April 22nd, 2010
If you travel to Paris an ascetic, you come back an epicure. If you go there an epicure, you come back a hedonist. And if, god help you, you go to Paris a hedonist, well, you’re not coming back. Come the hour of departure you’ll be gobbling ganache in the back-room of some confectionery, rifling through rues for one last macaron shop, or just sitting in some square, serenely feasting on the fresh memory of how a tomato or chanterelle or asparagus spear startled you into new recognition of a food you thought could not surprise you.
Of course, we do come back — bellies full, livers bruised — but some part of us never really does in quite the same way; this of course holds true for any place we visit that deeply moves us. We come back with some faculty or sense transformed, and that changed part of us is perhaps the most satisfying souvenir we can hope for when we travel. Maybe it’s the texture of the pillars in the Place de la Concorde or the brocade wall-coverings in Versailles that gives us new eyes; maybe it’s a week of being balmed in the honey of spoken French that gives us new ears. Maybe some lingering walk through the medieval Ancien Cloître Quartier‘s street-tangle awakens us to history, opens it within us like a nova, revealing to us the depth of ages, a gift of an awakened sense of what has preceded us. All these things and more were true to some extent for me, but the simplest way I’ve come to feel altered by Paris is in my relationship to food, drink, and all the collected table pleasures of texture, vision, taste and smell.
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