Food on the Move

That it took so long to paint our apartment had nothing to do with its size and everything to do with our painters’ ideas about how life should be lived.  The team would arrive at about ten and we’d have coffee together; at 11 they’d leave to move the truck – New York City alternate-side-of-the-street parking regulations; at 1 they’d break for lunch, a real lunch, set out picnic style and accompanied by wine, bien sur; and then at 2:30 they’d pick up their brushes again.  Do I have to tell you that within days, I was cooking for them? 

But here’s the best part:  when it came time for them to do the kitchen, one of them said, “Would you like me to show you how I make puff pastry?”  Of course it was an offer I couldn’t refuse and so, over the next three days, we made a batch of puff pastry a day, clearing off a stretch of counter to roll and turn the dough every two hours or so.  I’m sure the kitchen could have been painted in under three days, but I don’t think I could have found a better puff-pastry prof.

It wasn’t the first time a love of food became an unexpected link in an unlikely circumstance – since I’m obsessed with food and it’s always part of my conversation, I’m always meeting “food” people.  My husband says I attract them, but there’s no way I had anything to do with choosing – or attracting – these two men. 

Jean-harry and rachid 2  

Allow me to present Jean-Harry (on the left) and Rachid, the two gentlemen who were sent by the moving company to put our entire Paris apartment into boxes.  Since we’ve never really moved before – we’ve always arrived empty-handed and stayed put – the prospect of the move was terrifying and I was sure the reality would be worse.  But Jean-Harry and Rachid were calm, reassuring, old-hands at their jobs and, best of all, serious foodlovers, a fact they revealed after seeing that almost every book on the endless shelves was about food. 

From the moment Jean-Harry said, “It looks as though you’re very interested in cuisine,” we talked nonstop.  It seemed like with every box they tied up, they had another recipe (anyone for eggs cooked in sea urchin shells?), another memory of a great meal, a comment about a type of cuisine or a suggestion for serving (pair cold grapes with just-warm vegetable couscous in the summer). 

When they left, we exchanged email addresses and said we’d exchange recipes. (I’m hoping Rachid will send me his recipe for white couscous.)

People are always giving advice about how to get along in a foreign country, but I think that if France is your foreign country, there’s just one thing you’ve got to do:  Mention food!  You’ll have friends in a flash … you might even get some recipes.

(BTW, if you’re planning a Paris move, the company that sent Jean-Harry and Rachid, Corsica Demenagements, did a terrific job.  If only they were the company in charge of finishing my kitchen …)

Dorie Greenspan