In the car the other day, V had this conversation with me. Mummy, do you know why I am doing this? "This" being a series of super-dramatic long-drawn out sighs. No dear. Well, it's because we are going away from Paris.
Paris means everything to our little V. She was just 15 months old when we arrived, in the past four years she has grown up in a French manner, enjoying her school-life to the max and imbibing unconsciously all the things the local kids love, such as knights and princesses, Playmobile, grated carrots, Chupa-Chup, cheese, pieces of white chalk, dried-up leaves, Lady GaGa and ca-ca jokes. She wakes up in full excitement in the mornings, because in school she gets to draw, colour and sing all day long. She sings French folk songs in the bathroom at the top of her voice, and occasionally in restaurants too, just managing to get away with it because of her age. She gets spoiled silly by all the staff at the neighbourhood Maison du Chocolat, not the best chocolate shop in town perhaps, but it is smack midway between school and home, so we let her have ice cream there in summer and chocolate treats at other time of the year. She hasn't quite grasped the story of Jesus, but the first morning that she saw the lights decorating the tree outside the Hotel George V, she knew Noel is coming. Not to mention the unquenchable delights of Parc Disneyland and her favourite monument the Eiffel Tower which in her words is "beautiful at night because it is golden and shiny, but very ugly in the daytime."
We try to reassure her that she will come back one day, that she will make new friends in Singapore, but she cannot grasp the reasoning yet. Fortunately her best friend will be leaving Paris too, heading for the Phillipines, so they can both commisserate with each other.
Husband and I are pleased to be going home to Singapore. We will miss some aspects of Paris of course, especially our favourite edibles. Before coming to Paris, my mother warned me that I will get fat from eating all that French cheese. Fortunately I did not eat too much cheese, other than Comte which is a hard cheese and therefore not too bad in terms of fat content. I will definitely miss Comte, whether it is the young fruity summer versions or the more aged versions best enjoyed in long curly shavings over a glass of port. I usually buy my Comte from the cheese lady Bernadette in my local market, she sees me coming and raises her eyebrow and asked the question which she already knows the answer, "comte?" Sometimes I confuse her by buying some of the excellent hand-churned butter she stocks, or the light Japanese-style cheese cakes spiked lightly with orange-flower water.
In the market I will miss my favourite bread stall, as well as Didier the butcher who is nice enough to mince pork or veal for me whilst other butchers will not, also the poultry guys who by now can break down a chicken carcass to suit Asian cooking. I will definitely miss not having regular access to home-made charcuterie, especially a simple joint of bone-in-ham. Iberico ham I will miss too, but not too much at the moment, because we have easy access, but no doubt I will crave the intense experience when we get home. Top of the ready-foods though, would be the tins of salmon roe that has been a mainstay in my fridge. It is not outrageously expensive, and so compactly delicious a little goes a long way. A few spoonfuls of it with a sprinkle of purple shisho leaves on top of hot Japanese rice makes for a delicious lunch, hardly any cooking required.
I am not generally speaking, a sweet-toothed person, but there have been exceptions. While V adores her macarons, it is beautiful cakes which have captivated me. This exquisite cake of raspberry jelly, fresh cream and light sponge from Lenotre is one of our favourites, so much so that husband has made a point of getting it for our birthday celebrations. Another favourite cake is the "Tout Chocolat" from Maison du Chocolat- layers of chocolate sponge and ganache topped with a shiny mirror and a speck of gold leaf, it is wickedly good. Speaking of chocolates, Pierre Hermes' chocolate sable cookies would be death of me, it is outrageously delicious because not only is it intensely chocolatey and perfectly bitter-sweet in its delightful cookie crunchiness, it is also threaded through with sea salt crystals to tease the tastebuds which makes one want for more more more. I guess it also means that Paris has come at least half-way through in making a chocoholic out of me.
I can go on and on, that will be in Part II, promis!