Thursday, June 23, 2016

Second Billing, a French Conspiracy, and Innovation

I have never written about the incredible fruit available in Paris, and I believe it's because they are the supporting cast to the high brow creations of French cuisine.

Not as common as patisseries or boulangeries, fruit stands or mini markets are still plentiful. The owners, the workers take pride in their fruit. Tastes are assured. One never helps oneself.

"Madame, une cerise?"

One bite and one finds oneself indulging in a half kilo of the round red fruits picked this morning and trucked into the city.

 Where do the fruits come from in this northern European country? I picture the warm grape orchards of southern Italy or as-far-as-the-eye-can-see melon fields in Spain. The cherries are plentiful now-perhaps they are from France's own orchards.

The melons are the sweetest I have ever tasted. I pitted the cantaloupe, dried and saved the seeds, hoping the variety is a coveted French secret like my crepe recipe supposedly pilfered out of France decades ago. And why wouldn't the French keep their culinary secrets to themselves?

It gives us a reason to come to France, a reason to envy their prowess, to swoon over their gastronomic skills extraordinaire. I was convinced of this on a recent search for a simple crepe making tool. Three years ago, we found one in an out of the way kitchen shop, and since making hundreds of crepes, I am in need of an additional crepe tool. We haven't found the same one yet. "Try next door," is the curt answer when we inquire at a large shop with every cooking necessity ever manufactured. We try next door and find an inferior design to my original.

"This is intentional," I mumble to Tony, "They don't want Americans to make good crepes."

If my suspicion is true, the French are too late. I prefer the crepes I make to any crepe in France--hands down.

But isn't that what we do? We have a love, whether it is a food, a piece of clothing, a suggested way to garden, and reading; we play with the love, we experiment, we write our own version, we make it our own. Our creation, our experimentation, our labor of love becomes better than any we have ever known. We fit it to our specific tastes. This is progress, adaptation, perfection. It is how Tony, after trying every kung pao recipe in West Los Angeles restaurants, created his own, and to this day, his is the best.

The best of the best is even more so, because it requires innovation.

 But where, or where did these mangos come from? We have never tasted a creamier, sweeter mango--not even picked directly from a Hawaiian mango tree or a Mexican fruit cart.

Somewhere, sometime, a gardener tasted a mango. He experimented, cross pollinated, grafted after traveling far and wide for the best mango ever--and then he created his own, and because of is desire,  I have tasted the best mango in the entire world. In Paris.

Ahhhh....but the price of this mango. It truly was a once in a lifetime mango experience.