Maigret’s Paris.

Paris in 1958 was very different from today, from the Paris I know. First of all, it was so very dirty. It was none other than André Malraux, de Gaulle’s guy for everything cultural, who had all the blackened historic façades cleansed, he wanted Paris to be the City of Lights again, the most important operation in urban architecture since Baron Haussmann changed the face of Paris altogether in the 1850s and ’60s, and there was quite some dirt that had laid up since then, believe you me (and by me, I mean my mother, she should know, she did live in Paris in the early 1960s). Second of all, one of my favourite areas, the Marais, was considered a troubled district, it was quite run down in those days, don’t imagine you’d have found any of today’s fashionable cafés and restaurants there, no art galleries, no stylish designer stores, no perfumed air emerging from the Guerlain and Diptyque boutiques, certainly no gays, not even closeted ones, instead you would find a butcher right on Place des Vosges, just like in Jean Delannoy’s 1958 movie “Maigret Sets A Trap”, and a butcher who let you witness his bloody business through his shop windows at that. It was a different time, one might say, I say it was a better time – or more precisely, it was a more authentic time, a time where there was not yet a Louis Vuitton store between the Flore and the Deux Magots to please people suffering from logomania in every possible spot, or otherwise Simone de Beauvoir would have had to look for another place to work and have her p’tit noir. By the way, neither she or Jean-Paul Sartre were very fond of Malraux, trop réac politically, and I think, she might have sensed the side-effects that Malraux’s polishing of Paris would bring. Who knows? Luckily, she died long before the Louis Vuitton people opened their store on Boulevard Saint-Germain.

French breakfast.

This morning, I felt very French. Very, very French. So, instead of having my usual toasts with tea, I had to leave the house to get some Franzbrötchen at my local organic bakery. They are not really French like a croissant, but the Franz-part of the word comes from the time when Germany was occupied in the early 1800s, when Napoleon had just invaded the country, and he was definitely a Frenchman, a Franzos’. Nothing lasts forever, and he went back to where he came from—later the French got sick of him, too, and sent him far off to St.Helena, an island so secluded nobody really knows where it is. Anyway, Franzbrötchen are part of the culinary leftovers of that time and I do enjoy them a great deal: a buttery, crispy, cinnamon flavoured delight to have with your coffee in the morning, and, in my case, François Truffaut’s masterpiece “The Last Metro”. As I’ve said, I feel very, very French this morning.

In love with omelettes.

My omelettes are all a disaster. They never look like an omelette should look like. They rather look like some sort of flattened scrambled eggs, strangely stacked on a plate. My omelettes aux champignons are the worst, I always overdose with mushrooms because I sliced far too many in the first place. I just can’t help it. Then why do I continue making them, one might wonder… I’ll tell you why. Because an omelette is the next best thing to a marriage proposal. And I keep saying yes, yes, yes, a million times yes, to them…

A salad is a salad is a salad.

The best thing about dieting is the amount of salads you’re going through. French salads, Greek salads, Italian salads, American salads, basically every nation that claims to have come up with an original dressing. You do need an awful variety of salads as there’s nothing but salad to look forward to: salad for lunch, and salad for dinner, lately, I even tried salad for breakfast. And since I like them best with roasted sunflower seeds (they’re so very crunchy und yummy, plus the roasting gives the salad an air of something, well, roasted), I even put our garden’s entire bird population on a diet. Why? Joey doesn’t share food! And neither does Clovis!

Thoughts on port.

In François Ozon’s film “8 femmes”, Danielle Darrieux declares most emphatically that her port had been poisoned, “on a drogué mon porto!”, she screams out. Of course, nobody did such a thing, she just needed some kind of excuse for her blatant misconduct in family matters. Now, every time when I have a glass of port, I automatically (and smilingly) think of Danielle Darrieux, that great French actress, that some time later in the film gets hit on the head with a bottle of wine by her daughter, played by none other than Catherine Deneuve. Strangely, I never think of Catherine Deneuve, the even grander French actress, when I have a glass of wine—now why that is, I wonder…

The best tea time ever!

I’ve been feverish and cranky for days now, I’ve been doing nothing but coughing and sneezing and complaining about it. You see, I am a victim of the worst flu ever. I had to spend New Year’s Eve in bed, and when I finally woke up from the fireworks, which were great as I was later told, the fireworks were over. Then I slept some more. And then, my mother brought me the best tea ever, some strong Assam from Mangalam with milk, accompanied by the best sandwiches ever, basically toast, cream cheese and some herbs. I can’t say that I feel any better, but I’m certainly a lot less cranky.

As good as it gets.

I really wanted to show you Berlin on a sunny day, alas, Berlin and I weren’t blessed with a blue sky. So, once again, I give you Berlin on a cloudy day. That way, at least, the elegant greys and beiges of the town are pointedly marked and wonderfully emphasised. Enjoy!