In rented apartments, cooking is always an adventure as you discover what your kitchen is equipped with. Or not. Lateral thinking becomes the norm. No water pitcher? Use the thermos jug. No carafe for the coffee machine? Balance filter-lined funnel on the top of the thermos jug. And so on.
A typical Parisian kitchen is so tiny that you can basically stand in one spot and reach fridge, sink and stove without moving. When I say stove, I mean two electric hot-plates and a microwave (the microwave, in our case, is outside the kitchen area, beside the piano). Where we're staying now is typical. The cooktop segues seamlessly into the draining board, and the only other work surface is the top of the waist-high fridge. But, while I wouldn't scream with joy at having to cook a traditional Christmas dinner here, I can produce a decent four-course lunch, as we proved today.
Minuscule kitchens and tiny fridges mean that Parisians eat out a lot, and shop more often too. One lemon, not a bag of four. Six eggs not a dozen. Back and forth they trundle, towing their purchases in shopping bags on wheels. There's one here in the apartment but I left it behind this morning believing, foolishly, that a carrybag would be enough. Which is how I came back balancing one bulging carrybag, a bag holding a rotisserie chicken, another bag containing a big bunch of parsley, and two baguettes.
Most of it was bought just up the street at the Marché des Enfants Rouges. Quite small and packed with unutterably tempting foods, it's the city's oldest market, built in 1615. To put it in perspective, this place had already been going for well over a century when the French revolution took place.
And then we had the roasted chicken, accompanied by basmati rice and ratatouille. Impressed? I've got to be honest here. Both were frozen and came from an incredible French store called Picard that's so highly respected that the BBC recently devoted an entire half-hour Food Programme to it. There's one three streets away. I'd never been in Picard before so I had a quick look round there yesterday and was amazed, amazed, by the choice. (If you can read French, have a roam around www.picard.fr ). Enough to say that Picard saved the day when we got to the main course.
From then on it was easy-cheesy. A lovely, ripe, heart-shaped raw milk Neufchatel, followed by sections of pomegranate and "wife cookies," both of which I picked up yesterday at Tang Frères.