cakes, prose, woes -- the photos, food & thoughts of a french-speaking seattle-native in brazil

In the end, you're just happy you were there—with your eyes open—and lived to see it. -AB
In the end, you're just happy you were there—with your eyes open—and lived to see it.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Le Canal Saint Martin

and a cake of a courgette
Now, if we recall Anthony's visit to Sicily we will remember a piece where he haphazardly was convinced by a young shirtless Sicilian to climb a jagged cliff and leap off into the sea in sport of "cliff jumping." No I did not cliff jump into the canal. Focus--as he is about to scale the cliff he turns to the camera and between grinding teeth interjects, "now some of you might ask, but Tony, how is this food related?" his response of course: "the fuck if I know." exactly. Lets go to the canals.

I had been there once before, briefly in September on my whirl wind "get to know your new city" tour, so it was time to return, but first, lets find the story. Designed during the reign of Louis XIV, the actual construction of the Canal Saint Martin began under Napoleon (the) in 1802 and reached completion in 1825. There are nine locks across the canal which flows south into the Seine (but ends just before the Bastille), and north into the Bassin de la Villette--très proche to the Parc de la Villette which houses the Cité des Sciences et de l'Industrie, the largest science museum in Europe. The canal is lined by nearly 5km of paved pedestrian banks ideal for morning, midday, or evening strolls broken only by the myriad locks and accompanying bridges which traverse the teal aisle.

The canal is still used today, though now more so for posterity--the majority of vessels passing through are those of private boaters and tourist yachts. After its near destruction in the 1970's by a proposal to fill and cover the canal with a four lane highway, the canal was claimed a historic scene to the city, and its preservation has brought much attention to the north eastern corner of Paris crossing the 4th, 10th, 11th, and 14th arrondissements with its quiet cafes, small boutiques, and stretches of seating for sunbathers, readers, and picnickers from every corner of Paris. (it's also the location in the film Amelie where she is seen skipping stones over a lock, you know, everyones favorite cinematographic shot)

Hot and sunny in Paris (25 degrees. thats hot to me. for now that's hot to me) and I go to the canals. Two days parallel. Sunday, and then White Monday, a Parisian bank holiday that took place this year on the 12th. The French are known for myriad obscure holidays, that is why I am in classes until July. Anyways. Strolling, people watching, reading. It is White Monday, I will wear a white dress. A cigarette carton ripped by the wind from the hands of the man sitting on the bank next to me, his buddy holds his chest under his arms as he dangles his feet in the water to retrieve them. waterlogged. A picnic complete with dining room table--look how she is dancing and having fun. It is nearly 18h00 and the sun is still très haut, but alors I am hungry. I am jealous of these picnics, but it is time to go to a picnic myself. There now we can talk about food after all. You knew I would.

A--I insist on the telephone--where the bloody hell is this picnic going to be, les Champs de Mars still? No, too crowded. Sur la pelouse on Ave de Breuteuil, it's behind l'Ecole Militaire. Ave de Breteuil, alright. walk walk walk. Here we are, not behind L'Ecole Militaire, but directly behind Les Invalides. Les Invalides! What do the French eat at a picnic? Why I will tell you--a wonderful rice and shrimp salad (made by chef at my favorite Paris resto), charcutrie, pain, chips, wines, punches, and beers. What do i bring to a French picnic? Well a very simple little dark chocolate, coconut, and zucchini cake which was quite surprisingly the little star of the night. Courgette? Courgette? What? the thick crust of pure chocolate coated in shaved coconut seemed to push the offensive and non-French idea of vegetables in a baked good from their minds.

After my very first game of pétanque, known to English speakers as bocce ball (silver metal balls, you know) we ate, drank, and were merry. mmm. After being accused of being a "voleuse" for stealing my cake from a patisserie (cleanly wrapped in parchment paper, the Salty Cod Bakery sticker logo was affixed to add that little professional touch. Thanks sister R for the labels) The cake was a hit. Chouette! I am very popular now, though i'm not sure if being called a desperate housewife...say what! Well, I say this to the frenchies: you should read Clotilde more often, she IS chocolate & zucchini, and she's one of your own!!

Recette: Coco Courgette Cake

2 medium sized courgettes (zucchini) chopped, shredded, scalped--whatever it is you like to do to your zucchini ~ 110 grams de butter (mine are in 10g sizes. yes many wrappers) ~240 grams of flour ~ 1 teaspoon baking soda ~ 0.5 teaspoon baking powder ~ 0.5 teaspoon salt ~ 180 grams sugar ~ 3 eggs ~ dried coconut pieces, shredded is alright i suppose ~ cinnamon, cloves, ~ two bars of dark NOIR chocolat ~

and I would highly recommend coconut extract, I don't have any, but I would have used it. Images of my spice box stuck in the box labeled "mallory junk" in my parents garage are beginning to swim in my head...

prepare your courgettes ~ mix flour, salt, spice, baking soda, and baking powder in a bowl ~ in another bowl, pretend to beat with you arm the butter and sugar (or just use a kitchenaide) ~ in a small saucepan melt one bar of chocolate ~ add eggs to butter/sugar ~ add melted chocolate ~ incorporate flour mix ~ dump in a couples fist fulls of crunched coconut pieces ~ butter and flower loaf pan and bake at 180 C until it looks done and is cooked in the middle ~ let cool completely on rack, or stolen refrigerator shelf make-shift rack ~ melt second bar of chocolate, and spread half thickly on top of cake ~ cover with coconut. ~ makes two.

Canals, cakes, and metal ball games. I love Parisian holidays. White Monday. White dress on a White Monday. Vive la France.


Unknown said...

I can't believe anyone would consider filling in the canal (well, sadly I can) for a highway.
I never thought of my blog helping potential vacationers... Maybe those Brasilians have that in mind hehe.
I have enough photo shoots planned to keep me busy for a long time. So you'll defiantly be the know it all in the car. I just need to become a better photographer.. you know like the Salty Cod!:)

Anonymous said...

This was such a great post. I am mildly seething with jealousy, but in a good way. I feel like I was there in France for the bank holidays. great pictures!

Anonymous said...

Damn, that brings the memories of strolling along the seine flooding back. Except when Pet and I were there all white dresses were under heavy overcoats, hats, gloves and a fine layer of snow... Boules were still bounced down the Champs de Mars and hasty freezing goodies consumed, picnic like, directly berhind les Invalides. We did discover the glorious warm air rising from the subway vents and fought bums for rights. I think we are returning for the French open next year. I cannot wait for the simplest of jambon and gruere sandwich from a street vender. Delicious fresh bread and cheese that smells of body parts. Heaven!
Keep up the rightous blog. We are living the vicarious (hungry) traveler life through your eyes. Thank you! Much Love,
Steve & Petra (& Claudia & Rocco)

Mallory Elise said...

Ryan-all everyone can take photos, you just have you SEE what youre photographing.

The not-full-one -- i live off of your jealousy! haha! thank you very much for the kind words.

Steve Petra Cladia & my Rocco! I miss you all so much! French open eh? I live 10 minute walk from the Roland Garos--look for a post next week on a tour of the center court and locker rooms!

bisous to all my friends--