Finally the day had arrived, I was to have Emilie and Bouba for dinner at my apartment.
It is hardly a good idea to feed the French, French food and knowing Bouba enjoys a spicy meal, I would cook a Malaysian Lamb Curry with potatoes.
It is a relatively simple dish and I have cooked it before. I also happen to have the recipe on my iphone, so it was decided, that is what we would have.
When people started cocking their heads from side to side at the mention of kaffir lime leaves, I thought I had better take myself out to an Asian shopping district.
The two main Asian areas in Paris, are in the 13th arrondissement and the 20th. The 20th is closer for me, so off I went, shopping list and shopping bag in tow.
Not long after I surfaced from Belleville Metro, I found a laneway with loads of graffiti, not one to miss an opportunity, I took a few shots and moved on to find the supermarket I had googled.
Oblivious, because I was busily looking for street numbers, I nearly ran into a policeman, well about 20 of them in fact.
I still don’t know what was going on. Police, wielding batons decked out in flack jackets surrounded the area where I was about to buy my Asian fare. Police cars, bumper to bumper cordoning off the street.
At least it made getting across the street easier than normal.
No police cars or Policemen were going to get in my way.
My mission; to buy soy sauce, ketchup manis, galangal, coriander seeds, palm sugar, felt all a bit too easy upon entering the Asian grocery store, I strangely felt at home.
Soy sauce, found, galangal also, this was great but ketchup manis just wasn’t raising any eyebrows. I tried harder, soy mais avec sucre, soy but with sugar, that should do it. No.
Not a problem, I will purchase the items I have found and move on, there are plenty of other Asian supermarkets here.
After the sixth Asian grocery store, frustration was starting to set in. When I asked for sugar I was led to the salt. It was obvious; my French is really bad. I approached a French shopper – parlez-vous Anglais – Oui un peu. He speaks a little English, I breath.
Turns out, albeit my French is bad, none of the people I was trying to converse with, speak French!
I call Georgie, maybe she can communicate for me, they don’t want to take the phone, I give up.
French food it has to be.
Georgie had been nagging me to go to Bon Marche. OK. My last resort.
They had every type of salt conceivable.
Every type of sugar, even cute little animals you can hang on your coffee cup but no palm sugar.
Every spice, tea, pre-cooked food and water at 29.90 Euros a bottle, but no ketchup manis.
Deflated and defeated, I went back to the apartment, I needed to put plan two into action, whatever that was.
However, after forking out money for a bag full of groceries I was now not going to use, determination set in.
The trusty google revealed, ketchup manis and palm sugar can be bought at the Indonesian Embassy!
Once I am kindly let in through the iron gates by a man polishing the brass, I trade a piece of identity for a visitors pass, to shop, in the Indonesian Embassy.
You know the scene; out of town cowboy walks into a bar, everyone stops talking.
They are curious when I almost knock everyone down in my path, to grab a bottle of ketchup manis and a bag of palm sugar.
You have visited Indonesia before, they enquire, yes Bali, twice. Smiles fill everyone’s faces and they want to give me a number, so next time, I can call in advance and they will have my groceries ready.
On the way out, the security guard informs, they also have Indonesian herbal cigarettes too if I wish. No I am just happy with my bottle of sauce thanks.
I waited as the butcher prepared fresh, agneau haché – minced lamb, a kind vegetable store owner walked me down the street, where I could find peanuts already shelled, another laughed as I sniffed the coriander and parsley, to check which was which and another looked in dismay as I selected one, single, long hot red chilli.
Mission almost complete but what about entrée and dessert?
A baguette and some foie gras, perfect.
The local patisserie I have been spying with no excuse to buy. Perfect.
Everything beautifully wrapped. Nothing is thrown into a plastic bag. Meat is wrapped in waxed paper, advertising their specialities, same goes for the foie gras. The gateaux, placed in a beautiful box and then tied with ribbon, so I can carry them home without damaging them. A quick pitstop at Cave des Prague my local wine shop.
Well, the shopping part of it anyway.
I cooked in my tiny kitchen, listening to my Paris Playlist, sipped on my bottle of Vieux Nodeau – Cote de Boug, made tealight holders from my empty Vichy water bottles, that I hadn’t got around to taking to the rubbish, set the table, dimmed the lights and waited for my guest to arrive.
Was the dinner a success? – Oui!
Should have I cooked French for the French? Maybe but then I would not have visited the Indonesian Embassy!