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April 2013


Food & Ardor: Free Admission


Chow. Fare. Eats. Bites. Grub. Cuisine (best French word, ever).  Slop. Provisions. Rations. Sustenance.  Goodies.

We all love it…well, except you weirdos who eat solely for the purpose of survival.

Pleasantly plump, like yours truly.  Thin.  Average.  Athletic.  Chunky.  Tall.  Short.

Food is always crossing our minds in some form.  We either love it, fear it, don’t trust it, or live for it.

Me?  I’m not a chef.  I view myself simply, humbly, pretty plain Jane.  I’m a woman of extremes, of passions – seemingly indecisive, but just yearning for room to fill to capacity and overflowing with everything I love and experience.

My mind is a racetrack, an obstacle course, a third grade playground.  Thoughts of walks in the forest give underdogs to a middle school slumber party, and before I have time to ask if I can play with them, they bolt over to the tetherball pole to smack around the hilarious away message on AIM from November of my freshman year in college.  Together they rally up the most endearing moments of my relationships and play Red Rover with that insane Couch Surfing experience in Madrid and the time I peed behind a twiggy bush in an alleyway in Poland; my childhood fort is left standing alone on its own team and loses.  In a flash, they all cross the monkey bars on their way to the tallest slide on the turf, taking with them all the butterflies in my stomach and the time I wore a hunter orange helmet while muddling in a jeep in the woods.  They all giggle and scream, pushing each other out of the way to race to the top of the slide and crash down in one big pile on top of my first kiss.

There is no indecisiveness here, only an index full of passion and nostalgia.

Over the past few years I have found that I can give life to nostalgia in the kitchen.

Have you ever had a Ratatouille moment?  You know, where you bite into something delicious and hitch a ride in a DeLorean back to one of the most perfect memories that recalls to your memory in that moment?  Or perhaps you’ve boarded a hovercraft and sped forward to an exotic destination you’ve always dreamed of visiting.  Maybe you’ve basked in the sun at the park and sworn you felt that beloved ex lying next to you talking or you’ve imagined yourself in Scotland on a rainy day.

If you’ve experienced any of these moments, you’ve experienced nostalgia.

I don’t know about you, but I can’t afford to hop a plane every time I want a moment.  I can’t always be in my childhood home, or on a Mediterranean beach with an attractive Greek man wearing linen pants and serenading me with a cello, back-dropped by an Adriatic sunset (yes, I just mixed three points of Geography there).  However, I can live in the moment.

And those moments happen in the kitchen.

They happen in every knead, punch, slice, pinch, garnish, sprinkle, degree, sear, mix, beat, fold, measure, leisurely pour.

This is a place of my experiences, my thoughts, my memories, my nostalgia, my recipes.  My delights as I listen to Enya while make pita bread at 1am during a thunderstorm.  My sorrows as I eat an entire Cadbury chocolate bar and mix a giant spoon of non-natural peanut butter into a tub of vanilla ice cream and swirl it around until my bad day disappears into a pool of melted Haagen Dazs.  My longings as I chow on a flat of fresh figs.  My quiet desires as I practice “normal ingredient” meals for the day I could be a domestic housewife.

Who am I kidding?  I’ll never be fully domesticated.  There’s too much intrigue, too much opinion for me to just sit back and make green-bean-and-cream-of-mushroom-soup casseroles all day, waiting for my husband in my pearls and vintage dress.

I don’t wear pearls.  I don’t do canned vegetables.  And chances are – if that day comes – I’ll be holding said casserole in a Le Creuset, wearing some lacy racy black get up appropriate only for maximum wear time of ten minutes or less.  Vintage schmintage.  Whoever he is, he may not like chevre and arugula, but I’m sure he won’t have a problem with it.

I’ve never been conventional.

I’m a good, wholesome girl.  But the golden sweat?  The yearning?  The flame?  The eccentricity?

Welcome to my kitchen.



I woke up this morning at 5:45 to the ethereal refrains of Enya’s “Deora Ar Mo Chroi“, the sounding of the last alarm of four that I set to drag myself out of bed to meet with my personal trainer on Tuesday mornings.  Still dark…Daylight Savings had mercy on me.

I opened my small window and was pelted with a barricade of cold air that had been tapping at my window all night, waiting quietly to come in.  I heard the wind twining through the late autumnal branches of the trees that have been begging to bud.


This is the stuff I love.  Upstairs, as the minutes went on, it was clear that the turbid clouds were suffocating the daylight.  I sat on the corner of the couch happily dipping my spoon into my bowl full of nostalgia and Co Co Wheats (60% DV of iron and 100% DV folate…who knew I was getting so many crucial vitamins and minerals as a five year old?).  As my roommates passed through the living room and I giddily soaked in the moody weather with fiery eyes, debating if I would choose to sit on my porch zipped up in my sleeping bag with a mug of Pero in hand, I rhetorically asked why I am so weird and love these kinds of days.  One responded.

“Because it’s moody…just like a woman.”


This taken yesterday with similar morning weather, I submit that it is uncanny how much the sky looks like the inner core of my soul…sharp and soft, a bit of a whirlwind blur, black and white, crooked and straight, dying and alive…a complete contradiction on most days.

Like a woman.

My mind somehow arrived in Neuilly-sur-Seine, a neighborhood in northwest Paris, about five miles from the city center.  It’s a completely off-track story on how my friend Annie and I ended up in this neighborhood, but let’s just say that I now know the following facts about this part of Paris:

  • The American Hospital of Paris is home to a crazy-eyed colorful-humored seemingly-drunken Scottish doctor who speaks French with a beautiful accent.  I was a fan.
  • I was able to enjoy the fact the nudity is not taboo in French culture.
  • Language barriers are irrelevant: being pushed around in a wheelchair by a dread-headed African male nurse is fun for all!
  • French streets, avenues, and boulevards may share the same name but be on completely opposite sides of the neighborhood.
  • This is one of the most gorgeous neighborhoods I’ve ever seen.  Tourists that get stuck in central Paris are missing out on the real heart of the people and city.
  • Deviating from plans that you already don’t have really makes for a great experience.



After the visit to the hospital, we stayed at a small hotel not too far from the hospital.  By the time we left, evening was falling and the sky was gray and misty much like it was this morning.  We were greeted by a super cute and chatty bilingual desk clerk who recommended a great pizzeria up the street.  First, we went to our room which had a great view of Paris.  We spied on people on their balconies and looked out onto the city rolling on for miles before us.  Also, the room was a real room with a queen bed European style (two beds pushed together), and a private bathroom…unlike the hostels we had been so used to for months (minus Galicia…Galicia was great).  We put down our bags and took a deep breath, grateful that I thought I had blood clots just waiting to rush to my brain.

Neuilly Hotel



We spent the evening taking the metro into Paris to one of the only 24-hour pharmacies, which happened to be near my favorite Paris landmark, l’Arc de Triomphe.  I picked up my super extra strength Tylenol with Codeine and we metroed back to Neuilly, meeting a handful of boys on their way to a party…a quiet Ben Savage look-alike trying to tame his hipster  friend clad in the skinniest jeans you can imagine and his talkative buzzed Jewish friend.  We walked up the narrow alleyways to the pizzeria in the quiet neighborhood, where we laughed and relaxed as the young Italian boys flirted shamelessly with us.  They even made our pizzas heart-shaped.

Heart pizza

It’s amore.


Afterwards, we went back to the hotel, sponging in the cool Parisian night of Neuilly-sur-Seine, drunk on happiness.

Crawling into bed at 1am, we made mint tea and ate complimentary biscuit cookies while watching an Italian opera on television until we drifted to sleep around 2:30am, the dim distant city lights hardly breaking through the translucent curtains.  At 5am, we were rudely awaken by our alarm clock, urging us to catch our taxi (so graciously called by the front desk clerk) to the shuttle stop, where we stuffed in a cozy van full of passengers busing out to Beauvais airport in the French countryside.  The blush sunrise turned the dewy fields to gold as we passed them by.

(Postscript: this isn’t Neuilly-sur-Seine, but the gorgeous sunset on the street by our hostel not far from the Louvre, and the view I had when I opened our hostel window on our first morning in Paris…and to think I almost didn’t take the trip.)

Parisian Sunset

Parisian Sunset


Peek-a-boo, Parisian Blue

Peek-a-boo, Parisian Blue