Yesterday, I was in dreamland. I was at Formaggio Kitchen in Cambridge, a much-loved cheese shop of culture staff and Boston foodies. Walk 20 minutes outside of bustling Harvard Square and you’ll find a temple of gourmet food. Chocolate, jams, and jellies line the walls alongside wooden crates of locally sourced fruits and veggies. And then there’s the cheese. What a sight! I felt immediately transported back to Paris, where I spent four months on a semester abroad. One sample of Brillat Savarin and I was back to the City of Light.
In case you had any doubts about the colonizing reach of American food culture, rest assured that it’s alive and well. Food trucks, those nomadic quasi-restaurants that have roamed streets from Manhattan to West LA in recent years, have now arrived in Paris. A front-page article in the New York Times yesterday documented the newfound popularity of food trucks in the City of Light, which are run primarily by American chefs and serve primarily American food. As Julia Moskin wrote, “Among young Parisians, there is currently no greater praise for cuisine than ‘très Brooklyn,’ a term that signifies a particularly cool combination of informality, creativity and quality.”
My hand-drawn instructions are a sublime piece of art. Metro lines, directions, changes, rue by rue and the same in reverse. All this so I can achieve cheese Nirvana in Paris without having to speak to a single French person. Well, ok, I may have to say something at the fromagerie, the Laurent Dubois Fromagerie on Rue Sant-Germain, but here's to hoping.
Two weeks after being in Paris my French language skills remain that of a zygote. Sure, I could ask for some cheese, "avez vous de fromage?" But that would sound awfully stupid in a fromagerie. Ok, so I could say "avez vous de brie?" to be brief and specific. But what unholy concoction of words could comprise the reply to this simple question? "A Brie de Meaux madame? Would you prefer the double cream or the triple? How would you care to try some of this special little artisan goat's cheese made on my grandmother's farm in Normandy?"