THINGS I LOVED/HATED THIS WEEK #201

LOVE:

Passion Fruit Concentrate:

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My obsession with passion fruit has not lasted as long as I seem to remember. I came late to life to this delicious flavor, one that I hardly knew existed, one that causes endless debate amongst pastry artists. After graduating from Le Cordon Bleu, my specialty became macarons. For a time, I considered starting a macaron business, but then I learned a very valuable lesson. Here it is: if you have a gift or a skill, but not a passion, do not make it a career. That took me ages to finally come to terms with. I love baking and crafting pastries, but I do not have a passion for it. I don’t wake up in the morning with an all consuming eagerness to roll out croissants. I would do that for things I’m truly crazy about, like ancient Egyptian tombs from the 18th Dynasty. For that, I would stay awake for days, never tiring. But this post isn’t about following your dreams, it’s about these bizarre vines that produce the most delicious fruit. In a cookbook that I have from Pierre Hermé, my favorite pastry chef of all time, there is a recipe for a macaron called the Mogador. It’s a blend of passion fruit and milk chocolate, and I was determined to try it as it has a cult following. After much searching, I finally found four of the fruits for an incredible price. It was worth it, the macarons were insanely good. But I never could find them again. No amount of searching, no number of ethnic grocery stores aided me, the shipping prices online were disgusting, and soon I gave up my dream of eating passion fruits every day. A miracle happened years later. I went to a food festival in Des Moines and started screaming when I read that one of the tarts on offer was a curd made from lemon and passion fruit. Immediately, and quite out of character, I demanded to speak with the chef. She told me that I could buy frozen passion fruit purée in a Mexican grocery store called Tapatia. Of course I went immediately. And there it was, gloriously sitting in the freezer, a bag of passion fruit pulp. I could have cried. I have bought this dozens of times and it is just as good as the fresh fruit. It’s more convenient and so delicious. I have used it in macarons and cakes and in sauces and most recently, to replace orange juice in a mimosa. My life changed for the better. But something wonderful occurred the other night. My friend and I went to Tapatia to stock up on baked goods. They make the most amazing pineapple cake and I am devoted to it. Whilst wondering, I stumbled upon a bottle of passion fruit concentrate. Of course I bought it. It was only five dollars and so concentrated that it should last for ages. I opened it up soon after and nodded to myself in total satisfaction. It was perfect. I can have the beautiful flavor whenever I crave it, whenever I need it, at any time of any day. It’s a simple pleasure that gives my life so much meaning.

Champagne:

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I know that I have written about champagne, that delicious bubbly drink before in the past. For some reason, we associate champagne only with elegant moments or fabulous times or something special. I don’t understand this at all. There is never a wrong time to pop the cork on a bottle of champagne. Every day we are alive is a miracle, you know, and you can take my word on that since I’m a certified reverend from the Universal Life Church. If I ever get around to doing a real sermon, we’re doing communion with champagne. Anyway, when I was at ALDI the other day, I found the most remarkable package in the wine department. It was a box of three little bottles of champagne. Of course I bought it! I would do it again gladly. Saturday afternoon I decided to leisurely take a bath and I determined that it would be an excellent idea to have a mimosa whilst I soaked. Reader, I have rarely been more right. I didn’t have any orange juice, so I used some passion fruit concentrate that I recently found and, as mentioned above, am utterly and totally obsessed with. Like, OBSESSED. That’s not even a strong enough word, there is no word in the English language powerful enough to fully convey my feeling for that bottle of passion fruit concentrate. It’s life changing. And it’s even better with champagne. I was so happy. And reader, there is something about champagne that makes me feel great and good and utterly relaxed. And a bit giddy, too. I should drink champagne every day. For a spell, I was having a flute every night after work. It was decadence. I’m going to start that again. Drink, readers. Live your best life.

1493:

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A friend gave me a copy of 1493 several months ago and I finally had the chance to get started. My stack of books is ridiculous. I’ll never get around to them all. Joanna Lumley once said something that really resonated with me. I can’t recall the exact quote, but she said something along the lines of, “Oh I’ll never finish all my reading, I expect my coffin will be filled with books I meant to read.” I expect I’ll never read all mine. That’s okay, I suppose, I have been coming to terms with the fact that one lifetime is not enough for me. I need dozens to accomplish all that I want. I just lament that I’ll never study everything ever written about ancient Egypt. Oh well… I read 1491 this summer on the way to Mexico, and it totally changed my conception of the ancient Americas. I have always been open minded when it comes to history, and I find it utterly fascinating, but I have never had much of an interest in American history. That’s a lie; I have never had any interest in the ancient Americas. In my mind, it was nothing but teepees and buffalo and the occasional smoke signal. This is terrible confession, terribly ethnocentric of me, but this is a shamefully common stereotype for people of European descent. 1491 completely changed my worldview. I have started to understand and appreciate the cultures and empires of the past. 1493 tells the tale of what happened to the world because of that idiot Columbus. I am no fan of his, and the book doesn’t treat him gently, but doesn’t vilify him quite as much as other histories. This annoyed me at the beginning, but it’s vitally important to be willing to change your opinions and accept new understandings, so I shan’t treat him as the slaughterer of a hemisphere, just as a horrible man who launched a series of events out of his control. Anyway, this book focuses on the consequences of the Colombian Exchange. The topic is much more fascinating than I ever anticipated. There were several pages all about earthworms. Did you know that North America had no earthworms before the English arrived? Can you imagine that? The earthworms were in the dirt used in the ballast of ships used to trade tobacco. When they were dumped here to allow more tobacco to be stored in the ships, the earthworms and other soil borne organisms quickly adapted to their new home. They took off. Because of them, the soil was aerated in ways never before possible in the Americas. North America didn’t have bees or grapes or any number of things that I have never once before thought about. I’m only a quarter through the book and already it’s blowing my mind. Get a copy, reader. Read it.

Absolutely Champers:

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It’s always peculiar when something comes up and up and up again and again for no reason. (Please make your own jokes. I’ll wait…) I haven’t given champagne a thought in ages and then, all of a sudden, out of nowhere, it’s everywhere in my life. I’m happily sipping it with friends, sipping it at home, sipping it at a holiday party, and then my favorite person living on the planet hosted a special about the bubbly beverage. Some would call this coincidence, but I stopped believing in coincidences when I had a long and excellent chat with a fellow traveler on the roof of a hotel in Giza several years ago. Lady M, and we’ve discussed her many times in the past since our fateful week together, changed my perspectives on everything. I don’t believe in coincidences and everything happens because we manifest it ourselves. And so, Joanna Lumley, my one true queen, and Jennifer Saunders teamed up to make a wonderful documentary about the production of champagne. It was informative, but it really was an excuse to see them gallivanting around the French countryside getting tipsy on good champagne and living like their iconic characters, Edina Monsoon and Patsy Stone. I legitimately cried a dozen times watching Jennifer and Joanna visiting the fine vineyards, picking grapes, sipping rare vintages, cracking jokes, and being utterly charming. It was too wondrous. It was everything I love. And it reminded me that before anything else, I was French. It was the first place I ever felt right and at home. It’s the first place I was myself. It was the first place I discovered the point of living. France molded me more than anything else. And to see my favorite people living a life that I love in a place that means so much to me…well it was overwhelming. And it could have been the obligatory champagne that I sipped while watching, but I was just so damned happy. I have watched the special three times now, and I’m sure that I will watch it a dozen times again in the upcoming days. I’m not doing it justice, I know, because I find that I cannot properly explain to you something so important to my psyche. This show feels like it erupted from my brain, like Athena jumping out of the cranium of Zeus. I felt like I was back in Paris. I felt like I was in 2009 again and Barack Obama was newly president. I felt like I was twirling tipsily in front of Notre Dame. I was in Métros and searching for clues about my grandmother’s life along the Côte d’Azur. And Patsy was there. And Eddie was there. And I was never so content. Watch it, dear and darling readers.

HATE:

Colette Closing:

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I have rarely been so upset, reader. That probably isn’t true, but I am devastated. I don’t even know where to begin this tale of woe. On the Rue Saint-Honoré, in my beloved hometown of Paris, there stands a shop called Colette. Inside is a wealth of quirky and expensive objects to buy. You could get golden Blackberries, designer clothing, huge glossy books full of artsy photos, Japanese erasers in the shape of sushi, and even ice cube trays. Everything was beautifully curated, and the shop had a cult following. Karl Lagerfeld visited it frequently, and so I did too. Over the course of many visits to Paris, I made sure to stop by Colette to pick up a little something or just see if there were any celebrities. There never were, not until one magical day in 2011. Jessica and I were spending a month in Paris and Dita von Teese announced that she was in town. I jokingly suggested going to Colette to see if she was there. So, Jessica and I were off, riding the Métro across town and casually sauntering into the shop. Nothing was out of the ordinary, and we were looking at different expensive smartphones for sale. Jessica noticed a woman carrying a bag with a monogram of DVT. “D. V. T.” Jessica gasped, and in unison we said, “Dita von Teese!” Looking up at the woman, could have screamed. It was she. Burlesque superstar, Dita von Teese! I was thunderstruck, but Jessica was oddly brave and a few short moments later, she was posing in a photo with me.

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It was the kindest thing in the world. Her then boyfriend nodded at me. I later learned that he was an actual count. Isn’t that wild? It was a wonderful moment, and I have long cherished Colette. I was shocked and saddened earlier this year when they announce they were going to shut down. I put it out of mind because I couldn’t process the emotions it gave me. Then, yesterday, there were images all over Instagram about the closing. It was the final day. Former staff returned, Karl Lagerfeld’s bodyguard was there, it was devastating. I can’t get over it. Paris just won’t be the same anymore. All I have now are memories. So melancholy.

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