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.
Paris was on strike, but I didn’t mind. It was raining most of the time, but I didn’t mind. The sky was grey, but I didn’t mind. My feet tried to commit suicide, but I just went on walking. I was in love. I stayed for a few days only, but I had more than enough time to fall in love with this beautiful town. And its restaurants. And now that I’m back, I feel like Paris has left me, like it’s the end of a big love affair, the love of my life has left me for some other tourist, younger and more handsome probably… I’m in hell. There must be a support group for people like me, Paris Withdrawal Syndrome Sufferers Anonymous or something like that…
There’s pasta and there’s… nothing! If it comes to pasta, I lose all objectivity, I forget all about any other meal, I always declare I will never ever eat anything else again. Like the boy who cried wolf, nobody believes me, but it’s true, nothing beats pasta, nothing is better, believe you me! As a proof, I stop writing right here and now, there’s nothing left to be said.
The Swedes are very happy people. They have Abba and Anders Celsius, great people as Donald Trump would call them, without them we would know nothing about Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo and if we should put on a pullover when leaving the house or not, then there’s Queen Silvia, a very politically interested queen, she does a lot of charity work for underprivileged children, for the elderly and people suffering from dementia, there’s IKEA, too, I could not live without my BILLY book shelves, there’s Ingrid Bergman and Ingmar Bergman, Greta Garbo and Sofia Helin, one doesn’t need much more on one’s screen, there’s Stockholm and all these beautiful lakes to swim in naked, there’s Stieg Larsson and Arne Dahl to prevent one from sleep, then they know all about goals in life, as there are Pippi Långstrump aka Pippi Longstocking and the Nobel Prize, the most prestigious prize ever, if I ever got one, I would no longer talk to you just out of sheer arrogance (I’m kidding, of course I would still talk to you, I’d tell you all about my Nobel Prize, the night I got it, why I got it, how much I deserved it, and where I keep it, maybe on the mantelpiece), and last but not least (at all!), there’s gravad lax! If I were a salmon, I’d be deeply honoured to end up with sweet mustard and dill sauce on my toast, believe you me. Nothing is yummier!
Yesterday, quite out of the blue, I was confronted on Instagram with a photo I had posted years ago. Years! A fantastic little object of fine Swiss patisserie on one of my Royal Copenhagen plates. Obviously, I was still living in Zurich at that time, a time I was deeply and ever so hopelessly in love with everything the Swiss do to raspberries. At Vollenweider’s, for example, they sprinkle them with tiny pistaccio crumbs, des pistaches hachées ever so menues, just to enhance their aroma, just like what a glass of cool Sauternes does to strawberries, at least if we trust Sebastian Flyte, which I do, but I digress and on top, I’m quoting from Brideshead Revisited again, but any of Evelyn Waugh’s novels are forever stuck in my mind, so I have to ask for your forgiveness and to reread them all. Anyway, this delicious post had just gotten a new like after all these years, and by whom? By none other than the Vollenweider people themselves! I was most honoured to be reminded of what I’ve been missing in my life ever since I left Zurich… Damn!
Pardon my stupid unoriginal pun, I just couldn’t resist. Fact is, however, this salad’s recipe is originally from Nice, France, and secondly, it’s very nice a recipe, especially when served in summer on a hot day and spaghetti bolognese are just to heavy a meal to even think of. You might say now, that in November, temperatures are ever so moderate, and ask what kind of point I was trying to make, and in fact, you’re right, if served outside now, you might want to exchange your glass of red wine that goes ever so fine with for some mulled wine or punch in order to stay alive and/or unfrozen, but I still would have to remind you of the people from Down Under who are suffering from some rigid heat wave right now, so hot, they might actually wanna have their red wine served on the rocks. I have never quite understood why that actually is, they having summer when we have winter, something with the sun and rotation and blind sides and solstice and astronomical stuff such as that going on, but I digress. Anyway, salade niçoise, this lovely dish from Nice, France tastes fine in any season, at any time, with any ocean next to it, the Mediterranean Sea or the Pacific, but if you prefer some heat to go with it, just turn it on. Bon appétit!