I knew that Paris would be different – no place stays the same, and with the passage of over 30 years I was a different person than I was in my 20s. There are a lot more chains and franchises now, the ubiquitous Starbucks, KFC, and Subway; the seedy areas I remembered from long ago are now upscale and stylish. There was also a heatwave, with temperatures in the 30s (Celsius), and almost as much English and Chinese spoken as French. It was, after all, the height of the tourist season, and not the optimal time for experiencing “typically French” atmosphere – if, in fact, there ever is such a time in the most-visited city on earth. I was gripped by melancholy a few weeks before my trip; memories and regrets of my youth , a Christmas spent in Paris with my brother and our mother in 1979, worries that I would confront fragments of my lost self at every turn. Instead, I simply enjoyed myself. Yes, Paris is in many ways just another big and indifferent city, but my focus this trip was to see things I had missed before, and to enjoy the first trip of my life not regulated by constant money concerns. Above all, I wanted to eat. I was actually in Paris twice, for 4 days each time, bookending my visit to Provence and a week in Marseille in between. It’s just the way it worked out. I stayed
I’ve spent the past couple of weeks basically living out my food fantasies in Chicago, or re-living fondly remembered tastes from my past. Chicago is a food-lover’s city; if you’re in doubt, just check out the Flickr group Chicago Gluttons. Here’s a photo tour of some of the food highlights, both alone and with my brother Kenton: My first meal in Chicago after getting off the plane at O’Hare: my brother took me to Sultan’s market for inspired middle eastern food – chicken shawarma, hummus, falafel, salads, pita bread. Yummmm. Urban Vegan Thai food Grilled Reuben sandwich on rye, Miller’s Pub; a blast from the past – I adored this sandwich when I was a college student in the 70s. Native Foods – vegan nachos and “chicken” appetizers Karyn Cooked, River North area: vegan falafel sandwich Mexican lunch in the Chicago Loop, La Cocina Mexican Grill Rangoli Indian restaurant on North Ave., one of the best Indian meals I’ve had; I ate chicken korma. Rangoli appetizer, fried cauliflower Another blast from the past: Five Faces on Division Street, open till 5 am. In the late 70s my friends and I would come here after the bars closed for the gyros sandwich with fries. The place is still here after all these years. Gyros sandwich at Five Faces – just as I remembered
dumplings crew, Chongqing restaurant kitchen
part of our lunch at a dumpling restaurant in Wenshufang, across the street from Wenshu monastery Mápó dòufu is a popular Chinese dish from Sichuan province. It is a combination of tofu (bean curd) set in a spicy chili- and bean-based sauce, typically a thin, oily, and bright red suspension, and often cooked with fermented black beans and minced meat, usually pork or beef. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mapo_doufu
This week I’m highlighting The Spot, a new burger restaurant that opened in the Blue Caribbean Plaza near campus. Their chef used to run a felafel stand on Kehua Bei Lu, which he has since left to join the restaurant. The limited menu hasn’t gotten boring (yet), as I’ve eaten their burgers three (or is it four?) times in the past week. Oh yes, the thick-cut fried potatoes are to die for. Next time I go, I must take my own bottle of French Dijon-style mustard with me. Other than that, today was rainy, and after my class I returned home for an afternoon nap. I’ve just signed my teaching contract for the next year, which includes 12 months instead of 10. That means I’ll get paid all year round, including summer, but I will be available for full-time teaching during July and August. No summer vacation this year, but it will be a great chance to save my money for future travel.