My Mojo (Paris, Part II)
Paris, Part II
One of my personalities is terribly, terribly afraid of being judged by strangers. She’s the one who doesn’t ask for directions and won’t take phone calls and becomes frozen with terror when it’s time to go out tableside and explain what I’ve cooked for clients. I’m lucky that she doesn’t show up as often as she used to. But she reared her head in Paris.
I had put raclette at the top of things I wanted to eat in Paris, but when we sat down at Les Fondus de la Raclette, I discovered there was a procedural method for devouring this cheese that I had yet to learn. I thought everyone in the place would bust me for my chef fraudulence (because somehow these strangers would know I’m a clueless chef).
Francis, my ever-patient non-cheese-eating-due-to-high-cholesterol-husband, seemed unfazed by my terror. I think he’s just used to it.
“You’ll probably figure it out,” he whispered before the waiter took our order.
We had spent our third day in France stomping around the epic Chateau Vaux-le-Vicomte in Maincy and arrived back in the city hungry and tired. The raclette restaurant wasn’t far from our Airbnb in the 14th Arrondissement so it seemed like a good choice. It had been 13 hours since my last French cheese consumption and was I flagging.
The waiter came to deliver Francis’ salad and then flipped on the grill in the center of our table. I thought about asking him what I was supposed to do, but my nervous personality held my breath instead. I didn’t want to be busted for being a raclette virgin. He went back into the kitchen.
When he returned, he was carrying a platter with an arch of sliced raclette and morbier cheeses above a grin of charcuterie—prosciutto, salami, soppressata, capicola, and a few boiled waxy potatoes.
Then he presented me with a teeny tiny skillet and a small wooden spatula.
Then he disappeared.
I peeked at other tables, and though most people were using their grills to keep their fondue melted, I saw one person placing cheese into his small skillet to melt and then dipping his potato into it.
“This is like cooking!”
I felt like a kid on Christmas morning, unwrapping the gift I forgot I’d asked for. I would get to do all of it… melt the cheese, drizzle the cheese, choose the perfect combination of cheese over meat and potato. I set a thick square of raclette in the skillet, then placed the pan over the hot grill and watched as it softened and bubbled. Then I tilted the pan to pour the cheese over a sliver of prosciutto and popped it into my mouth.
“OH MY GOD.” I felt my emotions soar, and tears almost rise. It felt primal in a way I was not prepared for. It was almost sexual. Every single bite was monumental. And it wasn’t because someone had flared it up with lots of contrasting elements. It was simple and pure and fresh and thrilling.
Francis laughed at me. With me.
“I wish you could see your face right now.”
“I wish you could share this experience with me,” I almost yelled at him. But I knew this cheesy affair was to be mine alone. My alternate personality was cheese-eased and faded away. There was no failure that night. Only perfect creamy, salty, starchy bites as I ate every single morsel on my plate. I slept soundly that night, dreaming of drizzling cheese from a tiny skillet all over the world.
The following day, we attended to our tourist responsibilities.
Just as I arrived at the first ‘ballerina in a tutu bending over and looking perfect’ painting, a man started to wail. He sat on a bench inside the Degas exhibit in the Musee D’orsay wearing a JC Penny style short-sleeved shirt and beige polyester pants. He started rocking back and forth with an intensity I normally associate with someone suffering from a neurological affliction. Or a tourist disorder.
“I’M LOSING MY MOJO!!! I’M LOSING MY MOJO!” His voice had the nasally nuances of a Midwesterner. He was American, just like 90% of the people who had stood in line next to us for an hour and a half to get into the museum on that October day.
“I’M LOSING MY MOJO!! I’M LOSING MY MOJO!”
I couldn’t agree more, I thought to myself as this stranger had managed to put words to the exact sensation I was experiencing. I looked over the sea of heads to make sure Francis was still in the exhibit. I was moving quicker than him because my tolerance for museums, especially really busy ones, is slim.
We had done well with our time so far in Paris, exploring neighborhoods on foot and not engaging in too many ultra-touristy attractions. But it was time. You have to pay the piper at some point and the Musee D’Orsay was on everyone’s must-see list. Sure, it’s glorious. I appreciated the exhibits as well as the building, but when we had seen it all, I was happy to leave. So was Francis.
But then we were starving and in a touristy neighborhood with restaurants that felt either too crappy or way too expensive. I had a museum migraine and Francis looked like he was turning grey. We walked and walked and finally found a place with a menu that sounded good at the right price. There were salads (one with quinoa even!) and sandwiches and empty tables with big chairs.
We ate and felt happy and that was great.
(OF COURSE, you know that I would never end a story like that. What happened next is a bit graphic so I want this to be more of a choose your own adventure sort of thing.
If you’re feeling like this was a fine story and you’d like your food blog to stay simple, then please believe that we had a lovely meal and then a peaceful night in Paris.
If you’re up for a little more specific drama, click here: https://awonderlandofwords.com/i-cant-see/
BUT BE WARNED: This might not be for everyone. (Mom, we had a lovely lunch and everything was fine. No need to click!)