Monday, August 3, 2015

Blé noir

Paris in August is hot and crowded. I swore I'd never do this again.

Not only here again, but 2 weeks early...why is that? Not for vacation, nor the privilege of mingling with hordes of tourists. To tell the truth it feels a little weird. It feels weird carrying a laptop bag around the streets of the 9th, and stopping at a tiny supermarket for provisions on the way home. Just like one of the locals (not).

Two weeks to learn how to eat here. When my manager heard what I was doing, he said "France, isn't that the land of bread? Bakeries? Sandwiches?" He wishes he could work out of the Paris office, he's a little jealous. But no one would wish this project on themselves. La baguette, la quiche, la sauce, la brioche, le croissant, la crepe. Gluten free, and mostly dairy-free? Nearly impossible.

I need something in my favor and that thing might be the system. There is a formula to many things in France including food. This was a lesson from touring in 2003 and 2007. If a town was just big enough to have something, it would have a little Cocci market or Petit Casino. If it had a place with tables and chairs, here's the order of likelihood: a bar, a pizza restaurant w/a little of everything, a creperie, a real cafe. 

Since I don't know where I'll be when hunger strikes, and hunger is a constant for cyclists, the project is to figure out how to eat in as many of these institutions as possible. In advance, not when hungry and tired. 

The closest store to the apartment is the little Franprix on Rue Jean-Baptiste Pigalle. It has a happy orange banner with its name out front. I do my best to look normal. Except I'm reading labels. Scanning the ingredients of prepared foods, looking for dinner. Looking for those patterns. 

It is tedious and uncertain work. French already has a lot of words that mean similar things. There is a forest of words for wheat and flour and glutinous grains like épeautre (spelt) and boulgour (bulgur).

Then after only a few minutes, a hit!
Unbelievably, these crepes don't contain any wheat flour! Just the blé noir, farine de blé sarrasin, buckwheat (which is gluten-free).

Can't believe my luck. Thanks to some pesky invaders of the 9th century this package is coming home with me. And creperies are on the map! 

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