You wake up, not because you wake up but because the alarm goes on, you get up and out of bed and realize it’s raining again, it’s cold, too, you can’t find your favourite sweater, the mirror tells you you look tired, you resent that although it’s true, you can’t even keep your eyes open, you try to do push-ups nonetheless, stop at 1.5 and after that you’re just about to reconsider getting up at all. But then there’s the smell of freshly ground coffee and, even more intriguing, the smell of croissants fresh from the bakery. You dodder into the kitchen and find a nice breakfast served on your favourite china, the one with your best friends on it. You sit down, eat and smile. Life’s good, even at 7:30 AM.
It’s been just another grey winter’s day in Berlin, quite depressing. The moment, I woke up, I knew I needed something to cheer me up big time if I wanted this Monday to be a day worth living. That’s when I started thinking of tart. A very special tart, actually. A tart, I couldn’t bake myself. A tart, I had to get out of bed and run into town to get some at the KaDeWe, short for Kaufhaus des Westens, Berlin’s high-toned department store whose food halls took in some French people answering to the name of Lenôtre, the very people that own that very tart’s recipe. A tart so yummy, I would not dare to wash it down with milk or tea or coffee, not even champagne, just to make the aromas linger forever on my tongue. A dough rich of pistaccios and cherries to make it irresistible, some vanilla custard to make it creamy, a crumble topping to make it crunchy, and some maraschino cherries and powdered sugar on top to make it look fancy. This was the very tart that got me through the day. I’m still high on serotonine, so I guess, it’ll get me through the rest of the week as well…
Some time ago, when going through my secretary’s drawers, looking for some stuff for my tax declaration, I found an old wallet of mine, made of Louis Vuitton’s nice Épi leather, in a yummy chocolate brown, I instantly had to eat some, luckily I always have some bars at home, but that’s not the interesting part of my find. Inside the empty wallet was a single note, issued in February 1962 in the Congo, shortly after it had become independent, after the Belgians had lost their colony, and many, many a year before Hergé’s comic book “Tintin au Congo” had become ever so politically incorrect. A friend of my mother’s gave the Congolese note to me after giving account of her African adventures when I once visited her in Munich. She had spent some time in the young country in the early sixties, and during dinner she had all these funny anecdotes to tell, all of them much to her husband’s disapproval, who was sitting next to her when she talked about her African years but wasn’t part of any of the stories, she had only met him many years later. Males must feel important. Anyway, I remember most vividly the one about her arrival: picture a very young woman, very stylish, very vain, very concerned about her looks, having left Europe in mid-winter, in a top notch red bouclé wool ensemble with matching coat, made of the same red bouclé wool that one, too, and finding herself all of sudden in the tropical heat of Leopoldville, on a gangway and an airfield ever so close to the equator, lost even more in perspiration than in translation. You have to dress destination appropriately when you travel, she told me with great gravity when she handed me that note as constant reminder of her wisdom. I wouldn’t know. You see, I’ve never been to the Congo.
When strolling through Paris, one cannot help but find oneself out of money. It’s too easily too well spent. And I do not (not!) mean for these ubiquitous luxuries one finds nearly everywhere, with all these logos displayed on it, Vuitton, Gucci, Prada, Chanel, and so on. No, I mean the fine antiques and art stores you find in huge numbers on the left bank, the rive gauche, between quai Voltaire and boulevard St. Germain. Here, you find everything you will ever need for your Paris apartment, the one of your dreams, and if you don’t share that dream, for any other apartment, any other place on this world. Sofas, chairs, tables, paintings, vases, and clocks galore. All very expensive, but no logos whatsoever. If somebody was proud enough of his fine craftsmanship to sign his work, then you’ll find just that, a signature. But no logos.
In December of 1980, I ate my very first merguez on a Christmas market in Baden-Baden. I still remember it strangely well, for some reasons I can still recall that very unusual taste, although it looked almost like a German Bratwurst, it tasted nothing like it. First of all, it’s lamb, and then are Arabian spices in it that in these years weren’t too common; actually, if Baden-Baden wasn’t so close to the French border and hadn’t been such a worldly place since the 1800s due to its casino, merguez wouldn’t have been on a German Christmas market menu, trust you me, no chance, none whatsoever. Today, however, you get them everywhere. Even at Aldi, Germany’s cheapest of supermarkets. Times do change, and sometimes even for the better. And so does my routine: instead of the hummus I usually serve merguez with, I had them with homemade ratatouille today. Really good a combination.
It just so happened that some days ago, when temperatures were still a little higher, I felt like pasta for lunch but didn’t have much time to prepare a complicated sauce, you know that kind of Bolognese that needs a day or two to develop all of its aroma or that sauce that Sophia Petrillo from the Golden Girls starts cooking days in advance and that therefore needs a very special occasion. This day’s lunch, however, was no special occasion at all, nor had it been a special day, I was just hungry and so I improvised and made a cold sauce from freshly cubed tomatoes, olive oil from Sicily, and lots of basil. It looked so yummy though that I thought I should immediately post it on Instagram. Now, that freshly invented sauce of mine needed a name. As it consisted of the two main ingredients of Insalata Caprese, apart from the third one, namely mozzarella, I named my dish Spaghetti Caprese. Of course, shortly after I had posted my lunch, some guy on Instagram would correct me and tell me that Italians called it Spaghetti alla Litigata. Quite humiliating, don’t you think? One is so proud of one’s pasta, done on a whim, just like that, from the hip and ever so yummy, and then one is outed as a Non-Italian!
Fall is near, autumn, too. Even cappuccino cups remind us ever so ostentatiously that summer will soon be over; way too soon, if you ask me. Summer, however, fights back big time; the moment, I took this photo, temperatures resembled the ones of a heatwave, 32 degrees Celsius. But, alas, we cannot be fooled, can we?