Monday, February 16, 2015

Working in Paris, still eating

I know you'd never know it from my posts, but we are actually working here.  Lately, we are working hard.  I have a grant proposal due next week, and Carol has a great setup in an outpatient program for early-stage dementia patients here in the city.

It's funny that unmoored from our normal routine as we are, we basically fall right back into it.  I stay home every morning and write, leading a pretty solitary existence.  Carol puts on her work clothes and heads out, stays busy and works with people.  She got home a little later than she expected today, as she often does, by that time I had dinner on and a bottle of wine open.  It's a Honey I'm Home kind of thing, out usual daily drill.

Although I am pushing hard on my grant writing, I always find it is much more difficult than I expect to get a lot done when I am on leave.  In my normal life, with all my day to day distractions, I think that if I were only on leave I would get so much more accomplished.  But the truth is, my real struggle with distraction is internal, not external.  I bring my own worries and small tasks and other things to do, surround myself with them, as a way of keeping me from the bigger things.  And in fact, having real distractions to make my one or two hours of protected time more valuable sometimes helps me focus in the few hours I have.  Left to my own devices I can wander off.

I think tomorrow morning I am going to try working in a café.  That's everyone's picture of life in Paris, but in fact almost no one does it.  The cafés have unreliable internet or no internet at all, and I think the French have more of a natural distinction between working and hanging out.  They also drink coffee differently, in a more focused way.  You almost never see someone walking around with a big cup of coffee, people work, then they stop for a petit café, have their coffee and go back to work.  In the cafés you see people sitting and reading the paper, or outside smoking, but almost no one with a laptop open.  I will look like an American when I do it.

A little food.  Carol's hospital is out in the 14th, a bit on the outskirts.  After her second day she was done at 130 so I went out to meet her for lunch.  So this is nowhere, just a block near a hospital, and there is a little local place called l'Essentiel.

We got the daily special, as we usually do.  The whole thing came to under $20/person.  We had, for a first course, leek soup with butter and cream and lamb kidneys.  Lamb kidneys sound weird, but they don't taste that way.  They were slicked a half inch think, then seared in butter and shallots.  Not the least bit innard-like, tender and delicate.  Then for the main course, pork shank that was cooked to a bacon-y crisp, then slow cooked in a honey reduction, with a big bowl of mashed potatoes on the side.  Confit (meaning preserved... generally slow-cooked and tender) leg of duck.  For dessert, an incredibly rich caramel cream, not just a creme caramel, but a caramel au beurre salé, so intense you smacked your lips, and a house made apple strudel, little rolls of puff pastry wrapped around an apple filling.  No wine, but still not much work got done that particular afternoon.  It was actually funny when I said no wine, the waiter made a big fuss, saying, Monsieur, there is a lot of unemployment in this country, you have to do your duty and support the wineries!  It's a style of waiter in a casual French restaurant, one which I think is often misunderstood as rude by Americans.  They joke with you, poke a little fun at you, try and have a good time.  The expectation is that you are going to joke back, but of course that can be hard across the language barrier.  

More on cooking duck (I tried it at home) in next post.

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