Thursday, January 26, 2006

The Tunisian is no longer

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Our Tunisian baker closed its doors definitively last week, without warning. While it's true that their bread was not as good as the Breton bakery on the next block, they had lovely Arabic pastries such as baklava, cone shaped filo pastries filled with ground pistachios or almonds, and other rose water and orange flower water-scented delights, that provided an occasional break from the lovely yet ubiquitous tarte aux fraises and millefeuilles in the area. Plus they were open till 21h30. Trust me, in our neighborhood, that was a godsend.

When Eddie moved to this area near La Fourche about six years ago, it was still quite a working class neighborhood with lots of immigrant families. Now our neighborhood shows signs of slight gentrification. Eddie was wondering if the Tunisian closed because of this, but I think maybe it's just that the bread wasn't as good. On days when the both the Breton and the Tunisian were open, the Breton always had a line out the door, versus the Tunisian who was usually occupied but rarely all-out full. One thing that is true about the French, I have noticed, is that they will go out of their way for quality, as opposed to just plain convenience. I remember when I first moved here a few years ago, a French friend of my mother's walked me up and down the rue de Commerce to the butcher that had "the best blood sausage in the fifteenth". Even now, I find myself waiting for the twice a week produce market instead of buying fruits and veg at the Franprix...

Tuesday, January 24, 2006


One thing I have discovered living in Europe is that during the cold damp winter, visiting a sauna or hammam can do wonders to revive and blow away the feeling of lethargy, as well as dry winter skin. Yesterday I decided to visit the hammam that is just down the street. Although I had visited other hammams in Paris, this one has the advantage of being right in my neighborhood and plus it is about half the cost of other hammams in Paris. When I got there I realized it's because it is the real thing: mainly only North African women beginning sentences in Arabic and finishing them in French. Since it was the middle of the day, there was just me and two round Moroccan women in the steam room. They were very convivial and laughed loudly. I heard once that the hammam traditionally holds an almost sacred place for women in some Islamic countries as this is the one place where they can speak alone with one another without the veil. One of the women offered to scrub my back with my exfoliating glove as I was alone and could not reach. Another one offered me an orange.

Then came time for my treatment. I was shown into a steam room with a table in the center, and a woman with a thick accent I could barely understand took a dixie cup filled with a black gel-like soap called savon noir. It is supposed to draw out impurities in your skin and is used all over hammams in North Africa. Then she began to scrub me all over with an exfoliating sponge. I mean, she was really scrubbing, more than I had ever scrubbed in my whole life, really pushing down with that thing. I was slightly wincing in pain and thought for a moment I would sit up and blood would run down my arms. In fact when I did sit up and she continued to scrub my legs, I noticed little gray peels of dead upper epidermal layer. Oh. My. God.

She instructed me to rinse off the dead skin in the shower, and when I came out she slathered me in this mud substance. It smelled like cloves and cinnamon, and it burned slightly on my new baby skin. As I stood there waiting for the mask to sink in to work its effects, the two Morroccan women were looking to see my reaction. "C'est le vrai Maroc", one of them said to me, pointing at the burning mud.

Afterwards I rinsed it off, and went upstairs to nap on one of the wooden sofas with big oriental pillows. The room had oriental rugs, fake plants, lavish silk curtains, soundproof ceilings, a coke machine and a little boom box set to an Arabic radio station. The woman came back in a little while and led me into another room for my massage with essential oils. My skin is now so soft and shiny I can literally see my reflection in my shins. I was offered sweet mint tea and North African pastries on my way out, which I sadly had to decline because I am on an after-holidays January regime. However, I was proud of myself for actually declining.

Might make this a weekly endeavor, who knows....


After a big gung-ho back in October about starting a blog, I now haven't written in over three months. Hmm.

It's been kind of a crazy few months, what with the holidays and traveling and all. Finding a pumpkin to carve in Paris, which took us on a goose chase to the Carrefour in Saint Denis just days before the riots began in that 'hood. Then I think the entire month of November was spent obsessing about what vegetarian dishes to serve on Thanksgiving, where to buy Ocean Spray cranberry sauce in Paris, and corresponding with Eddie's mother who very generously mailed us cornbread mix and Stovetop stuffing from Canada. Early December I was invited to a traditional German Christmas cookie baking party, and then Christmas eve was celebrated with a walk in the Bois de Boulogne followed by the traditional Reveillon late night supper of fois gras, oysters, a dark bread served with oysters called seigle, poached lobster, and about six of the traditional thirteen desserts of the Reveillon from Provence. Christmas day my sweet hubby baked me a stuffed guinea hen despite his vegetarian self not having any, and we had a Buche de Noel christmas cake for dessert. I am still full. Then it was down to snowy Germany for a few days, and back to Paris on a six am flight New Years eve morning, in time for a New Years celebration at a friend's tiny studio in the Latin Quarter. So yeah, it was a bit crazy for a minute there.

But things are calm now, in this chilly month of January filled with rest, detox diets, christmas bills etc, so I hope I am back in action....