Sunday, February 28, 2016

zryala vuzrast

French lemon meringue tart is prettier than lemon meringue pie, but eggier and less delicious.
Sorry for my absence. I was busy turning fifty.

Mark took Owen and me to Paris for a few days to celebrate this milestone. It was cold and gray and expensive and beautiful. There were police and soldiers everywhere. We saw the actor who plays Carl on the Walking Dead in the Mona Lisa room at the Louvre. We saw Mrs. Roman Polanski outside Cafe Flore. From the cheapest seats in the house, we saw a ballet choreographed by Mr. Natalie Portman. What else? French women do get fat. So do French men, even though a lot of them smoke. Everyone was wearing coats, but the fashions were still fun to study. Ladies, if you want to look Parisian, quit combing your hair so much and never set foot in Lulu Lemon again. Just do the messiest ponytail you can manage and buy lots of scarves, black tights, and boots. But above all, no yoga pants in public, ever.

I like this artful little video of Owen and me on the Metro:

It captures one dynamic of the trip in 7 seconds.

So much as been written about French cooking it's hard to have an original thought. This may not be an original thought, but I fell in love with the simplicity and deliciousness of French salads. The three or four salads I ate there involved big leaves of lettuce of a single variety, not those scrappy mixed greens we favor here. I can’t remember the last time I ate an American salad that didn’t consist of wisps of baby arugula, baby spinach, baby mizuna, baby oak leaf, etc. Fully-developed leaves from an adult head. That’s the salad I want at fifty.

I'm happy to be fifty, by the way. You have to understand, I’ve been bracing for fifty for the last three years and now I can stop. Now I can relax and settle in. The late forties are so ambiguous. Fifty isn't. 

Recently, this acclaimed novel came in for me at the library and I took a short break from War and Peace to tear through it:

It's about an English teacher in Bulgaria and his unrequited love for the male hustler he meets in a public men's room who gives him syphilis. 

Yes, I just made that sounds as unappealing as I possibly could, but think of it this way: A book has to be really, really good to overcome subject matter like that and What Belongs To You absolutely does. If you don’t believe me, believe Dwight Garner ("incandescent") and James Wood ("brilliantly self aware.") 

I mention this book because at one point, the narrator meets a woman whom he describes like this: "She wasn't a young woman, but there was a sense of vitality about her that made me think of the Bulgarian phrase zryala vuzrast, ripe age, which they use for the period of time before one is truly old. She was large, but she carried her weight like a sign of health, her frame softened by well-being."

I like that.

Next post: the 2016 Piglet. I warn you, I'm not engaged like I have been in years past, but I did get as many of the competition books out of the library as I could. It's a very interesting mix. I've never eaten, let alone cooked, food from Oman, Ukraine, or Senegal. But within the week. . .


  1. looking forward to your take on the Piglet & perhaps some of the reviewers & their analyses as well. They seem to be invoking a spirited discussion but then they usually do. Agree with you on salads in Paris, so simple but so good & I've been known to order a salad & dessert as my meal as they're usually the 2 best things

  2. You are spot-on about the look of Parisian women. It's worth adopting.

  3. As usual, my first reaction is to LOVE OWEN! And how perfectly romantic to be taken to Paris for your birthday. Congratulations, Tipsy! Happy Birthday!

  4. Also looking forward to your Piglet commentary!

  5. Happy birthday! And Mark FTW, wow. That more than makes up for disparaging remarks about cake and his propensity to feed the kids wonder bread.

  6. Happy birthday and congratulations on turning 50, going to Paris, finding a good book. You are on a roll! For the record, you certainly don't look 50. Owen is a hoot; you can get his goat by just looking at him. I absolutely love the phrase "ripe age" as I am definitely of ripe age. I will try to remind myself of that next time I look in the mirror. You were missed, but I am delighted you were having fun. Can't wait for the next post.

  7. From the Mamushka cookbook, let me recommend the dumplings, the cabbage rolls, and the garlic bread. All a lot of work, but all really great.

  8. Happy birthday! Loved the video of you and your giant boy.

  9. don't they dress salads with melted butter in Paris?

  10. Pre joyless food crank days, when I lived in Paris I had three salad loves. One was salade au fois de volaille, which was a small green salad with a mustard vinaigrette topped with the sautéed liver of a chicken along with all of the pan juices, and the pan was usually deglazed with sherry. SO good. The other was salade au confit des gesiers, and this was duck hearts and gizzards cooked slowly in goose fat until meltingly tender, tossed onto a green salad. SO SO GOOD. The third was salade aux lardons, which was a green salad topped with an egg that had been boiled until the white was set but the yolk was still runny {and the eggs in France are delicious} and thick, chewy, crispy pieces of fatty pork. OMG. HEAVEN.

    I heartily dislike mesclun, which is almost always over the hill and tasteless, and am so much happier with just plain Romaine or Boston!

  11. I am also celebrating my 50th birthday in Paris this month! I will bring no yoga pants or hair brushes. Thanks for the hot tip.

  12. This was a thrill to read. Happy Birthday! (or should I say, "Bonne Anniversaire!" in honor of your trip?) As someone approaching 50, I appreciate your perspective.

    I eagerly await your thoughts on The Piglet. It's off to a terrific start and today's review was particularly marvelous. I have a hard time not having all kinds of opinions about the flimsier reviews so was greatly relieved to find a formidable one on today's roster. The Bloomfield/Ptak review made me absolutely crazy, but I am easily one of the geekier cookbook readers and users among readership both here and at the Piglet.

  13. Quit combing AND WASHING you hair so much, you silly (50 year old) girl.

    Spot on about the wispy lettuce - reminds me of the Truman Capote quote: “… rich people serve such marvelous vegetables. Delicious little tiny vegetables. Little fresh-born things, scarcely out of the earth. Little baby corn, little baby peas, little lambs that have been ripped out of their mothers’ wombs. That’s the real difference. All of their vegetables are so incredibly fresh and unborn,” Capote said to interviewer Lawrence Grobel in 1985.

    Who can place MY favorite *curvy girl* literary description??? -----------------------------------------------------------I>

    "Then I heard footsteps on a stairs, and in a moment the thickish figure of a woman blocked out the light from the office door. She was in the middle thirties, and faintly stout, but she carried her surplus flesh sensuously as some women can. Her face, above a spotted dress of dark blue crepe-de-chine, contained no facet or gleam of beauty, but there was an immediately perceptible vitality about her as if the nerves of her body were continually smouldering."

    Grand prize - if you guess correctly, you WON!

  14. Anonymous, I am so curious about that fabulous passage and have no idea of the source. Looking forward to the answer!

  15. OK, all you non-betting types - that faintly stout lady blocking the exit/entrance was none other than MYRTLE WILSON Tom's mistress in THE GREAT GATSBY! I win!

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