It’s not uncommon for people, during university or right after, to end up in Paris. It may not seem so to the unassuming tourist, but the truth is, Paris, is teeming with people in their early twenties, many of whom decide that they’re going to be here for the rest of their lives. Then, one by one, they go back, in search of jobs, a day-to-day routine that doesn’t involve carte de séjour stress or dating in a foreign language, and those of us who remain are constantly faced with the same question: “Why do you like it better here than in the States?”
I used to have a handful of reasons, though none of them felt true. I realized the truth, oddly enough, when I left France nearly two years ago now, when I had the job, the easier life, the dating in my native language. What I realized was that it wasn’t that I preferred France; it was that I wanted both. Both countries, both lives. I wanted to perpetually straddle the Atlantic, to feel that I firmly had one foot in both my native and adopted lands. With my parents and siblings living in America, my past, my childhood, my passport, my nationality, America wasn’t leaving me any time soon. But as I fell into my life there, I realized that the reality of my life in France was much more fleeting. I chose France, not because I wanted to abandon America, but because I didn’t want France to abandon me.
For the last two years, I’ve been comfortable with my decision. Sure, there have been moments, mainly with regards to French bureaucracy, where I’d rather staple my hand to my forehead than be here, but if given the chance, I would never jump on a plane and go back, even if it is easier.
But I can’t straddle two countries forever. I’m realizing this now. I haven’t been to America since June; my annual Christmas trip, as I’ve already told you, was cancelled this year due to technical difficulties and the French administration having a large stick up their derrières. For the first time, America feels far… too far for comfort. And then there are the little things… the fact that I’m more comfortable answering pop culture questions about France, or the fact that my version of America is less actual America and more the strange nostalgia that we expats feel. It’s a removed version, something that existed once, maybe, or that we’ve created in memory of the place we all once called home.
My plans for Christmas have rapidly changed; I’m spending it at the Country Boy’s, my first French Christmas. I’m excited, and yet there’s a huge part of me that misses the Christmas I’ve always known that I know will still be going on without me. All of my siblings will be home for Christmas; this is the baby’s first year of college, her first homecoming. I didn’t expect not to be there for it.
As for the pictures, they’re the last of my America shots. I remember coming to this point sometime in the spring of 2010, as I was settling into my job and life in New York. Paris was fading from my Flickr photostream, and while I’m very aware that it’s not the most romantic way for something to fade, it’s true, and that has to count for something. These are the last pieces of New York I have, for the moment: spring shots of Long Island I took at the same time that France was fading, nearly two years ago. Funny how things like that happen.
I’ve posted countless varieties of pasta with tomato sauce: the ultimate in comfort food, especially in my family. I’ve changed my version again and again: this one was made with a whole pan of fresh summer tomatoes, roasted with salt, olive oil and a tiny bit of sugar, with three unwrapped garlic cloves tucked in for good luck. My trusty immersion blender and a handful of fresh basil finished the deal, and I topped it, not with parmesan, but with freshly grated comté, TCB’s favorite.
Tomorrow, things will feel better. But I was supposed to fly today, and so I am allowing myself a few moments of wallowing. I hope you don’t mind.
Fresh Roasted Tomato Sauce
10-12 fresh tomatoes, roma or on the vine
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. sugar
2 tsp. olive oil
3 cloves garlic, peeled
1 cup basil leaves, rinsed.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
Chop the tomatoes into chunks. (You can peel them first if you like, but I’m very lazy.) Toss with salt, sugar and olive oil, and place in a glass baking dish. Tuck the cloves of garlic into the pile of tomatoes so that they are not exposed to the air but don’t touch the bottom of the glass.
Roast for about an hour to an hour and a half, tossing as the tomatoes brown and caramelize on the top, about every 15 to 20 minutes. When the tomatoes have reduced by nearly half, remove from the oven and allow to cool about 10-15 minutes on the countertop.
Blend the tomatoes and basil with an immersion blender. Serve atop pasta; I like spaghetti.