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 the Russians made him go 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 felt very, very French this morning.
Quarkbällchen, curd balls, are best when dipped in hot coffee. They soak your morning blend all up, mine is an organic single origin from Ethiopia at the moment, and the sugar coat sweetens it ever so crispily. It’s really the best start in the day. Just make sure to be alone when you take your breakfast like that. Eating them like that, one tends to look like a toothless old caveman. It’s not very becoming. If you want to get rid of your partner though, you better start a curd-ball-coffee-dipping-diet right away…
The Flore. This is the place where Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre worked on their essays, plays and novels, literary milestones that made them rich and famous (well, not really rich, but very, very famous), all while having lots of coffee and even more cigarettes. As for the cigarettes, I cannot say which brand they were smoking and if I would have liked their taste, I’m a Dunhill kind of guy, the blue ones, but as far as the coffee is concerned, gee, no wonder they were so embittered about society. I hate that brew. It’s so nicely presented, the coffee is served in a jug, you got another one for your milk, hot milk on top, you pour and mix it yourself, according to your taste, you get an extra glass of water, so all in all one really can’t complain—but still, I do. This coffee is just awful, it‘s way too strong, it tastes like overdosed Nescafé, strangely bitter, brutal, a simultaneous attack on your taste buds and your stomach, you take one sip and you immediately have to light a cigarette to recover from it—and it takes a lot of time to recover. But that’s actually the only good thing about it, as a convalescent, you spend your time soaking up the atmosphere while watching the passers-by, just as long as it takes to let this wonderful spot called St.Germain-des-Prés sink in really deep. I can do this for hours at a time while that nasty coffee is getting cold. And if you should feel like re-reading “Les Mandarins” or “Les Mots“, there’s a bookshop just next door on Boulevard St.Germain, so you can start right away, right there where it was written.
You’re tired, you miss your bed the minute you get out of it, then you don’t want to leave the shower but of course you get out of this comfort zone, too, you get all styled up and into the kitchen, you pour yourself a coffee, and you look at this mass of vitamins and nutrients and beauty boosters you keep washing down with it and you ask yourself if it’s all worth it — and then there’s that very important beagle person who tells you everything will be fine. God bless him.
Luxembourg is a very important country to me, first of all because I spent my utterly happy childhood there, and then because it’s the place where my friend Katja lives—she’s also very important to me—which makes the place a source of constant joy. Each time she visits, she brings delicacies from beyond the German border, from a country near enough to France, Belgium, and The Netherlands to benefit from their culinary heritage. There’s Rieslingspasteitchen, Moselle wine, the best eaux de vie in the world, Framboise being my favourite, fine confiserie and patisserie from Namur, suppliers to His Royal Highness The Grand Duke, and then, most importantly, there’s coffee from Douwe Egberts, available in any supermarket in the entire Grand Duchy, which makes this country paradise on earth to me. Don’t ask me why, but Dutch coffee is so much better than any of the stuff you get in Germany, however high-toned the store, I just had a cup, au lait, this time, I know what I’m talking about. And Katja, if you read this, please come back soon and bring some more…
So, there I was, stranded in our garden with my Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte and a cup of coffee, the cake on Spode, the coffee in IKEA, but with no place to have it—after all the rain, the gusting wind, and cold of these last autumn-like days the garden looked a bit dinged up, like it had been in the wars, leaves everywhere, all kind of leaves, some of them from trees that don’t even grow in our garden, branches from God knows where, and dirt in all places far and wide, the garden really was a bit under the weather, even now the sun had come back. But I don’t give in, never, and if I wanted to drink this coffee while it was hot, I did have only one option, just like Tom Hanks in Cast Away, to get along with the circumstances, however unpleasant, and have my Nachmittagskaffee in this utter mess.
But please don’t feel sorry for me, I’m already looking at the bright side of it. You see, after coping so successfully with this afternoon’s tribulation—the cake was really good, by the way—I’m pretty sure now that I can cope with everything the future will bring.
When you’re a farmer, you’re familiar with the sensation you get when you take a walk on your land, when the cotton is high and the fish are jumping and all that, it’s such a bliss, you tremble with excitement out of all that joy, and at the same time, well, not simultaneously of course, but just seconds later, you’re shaken by fear and misgiving, you worry that the sun will burn it all down or that the rains will never stop and everything will rot, I know these feelings well, I know all about them, even though I’m not a farmer. I own a quince tree and a walnut tree, that’s all I got, there’s a cherry tree, too, but I don’t care for cherries too much, I leave most of them to the birds, but the quinces and the walnuts, these I cherish. Can’t wait to make quince jelly as soon as they’re ripe and to crack the walnuts in front of a fire in winter. And while I’m telling you this, I’m having a coffee and watch them grow, I might be of help if some storm’s ahead, or a drout, you never know, I’ll be around, just in case.