I’ve got blogstipation, big time.
I have plenty of writing projects and topics. In fact, that is the problem. There are so many topics I want to write about that they are backing up on me now, and I am paralyzed as a result. I cannot seem to make a move to post any *one* thing when twenty things clamor to be written about. It has built up to a high level of frustration and I’m about ready to pop.
I have decided, therefore, to just sit and write something to get a post up, since it has been way too many days since my last post.**
In other, more disgusting, words (but to continue the metaphor), I am about to dump a big deuce of a blog here. Finally. *whew*
I am about 2/3 of the way through the writing on a post on Versailles (still). Just as the Château and estate are huge, there is too much to write about and organize my thoughts in order to get it all written in one sitting of a few hours. Plus, there is this distraction problem I have with many emails to reply to, and blogs and posts to read on other sites. A large part of my life over the past nearly five years has developed in the online world, and I have a lot of friends and loved ones who need attention online. We are invested in one another at this point, and my life only feels replete if I have checked in with how each person is doing at least a couple times a week.
Then there is what is in my Google Reader. Heavens. It has swelled to something like 130 blogs that I am tracking, 25 or so which are Paris-based blogs. Some of the blogs I read are written by dear and personal friends; others are ones I follow with masses of other people like this one here or this one here.
I have created this sort of a “job” — the reading and writing of blogs — for myself in the absence of “real” work so that I feel I am accomplishing something other than just ensuring that the toilet bowl is disinfected for the week.
(Oh crap, that reminds me — I have to do some laundry. Grrrr. Later. I have to get this done first today, at all costs. Back to it.)
So, I was making something to eat this morning. And it looked kind of pretty in the dish. I decided then and there as I pulled out my camera, “I think I will share about what I ate for breakfast today.”
** With irony, I am here a day later to write that this blog was actually started yesterday. By the time I began in the late afternoon, there was not time to finish in the couple of hours I left myself to write. Today, I found myself looking at other blogs and so on, especially as I link many blogs in this post! I really have to find a way to not like to read so very much, a way that preferably does not involve the removal of my eyeballs. FOCUS. I need to focus…
This is thon avec riz et le houmous et les panais rôtis et patates douces. That is the sexy, French way of saying tuna with rice and hummus, and roasted parsnips and sweet potatoes.
Remember the Ghetto post I wrote before? This is another one of those posts to explain yet another way in which Paul (PJ) and I live the Ghetto Life in Paris.
If you missed the first blog on this topic, please go back and check it out, or at the very least recognize I am being tongue-in-cheek about the whole concept. What I intend to communicate with the “Ghetto Paris” posts is that Paul and I in no way live high on the hog here in the city. We live in one of the poorer neighborhoods in the NE part of Paris, far from the beaten path of the inner sanctum of the first six or so arrondissements, or districts, in the city. We live away from the touristy and luxurious parts of Paris; it is not the chichi life we lead. We have a very unpretentious life in a city that often seems to thrive on pretension.
So, ya know, it is kinda the white trash expat life we live. Even though we are educated and do things like write blogs.
Ghetto Tuna and Rice
A small can of tuna, about a cup of leftover rice, and a couple heaping tablespoons of hummus, heating in a pan on the stove.
Tuna and white rice is the kind of gluten-free ghetto meal I thrive on. I have Paul’s Expresso (ex-wife) to thank for this one, via Paul. A daughter of North African immigrant Jews, Expresso comes from legitimate ghetto roots in Paris. I don’t know if it is something she ate as a kid or what, but she introduced Paul to tuna and rice when they were first married and living in a teeny tiny hovel of a studio in Pigalle (ghetto!!). What you do is make a lot of rice and then dump a can of tuna in. Doesn’t get more simple than that! You can then dress it up with a dollop of mayo or some Thai hot sauce, or maybe a little soy sauce or tamari for a dish that is like a California Roll without the seaweed nori wrapper (I have even eaten this dish with sliced avocados to further the Cali Roll connection). Paul will sometimes grate some Emmental into the dish, or add a little Parmesan cheese for a cheesy rice and tuna dish. It is nice to dress it up a little is what I am getting at.
I have stopped using tamari (contains soy) and mayonnaise (contains egg), and just plain tuna and rice lacks a little, I have to say. One day, I put a little dab of hummus I had made in the bowl with my tuna and rice, and a lovely meal was born.
Hummus, the Mediterranean chickpea dip you can find in Middle Eastern restaurants or the deli section of health food stores like Whole Foods, is very, very easy to make at home. I have been using the basic recipe from food blogger Blue Jean Gourmet for a while now (BJG’s hummus), but then discovered David Lebovitz posted a version on his site, too (DL’s hummus). Both are good recipes that can use canned chickpeas/garbanzo beans.
I don’t get very fancy-schmancy with mine — I use a stick blender and dump everything into the tall container that came with the blender and blend it all up. I use a can of undrained chickpeas, which must be around a cup and a half of beans, I’m guessing, put in a couple tablespoons or more of olive oil, the juice of half a lemon, or the whole lemon if I want it to have a little more kick, a clove or two of crushed garlic, a couple of tablespoons of tahini (sesame paste/butter), some salt, and… I think that’s it. I shake a little paprika over it once it is blended.
I am not sensitive to any of those ingredients I include and I like the simplicity of this yummy dip. You could add more things to your dip. Blue Jean Gourmet’s recipe calls for cumin and David Lebovitz’s includes parsley and chile powder. I have a friend who adds sesame oil and sometimes tamari (wheat-free soy sauce) to hers, which gives it a smoky, Asian flavor. But I like to keep it cheap and simple, and allergen-free, for me.
Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Parsnips
I don’t really know if I have eaten parsnips before now (maybe? Not that I was aware of, at any rate), but I have been big on winter veggies like squash and sweet potatoes this winter, and I am not the only one. My favorite food blogger likes them as well, and he posted about it here. The other day I saw some panais, or parsnips, in the Canal Bio health food store not far from where I live. I thought I would give them a try. First, I put one in some chicken broth I had made using the leftover chicken carcasses I had on hand along with a leek, a carrot, a couple cloves of garlic and a stalk of celery and its leaves. It made a wonderful and cheap vegetable soup (not vegetarian, but using water instead of chicken stock easily makes it so).
Then I had two more parsnips to use up along with a couple of sweet potatoes, so today I cut them all up and roasted them in the oven, drizzled with olive oil, for… well, too long. LOL. Here are the toasted-looking results:
I put them in this morning at about 7:45 am and I think it was about 9 am when I remembered they were still in the oven and discovered that some of the pieces were too black to eat. I should have set the timer and gotten them out a wee bit sooner. David says he roasted his for only 20 minutes. I find that while root vegetables will get fairly soft in that time, but I like mine to be crunchy like French fries, and so I roast about 40 minutes, depending on the size of the chunks, checking every five or so minutes after 20 minutes has passed to make sure they are not charring (heh, in theory).
While I am at it, let me share another, potentially vegetarian (along with the roasted parsnips and sweet potatoes) dish: Lentil Soup.
I had read a posting about lentil soup at food blogger and author Elizabeth Bard’s site, whose book, Lunch in Paris: A love story with recipes is hitting shelves very soon. This recipe looks and sounds absolutely delicious, and I love the idea of using fennel, parsley, and bay leaf in a lentil soup, but I had a couple of problems with this one. First, it contains pork, and I have discovered recently that I react to pork with extreme joint stiffness and pain (and I also am too chicken to go to a real butcher and try to buy a ham hock in French, so there is that, too), and it also calls for tomatoes, which are nightshade vegetables and also give me joint pain and inflammation. By the time you take out those two key ingredients, I am not sure what is left. I kind of found out, though.
I happened on another lentil recipe at Beanpaste’s food blog called Beanplate. It calls for some simple, basic ingredients that were easy to find in my local Leader Price grocery store. Here is the link to her spiced lentil soup recipe.
And here is how I did it:
Basically, you chop up an onion, a couple of carrots, and a stalk of celery.
Add cumin, coriander (about a teaspoon or two each, to taste — there are more exact measurements at the recipe link up there) and pepper (the recipe says to add salt at this point, too, but I often do not add salt before beans and lentils have been cooked as I have read salt can toughen them).
Then add the lentils (which have been rinsed and drained) and water or chicken stock (I did some of each as I had a couple of cups of chicken stock on hand — quantities are at the recipe link).
These are organic (“Bio”) French green lentils which are at Leader Price, the Poor People Store (our nickname for it).
I don’t think these are officially Puy Lentils. But then if they were, it would not be such a ghetto recipe, now, would it.
Cook the whole business for 45 minutes, et voilà, lentil soup.
It’s cheap, too. Very ghetto.
Here’s what else is ghetto – My Kitchen
I finally got to read The Sweet Life in Paris. It was a Christmas gift from my future sister-in-law. I enjoyed it thoroughly. It is a humorous take on what it is to be an expat in Paris, from a foodie perspective mostly, but a lot of things that pastry chef and writer David Lebovitz (the most popular guy at Paris Blog High School) writes in the book apply to the day-to-day of any alien Parisien/ne.
In the second chapter, “Ma Petite Cuisine,” David describes his compact cuisine américaine, which is what Paul and I have, too. What an “American kitchen” means is that it is open to the dining and living areas as opposed to being tucked away in a separate room as a traditional French kitchen would be (I’m not the only one who has wondered about what one is, though). Also, we have not only a refrigerator that is a little larger than what would be called a “dorm fridge” in the States (many Parisian apartments have refrigerators as small as a dorm fridge as their regular refrigerator), but also a cooking range with four electric disk burners and an oven. Having an oven is not always a given in a Parisian apartment, so we are lucky in this respect.
David writes on pages 24-25 of the hardcover edition:
Here in Paris, “cuisine américaine” means “completely impractical.”… What the countertop lacks in practicality, it makes up for by not imposing itself and taking up too much space in my apartment. Consequently, my entire cooking area is roughly the size of a rectangular gâteau Opéra, the size that serves eight. And we’re talking eight French-sized servings, not American-sized slabs.
The rest of the chapter is just as amusing. If you like mild snark and want a jocular account of daily life in Paris, complete with mouth-watering recipes (almost all of which I cannot eat and this did cause me some misery while reading), then I recommend the book.
This is my countertop:
And a measuring cup.
Pretty ghetto, huh. But it is good for the environment! Reduce, reuse, recycle!
I actually do have a set of measuring cups from the States, but find that for things like rice and beans, it is the proportion that matters, not an actual exact measurement. I find that one 20 cL empty crème fraîche container of white rice (or mixed with some brown rice, too), soaked, rinsed, and drained, cooks well with 1 1/2 containers of water, just under the 2:1 ratio of water to rice, making a couple of cups, so I use a recycled container all the time when I make rice. Same for the lentils. I measured out two containers of lentils to six containers of water/broth. I think an 8 ounce liquid cup is right around 140 mL, or 14 cL, so this one is not too far off from a liquid cup (using standard US measurements. Now you know something about the metric system! That’s not ghetto! But ballparking one’s measurements as I often do pretty much is).
I also made a mess with this recipe, but then all good cooks do, right?
Onward. Not so much about ghetto stuff, but…
Proof That Gluten Messes Me Up
This is not why Paul and I are getting married — it is not a shotgun wedding.
I may look about six months pregnant here, but I am not.
This is what I was like the next day, still slightly swollen, but pretty much what I normally look like.
On the night of December 27, Paul and his two kiddos and I decided to go to the Trocadéro to see the celebratory light show for the Eiffel Tower’s 120th anniversary. The special light show ran from late October until December 31, 2009. It was a special 12 minute colorful light display that was really very pretty! My photos came out really crappy. Even if my Nikon Coolpix can handle a lot of daylight photos with aplomb, night shots with movement and without a tripod are pretty much screwed. Still, if you want to check them out, you can see them here.
I think this was the least crappy photo I took of the light show (and that’s not saying much, lol).
Back to the “why I look pregnant’” story.
Returning home from the light show, Paul and the girl kid decided to get McDonald’s for dinner. It was late — after 9:00 pm — and everyone was hungry, including me. I had started a conversation with myself earlier that night once it had been decided that McDo’s would be on the dinner menu.
“Maybe I should just try it. It has been over seven months since I have eaten anything with gluten. Maybe a little won’t hurt. I’m just so tired of eating this way!” (I was also reading David Lebowitz’s book and that was not helping me out. Too many yummy and forbidden recipes in that book, and I was feeling deprived.) “It’s Christmas — the holidays! — surely I can treat myself to something with gluten after all these months of not eating it! I am so tired of feeling like the outsider when it comes to food. I just want some FREAKIN’ MCDONALD’S ALREADY.”
We got to the McDo’s and I ordered a Happy Meal with the small hamburger, a small fries, a Pom’pote (which is applesauce in a squeeze pouch and served with Happy Meals here), and a bottled water. We got home and I tucked in. At one point, savoring the white bread bun and crunchy fries with ketchup, I cried. Yeah, I actually wept a little because it tasted so good. I know, it’s ghetto to like McDonald’s so much, but I really do and have since I was a kid — it was always a treat growing up, not something we did very often, and I have attachments to it, okay?
I was not very satisfied with the amount of food, though, and so I heated up some rice and chicken and ate a little of that, too. Maybe roasted Brussels sprouts, too; I cannot remember now.
At about 11:30 pm, I noticed something unusual. I looked down at my stomach, and saw this:
The bloat had begun. I snapped a whole bunch of other photos, in disbelief about just how large my stomach was puffing out. As the bloating stretched the skin further, it hurt. I experienced no cramping, but just the pain of having an expanding stomach and the skin being stretched so tautly.
*sigh* I now know that the need to stay away from gluten is not all in my head. There is a real connection between gluten and something going haywire in my body. I may perform another experiment one of these days with some kind of a French pastry which I would so dearly like to try, just to see if there is a repeat of what happened that night. But it is not going to be anytime soon.
This was a good experience to have as some days it feels just too hard to be gluten (and possibly dairy)-free for the rest of my life, especially living in the Pastry Capital of the World. This is proof positive, though, that gluten and I are not friends.
To bring this blog full circle, I realize that I am going to have to stick with things like tuna and rice and roasted parsnips and sweet potatoes for the time being. I know there are others of you in the same boat that I am, and if you happen on this blog, please feel free to leave comments about your own experiences of what it is to be gluten-intolerant and some days resenting it a lot.
So there you go. I have relieved the blog pressure. Please feel free to relieve yourself, too, in the comments. I always welcome them and it is good to know people are reading! Eventually, I will finish the Versailles post, but until then, have a happy weekend. And if you are the praying or “thinking good thoughts” kind, send a few over to Haiti. They could use every bit of help they can get, I know. Events there surely put a lot in perspective for me, as I am sure they have for you, too. May they heal quickly, live long, and prosper in Haiti. :::good vibes:::
Over and out.
an alien parisienne
Another Paris Blogger I read, Michele, posted this past weekend about crazy Paris kitchens at her blog, Michele’s Life in Franglais: Kitchens en France. You have to read and see her photos to believe it! David and I are not the only one with interesting, ghetto kitchens! Check it out…