Saturday, January 24, 2009

Tasting a bit of Feminism

My husband and I are fairly equal partners in this challenge of everyday life. We both clean, care for the children and house, and divide-and-conquer as necessary. We have a mutual respect that is helpful (until we have differing ideas, of course). The point is there aren't many tasks that I would be surprised to see him doing, nor vice versa.

For dinner last night, we sat down at one of our old (though not great--this was more for nostalgic purposes) haunts and proceeded to review the menu. As I made my decisions first, I started looking at the wines. Our waitress, a young, French woman, came and took our order and we thought nothing of it.

When she returned, however, she held a bottle of wine and was clearly full of angst. She uncorked the wine and began moving it towards my husband. I wasn't understanding at all until she blurted out (in French), "Well, Madame ordered the wine, but is she also going to taste it?" I suddenly understood that it was probably not normal for a woman to order the wine. I said I would try it and she breathed a sigh of relief. She turned to my husband with a nod of approval and said "very progressive!"

I was fairly amused-- as was he. After living here all these years, neither of us had ever noticed that it mattered who ordered/tasted the wine. Is it another "rule of having fun?" Since then, I have asked several waiters if women ever order wine and they have said that it has happened-- proving that, while it is not necessarily a surprise, it is also not common. I don't know if the wine was really so great that night, or if it was simply a bit of feminism I was tasting. Either way, the results brought a smile to my lips.

Home Sweet Home

I arrived in Paris for our sabbatical just last week and one of the places on my list to return to tout de suite was the Brasserie Balzar. This famous, left-bank bistrot is one of my favorites-- they have a wonderful combination of a warm ambiance, friendly staff and a great location. During our last sabbatical, we visited a handful of times in various forms- my husband and I alone, with children, with friends, etc. and had a lovely dinner each and every time.

Since it had been three years since I had the pleasure of dining with them, I wondered if I would remember any of the staff. As I walked to the front door, I immediately recognized the maitre d'. He is a stout, older gentleman with an unforgettable mustache and a ready smile. In addition, a couple of the waiters (yes, they are all men) were the same. I gave a vague smile as I didn't want them to think they should remember me and walked to my table.

Shortly after being seated, the maitre d' walked up to me and said (in French) "It has been awhile, Madame." I was stunned that he remembered me and then quicly realized that he probably saw my look of nostalgia as I walked in, but I played along nonetheless. I told him it had been three years, in fact, but that I was happy to be back. He next said (again in French), "And how is your husband, the professor?" You could have told me I'd just won the lottery and I would have been no less stunned. How on Earth could he remember me three years after my last visit-- even remembering my husband's occupation? I told him my husband was well and we would return together soon.

Some people say home is a collection of personal objects, others argue that home is wherever you belong, the old sitcom "Cheers" said it was "where everybody knows your name." I don't know that anyone here knows my name, and I am certianly lacking in personal belongings, but I am most certainly home.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Cannibale Cafe: A Grain of Salt with your Dinner

I like to learn-- I always have. I like to find out what people think, their ideas on politics and even religion-- if nothing else, it's a fresh perspective but I generally walk away with something more to reflect on. In much the same manner as new ideas, I love to get recommendations from people-- what are their favorite websites, restaurants, vacation sites, etc.?

A couple days ago I found myself without a dinner idea at dinner time which meant we were going out. I quickly scanned the Internet for a new, child-friendly choice in Paris and came up with almost nothing. There was one review, however, that caught my eye-- a ChowHound review of the Cannibale Cafe. The cafe was near our apartment and the review was great (good food, easy-going staff, and art supplies for kids!). The name of the restaurant lingered in my mind, but to avoid a coup d'etat, I decided to give it a try.

The Cannibale Cafe could not have been a worse choice for dinner. Outside of the generally unsavory area it was in, I entered the restaurant with my children in tow and proceeded to sit down to the worst French meal I've ever had (in or outside of the country!). The actual menu featured nude lesbians entangled on the cover (which my 6 year old found quite interesting), a zebra in a thong on the glasses and NO child-friendly food (or art supplies) anywhere in site. Thankfully, my husband's overdone, but tasty steak came with the requisite frites, which we all shared. It didn't save the dinner, but it saved my children from becoming... well, cannibals.

I suppose, in the end, all perspectives and ideas need to be taken with a grain of salt. They all reflect the myriad of experiences of the writer which may (or may not) be in line with your own thinking. Who knew-- even restaurant reviews need a little salt now and then.

Cannibale Cafe
Address:93, Rue Jean Pierre Timbaud, 11th arrondisement
Metro: Couronnes