Saturday, February 20, 2010

J'aime la Confiture

"Are you going to lick it?"

"What? I don't lick knives!"

"Yes. Yes you do."

"But it's French. French apricot jam and..." And then the knife disappeared under my tongue as I attempted to savour every last bit of sticky, sweet, thick apricot deliciousness.

My husband had just caught me in one of those indecent, best kept private moments in which I was standing at the kitchen sink wearing nothing but yesterday's underwear clutching a jar of abricot jam - Fauchon for those in the know - and a butter knife.

Back in 2003, ever since the Jules Ferry Hosteling International employee handed me my it's-included-breakfast of plain yogurt, white pain, and a tinfoil, plastic packet of confiture d'abricot, I have been passionately in love. Confiture des fraises! Confiture des framboises! Confitures des baies sauvages! Confitures des baies muires! Confiture des cerises!

Along with LV bags, I have a far less expensive obsession with French confiture. Last May, I dragged my husband into every patisserie we passed to purchase yet another jar; this in addition to my standard French favourites of Angela's, Le Notre, Hediard and Fauchon. As back-up, I also purchased several jars of Bonne Maman which at the price point of 1 euro must be the French equivalent of Smuckers. All of these jars then had to be carefully packed amongst two weeks of dirty clothing, swaddled in sweaty socks and tucked into shoes for extra protection. Thankfully there was only one casualty - a jar of Bonne Maman.

I often eat confiture straight from the jar. This is another guilty pleasure, along with my daily knife licking, that I try to save for days when I miss Paris so much that only the taste of confiture straight from the jar will soothe my French-deprived soul. It's the North American anti-depressant equivalent of eating Ben & Jerry's Half-Baked straight from the carton, however in my case I am slumped on my couch, wearing my tackiest-of-tack "J'adore Paris" sweatshirt with a gingham-lidded jar never farther than a spoon length's away from my mouth.

Depressingly last week I finished another jar from our May trip. It was abricot from Fauchon and I categorically declare it my new favourite. When I had licked the last drop from under my fingernails (If only that weren't true!) I lovingly washed out the jar and placed it on top of the stove, next to my Eiffel Tower cheese grater.

Now as I type this, the jar is sitting next to me as a sort of confiture inspiration. Not remarkable in design, though not as plain as the Bonne Maman jar, the Fauchon logo is black-and-white bold on the lid. An abricot features on the front label but the best is the back label, below the ingredients: "26 Place de la Madeleine - 75008 Paris".

I remember 26 Place de la Madeleine - 75008 Paris; I remember the buttery croissant I ate there; I remember where I sat; I remember the overwhelming task of choosing what delicacies to buy and wrap in my dirty laundry to bring back to Victoria; I remember the taste of Paris.

Confiture - so much more romantic than jam.

Monday, February 8, 2010


Last May my husband and I escaped to Paris for two glorious spring weeks. For me the trip came at the end of a particularly challenging year at a job that was supposed to change my life. You know the type of job - the one that makes you a huge success, the one where you work sixteen hours a day but still manage to cook gourmet meals and train for marathons while keeping your legs waxed. Instead, the job resulted in a lot of tears, sleepless nights and skin the colour of wet cement. Paris was my light at the end of the tunnel.
And yes, the darkness lifted immediately upon our arrival. Shaking off the jet lag, I changed into my best walking-around-Paris-and-not-being-mistaken-for-an-American outfit (black ballet flats, pleated white skirt, black wraparound shirt and giant sunglasses) and headed straight for jardins Tulieres and a warm, abricot crepe. Lightness restored! For the next two weeks, my husband and I more or less ambled around Paris eating, drinking and shopping and feeling more at home with each passing day. Each afternoon, while drinking Kronenburgs at a different sidewalk brasserie, we played what soon became our favourite game: look-up-and-imagine-we-live-in-the-apartment-above. Sometimes we saw maids cleaning, sometimes we saw nothing but the backs of chairs and art made blurry by curtains, and once we saw a gentleman standing with his ancient golden retriever watching us, watching him.
Returning home, I was flattened again by my job and with no Paris on the horizon, my husband suggested I see a career counselor. Because this isn't a Blog about careers, I won't go into too many details about this process but, in brief, I learned the following:
  • I am not Murphy Brown (disappointing);
  • I am not Carrie Bradshaw (very disappointing);
  • I do not have to be stressed to be successful;
  • I have a lot to be grateful for; and

Obviously I adore the last bullet - I.AM.PARIS. Mais oui! This revelation - if I may go so far to revel- came at the very end of my sessions, nearly seven months after starting to work with my much loved career counselor. It came after personality testing, tears of frustration at letting go of Murphy Brown, relaxation exercises, journal writing exercises, and etc. At our last session, we were again talking about things I love and naturally we talked about Paris.

"What do you love about Paris?"

Paris is romantic. Paris is organized chaos. Paris is attention to detail. Paris is a lifestyle that I aspire to. Paris is fashionable. Paris is edgy. Paris is kind but not too kind. Paris is challenging. Paris is delicious. Paris is smart. Paris is happiness. Paris is where I feel strong. Paris makes me want to get out of bed in the morning. Paris is history. Paris is wonderful memories and dreams about the future.

"Well, there you go - you are Paris. Write that down."

I wrote it down. I wrote it in huge letters. I repeated it out loud driving home. I phoned my husband from the car - now illegal - and told him. I wrote it on a French postcard and carry it tucked in my daytimer to remind myself of happiness and light. So simple, so beautiful.