Getting to work in the morning has become different in the past few weeks.
For one, I go to the gym before work, which means that I get to the neighborhood quite a bit earlier than I used to, at around eight. I did used to come in that early in the winter, but it was winter, and it was cold, and it was dark, and it was far less pleasant than it is now.
Now, I know everyone.
The neighborhood where I work actually isn’t in Paris, but in Boulogne, a suburb of the city. The street where we work is home to a permanent market, similar to Rue Cler (though far smaller), with two bakeries, two pharmacies, two greengrocers, a butcher, a fishmonger, a supermarket, a café, an Italian épicerie and a charcuterie. Deduce what you will about how the French prioritize.
There is no wine shop, but luckily, the cheese man sells wine.
Much of my work involves filming video recipes, and when we’re filming, someone has to go grocery shopping. While there is occasionally someone else to fetch the last-minute things a chef forgot to ask us for, when it comes to ordering the bizarre cuts of meats, foreign vegetables and fish that our Portuguese fishmonger has never heard of, it’s usually me. And that means that I have made friends with most of the people along the street.
In the mornings, I have time. I have always loved mornings for that. Of course, if you’re rushing into work at the last minute, you don’t have time, but arriving an hour and a half before work begins gives me the luxury of observing the neighborhood in the morning, and it’s the sort of scene you can’t make up.
One of the greengrocers is getting a coffee at the café, already decked out in his uniform brown apron. The café owner, who usually calls me mon ange, doesn’t notice me; I don’t take it personally: I’m out of context in the morning. He’ll say his first bonjour this afternoon when we stop by for a drink before lunch.
The other greengrocer is already at his post, unloading the trucks from Rungis. He calls me charmante.
The butcher, Franck, is having his morning cigarette in front of the closed Asian traiteur. He calls me Emily, and when he writes my factures, he spells it properly. Even the Country Boy’s family sometimes forgets the y.
They all tutoie me except for the fishmonger, but I can’t fault him for it: I know what it is to be overly polite to compensate for the foreignness of the language.
As I walk through this neighborhood that is not mine but which I have appropriated, I can’t deny it.
Spring is officially here in Paris.
That being said, I know that’s not the case everywhere else, particularly in certain parts of the States. I made this salad a few weeks ago, before all of the fantastic produce had started popping up, when all I had to choose from was arugula and root vegetables. Still, it was fresh and tasty and perfect for the weather, just starting to warm up.
Late Winter Salad
2 Tbsp. olive oil, separated
2 cups baby arugula
2 ounces feta
1/2 red onion
salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Cut the carrots and parsnips into fries. Toss them with one of the tablespoons of oil and a bit of salt. Roast, turning occasionally, until soft on the inside and caramelized on the outside, about 20-25 minutes.
Toss the arugula with the remaining oil and enough lemon juice for your palate. (For me that’s a whole lemon, but I like lemon.) Season with salt and pepper.
Thinly slice the red onion and toss it in the the arugula.
Halve the avocado around the pit and separate the two halves. Use a spoon to remove each avocado half from the skin. Thinly slice the avocado lengthwise, and fan it out over the top of the arugula.
Remove the parsnips and carrots from the oven, and place them decoratively in bunches over the top of the arugula. Drizzle any cooking juices over the top. Sprinkle the feta over the salad. Dream of spring… it’s coming soon.
P.S. If I’d had some cilantro, I would have added a bunch of it to the salad… but TCB hates it, so I didn’t.