On the flight back home to Paris, I caught a terrible flu. I usually get motion sickness from long term flights, so it wasn’t unusual for me to feel under the weather during a flight. However, heading back to our apartment, my temperature was high and all my sinuses were plugged. Worst of all, I couldn’t smell or taste. And I COULDN’T COOK.
To solve my problem, I had to make another venture to a French doctor’s office. Going to the doctor in France is always an interesting experience for me. Sometimes French doctors throw a bunch of medication at you (I’ve got a huge collection of nasal sprays and cough syrup), prescribe homeopathic stuff that you don’t understand, or write you up a 12 page document to ensure your employer that you are truly sick. French medical appointments can sometimes feel impersonal compared to American ones. The American medical system highly values customer service… you are pampered, reassured, and then sent home feeling like you won’t die after all in spite of what your Web MD article says. Even the waiting rooms feel like you’re being prepped for a spa… with tranquil music playing in the background and the latest fashion magazines at your reach.
In Paris, the waiting rooms are sparse and sometimes (always) the secretary is no where to be seen. Offices are often in apartment buildings and you might awkwardly rub elbows with passing residents. When you meet the doctor, he or she will shake your hand. This is a pretty genuine gesture that I appreciate. But after that, it’s all down to business. The doctor goes straight to the problem... identifying the symptoms, making sure there is no pain, and always casting a skeptical eye that maybe you’re overreacting a bit. Don't even bother mentioning your Web MD article unless you really want to see how good the French are at rolling their eyes. Yet French doctors do their job quite efficiently, if not more so than American doctors. Well, maybe there is more paperwork involved… But besides that, the French system is so much better than the American system. You get the treatment and medication you need— and they don’t ask for the price of your head to pay for it. I’d rather have that than the frills of Elle magazines.
Luckily, I have some amazing doctors here in Paris (I’ve also met great ones in Marseille!). Some don’t speak English so fluently and we’ve had to pantomime words. I do love their choice of vocabulary as much as they love mine (caca de nez, anyone?). It’s a priceless cultural exchange. I wonder if any of my doctors call me the caca de nez girl. Or literally, "the shit of the nose". In the past, I've tried to explain the symptoms of a runny nose. I couldn't figure out how to say mucus so I tried using crotte de nez (or booger), but I said caca, or poop, instead. As I've found out, I could have simply said mucus. Yes, it's the same in French as it is in English, but with more of a French accent (moo-cuss). Now I know the proper phrase to describe a runny nose: j'ai le nez qui coule (I have the nose that leaks). Be sure to write that one down.
Well, enough about illnesses and more about how Paris has been (of course!). Paris had a warm weather and she’s having a cold summer. More rain and clouds than sunshine, the days for picnicking have been sparse.
One of the best things to do in Paris during the summer is to visit the Paris Plages next to the Seine. For a few weeks, the city turns one side of the Seine into a fake beach… complete with sandy areas for the children, spots for pétanque (kind of like bowling), and lots of areas for lounging.
Perfect for city dwellers who can’t make it to the beach, locals can come here to sunbathe. Even in this cloudy weather, you will see many Parisians in bikinis and tiny swimming trunks trying to catch some rays. No, you won’t see any topless hotties. At least not on this “beach”. It's interdit.
You’re lucky if you snag any of those chairs. They are fiercely coveted and there’s a lot of competition to snag one.
Paris Plages are full of family fun activities and I'm very impressed with how communal the event is. From offering tiny version of vélibs to rent out to little kids, to families getting together to color murals, it is a sight to see. My favorite part are the little booths selling gelato or rosé… the best kind of wine to drink in the summer.
Despite this depressing weather, summer fruits and vegetables have been flooding the markets. The appearance of tomatoes has made my heart flutter. In addition to the plages, of course.
There have been good prices on clams and other coquillage, so I thought it was a good idea to steam some for a summer dinner meal. Using fresh herbs, garlic, Breton butter, and lemon slices, these manila clams are a delicious treat. You can pair them up with some pasta or frites (French fries). I love opening up the pot to check when the clams have opened up, ready to be devoured.
Clams with White Wine, Breton Butter, and Lemon Slices
- 2 big fat cloves of garlic, finely chopped
- 1.5 lbs (or .600 kgs) of Manila clams
- 1/3 cups dry white wine
- 1 lemon, half cut into slices, the other half juiced
- sprigs of thyme and/or other summer herbs (tied into a bouquet garni)
- 3 large tbsps of salted Breton butter
- finely chopped parsley
- ground pepper to taste
1. Prior to cooking the clams, make sure to scrub each one and toss any with broken shells.
2. In a large cast iron casserole, heat up the butter over medium heat. Put in the garlic and cook for 2 minutes until tender (be careful not to burn the garlic or else it will make the clams bitter). Add the wine and simmer for another minute or two.
3. Put in the lemon slices, clams, ground pepper, and your thyme/bouquet garni. Cover the pot.
4. Steam the clams for 2 minutes or until all of the clams have opened up.
5. Sprinkle chopped parsley and add the lemon juice over the final dish. Toss and serve with your choice of starch.
That’s all for today! À la semaine prochaine!