Friday, September 30, 2011

And a Happy New Year to You

This week was Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year.  Despite the trials and tribulations of a) cooking for the holiday for the first time and b) learning to find the right ingredients in Paris, I have to say that we had a really nice holiday and overall my food really turned out well!    I did find brown sugar (thank you commenter Ksam) - and then realized that none of my recipes actually called for brown sugar.  In the end, I made four challahs, two apple cakes, two honey cakes, leek and potato soup, 40 clove chicken, roasted veggies, grilled chicken with cabbage salad, peanut butter noodles, lamb chops, and roasted potoatoes.  This covered two meals that were just us, and one meal with guests. As proud of myself I was for getting all this cooking done, I was equally if not more proud that I actually got all the food to fit in our tiny Parisian fridge! So overall...I never want to cook again. Or at least for a few days.

It was also worth the effort to have some new friends over for lunch after synagogue on Thursday.  We'd been feeling a little down about not spending the holiday with family or our Jewish community back in DC, but after a leisurely lunch with 3 other families, all with their babies/toddlers, we felt much more holiday-y.  Full to bursting with all the food, we decided to go for a stroll around the neighborhood on Thursday early evening.  Which is when we learned the important lesson that whenever you think you've learned a neighborhood in Paris, turn onto a street you haven't walked down before and bam, you will discover yet more amazing sights.

I walk down Rue de Levis about 124 times a week. Really. It has the closest grocery store, as well as the bakery, the fromagerie, the vegetable guy, the wine store, etc.  But despite trekking up and down this street, I had never turned onto Rue des Dames.  There we discovered several restaurants we'd like to try as well as a fabulous passage. Passages in Paris are like fancy alleyways - but, as Mr. Oil puts it, without the negative connotations of "alleyway".  They are small, narrow streets, generally pedestrian-only, in between buildings.  Some are covered, some are not.  This particular passage is uncovered, and is home to an incredible sculpting gallery, where we watched some talented amateur artists work on sculptures through the window, a very cool looking wine bar, and a few other galleries/bistros/etc.  We couldn't believe that this had been so close to us for the last two and a half months, and we had never known it was there. 

On the second day of the holiday, we went to a different synagogue, one where Mr. Oil had gone when he studied abroad in Paris 10 years ago.  Quite a different scene from the English-speaking Reform-ish synagogue we attended on Thursday, Centre Rambam is an Orthodox Sephardi shul.  Different melodies, but we both still felt the sense of being in a true community, with families greeting each other, and friends who were in Paris just for the holiday reuniting with other friends and families, and so on.  The organized chaos of this kind of synagogue experience takes some getting used to - half the room is talking, half the room is praying, half the room is checking out the other half of the room, and so on.  And while it's an orthodox shul, there's definitely a range of people there.  Some women were wearing jeans, and some were wearing sheitls (wigs).  My personal favorite are the women wearing Dior headscarves and 5 inch heels, carting around their 2 or 3 young children.  Sometimes I think Parisian women have feet of steel, the way they trek all around in what must be extremely uncomfortable shoes.

To make the most of the (unseasonably? first year in Paris, so actually I have no idea) beautiful warm weather, we went for a stroll down the fashionable Rue Faubourg St Honore - home to Prada, Hermes, etc.  Nothing says "happy new year" like watching well-dressed women decked out in diamonds, stilettos, and over-sized Hermes bags order more Hermes bags.   But, you know, when in Paris...

Rosh Hashanah in Paris - check. Feeling good about starting to make a home here.  And a happy new year to you too!