My trip to Paris is one of my favourites because of the food and the history echoed in the streets and buildings. I loved the simplicity of the food or the complexity – never in between. I loved the market stalls, the daily shopping and the street food. I had several things on my list, but having a crêpe sucre was near the top. After a long day of walking, we found a takeaway place that made crepes. In my halting and pathetic junior high French, I ordered my crêpe and handed over my Euros. With the arrogance and insouciance combination that only the French seem to have, my crêpe homme carelessly and precisely made my crêpe while shouting rapid French back and forth with someone else in the restaurant taking really no notice of me at all. Then thrust it at me with no backward glance.
It was folded in half, then in thirds and then wrapped with parchment paper at the bottom to allow me to eat it. The sugar was slightly dissolved in the butter, and it was delightfully warm, and buttery – what French food isn’t? – and the sugar crunched a little in my teeth. What a fabulous and wonderful afternoon treat in the Paris sunshine overlooking the Seine.
Today, food is globalized. I am not talking about the carbon footprint or the drive to eat what can grow locally, I mean, travelling is compromised by the sheer availability of foreign food. Just pick-up any PC Insider’s Report to see special treats from around the globe. Long gone are the days where you could only get Macaroons in Paris, Macadamia Nuts in Hawaii, Strop Waffles in Holland and Cock soup in Grenada. When went travelling people would ask you to bring back some food type that just wasn’t available anywhere else. But now, it’s everywhere. We all benefit from authentic, delicious and well prepared foreign foods and treats, but I try to limit my enjoyment of certain things to avoid overindulgence and disconnecting food from its origin. I vow Macaroons will never be eaten by me again unless they were produced in Paris and I know the person who bought them while there.
That also was the crêpe for me. It was the perfect crêpe that afternoon in Paris. Why ruin that memory it with replicas in Canada?
Yesterday, I found myself at the Paddlewheeler restaurant with my Grandma – nice enough place, forgettable food, great company. After lunch we strolled through the market to pick up some items for my grandma. She is over 90, yet stilled mocked my knitting skills. Sigh. The New Westminster Quay WAS once a wonderful market. Individual stalls with family produced/raised/caught food. Each lovingly done. Similar to the hey day of Granville Island for those of you who know it. But for whatever reason the market was shut down. Of late, they have been rebuilding it one shop at a time. They have a small premium grocery store – like a less commercialized Whole Foods, a bakery – maybe family made?, a flower shop, and the best place of all “The Great Wall Tea Shop”. The great wall tea shop is this amazing place shop that features all of their teas in 10″ tins with magnetic bottoms. Each top of the tin shows a difference bird’s eye picture of a cup or mug of tea. These tins stick to the back wall of the shop, and pulled down when you order. It goes from floor to ceiling and is so striking, but I digress.
Crepe des Amis was there too. And for some reason, it struck me today – I wanted a crêpe. But I’d have to settle for a crepe. And seeing that they had one with butter, sugar and lemon zest, I could not resist. There was no carefree and indifferent Frenchman behind the counter, but a petite teen-aged girl wearing a ridiculously stereotypical giant red chef’s hats and an apron with the company’s logo embroidered on it. She was eager and attentive and quickly took my money, and then moved on to the crepe making. Determined in her approach, she literally bit her tongue trying to use the squeegee just right to cook the crepe – checking ever so often to see if it was done. This one too was folded in half, then thirds, and sprinkled with icing sugar. Both her and the owner/manager said in unison “Bon Appetit!” which such enthusiasm I stepped back.
I sat with Grandma and took a bite. Half dissolved sugar, butter, and this time the wonderful acidity of lemon. Made with whole wheat and all in all enjoyable. I let Grandma have a bite – just one, mind – and happily finished the rest before we restarted our walk back to her place.
It didn’t ruin my crêpe experience in Paris, it reminded me of it and made it better somehow because the experience itself as it was so different.
February 23rd Extra-Ordinary Event: Eating my Canadian Crepe – a wholly difference experience from my French Crêpe.