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.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

A Move. Again.

A Vagabond. A Salty Cod.
Moved again. Good bye Seattle. Where are we now? Spokane. Where the hell is that? Slightly to the west of nowhere. And what is in this Spokane? Well, I am here, my house is here, my school is here, and you will be here as well for the next 9 months. A baby at the end? No, hopefully a degree and diploma though. Do you like the new art work? R painted it. Little Frenchy has come back, but this time a little different. So friends, welcome to Spokane.

Spokane [spo · can] is in the very most eastern region of the state of Washington, not the capital Washington, the real Washington--the state. It lies 32 kilometers from the border of Idaho; yes yet another forgotten among the nifty fifty. And though it does reside in the same state, it is no where near Seattle. Eastern Washington is a night and day variant from western Washington. The two are geographically separated by the Cascade mountain range, which keeps Seattles lush temperate climate all to itself.

Central and eastern Washington are dry, flat, and hot. It is a region of extremes; desert heat in the summer months, and an artic chill of severely low temperatures that bring thick blankets of snow in the winter. Extreme seasons have both the ups and downs, but then, what is out there that doesn't.

Between Seattle and Spokane lies about 500 kilometers of fields known as the Columbia Plateau, full of visually stimulating wheat, wheat, corn, wheat, some green herbish-crops, potatos, and more wheat. Humans are found inhabiting small boondock patches here and there, but city cannot begin until tree line and river line appear, and that is Spokane, lying in the shadow of the Rocky Mountain foothills. After mindless hours of driving, tumbleweeds and dirt devil storms as the only breaks inthe scenery, Spokane emerges seemingly out of no where. This city, known more collectively among the locals as Spokompton, is our next city. Bienvenue.

Second largest city in the state; home to many beautiful mansions atop the South Hill, though home to the many more who find themselves under or stradling the poverty line. To the north the main drags are lined by strip malls, fast food joints, and every style super-store imaginable under the sun. Gonzaga University (of which I attend) sits bordered on one side by the poorest neighborhood in the city, and on the otherside by the river and metropolitan downtown of designer retail and upscale dining and lodging.

We, the outsiders who move in periodically refer in snobbery to the locals as "Spokeys." Spokane is no Gotham, but it is no stranger to drugs and potentially high crime rate. The sense of security felt in some cities such as hmm Paris has no place here. Though no where near the mauvais reputation of say Atlanta, Chicago, LA, Detroit; no this is city meets small town topped off by a rotating population of rich alcohol-abusing college brats blasting teeth-grinding rap (music?) late into the night (can you tell where I am at this moment? yes). No I am not 43 years old, but my vision of college and ideas of pleasing ways to pass my life away have never seemed to mesh with the norm. Oh well.

There is another side of the coin however. It can be, if we look, a beautiful city. In the trees, the lilacs, the river and its many cascading falls. In the changing of seasons; pillowy piles of leaves in the fall, fresh whiteness in the winter, and tulips towering over dewey grass in the spring. Mt. Spokane is but a quick drive north, a day trip skiiers paradise. And for the runners, bikers, and walkers of the city, the Louis and Clark Centennial trail runs along the river, through the campus, and into the sparkling metropolitan downtown giving quite the vehicle-less route full of scenery and seemingly clean air.

For every negative, there is most likely a positive. Spokane is not Paris. Spokane is not Seattle. Spokane is Spokane. And We're here for a while. In my final year as a resident in this city, I invite you to accompany me in finally opening my mind to the good things here. Welcome to Gonzaga University, welcome to my house, welcome to Spokane. We're settling here, for now. Afterwards, only Cod knows. So, grab the blue bag and on y va.

* most photos are older than one year

à bientôt

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Raspberries ~ Framboises ~ Framboesas

watchful linzer cookies
Oh raspberry you’re beautiful, Red nectar of the season,
I think you know…You give life a reason! -anonymous

Raspberries are a very simple fruit. They don't scream for attention, one can easily devour a tiny flat and realize their pressence only upon their dissapearance. A value is truly measured when its absence is percieved stronger than its pressence. They sit humbly by the bubbly image of the strawberry, the rolly polly bouncy blue--the raspberry is a much quieter fruit, antique-like, and aged.

The many who enjoy the rasberry are usually the tired, the awake, the confused, the brave, the curious, the happy, the worried, the intelligent, the calm, the high strung, the mysterious--they are for the ones it seems, with patience, and the ones who cannot wait as well. Raspberries are timeless, though they perhaps have an age. Do you like raspberries? I do.

You have never heard of a chocolate covered raspberry. No. They are too fragile. Blackberries are much sturdier in the basket, whereas at the bottom of every raspberry basket there is found the trampled few, crushed by the weight (though measured in feathers) of those postitioned atop. One must be gentle with raspberries. Many, many small little red pearls clustered together in the formation of just one berry, they are held together by tiny tiny threads. And though it may seem only fair to be rough in reciprocity to the painful thorns you braved in their harvesting, in the end, it is just a raspberry. And if you break a raspberry to soon, you are left with an involuntary jam, which is never as sweet nor preserves as well. So do not turn them into jam until they are ready.

Raspberry jam is the most facile and classically nostalgic homemade jam. Yes i decree that such a statement is pure fact. Raspberry is easy to bottle, though difficult to imitate. One does not find such a wide array of raspberry flavored candy, soda, cereal, yadda yadda--no, raspberries look best in a yellow bowl.* (quote from my mamie)

Raspberries are rich in vitamin C, though not as rich as an orange. They are high in antioxidents, though not as high as a cranberry. They contain an astronomical percentage of fiber per weight, though not as astronomical as an apple. Medical research suggests the raspberrys combatant status in the war against cancer, diabetes, inflammation, and cognitive aging is a reson to consume daily. Though not the leading headliner in any medicinal category, the raspberry is there, present for us, and just as it is, just as itself.

Kitchen canned raspberry jam. The Salty Cod loves to can its own jams. And vegetables. And jelly. We just like to can damn it. And raspberry is the request. Toast and jam; the classic purpose on this planet for the sticky liquid candy. For the American; peanut butter and jelly sandwich. The Brit (besides toast) scones or some type of biscuit thing, the French love jam as well on toast, but also on baguette and croisant. I am sure, though no authority of, that the rest of the world eats jam as well. How do you like it. At the Salty Cod we slather jam on cookies, raspberry jam to make raspberry hearts. Sun circles as well.

Linzer cookies:
3.5 cups flour ~ 2 sticks butter ~ .5 cup light corn syrup ~ .5 cup brown sugar ~ .5 cup white sugar ~ vanilla ~ 2 eggs ~ .5 teaspoon baking soda ~ .5 teaspoon salt ~ sugar in powder ~ jam

method: cream butter and sugars. add eggs. mix. add corn syrup and vanilla. mix. add already mixed flour, salt, and baking soda. roll dough to a thinness of so so, and cut circles, cut out small circles or shapes on half. Bake until they are cooked. Spinkle the holy cookies with powder, apply jam to non-holy cookies, and then make a sandwich.

Raspberry Linzer cookies are tea-time cookies. They are always for someone else. Linzer means eyes, therefore to give a linzer cookie is to give out a bit of aide--a caring (watching) eye. Raspberries are technically a weed plant, though now they are cultivated for mass commercial harvest. If you manage to ever fill a basket, make jam. If the basket returns home empty, but the tummy returns home full, remember that there is always tomorrow. Raspberries are for everyday.

These cookies went to the hospital to help a friend in recovery. Raspberries aren't medicine, though they reminisce a tasy pill. Give your friends raspberries, as a poulet reminded me; Please help your friend when he least deserves, because that's exactly when he needs help.

for K & K

à bientôt

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Sushi at The Ferndale Farm

not yer' average american farm Paris and Rome got nothing. You want a real vacation? Get your arse over to Ferndale Washington. Today is a momentous day; today we here at the Salty Cod will be remembered in Ferndale lore forevermore as the pioneers of the towns tourism industry--after we are through here the locals won't know what hit em'. Ha! I'm only joking, who the hell would go to Ferndale besides lost Canadians? The Salty Cod, that's who. On y va.

Ferndale Washington, the quaint farm town subburb of the larger small-ville, Bellingham Washington, sits about an hour and a half's climb by automobile north of Seattle, and a mere 10 minutes south of the Canadian border. Before Paris, before Portugal, before even the voyages not yet taken but dreamed of daily, there was (for this writer) Ferndale; the vacation of the year. Every summer my sisters and i would book rooms at a country inn located at the heart of Ferndale to pass lazily away the long summers accompanied by a plethora of animals that make even Noah look like a rube. A summer without walking a goat by a short leash in a parade was no summer at all. Looking to book a room at the inn? Contact my aunt and uncle (the puffs), you might be able to pitch a tent in the field. That is, if the soccer team is not in town.

Six dogs, more cats than i can count, two llamas, a dozen goats, three tortoises, a coup of poulets, tropical parrots, small birds in cages, a rabbit, a guinnea pig, and one horse. This is not a production farm, this is a fun farm. Or perhaps rather mad house is a more apropriate term, but that's only when i'm here. hehe.

What to do in Ferndale...there is the grocery store, the post office, the feed store, a little bit of driving down some back roads will take you straight to the farm stands that sell produce and dairy right on the farm where they are cultivated. That is farm fresh. There is the Wallgreens pharmacy, the liquor store, and of course the quaint down town area. Not convinced? There is one more thing to do in Ferndale, and that is to eat. No, not at a restaurant, stay away from those (they shut down Madison's kitchen, it remains now only open for "bar at noon") Here finally when I say eat, I mean cook.

What does one eat on a farm out in northwest Washington State; eggs? a side of beef? pie? biscuits and gravy? Nah, this is my family; we're a bunch of eccentrics with culinary perfection and themed meals on our minds. Spanish paella crawling with sea beasts, Sunday high-tea at noon with shortbreads, lemon mousse, and dainty tarts, Brasilian truffles, Eastern night complete with hand rolled sushi, tempura, singapore noodles, and a Salty Cod creation ice cream bomb; the Tokyo Torpedo (green tea ice cream, mango sorbet, vanilla ice cream, a chocolate fondant shell, and a caramel sesame cookie base). This is farm-town eating at the Ferndale farm. What did you expect, these people are related to me.

Rolling sushi is not a difficult task, though the idea is daunting. The correct tools and ingredients though are vital. Sushi rolling is not a game condusive to the art of system D, so no dorm-room jiggy-rigging that old jasmin rice, if it's not sushi rice you cannot make sushi. Bamboo rolling mats, nori (the seaweed paper) and sushi rice. The classic California roll is always in high demand, the tantalizing combination of crab, avacado, and cucumber is Americas favorite "sushi" though technically rolled sushi is awarded the title of makizushi, or just maki.

Unsurprisingly surpassing the California roll, is the Washington roll. Unfortunate though it is when we speak of it we must add Washington state roll else the unwary reader tragically envisions this nations capital. We're on the other coast. The Washington state roll, what does this gem behold? Smoked salmon and red apples topped of course by roe. Roll them tight, mind you. And fear not the agression of a tight sqeeze, one must be rather forcefull when rolling sushi. Provided here are a few rolling images, I am indeed the one in the flowery apron which I find choette but am often referred to as grandma in it. Perhaps it is my insistance at pairing it with a striped shirt that does me in.

Location never means anything when it comes to cuisine. Ok well in the end location does have bearance on what fresh ingredients are made available to you, and how costly an import retails for can sway the menu. The meal is always the highlight of the day around here, as I have found it to be so many a time traveling elsewhere. The style is always different though, here at the farm we never sit, plating is rarely ever in order, and the meal is taken around a low coffee table, standing up, around an outside picnic table, while walking, or sitting comfortably in a leather chair with one, maybe two dogs on you lap, and always with white wine. white white wine.

Dining here there is always a wow factor, usualy at least once a trip there is planned a French Canadian meal, as the head chef, and rest of the family for that matter are French Canadian, so sometimes farm cooking is in fact at times about the familiarity like it is played up in American movies, just slightly different. I don't know if you know any French Canadians...

Traveling does not have to be to an exotic far-away country to be conisdered an adventure or vacation. Though astronomically more thrilling and new would be a voyage to Tibet or Madagascar, the more proximal destination can be destinations none the less. For those of us living in the larger countries found in the Americas, driving two hours to reach a town in ones own state means oftentimes for many Europeans crossing a border into another country. There are so many wonderful places to be visited that can oftentimes allude the eye--if it is a there then it is a destination, and a destination where one does not refer to themself as an inhabitant of is, in all terms of sincerity, a visitor--or rather traveler.

à bientôt

Friday, July 18, 2008

Brigadeiros - Truffles from Brasil

chocolate in a hot kitchen Do you know what a Brigadeiro is? No it is not a cookie, not a pastry, not a military figure from antiquity, but rather a simple little truffle covered in sprinkles that melts on the tongue. My editor suggested I play around with these candies about (exactly) a month (and 6.5 days) ago, informing me of their overt popularity and the saucy little detail that, aside from containing no wheat, they have the look. And we here at the Salty Cod covet and invest a great deal in the importance of presentation. I had been waiting for an excuse to make them; an event to share them at, ok fine an event to display them at. Enter 18 Juillet, l'anniversaire de ma soeur. Excellent. Two birds will die at the expense of only one projectile. She will undoubtedly be quite charmed by such a statement, but she is a true supporter of all Salty Cod endeavors, sacrifice much for the good of the many! Ah screw it, she gets some chocolates. So on y va.

The Brigadeiro is reminiscent of a chocolate truffle, though much simpler. Brasilians have a knack for making the good things simpler. Except for verbs. They don't make those very simple. But that's the Portuguese' fault. Actually, in reflection I can offer no other example of simplicity other than the chocolate. Therefore the prior assertion is here now with us merely as an obtuse phrase for the sake of romantic poetics. Anyways. There truthfully are only four ingredients to the little sweety; cocoa powder, sweetend condensed milk, butter, and sprinkles. C'est tout. The candy first appeared on the scene environ the 1940's, at the time when Nestle first began to export cocoa powder to Brasil, at the time their second largest export to the country next to sweetend condensed milk. How about that, two of the TWO main ingredients in the Brigadiero.

Food history is an interesting subject matter; nearly every creation we covet has a history, a myth to accompany its birth and naming. The world of gastronomic history is an odysee of fables and facts that combine in enough variation to fill a ten volume set of infantile bedtime stories. When "researching" a foods history one inevitably encounters, at the minimum, three variant explanations of its origin. And while nearly every account of the story found on the internet is a re-worded version of the one found at our dear freind Wikipedia, (where would man be without the wikipedia) the story of how a food came about and how it was named are differing in every media. The stories are kept in homes, in family anecdotes, in history books, in cook books, in cultural lore, etc. The naming of edibles throughout the world has and continues to be a subject of interest, honor, and ever-changing myth. From Australia's fuzzy little Lammington, to France's mysterious Madeleine, the origin of names is as integral a part of the dish as the thing itself. One must take note, however, that there are a few concrete gastronomic descriptions out there. The Quaker Oats man was in fact a quaker after all, and not rather a Shaker in disguise.

Collective opinion on the internet places the naming of the candy on the shoulders of Brigadier aviator Eduardo Gomes. Now whether the Brigadier was awarded such an honor for his heroic aviation record, a failed run for the presidency, his public love for sweet treats at birthday parties, his noted ability surpassing that of Chuck Noris' at one-armed cobra wrestling whilst blindfolded, or my favorite found at the site of a fellow internet food (writer?) : Well, back in 1922, he was tall, dark-haired with blue eyes. AND SINGLE!!! I must say, the truth could be any, they all appear to hold some amount of water. In metrics. But perhaps, as is the case in dissecting and digesting any and all genres of history of this world, the real answer is never just one singular fact, but rather a combination of myriad perspectives taken always with a grain of salt and with a questioning eye.

If you are still with me by this point in the novel then I assume you, like me, are thinking that the Brigadeiro is without contestation the most fascinating candy available for human consumption. Chouette non. Therefore we must make them now. Mixing the candies in the old country-house kitchen while Paella is being assembled on one side of the room, a constant stream of the six dogs rotating through eager for perhaps a bite, the clinking of wine being poured that never seems to ebb, and the passings of bystandards (ok family), mon unc puff bellows at me "what are you making now, some French crap?" No, I respond, it's brasilian. "Oh no not Brasilian crap!" It appears that there is a lot of crap in this world, but what can I say, I am attracted to crap, that's all.

English ~ 1 can sweetened condensed milk ~ 4 tbsp cocoa powder ~ 1.5 tbsp butter ~ sprinkles

In a saucepan over low heat stir all ingredients (not sprinkles) for 15-20 minutes until it begins to thicken. Romove from heat, and butter a plate or shallow bowl, turn out chocolate mixture onto the plate and let cool until hard enough to maintain a shape when molded. If kitchen is very hot, do not hesitate placeing plate in freezer as a short cut. It is evident now that all kitchens in brasil come air conditioned. Roll chocolate into small balls with buttered hands, and roll in sprinkles until completely covered. Place ball in small paper cups. Fini!

Francais ~ 1 boite boîte de lait concentré ~ 4 cuillères à soupe de chocolat en poudre ~ 21 gr du beurre ~ vermicelles au chocolat

Chauffez les ingredients pour 15-20 minutes sur un flam moyen. Avec les mains, mettez du beurre sur un assiette, et apres mettez le chocolat sur l'assiette. Laissez le chocolat jusqu'au il devenir froid. Formez des petits bols, et roullez dans les vermicelles.

Portuguese ~1 lata de leite condensado ~ 21 gr de manteiga ~ 4 colheres de chocolate em pó ~ chocolate (sprinkles)

Don't make me try to get past more than the ingredients. Baby steps here.
There always is a story to what you're eating. Find it before you take a bite. Joyeux anniversaire sister M! Pretty treats for a pretty party. And thank brasil, for the treat.

à bientôt

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Matt in 2008

the whole world can dance
He's been doing his dance now for a while , 6 years to be exact, but i've only now just come across it . We here at The Salty Cod are probably the last travel-ish blog to post his story and praise his efforts. And though we're not based in the mid-west, we do seem to have a knack for being a few moments behind everyone else. But we seem to somehow find the important things, in the end.

Where the Hell is Matt? (2008) from Matthew Harding on Vimeo.

Matt Harding, a SEATTLE resident (no way!) travels around the world to dance with anyone willing to accompany him. What all started as a silly memento during a tour of Asia has become for Matt, and the millions of viewers around the world, a symbol of-- yes though dramatic--a symbol of hope that what we can all share in this world regardless of whatever language, weather, or color--is a silly dance. Yes, that's it. A dance. There is no profit involved, no side quest for information, money, reports, research, food, tv stations--nothing; just going there. He goes there just to go there, and his there is everywhere. Tokyo, Paris, Togo, Yemen, Mexico City, Dallas, Amsterdam, Sao Paulo, Singapore, Sydney, Madagascar, Mumbai, Madrid, Buenos Aires, Zambia, Mali, Warsaw, Vancouver, Seattle--everywhere there is a there.

As many of you have likely heard of Matt and his dance prior to this post, this is for the rest who by the off-chance (like me) had missed the boat. And for those who have seen it, I invite you to delight in a second viewing. I can not explain why this video makes me so damn happy--I have watched it now plus que 5 times, and each time my face beams an arc greater than the one above Noah's. Without explanation, Matt's dance is an emotional idea--the places he's gone, the people he has seen; I personally know when watching his dance that I myself will never stop traveling. The idea of connection between cultures has always made me teary (what can i say im a sap, I cried in Harry Potter) so, Bravo Matt! i see the happiness that I feel when I travel in your dance--and it reminds me yet again about the things that really are important.

And traveling; the act of seeing that there is more in this world than what is familiar, and that there is more than just your flag, your language, your taste, your views--more than the you at the center of the word is, without any agenda, one of the important things.

à bientôt

Monday, July 14, 2008

Joyeux 14 Juillet - Bastille Day

Vive La France! & eat cakeToday is Bastille Day, la jour de fête nationale. I am not French nor will I ever be, but I choose, can, want to celebrate the day non the less. Whether I celebrate singularly here, with you at the Salty Cod, or miraculously (nice word for unlikely) find someone in plain sight enthusiastic enough to humor my need and muse on France, eat on France, vive on France with me is not the point. For Francophiles outside of France, a Bastille day is just to think of France, to keep her in the tête. The sighs may be made at yet more garble about France, but in the end what matters is what and who you decide to keep in your mind, you can't choose what makes you happy, but you can choose whether you let its reception bother you or not. I am not commiserating, moping, nor missing anything--I am celebrating. Celebrating the good things. On y va.

I woke up this morning with an overwhelming desire to hum and whistle the Marseillaise. Now, aside from the ardent fact that I am far from a nightingale and more akin to a quibbling harpy, no one wants to hear France's national anthem around here. So, French music: hum in the head. French dinner then, yes, let's have a French menu. Dinner already planned. zut. Keep French food in the head. Well, what can i bake that is French and can be disguised as non wholly French. Ah, what am I saying, no one says no to cake. Rummaging through the pantries and cupboards...what can i make...what can i make for France Day! Ahk! The drama! ok flour butter and sugars. Well, simple, but no one here knows that madeleines are as common a bakery treat in France as donuts are here in grocery market window. Ah yes, but at least now there is something to photograph.

Monochromatic Madeleines:
100 g (a tiny bit less than 1 cup) flour farine ~ 120 g (0.5 cup) sugar sucre ~ 2 eggs oeufs ~ 0.5 tsp (c.à.c) baking powder levure chimique ~ 100g (1 stick) butter beurre ~ cocoa powder poudre de cocoa
methode: 1) mix. 2) split batter in half and in one bowl add cocoa powder. 3) butter madeleine pan and fill half shell with dark, and half shell with white batter. 4) cook at 180
º (~350F) for 10-13minutes.

Allons enfents de la patrie, la jour de gloire est arrivé! No amount of writing could ever do justice to what France really means to me. Most writers and word snobs will admit, though at a cost of shock to some, that though words do indeed rule the day, there are a few things out there they fall short for. C'est vrai. The thing with love for a country, love for a way of life, love for a style, a culture--it is a love that doesn't break your heart. There are things one can live without, a country is one of them. Humans adapt, that's why we travel, that's why there are ex-patriots living in every corner of the globe. We can have two countries. Hey, we can even have three. As such, I want to wish a particular joyeux 14 juillet to the French ex-patriots out there--the few I do know and the many I don't know. Donc pour vous dans le monde du blogging, je vous souhaits une bon fête: Helen l'ecrivaine de Tartlette, et Bea de La Tartine Gourmande.

Celebrate what you want, when you want, where you want. There are enough national holidays that take place daily around the world that everyday could be a celebration. And why not then. Sounds like a nice life to me. We never have to stick to just our own culture, just our own flag, our own nationality--i will always have blue white and red tucked in next to my red white and blue. To own an unchanging culture is impossible and undesirable. My advice: stay open. If you don't understand the words, don't turn off the music; open a dictionary. My nationality is in a constant state of change: it is waiting to find yours--and incorporate.

Bon 14 juillet!

à bientôt

Sunday, July 13, 2008

La Liberté of the Bike

Biking Europe--A bit of Vélib'
Yeah yeah I'm not in Paris any longer. So what. I had long intended to attempt a piece about the bicycle culture in Paris, or rather Europe in general for that matter, and was just recently returned to the subject by an article in the New York Times describing the system. So, on y va.

The bicycle is an image synonymous of all that which is "quint-essential European", the pinging little bell in the distance, the Parisian women clad in flowing summer dresses peddling home as the designer bag and evening groceries bob to and fro in the small panier stylishly affixed to the front, baguette pinched in alongside the flowers and brie. Ah yes mes amis, the bicycle has been a Parisian fashion statement a la mode since the eve of the Second World War. Chic, beneficial to the health, and visually pleasing above the ground, the bike is the way to commute, the way to shop, the way to see, and the way to be in Paris.

The city of Paris--the darling gem of a city that it already is, instituted nearly a year ago, in July 2007, a system to bring affordable and convenient bike rental to the many wishing for an alternative to the dark underground, head pounding traffic jams, and tedious bus waits. It is called vélib; (velo + liberté) an arsenal of bicycles that can, for a mere 1.50euro a day, provide the European bank-card holder unlimited bicycle use for a day. And I--I have had many a go on velib. Yet just another thing America needs to catch up on.

Good for you and your shiny memory is what i say now to you long time readers who are thinking, wait a minute cod-girl, don't you have a bike? Why yes I do, Emile. And I did use Emile on a regular basis, however, without a basket, shopping was a bit difficult, and forget about consecutive days of long rides, for Emile's rock-hard seat meant sore ass-bones that were indeed relieved by the more forgiving cushions of the velib. But Emile, the lovely Emile served us well. Especially during those times when the bank account ran below the 150euro mark; the minimum in-account-specie required in order to check out a velib.

The velib system in Paris consists of 20,000 bicycles available throughout the city at some 1,500 checkpoint stations, all an average 300 meters distance from one to the other. A day pass costs the cyclist a scanty 1.50euro, however if the bike is used for more than 30 minutes without being checked into a station, it begins to automatically deduct fees from the credit card used to rent the bike, and as time begins to stack, the charges become quite steep. So, to avoid charges--just check in the bike every 30 minutes! Ce n'est pas difficile! On the contrary, it becomes quite the adventure: with the clock ticking down...3 minutes to go...look there's a station! Vite vite! Allez! Ah Merde! There are no empty slots to check the bike in! Encroyable! Vite on cherche un autre! 1 minute to go...30 seconds...STOP on the right! Allez! 3,2,! Red light: blink green. Woohoo! Made it! Pull it right back out, and here we go again for the next 30 minutes. And we can pull this loop for a full 24 hours! Chouette!

The velib, however, is slightly limited to non-european tourists; a european bank card with an electronic chip is required to rent. So, no card?--make friends with some Frenchies fast and get 'em to take you out on the town. That's my advice to you. Otherwise, tant pis pour toi, you're a fish out of water.

As much as i would like to say that the French, with their superior intellect and all-around reputation for grand reform and incredible discovery, were the first to come up with the idea of a bike rental system in the big city--I can not. Many other European cities have run similar programs, and that having been said for years. My first realization came at first hand experience: in Barcelona. Hey, i shouted to my friend living in Barcelona at the time, those our ours, you copied us! But on further inspection, it became clear that the bike rental system in Barcelona was a bit older than that in Paris.

The Bicing bicycle rental facility first appeared in Barcelona in March of 2007. My second sighting of a velib-style system outside of Paris was in Rome with Roma Bike, inaugurated the 13 June 2008, just 2 days before I arrived. Other European cities maintaining such systems include Lyon, Nantes, Toulouse, myriad cities in Germany, Oslo, Stockholm, Vienna, Seville, Brussels, and Sandnes (Norway). The first, however, the very first civilian bicycle transportation system ever put into action was in Copenhagen, which has been providing free bicycle rentals to the public as well as tourists since 1995. Chouette! I mean, in Danish rather then, ugle!

Though quint-essentially Parisian, the bicycle is a thing shared amongst nearly all societies in Europe. The French bike, the Irish bike, the Spanish bike, the Polish bike, the German bike--the Portuguese, well not so much in the cities; too many hills. All of Europe bikes. Good for the health, good for the myriad transportation strikes that leave you contemplating, do I walk or call in sick? Good for plaisir, good for the environment, good all around (except maybe for the car and bus drivers, bicyclists oftentimes appear as pills in their repertoire). Bicycling is the perfect mode of city viewing--when acting the "Parisian tour guide" the stories that come back to me the most from my visitors, is always those of the bikes. Biking to Sacre Coeur in the Rain, around the arc de Triomphe at dusk, along the Seine at dawn, and under the sparkling Tour Eiffel at night.

Going to Europ--get on a bike. If not, you will miss exactly what ought not be missed.

Biking is a lifestyle, a way of life; one a bit more European than American. Can America bike? It's getting there. Slowly catching on. One pedaler at a time. Though city bike systems like those in Europe--I am pessimistically, though practically of the opinion that they will never be a reality in America. The bicycles will be kept to the private sector, like most institutions in Uncle Sams Land. And the bicycles role in the rest of the world? In Asia? in Africa? in South America? I have no authority--yet. But you will be the first, well probably the second to know.

So this silly cod-girl will privately bike to school, though Emile was left behind in Paris, the wheel still turns, and the gears still shift. Je vais bike to class, to work, to here, to there--and to you. Let's go biking.

à bientôt