Wednesday, February 26, 2014

how to be mindful

Did I tell you I went to a psychic last month? I did, after enjoying plenty of wine and cheese with Catherine. We were on our way to Grom because we hadn't yet reached our dairy intake goal for the day. The psychic smiled and invited us in (as she probably does to to all passerbys). But, in our tipsy state of being, we decided to go along with it. Catherine teared up at the accuracy of her reading. Mine seemed less so. Yet the psychic did mention two inevitable occurrences-to-be: a big move and financial success. As a full-time student, the latter could very well represent a regular paycheck of more than zero dollars. Woot, woot. I have lots to look forward to.
In all seriousness though, she foresaw correctly. I will relocate to... somewhere, for a job. Knowing that fact has made being in Paris again all the more special. I've found myself living in every moment and interaction so much more; a night at Le Perchoir comes to mind: It began with a Pisco Sour and reminiscing about pisco-drenched memories. Lorelei and I continued to a casual fête après.
As much as that in and of itself is bittersweet, it also makes me appreciate my favoritest thing about being abroad: wonder, and the mindfulness it brings. I hope I'm able to hold onto it wherever I end up in my good fortune ;). Taking note of these zen habits now:
  1. Do one thing at a time.
  2. Be present, especially when talking with someone.
  3. Eat slowly and savor your food.
  4. Make cleaning become meditation.
  5. Keep practicing.

Monday, February 24, 2014

knit + tea goûter

Yesterday, I went to a tea party. I'd thought I was going to Katie's apartment to learn how to knit (a pastime I surely once believed to be only of old ladies), and instead spent four hours enjoying green-jasmine tea, Earl Grey cake, lavendar scones, clotted cream, raspberry jam, and un gateaux au chocolat. It was basically a little girl's dream come true in the company of six inspiring women.
They proved my entrepreneurial expat theory true again, with new Australian, British, and Taiwanese applications. And as I walked home, coming down from my sugar high, I couldn't help but think how much I've grown into myself since coming to Paris, too.
I have yet to accomplish any great success, at least in my mind, but I recently feel certainty in an "I'm onto something" sense (thesis-wise and not). Just as we can only work with tangled yarn by knitting past the knots, so is true in life. Granted, I'm only familiar with such wisdom grace â word of mouth... but still. We intend to actually knit next time. For now, there's a sweetness to our hopes.
"Some periods of our growth are so confusing that we don't even recognize that growth is happening. We may feel hostile or angry or weepy and hysterical, or we may feel depressed. It would never occur to us, unless we stumbled on a book or a person who explained to us, that we were in fact in the process of change, of actually becoming larger, spiritually, than we were before. [...] Those long periods when something inside ourselves seems to be waiting, holding its breath, unsure about what the next step should be, eventually becomes the periods we wait for, for it is in those periods that we realize that we are being prepared for the next phase of our life and that, in all probability, a new level of the personality is about to be revealed." -Alice Walker, Living By the Word

Saturday, February 22, 2014

new american

I went out for French food once while I was home in New York--to Saint-Georges with my little brother. I saved enjoying Mexican cuisine for Christmas Eve and the country itself. Otherwise, I just sought out pizza, sushi, my mom's cooking, and New American. Those last two are difficult to come by in Paris. Understandably so, I suppose! Especially as 'New American' isn't exactly defined.
My thesis has evolved since I first announced my research in detail. For starters, I'm not going to be able to do a study of both New York and London. There simply isn't enough time. I've had to narrow my cuisine-focus as well. So, rather than limit myself to food of a particular ethnicity, I've decided to tackle the opposite. Who, what, where, why, and how is 'New American' cuisine? And what does it reveal about the changing face of America? I'm hoping my findings will be applicable elsewhere; like, say, neo-bistros.
In addition to savoring time with friends and family, I also visited multiple New American restaurants, whether they'd been notably identified by print/online publications or defined themselves as such. The fact that I "visited" them (versus "dined at") is important. An expensive menu seem to be one of the most common characteristics of New American eateries. In essence, socio-economic or class exclusion may be more prevalent than anything race-related. Other shared traits: chef celebrity and local/organic sourcing.
Interesting stuff... for which I was beyond relieved to receive right-on-track validation from my professor this past week. I even walked away with a bi-monthly research to-do list! Also, lucky for my Parisian social life, there's more to me than nerdiness. Top new haunts include Maison F and Lockwood. Enjoying them with friends as great as mine is recommended. Happy weekend :).

Tuesday, February 18, 2014


Inspired by Valentine's Day (and each other), most, if not all of my online haunts are publishing articles on love and marriage. I've become very well-versed in related findings and opinions as a result. Just yesterday, I tweeted a quote from a lesser controversial piece by Alex Brueckner: "the feeling of overwhelming relief and joy that accompanies seeing someone after a long separation." Beautiful explanation of the French sentiment, retrouvailles, isn't it? I, too, am fascinated by these words that cannot be translated.
I've felt many of them as well, in the romantic sense and not. Spending so much time at home, for instance, reminded me of all the reasons why I miss my family and New York-based friends. It was a refreshing comfort to be in their company for such a long time.
Perhaps more so than any previous visit, I was really upset to say goodbye. And yet... Paris has re-embraced me with such affection. This week and the past weekend booked up with little effort. My sweet friends and I were able to pick up right where we left off.
Sunday afternoon, I met Rachael and Lorelei at Artisan for a leisurely brunch. 'Twas the first time this favorite place of mine was serving it. Unsurprisingly, our mezcal Bloody Marys, croque monsieurs, and crêpes were amazing. My favorite part though, besides the food and drink and even conversation, was the affirmation of "I missed you"s. It always is the people that make a place special. Yes, I'm happy to be reunited with those that make Paris for me. I'll return to the US (for my best friend's wedding!) soon enough.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

the birthplace of tequila

I find it disappointing how often cosmopolitanism doesn't represent that which is 'cultured', or 'worldly', or better yet, 'open minded'. Still we continue to use it so frequently, and with such vigor. Paris is cosmopolitan. New York is cosmopolitan. Guadalajara... ? The hierarchal distinction was on my mind a lot while visiting family in rural Mexico. As per usual, I blame my thesis research :).
Anyway. I've been back in the city of haute cuisine for a mere four days now, and I'm already craving street-side tacos; preferably the ones my parents and I stopped for on our way to "the city" (as my dad called it) over two weeks ago. Gosh those were good. Then again, I also recall being excited to be in Guadalajara as I enjoyed their deliciousness. Not because, as my mom argued, we've flown in and out dozens of times without having ever seen it, but rather because tenía ganas for a cosmopolitan dining experience.
Both of our bratty desires were appeased in our last 24 hours in Mexico. With the preloaded directions on my iPhone, I directed my dad to Perla Central, a cool boutique hotel my mom had booked last minute. Then, we walked to the historic center, took a bus tour, bought souvenir in Tlaquepaque, happy hour-ed with corn, queso, guacamole, and margaritas, and eventually, dined at Cocina 88.
Dinner was exquisite. Soon after arriving at the "turn-of-the-century mansion", a server came by our table and asked us to follow him. We chose a catch-of-the-day (for my mom and me) and a cut of beef (for my dad) from a butcher case. Next, we selected a wine straight from their wine cellar; our first Mexican wine. The live music began just as our appetizers arrived. The lime soup, in particular, was amazing. The singer and band were as well. After eating our meals, we sat there with coffee/tea just to keep listening.
"What a day", I reflected as we drove to the airport the following morning. We spent such a short amount of time well. The contrast of traditional and contemporary, wealth and... not, was incredible. It reminded me of How Tacos Explain Mexico's Labor Market.
In Mexico, it seems you are where you eat. Mexico City’s young professionals dine at a mix of modern, formal restaurants and old-school informal street stands. Investors are opening a new wave of world-class restaurants in many neighborhoods in Mexico’s capital city, targeting the growing budgets of the city’s upwardly mobile young professionals. But the formal economy isn’t robust enough to provide jobs for the entire workforce. Like meat in an over-stuffed taco, many people don’t fit into the formal sector and fall out to the sidelines.
I'm no expert of economics, but this trip and my research has me questioning so, so much. Tequila originated in the state of Jalisco for which Guadalajara is the capital. It's consumed all over the world. I happen to love it. But, tequila isn't comparable to wine. One is more respected than the other. And I suppose craft beer falls somewhere in the middle? Cosmopolitan food for thought maybe.

Friday, February 14, 2014

under repair

Forgoing frugality, I treated myself to a cab ride from Gare du Nord yesterday. I typed in the code to my apartment building without thought, and 14 hours after saying goodbye to my parents at New York's JFK airport, entered my petit flat for the first time in two months. That is, once I'd walked up six flights of stairs with my carry-on luggage. Our rickety elevator is finally being repaired! Yay. It took me another three trips to lighten my suitcase enough to drag it up, too. Thank you for the warm welcome back, Paris.
The absurdity of my arrival made me laugh out loud. Since then, I've unpacked, cleaned, and dined nearby with the Rachael. It feels weird to be back; a good weird. Everything is so distantly familiar. (I phrased it in my head that way as I grocery-shopped this morn). Even still, as I readjust to time and Frenchness this weekend, I've also made plans to belatedly celebrate 'Galentine's Day'.
So, Happy Valentine's Day to you! I hope you delight in wine and chocolate [and pizza] with someone(s) you care about tonight.
Though I'll spend mine with Amy and Lorelei, my parents are probably technically my Valentines this year. They did thoughtfully send me off with perfume, chocolate kisses, these sneakers (in red), and the sweetest card. I basically miss them already. And now, to end on a not-so-sappy note, here are some charitable ways to spread the love today with UNICEF and the Case Foundation. À tout !

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

language comes back to you

Being home was just as significant as predicted... but I couldn't have anticipated the 'peace of mind' it'd send me off with. Even still (to continue with the vague-ness), now I'm not sure about Paris. Gosh I hope I fit as well as I felt I had before. It'll probably take a bit of conscious practice; much like reviving ma français will. Anyhow, as I wrap my head around that (and fly across the Atlantic), I'd like to share a timely piece by Annelies, a talented cook and wordsmith whom I've had the pleasure of meeting multiple times:
Language comes back to you--it’s a truth universally known, but often forgotten. You can also pick up conversations where you began them with cities previously visited.

For some, Paris plays the part as “city of lights” with the romance tropes that we who hunger for meaning might find under any rock we upend so long as it’s in the Tuileries. I tend to think of Paris more as a place of awakening.

On my second trip to Paris and with only a handful of days to breathe in the aroma of freshly baked bread from the nearby boulangerie or to “lick the windows” while window-shopping, I set off on my own as a single woman traveler. The hotel had been procured for its prime location near the opera house and because Oscar Wilde had darkened its doors. I had been in a bit of a crisis and felt a trip to Paris would sort it all out. Then again, I am often in these crises when I haven’t been writing.

Stowed away in my carry-on, I toted a small book of poetry by Rilke, a journal, blank postcards and colored pencils that would be my prompts to get back into the process. During this season of life, I had become obsessed with trying to find my writing voice and tried to will it into realization. Of all the prompts I had packed, the one I knew would be most important was the city itself. So, I planned loose adventures leaving room for inspiration to strike and move my feet in whatever unexpected direction was necessary to spur the muse along.

As the sun began to set the first evening, I wandered over to the square by the Louvre and noshed on a still warm crepe sighing from the weight of nutella inside. Its crisp edges gave way to chewy middles- just what I had remembered from eating crepes in the South of France years before, but had not been nailed in America just yet. I wiped my mouth with a napkin and tossed the paper crepe wrapper in the rubbish bin as I set out for my second visit to the Louvre.

Traveling alone let me set the pace. So, when I had heard that the Louvre maintained evening hours on Fridays, I leapt at the chance to see the art in a new light literally. The Mona Lisa had been moved to her own quarters with a fuzzy brown guardrail keeping gawkers at arm’s length. I wondered what it might be like to be the grand dame of the museum or at least the one that like a siren, called forth the flocks of tourists. After a nod in her direction, I paused in front of the giant David painting of a raft of people that spanned the length of a city block. I had studied this painting in art history and remembered that in spite of the melee of bodies crushed onto the raft, no feet were visible, which the artist accomplished with deft skill.

From there, I moved onto the Flemish painters, my favorite section, apart from the incredible relics from Egypt. Here, I could find my favorite van Ruisdael with the sweeping sky and pastoral setting, even as several black birds dotted the sky, flying off toward darkening clouds in the distance. In another room, I tarried, as I always must, in front of Rembrandt’s “Bathsheba” whose hand is flung in desperation, holding a letter that has just informed her of her husband’s death. The emotion (Regret? Shame? Longing?) Rembrandt captured in her face and eyes has always bewitched me.

Crossing from one gallery to another, the sun began to outline the buildings as it began plunging into night. Armed with my slew of stories (No feet! Regret! Shame! Longing!) I eventually wound my way out of this beloved museum and by way through the corridor of mummies. (Another story to snip off and carry away).

I had mused that a visit to Paris alone might be terribly lonely, experiencing all of its sights, sounds and wonders. But this practice of observance, of drinking the city in by footsteps through one arrondissement to the next grounded me with ideas and the truth of my own existence that might spill over into character sketching at a café while sipping a noisette or colored pencil drawings for my memory to pore over years later. Sometimes, if we are honest with ourselves, we need the challenge of being alone with ourselves long enough to remember our voice has accompanied us all along.

Annelies Zijderveld hails from the Lone Star state, but has called San Francisco home for over a decade. Her work can be seen in Blind Pen Journal, Web del Sol, the Huffington Post, Arthouse America, and Sated Magazine among other publications. She is the associate editor of Poetry International, a journal dedicated to showcasing emerging and established voices from the international community. Alimentum Journal selected her food and poetry blog, The Food Poet, as one of their favorite food blogs in 2013. She taught a workshop in mixed media poetry at New England College in the summer of 2012, from which she has an MFA poetry degree. An exhibit of her food poetry displayed at the Abbey in Santa Cruz in 2013. Connect with her on twitter, facebook, pinterest or join the Google+ food poetry community.
Words by A. Zijderveld; Photo by D. Alvarez