There are some leftovers — I’ve been keepin’ ’em hidden away!! An “Irish pennant”, in Navy terms, is a “loose [possibly ‘untidy’] end of a line” (or rope, in landlubber’s terms!) Just think of “ratty loose ends”! I’m using the term rather “loosely”, since I’ve briefly mentioned a number of things, and have not followed thru with an explanation. A “ditty bag” contains loose items — or in my case some unrelated items all stuck away! A menagerie of memories!! And that’s my own glossary!!
I’ve mentioned the fact that the wife ‘retired’ from cooking not too long after we arrived in Paris, France. That fact is my “irish pennant”! It was September/October 1983 time-frame, I had taken a job with IBM World Trade (all IBM activities outside the United States) — actually, it was for IBM Europe — working out of the headquarters in La Defense, a major business district — just west of the city of Paris, France! But when I first accepted the job, my office was on Rue Fauberge St. Honore! — right smack in the middle of the city!! That unbelievable city!! That was late June/early July of ’83!! I’ll get back to the earlier location issue later (a loose end!!). Now, though, I want to tell you about our physical move — before our furniture arrived — in October ’83, the wife and I were ‘put up’ in the Paris Hilton. And guess what!! We got to live in the Hilton for a few weeks before our furnishings arrived from Los Angeles — on a “slow boat” to Paris!! That hotel is a stone’s throw from the Eiffel Tower in the 7th arrondisement!! We were two happy newcomers to France!! Well, Jody — our eldest daughter — had just completed her law exams, and not being someone to miss an opportunity to visit her parents in Paris — well, she had taken a charter flight and arrived one day before we did!! One of my future employees and his wife, both Italians, hosted Jody for her first night abroad! So when we got to the hotel, there was Jody waiting to help — she spoke French rather well — we spoke nil!! Jody was 28 years old at the time; and children could stay “free” at the Paris Hilton!! So for our stay at the Hilton — Jody slept on a cot at the foot of our bed — at no extra charge!! Comfort was not an issue — it was FREE!! And for the next few weeks, Jody introduced her mother to the ‘metro’ and the wonderful sights in the “city of light”, while dad was introduced to his new job! Jody had visited Paris on a school summer program, years earlier, and had studied French all through high school!! She spoke and understood French sufficiently to help us become indoctrinated and immersed in Paris — and France!! She was one happy warrior — she was needed — and she was in her favorite city in the world!! And Dad was footing all the bills!!
In an earlier blog, I wrote about finding our 3-story apartment — living, dining, and kitchen on first; two bedrooms on second; and a wonderful open roof terrace for the third! It was the 5th,6th and 7th floors in a multi-apartment complex with a ‘tiny’ French elevator! Well, the kitchen was very old-fashioned — to say the least!! Let’s just say — the other part of the place was modern — 20th century (remember it’s 1983) and the kitchen was 18th century — okay! that’s an exaggeration, but you get the point!! So, at our own expense, we tore out some of the shelves and counters and installed a modern kitchen –all to the tune of a few thousand U.S. dollars!! And included was a washer/dryer — all one unit?? [I ended up hating that machine — everything came out with ‘lint’, and it took forever-and-a-day for the whole wash and dry cycles to come to an end!] But, we had a modern kitchen and it matched the whole place!! And even if it did cost a few extra bucks, we were in Paris, France!! Almost forgot — Jody was our contractor — she handled everything — including purchasing a new fridge, stove, and that ‘washer-dryer’! How about that! — for a “foot-of-the-bed” addition, she was worth her weight in “francs”!!
While the flat was being renovated, we decided to have dinner in a restaurant near our new abode. The name of the restaurant was “Clocher” which means ‘clock’ — and it was on a corner with a clock tower!! How about that!! We had been in France for about a week, now, and were just getting the feel of things — I had a “restaurant-food” dictionary always handy at meals, which made ordering less difficult!! But even some words in English had to be explained (these were my early days before ‘chef-dom’) — no “googlin'”at the table in those days (1983) — but we managed well! [For folks that know the wife and I — ordering at restaurants has always been one of our forte’s! No matter the language!!] Well, the first course came without ordering, in the center of a rather large table was placed a very large object — in the shape of tumbler, circular, 18 inches in diameter and about 2 feet tall — with a large dipper hanging from a top ledge — and from this huge ceramic caldron the waiter poured some very tasty soup!! That was somewhat dramatic!! And for the main courses, we each had placed our orders from the ‘very-French’ menu and dined like ‘roi’s’!!
And then the ‘piece de resistance’ — I had already tasted a few French desserts — normally, I am not a ‘big’ dessert-eater, but in France, folks make a career out of making desserts!! So in just a week or so, I went from a non-dessert-eater — to a never-miss-a-lick dessert-consumer!! I had already learned what a “coulis de framboise” was — and that on plain ‘white’ old-fashioned Wonder bread — it would taste heavenly!! So, guess what, that same waiter brought forth that same huge crock or caldron — and placed it in the middle of the table!! His only question was “one(?) or two(?)” spoonfuls —very large spoonfuls!! And the matter that he was offering was DRUM ROLL, PLEASE!! Chocolate Mousse !! Yes, a very large spoonful or two of chocolate mousse!! And at that moment, the wife rose from her chair at the opposite side of our table and declared, in no uncertain terms, I’M RETIRING FROM COOKING!!! Period, exclamation point.! And that’s when Harriette made her declaration of independence from the kitchen at the tender age of 55 (almost) — not even retirement age!! Boy-o-boy!! Did I mess up!! And she meant it too!!
And this marriage arrangement with a non-cooking wife occurred long before I took over the mantle — re: Emiliano’s Cocina in San Miguel de Allende at about 2001AD!! And anyone who wanted to check on these facts, while we were residing in Paris, only had to open the fridge’s door!! There they would find — the white wines chilling — the swiss cheese non-fermenting — and the slices of fresh ham resting — the latter two collected from one of the three neighborhood markets!! And we two were very happy with that arrangement — we were in Paris, France, for goodness sakes — who needs to cook?! Those 3 items were all that were necessary for two middle-aged foodies in Paris!!!
And this practice followed us through our Connecticut period — we would drive the Westport-Manhattan route at the drop of a fork!! We had our 1985 Zagat (followed by ’86, 87′, ’88) and our NY Times Friday edition with some great restaurant selections — that’s where we found the Bronx’s Dominick’s — with no menus and the best meatball every made!! And Carneigie’s pastrami and swiss!! and Joe’s Restaurant after we picked up some cheap theatre tickets at TKTS on Broadway!! That non-cooking thing turned out to work well for the two of us!! Cookin’ was never Harriette’s desire — eatin’ was!! Just ask Toni — who runs the bestest cookin’ class in San Miguel — I think it’s two-per-month now — to handle the numbers, with her trusty Enriqueta backin’ her up!! Harriette never missed a month — and was awarded the Official Taster’s Apron — I think there was a special ceremony for that!! Even to this day, the wife will go out of her way to attend a cooking class — she loves to eat whatever is on the menu!! But, she did raise 3 great children and cooked and fed them daily — there were “perfect” chicken, steak ala Mike Fritzl, ‘porcupine’ meatballs, and the very best guacamole salad ever made north of the border — she never quit making that guacamole — started way before Mexico was a twinkle in her eye (just ask the 3 kids!!) We frequently had a Sunday bbq on Ballinger St, with yours truly at the charcoal broiler — always featuring ribs, brisket, chicken and sausages — with a different special sauce for each!! And they were restaurant quality and taste — and that famous guacamole was ever-present!!
So, I filled you in on the whys and wherefores of why, when and where the wife “retired” from cookin’!! I finally reached in the ‘ditty bag’ and pulled one out!! That was only one memory and look how long the blog turned out to be!! And if I’m not careful it’ll get longer — so lets’ quit for today!! ‘nuf …..