Cinnamon and snow.

Cinnamon, the one from Ceylon, is my favourite seasoning in winter, as far as I’m concerned, it needs cold temperatures to develop its charm, and some apples from our garden, slightly sour and ever so organic apples. All through winter, my family’s entire house smells of my mother’s cinnamon-apple-pies, flanked by some roses from the hall, like an edible version of Estée Lauder’s Youth-Dew perfume. Anyway, when we were having them some time ago, with tea of course, they’re best with some strong tea, it started snowing, which always puts a smile in my face, and then it started snowing heavily, really heavily, and then I stopped smiling and started worrying if I would make it to the station to get my train to Berlin. There were no more cars on the streets. Frozen traffic. Thanks to the only taxi company that hadn’t given up, I made it to the station, I enjoyed a 10 km/h one-man show and was deeply impressed by the driver’s unyielding performance, he laughed in the snow’s face, and it wasn’t a pretty face—if Napoleon had been surrounded by such hardy people and striving, the Russians would speak French today. But I would have made it on time no matter what though, as my train arrived four hours late. Apparently, Napoleon’s soldiers were all reborn as Deutsche Bahn engineers.

Pepper up!

Ever since I can remember, I’ve been crushing white pepper on everything I eat. Everything hearty, I mean, I wouldn’t dare to pepper up a perfectly good crème brûlée, of course. Anyway, its spicy aroma lifts up everything else, right into culinary heaven, one might say—forgive my being so enthousiastic about it, but you can transform the stalest of store-bought ravioli into a fine dish with just a bit of olive oil and some freshly crushed pepper, don’t be shy, one cannot overdose, and with all that puristic allure that comes with a meal like this, you might even appear as a hell of a cook. And if they ever find out there’s some incredibly healthy stuff enclosed in peppercorns, I will make it to my 150th birthday. At the very least!

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 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.

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…