we will have.
It's just one step of many, but it's important to remember that everything, including food, is political, and that silence right now is akin to violence. I will also be sharing some great Black French food and travel content creators at the end of this post, because while simply following one Black chef is far from revolutionary, another critical step in this work is to make space for and to uplift Black voices – all of us, at every opportunity. I'll be continuing to diversify my bookshelf, my Instagram feed, my recipe arsenal and more in the future, and I urge all my readers to do the same.
30/05/2020: J., who always goes above and beyond, came back this morning with not one, not two, but three chocolate croissants for me. Naturally, the remaining two were immediately devoured by his siblings, but that's his own fault for thinking I could somehow eat three petits pains before the rest of the household got wind of them. We then headed to the Saturday market to pick up a rotisserie chicken (swoon) and some cheese, and I got started on making lunch for the family when we returned. Nothing beats the allure of a juicy rotisserie chicken, which I paired with a simple but bright pasta salad – brilliant red cherry tomatoes, mozzarella, prosciutto and fresh basil, with a lemon balsamic vinaigrette (a riff on a Half-Baked Harvest recipe). In an effort to stretch our legs and maybe, just maybe, reach 10,000 steps for once, J. and I headed out for a cozy night walk in the "Swamps of Bruebach." After a quick pit stop to say hi to some cows, we started to meander through the tranquil countryside, where apparently, you can rent patches of land (feat. swamps) to go camping, etc. Alsace shocks me with its light sometimes – the sun's last rays were still illuminating the sky during our stroll, even past 10 p.m.
31/05/2020: The last barbecue was such a hit that we decided to host another one with the whole family for this week's Sunday lunch. Those beef brochettes, though... As the table erupted into a tough and lively conversation about the recent George Floyd and Black Lives Matter protests in the U.S., I was grateful for how much my French – and my confidence – has improved in the past seven months, because that allowed me to make my voice heard among the din and give my perspective denouncing police violence and racism, which was shared by others at the table. It was interesting to see how France is learning through the media about this movement and important moment in American history (while often, at the same time, disregarding similar injustices in their own country). I look forward to continuing our discussions, and I don't mind being known for speaking up whenever I hear something that I don't agree with – in fact, I welcome it as I learn and practice how to use my privilege to be a better ally. I finished the day bed-ridden by a debilitating headache.
01/06/2020: In the midst of all the anxiety and stress I was feeling – not knowing what to do, what to say, or how to act, being far away from the protests in the U.S. but wanting to help, overwhelmed by social media content and news, what about mistakes I've made in the past? – I chowed down on spaghetti and meatballs with the family, which reminded me of my Grandmom. I urged myself to not let up, to lean into these feelings, because they are nothing compared to what Black people face every day, and because it's a privilege to not have to think about racism. And because I should have been feeling these feelings a long time ago.
02/06/2020: After almost three months, I finally got to reconnect with some of my co-worker friends from my lycée. Worn out after many online classes, but still smiling and de bonne humeur, they kindly welcomed me, and F. poured me a glass of her boyfriend's delicious home-brewed IPA while we snacked on green olives, saucissons and flaky Emmental crackers on her sun-soaked terrasse and cooed at her enormous cat. Starved for human contact, I stayed several hours and headed home smiling and hopeful and excited to maintain these special connections, even after I no longer work alongside them.
03/06/2020: Another joyous invitation tonight – dinner at my boss C.'s house, who has been such a great resource and host to me here in France, and whom I haven't seen in months! On the dinner menu: tender salmon, incredibly flavorful rice pilaf, a plate full of wonderfully caramelized roasted fennel, and effortlessly flowing conversation. Some things I appreciate about C. are her high expectations, which can be intimidating, but so rewarding when you push yourself to meet them. As for dessert, J.'s sister and I had spent the afternoon making an insanely sexy pistachio and raspberry cake that we'd found on the Internet, which tuned out perfectly, moist but light, not too sweet, with pops of tart raspberry balancing the nutty pistachio. C. complemented our gâteau with mouth-puckeringly delicious homemade crèmes citron – basically, mini servings of the iconic lemon curd that acts as the star in all lemon meringue pies. Cheers to another connection that I hope to hold on to for a long time! Turns out Mulhouse was full of them.
04/06/2020: My first Thursday in several weeks without my online English Club was a bit tristounet, especially because I would have really appreciated the chance to discuss with them about the current events, but at least I made a fucking delicacy for lunch: spaghetti with peas and jambon crisped in brown butter. I realized too late (mid-bowl...) that I'd made far too much pasta, but when has that ever stopped me before? This week has also been busy with applying to different opportunities for next year in France – from a Masters degree to teaching classes at the local university. Fingers crossed that something works out for me so I can stay and make a life for myself in the country that I love.
05/06/2020: Dreams of the last beef carpaccio we'd eaten dancing in my head, I was overjoyed when I heard that T. and E.'s friend's were coming by this evening with even more raw meat and seasonings. To bring something a little extra to the table, I decided to riff on the carrot tart NYT Cooking recipe I made a few months ago – using in-season veggies. My (and J.'s) asparagus, pea, ricotta and feta tart was an aesthetic and instant hit, the caramelized green vegetables on top melting into the garlicky, cheesy topping layered on the crispy puff pastry base. Dessert was also far from disappointing: a scoop of locally made, sweet and floral Erhard rose ice cream topped with fresh basil and ripe raspberries from J.'s dad's garden.
Thanks for reading! I'm going to take the rest of this post to highlight some Black voices in food and travel – I've been looking for specifically Alsace-based bloggers, etc., but I'll need to do some more research. Stay tuned. Let's start with some amazing Parisian people!
First of all, my former colleague, food journalist Jordan Moilim, who has North African origins, posts bomb pasta recipes on his Instagram and writes for lots of French media outlets, including L'Express and Mint Magazine.
Jamaican-born Francophile Yanique Francis is the voice and face behind My Parisian Life, a Paris-based lifestyle and food blog promising no tourist traps. She also hosts a book club! Send her your email via Insta DM to sign up.
Little Africa Travel, founded by Jacqueline Ngo Mpii, is a tour company in the French capital that gives tourists an "authentic experience of the diaspora's impact in Paris" (Cuisine Noir) all while raising money and support for culturally rich neighborhoods like the Goutte d'Or.
Mory Sacko won the 11th season of Top Chef France, and is soon opening a Parisian restaurant with African and Japanese influences called Mosuke. He shares great food content on his Instagram, from fresh products to inventive recipes.
This is far from an exhaustive list, but these are just some of my go-to's as a Francophile. Follow them and support them, and hold me accountable for continuing this work!