To ring in 2012, I offer you this scene: a Paris Metro car full of people on their way home, their facial expressions ranging from impatient to bored. In the middle of us all, a woman with her amplifier strapped to a dolly, sings into a microphone that lets us hear her loud and clear (whether we want to or not) as she croons "Sway" with a very thick French accent.
At first, I found it a bit annoying to have my eardrums accosted by accordionists, singers, and other performers on the Metro when all I wanted was to get home from work and see my boys. But then I began to really pay attention to these performers. Some clearly were doing it just for the money--the handful of change they shamed or pressured travelers into giving them before they finally stepped off the train and went to inflict auditory torture on someone else. The instrument they carried was basically just an accessory to their panhandling efforts.
Other buskers were different--well dressed and apparently indifferent to whether or not they received donations. I have a theory (perhaps totally bogus) that these performers see the Metro as a kind of endless open-mike opportunity. They have a captive audience, after all.
But for my shy self, the proportions of their courage boggle the mind. A captive audience, yes, but a very cranky audience determined not to be moved by their music. Is it the challenge that appeals? And has a Metro crowd ever burst out into applause? I'd love to know.
While I have sometimes wanted to pay the Metro performers money to please, please STOP playing, our little boy Liam is a huge fan of all music, no matter how bad. He'll sway to an out-of-tune accordion, elevator music, or even a cellphone ringtone. So I guess--when he's with us--the buskers can count on at least one appreciative member in their captive audience.
And maybe, with enough courage, one real listener is enough to make it worthwhile. That's what I'm trying to remember this new year, knee-deep as I am in scary, rough-drafting for novel #3.
So far it appears absolutely impossible to go wrong with any recipe by David Lebovitz. But especially when it comes to chocolate, he is an evil genius! What I love best about this chocolate tart recipe is that it only requires ingredients that any sane person already has in her kitchen: sugar, vanilla, butter, coffee, flour, eggs, and a good bar of chocolate. I also made David's French pastry recipe. (It's a lot easier than a rolled pastry crust, but I recommend doubling it and storing half the dough in the fridge for sudden baking needs. I used mine for a quick quiche).
Looking for a simple-but-special holiday treat for your New Year's Eve party? Look no further.
The batter for the tart is delicious--akin to the richest fudge sauce you've ever had. When baked, it becomes denser but is still very smooth, kind of like a very thick pudding. Anyway, the husband approved, as did Liam. I'll let him model the satisfaction since he looks way cuter with chocolate all over his face than I do. (Unfortunately, this is not just a hypothetical comparison: apparently every time I sneak a little Nutella, I manage to smear it across my mouth, which makes it difficult to feign innocence when Arnie asks what I've been snacking on.)
Um, is there a problem here?
More pie, please!
What if I suck in my stomach? See? I really, really need more pie!
For Christmas, Arnie and I bought each other a grown-up* dinner at Les Papilles, a well-established French bistro with a reputation for its excellent market-driven menu and wide selection of wines. And I discovered my new favorite way to have dinner out: without choices.
Because at Les Papilles (translates as "the tastebuds") the day's offerings are the same for everyone and based on what's fresh at the market.
Our first course was a gorgeous cream of zucchini soup ladled over seasoned bread cubes, bacon, and an olive cream fraiche dollop. I loved that we had our own giant tureen of soup so that I could have three servings. (Sorry, couldn't find a picture of our soup.)
The next course was beef cheek slow-roasted in red wine with baby potatoes, carrots and thyme. Tasty, even for this former vegetarian!
The cheese course was a blue cheese served with a prune to balance out the saltiness. Delish.
Finally, the dessert. Oh, my goodness. I wish I could remember what it was called. (If somebody knows from my description, please tell me!) Carmelized bananas on the bottom, this amazingly mild and smooth creamy stuff above that, and a caramel foam on the top. I wanted to die...
Another thing I loved was picking out our own wine from the many choices along the wall...
Not a single disappointment for these satisfied diners.
*Liam had to sit this one out, but he had a great time with super babysitter Melissa.