Hello friends ~
This begins a series of dispatches for posterity and memory, and as a writing exercise, and of course to share some of this extremely lovely Parisian experience Linda and I are starting out on. I can’t guarantee future dispatches but perhaps…
Roast chicken (Poulet roti) is akin to religion in France. The French obsession with food is well known but until you parachute in and wade through any number of markets that dot the city you can only know this in the abstract. On the ground the scene is wildly abundant. Multi~ethnic, multi~sensory, and multi~dimensional. A gourmandistan with sounds and sights and smells to live and die and walk miles for. There’s a butcher on nearly every block.
At Marché Bastille, the outdoor market a few blocks from here, there are snails and olives and flowers and breads and fish and cheeses (more than I could possibly ever figure out) and there are butchers and organic farmers selling the most beautiful produce ever seen. On our first visit last Thursday the mood was cheerful from top to bottom. The huge bag of olives we brought home, oh lord.
Onto le chicken. I wanted to roast a bird French style and soon I was so far down the trou de lapin I thought I’d never resurface. It seems that the French revere their poultry so much that there are official designations of birds based on region. Just like wine. The bird that reigns supreme is from Bourg~en~Bresse, four hours south of Paris near Lyon. The bird, Poulet de Bresse, is, I learned, best for long slow cooking methods, not so much for roasting. (I think this is true, but the internet is a tricky realm.) In order to be so designated, a Bresse bird must come from that region, eat certain foods, and live free for most of their lives.
The next level down in the pecking order (see what I did there) is the Label Rouge. I had determined to get myself one of these red label chickens. I even saw them in the window at various butcher shops on my walks through the neighborhood, but in the end I succumbed to my local butcher. With the help of an intermediary I stated my need: a good roasting chicken for four people. The beautiful thing was no packaging. Our man reached into his chilled (glass door) cabinet ~ there were easily eight to ten birds sitting in there quite unlike the basketball shaped sheathed~in~plastic creature we in the US are familiar with. He picked one, thought it over, put it back and got one slightly larger. Wrapped it up in butcher paper and handed it over.
Back home, I removed the wishbone, trussed it, and followed an Alice Waters recipe. The dinner guests arrived, my beloved daughter and son in law, (who are making all this possible) and the champagne was poured. Then the red. It all worked. Thanksgiving in Paris 2022.
This perfect and lovely space is a bit of touchstone for us. A fifteen or twenty minute walk through the Marais and voila, a small, exquisite Parisian experience . Organic foods, great coffee, and a most gracious barista named Vanessa. On the last visit we spoke of baguettes. That’s for next time.
I am barely scratching the surface of things here, so I’ll be curious to see what sorts of things emerge in the next installment. But for now the word reverence springs to mind. And beauty. The scale of things, these massive and impossibly beautiful buildings, along with the little cafe you see above. The food everywhere. The Seine. Is it winding, snaking, flowing, coursing? At any rate it’s on its way to the English Channel and I have nothing to add that hasn’t already been said about the Seine; It’s everything. And the clothes ~ in the windows and on the people of Paris. It’s all quite something. You could even say it’s a movable feast.
PS. At Chanceux , we’ve just scored our first ‘baguette traditional’ ~ this is the much beloved, iconic baguette (government regulated) that’s just been awarded World Heritage status by UNESCO. protection. Reader, the flute is still warm.