A Moveable Feast à la Carte

Art-Nouveau-poster-Absinthe-Robette-by-Henri-Privat-Livemont

Ah, Paris! The romance of it all. On my first cheap excursion to La Ville-Lumière with my cousin Miss J. (innocents abroad!), I donned my sneakers and jeans at 6:00 am and read the Michelin guidebook aloud.

The very sensible Miss J. “raised” up halfway and plucked at the threadbare chenille coverlet on her spring-squeaky twin bed. She squinted. “At this hour, only my pillow excites me.” Then she pulled a tired-looking, grayish pillow over of her head.

“How can you sleep?” I exhorted. “Just beyond our window is a city chock-full of ancient bricks, chocolat, paintings, chic scarves, and tombs loaded with famous dead people.”

Ah, Paris! Where Sartre wooed Simone. Where Rodin poured his passion for Camille into sculpture. Where Abelard painfully suffered for Héloïse.  Where 500 yards from our hotel the Musée de Cluny housed the most orgasmic tapestries in the world.

Miss J. grunted, turned on her stomach, and pulled another pillow over her head.

No man romanced me. However, I had a love affair with the cuisine. Crusty bread, more cheeses than the population on Île Saint-Louis, fresh crudités, delicate sauces, crisp salads, delectable seafood, aromatic coffees, Berthillon glaces et sorbets. . . .

Finally, I understood why Hemingway’s characters smacked their lips a lot, analyzed every morsel on their plates, and sipped glass after glass of heady wine.

If asked to invite a disparate gang of five to a dinner, I would stage a private party in Le Caveau de la Huchette, every jazz lover’s paradise since 1946, and order à la carte.

1. George Orwell. It is only polite to invite a starving artist: “It is fatal to look hungry. It makes people want to kick you.”—Down and Out in Paris and London

2. Earnest Hemingway, well, because he is Earnest Hemingway. Moreover, oysters are my favorite. “As I ate the oysters with their strong taste of the sea and their faint metallic taste that the cold white wine washed away, leaving only the sea taste and the succulent texture, and as I drank their cold liquid from each shell and washed it down with the crisp taste of the wine, I lost the empty feeling and began to be happy and to make plans.”—A Moveable Feast

3. Julia Child because one is dead meat if one lacks the good taste to invite her. Besides, she always brings a lot of food to the party: “I opened the school’s booklet, found the recipes from the examination—oeufs mollets with sauce béarnaise, côtelettes de veau en surprise, and crème renversée au caramel—and whipped them all up in a cold, clean fury. Then I ate them.”—My Life in France

4. Marcel Proust because his obsession with a madeleine launched a thousand+ dissertations: “I raised to my lips . . . a spoonful of the cake . . . a shudder ran through my whole body, and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary changes that were taking place.”— À la Recherche du Temps Perdu

5. Owen Wilson because one must include a character in living color. Why not a hottie? “You know, I sometimes think, how is anyone ever gonna come up with a book, or a painting, or a symphony, or a sculpture that can compete with a great city. You can’t. Because you look around and every street, every boulevard, is its own special art form and when you think that in the cold, violent, meaningless universe that Paris exists, these lights. I mean come on, there’s nothing happening on Jupiter or Neptune, but from way out in space you can see these lights, the cafés, people drinking and singing.”—Midnight in Paris

“People who love to eat are always the best people.” But, of course, Mme Child, c’est moi.

Madame_Gautreau_Drinking_a_Toast

Credits:

Absinthe Robettec by Henri Privat Livemont

Madame Gautreau Drinking a Toast by John Singer Sargent

16 Comments

      1. T.K. Thorne

        LOL. Am working on a history book (civil rights days) and then I will indeed be working on another ancient days–a sequel to ANGELS AT THE GATE, in fact. Hmm have to see if we can take Adira et al through Europe!

  1. vanbytheriver

    You had me at “A Moveable Feast” !! My favorite Hemingway book, ever. I saw that passage you quoted somewhere and the next day, I found the book in an antique store in Baltimore. You have a very impressive guest list. Midnight in Paris is a much underrated Woody Allen movie, much like Vicki Christina Barcelona. He lost fans over personal scandal, but I was not one of them.

    Great piece of work, Catherine. ☺ Van

      1. vanbytheriver

        Sadly, they seem to come and go. Some of my favorites have given over to the decreasing popularity of paper books. The one in Baltimore is still there, I believe. A few pop up around the antique dealers of Lancaster County…which are many!! I sometimes see a gem at flea markets. ☺

  2. exiledprospero

    Pour contempler la fin des jours je dois, en dégustant des huître d’Arcachon et en buvant un Pouilly-Fuissé intense, aussi jeter un regard propice vers Paris.

    1. Catherine Hamrick

      Ah, bon. In me faut voyager en Bordeaux. Neanmoins, il y a deux restaurants a Paris qui sont mes favoris–Les Bouquinistes et Fauchon. De plus, on doit prendre des huîtres a Honfleur et Cabourg.

  3. Karen Lin

    One is dead meat if you don’t invite her! Ha! I lived for a year in Paris with a woman who spoke no English… I was her helper since she was somewhat disabled. In exchange I got reduced rent. Paris is EXPENSIVE. Anyway, I love Paris and even more so after they spiffed it up for the year 2000 celebrations. I lived in the 14th arrondissement, very residential, but they still had all I needed down the street for my dinners: on a budget that often meant constipating cheeses, blood sausage, and a baguette. But I wouldn’t trade that year for anything. Learned an awful lot about myself when there for a year on my own. Paris remains one of my favorite European go-to places for travel… have returned many times with and without the boys and other family members. Merci Beaucoup for the memories.

  4. Dan Hise

    I’m willing to venture that no writer ever recreated sensory experiences in written words better than Hemingway.

    Wonderful piece, Ekaterina.

  5. badfish

    What a finely-crafted piece of writing. I love the way you’ve inserted your words with the quotes of others and unified the ideas. Excellent! And interesting.

    1. Catherine Hamrick

      Thanks. Your comments always give me a lift. I was just re-reading your bio of the portable self. Adventures. In contrast, I feel a little like Thoreau who traveled the world around Concord–but it’s the South.

      What type of camera do you use?

      1. badfish

        The Portable Self…WOW…if I was going to change the name of my blog, this might be it! Love it.
        And we all live the lives we should, I think. My sisters have lived in the same area their whole lives.
        I use a Sony RX-10. A high-quality not-pro cameral with a good lens, but no manual.

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