Paris:- Friday, 21. June 1996:- 'Jiminey Cricket!' I
have forgotten to feed you! Here in France, here in Paris,
and I never mention eating. How could I forget? The pastime
number one bar none - and Metropole's readers need to eat
With all cards on the table, being perfectly frank, looking you in the eyes; I confess I eat not.
Yes, well, that is not exactly true. I should say I don't eat 'on the job.' The reason is simple: it takes too long. I can not eat and work, unless I am working in a restaurant; and I do not do that because I am not a professional eater. I can tell you what I see and you can read it and if you come here and you see it too you can agree - or disagree - with me.
If I tell you what I eat I will have to say whether it is good or bad and if you come here and try the same thing you may not agree at all with my conclusion and you will say 'his two spoons are not my idea of two spoons' and then the reader will commence to disbelieve what I see as well as what I eat.
But eating is like shelter - to the French even more so - and we all need to do it, so I think I had better start to write about eating, once in awhile. Especially if I get hungry.
Absolute and total rejection of responsibility, is what my attorneys have suggested I write here. We all know this is a legal mumble-jumble cop-out so I will be explicit about what I will not eat for you.
I will eat in no Paris' restaurants with stars, spoons, forks, toques, or 'Condemned by Health Dept.' signs, badges, stickers, or guide-book mentions. I will not eat any fastfood that is retailed with a brand-name known to anyone.
What does this leave? In Paris? - what does this leave? - why it only leaves all the ordinary bars, cafés, restaurants, bistros, buvettes, street vendors, chestnut roasters and all the 'ethnic' variations of the above - 4,000 'oriental' restaurants alone in the Ile-de-France - there is a surprising variety - and some of it will be new and strange, even to people who live here.
For example, a French staple sandwich used to be a small crusty baguette - a 'batard' - cut lengthwise, sometimes smeared liberally with butter - not marg! - and stuffed with cooked ham. This was - still is - the 'national' sandwich and it is still widely available. But now, many boulangeries in the city offer their noontime clientele a selection of well-made and even inventive sandwiches to take away. These have become so popular that there are often none left when I want one.
Many, many charcuteries sell ready-made potato salad and sausage salad and every sort of thing - olives! - in little plastic containers with lids, that you can buy by weight. What I'm saying is, you don't have to bring your own pocket knife and slice all this stuff on your lap in the park. Besides traditional charcuteries, there are Italian ones, near-and-far Orient ones, African ones; every sort.
This introduction has gone on too long, so forthwith, here is out first 'eat' review:
25. Rue des Rosiers, Paris 4. Open from noon to 15:00 and from 17:30 to 22:30. Tel.: 44 78 00 33, but I doubt if reservations are accepted - but they may be if you are a good friend of Princess Diana or Bernard Tapie.
This cozy little 18-seat restaurant has a take-away window for sandwiches, that are sort of eastern Mediterranean. Specialties of the maison are Shawarna or Fallafel Pilon or Fallafel as boulettes; in viande, fish, chicken and pois-chiche. There is also a mexican variety of Fallafel on the menu.
|A plate of the boulettes comes with crudities - 'crudities' are vegetable in nature - and in the case of the plate I had for lunch today, included tomato, lettuce, monster beans, carrots, peas, some hot stuff and some paste that went well with the hot pita bread on the side, and there was a couple of other things I've never seen before - eggplant? - and it was pretty good for 55 francs. I passed on the 20-franc desserts which are Strudel, Paveau et Noix, or nuts. To drink I had non-vintage Badoit, which is less fizzy than Perrier - but saltier.|
I had the intention of having a sandwich on the street, but
I arrived so late and so beat, that I sat down inside. Even
without customers the restaurant is crowded with food and
decor, including a battery of ceiling fans. The patron -
who I had met once before - and I could not seem to
coordinate our languages - "What you voudrais talk?" - and
he was grumpy because he wanted to close and my entry had
attracted two other customers, who he was not grumpy with.
Besides the decor, the Europe Restaurant is unusual because the patron will negotiate the prices for students and the unemployed; the subtitle of the name is 'Foyer - Maison Humanitaire.' Nobody will go away hungry, unless you are suspected by being very rich.
|The take-away sandwich window has prices about half of the sit-down interior prices, from 20 to 30 francs. This is in the rue des Rosiers, which is narrow but very lively - so there are things to see outside as well as inside. This is a good restaurant and if you do need to bargain, you may get more than you expect.|
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| No matter how good it tastes,
there is no such thing
as a free lunch.
– Waldo Bini