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Saturday, January 21, 2006

when everything turns to gold

I often have my head in the clouds.

This morning I walked up to the hairdresser’s, eyes locked on the blue sky, trying to figure out why the sun only seems to show up on the weekends in Paris.

Soon after I was racing out of the hairdresser's towards the metro, my kitten heels clicking against the pavement, my hair lighter and flapping in the wind.

I met Harold at the Gare de l’Est and we took off to a nearby neighborhood filled with Indian restaurants, grocery stores and boutiques.

My pupils enlarged at the sight of the gold jewelry, the colorful saris, the boxes of fish on the sidewalk, and stores packed with bulk bags of curry, paprika, cumin, rice and beans. Porcelain skinned Parisians were replaced with a variety of dark faces, and the smell of baguettes was replaced with that of chapatti and poppadoms.

Focused on food as usual, we decided to find a restaurant. We settled on a 100% vegetarian restaurant with a photograph of a blue baby wearing gold jewelry and an attractive menu. The restaurant was full of Indians, a few Parisians, and had one table to spare.

Wanting to taste everything available we shared two large dishes: one with poppadom, served with a side of spicy eggplant with tomatoes and a yoghurt dip; and another dish with a large rice crepe stuffed with curried potatoes, served with a side of spiced coconut and curried vegetables. Everything came with mounds of exotic rice, laden with beans, peas and spices.

Between bites and groans of pleasure we shared sips of a thick banana smoothie. We proceeded to finish the feast with a dessert that tasted like a marinated doughnut, and a mug of sweet and creamy chai tea.

The meal was amazing. Fresh. Packed with flavor. A sigh of relief from the simple children's food I'd been cooking all week. What’s more, the entire feast came up to 19 euros. You can pay more than that for a salad and a Perrier in Paris.

We waddled our way out of India town towards le Parc des Buttes-Chaumont. Les Buttes-Chaumont is the only garden in Paris that isn’t overly manicured and cut to perfection. Instead, a sunken boat sits in a large pond, and nature grows wild everywhere. ‘Buttes’ translates to hills, which the park is full of. You can hike up any one of these tall, grassy hills to admire the rooftops of Paris and dream of the day you can fly.

When the air started to turn cool, we walked out the park, where we passed a smiling bride and her wedding party, a Carrousel, carnival games and a row of ponies being led down the path.

We took a bus to la Place de la Republique, where we bought a large bag of sweet and sour candy from a street vendor, and walked to his aunt’s apartment with sugar coated fingers. We waited for his aunt in the stairwell, reading prose by an Indian writer. She arrived soon after with another cheeky French woman, and allowed us into the apartment for tea, coffee, good humor and eventually aperitifs.

With the arrival of aperitifs-a port wine-came Harold’s cousin with the interminable smile, and a photographer friend of the family, donned in a black suit jacket and hat.

With the aperitif flowing, so was the conversation, covering every subject from the importance of the size of a man’s manhood, to starting a revolution. No subject was taboo, and I was comfortable as ever, lounging back on a large floor pillow and laughing into my port. When Harold’s aunt hugged her son tight for daring to dream of a freer world, I knew I was in a good place.

I left with an invitation for lunch and wanderings next Sunday, an invitation to pose for the photographer, and the satisfaction that comes from good company and conversation.

When I arrived back at my apartment, a small letter from Canada had been slipped under my door.

I closed my door, closed up the day, and said goodnight to a day drenched in gold.

lovers in the light
parcs des buttes-chaumont


Blogger Sky said...

Sounds like you were in a South Indian restaurant and had bindi masala (okra curry) and a dosa (crepe with spiced potatoes). Next time try the mango lassi, a mango yogurt drink which is delicious.

I love Kabuli nan, a bread filled with nuts and cherries, and papdi chat, an appetizer with a yummy tamarind sauce over chopped tomatoes, onions, and potatoes, layered on pappadams, all toppped with cilantro. Bindi masala, the okra curry, is my true favorite.

This delicous food is but one example of the fringe benefits of my marriage to my exotic Indian husband. Among the many perks he is also a fabulous cook!

We must find out where "India town" is in Paris. When we fly to India from the east coast we will spend some time in Paris.

I love reading about your wonderful ventures in the city. Your writing is so descriptive, the energy is palpable, and your life is, indeed, washed in gold.

8:15 PM  
Blogger Gillian Young said...

That was exactly what we had, bindi masala, a dosa and a banana lassi! The names didn't quite stick to my memory but you've definitely got it. I wanted the mango lassi, but my friend had too many good memories of banana lassis from his travels in India. But next weekend we're going back, so mango lassi it will be.

This would be a beautiful culture to marry into. For future reference, "India town" in Paris is scattered around Gard du Nord.

Thank you for your kind words and clarification of what I was eating!

12:26 AM  

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