Sunday, September 27, 2009

It's not a Satchel

First of all, dear readers, my apologies for another week-long gap between posts, turns out graduate school still requires a lot of time – you’d think by the time I entered 20th grade I would have figured that out. Nevertheless, in the post below I endeavor to share a peace that I have reached with a topic that – to be quite honest – created some anxiety upon my arrival one month and one day ago. It is not the language barrier, the difference in culture, or the fact that Abbey and I took out a good amount of loans to make this year happen that brought about this anxiety, rather it was the anticipation of finally realizing a long latent desire as Parisian cultural norms dictate the carrying of a purse is, indeed, a universal privilege whereas, in the good ole U.S. of A. [insert Sarah Palin-esque wink], this privilege is reserved for females and effeminate males.

I don’t mean to say that either of these groups are either rightly stereotyped, made lesser people, or solely defined by the act of purse-carrying; I merely intend to state that I don’t believe myself to fit in to either of these groups, making purse-carrying a socially unacceptable behavior for myself. Being somewhat of a conformist overly concerned with how other people perceive me, I am wary of defying this longstanding, though unwritten, societal mandate. Then I arrived in Paris.

Everyone in Paris carries a purse. Let’s bracket that thought for the moment while I define the term purse. Many American males attempt to avoid the use of the term “purse” when it refers to a bag that is in their possession – probably due to the type of fears I expressed above. The terms “man-bag,” “man-purse,” “murse,” “knapsack,” “briefcase,” “satchel,” “messenger bag,” and myriad others have been used by American males to refer to their purses in order to mask the fact that they fall into the category of purse-carriers. I am ok with calling it a purse. As the cliché goes, “it is what it is.” Here at the American University of Paris we were issued a standard black cloth purse upon arrival at Orientation that was labeled something like an “adventure pack” or some other clever name to convince American males that it was NOT a purse. It’s a purse. We are, after all, graduate students in need of some sort of bag to carry books, notebooks, pens, and other student-related paraphernalia to and from class. I hereby state, though, that henceforth a school backpack should properly be referred to as a purse. Any bag that someone carries – whether endowed with two X’s or one or anywhere in between and beyond – will be referred to by me as a purse. This includes the three purses that I have been rotating between since my arrival in Paris. Back to the point – everyone here carries a purse. Abbey and I counted in the metro yesterday: walking up the stairs there were 7 people, 6 of whom were purse-carriers. The other one: a loser.

Why am I so excited about finally being able to carry a purse? Let’s do some math. Abbey and I have been together (dating exclusively, then getting married) since December of 2002. We have lived in the southeast United States for the duration of our relationship and, therefore, experience four seasons per year. Due once again to societal norms, at some point it was popularly mandated that different colored/textured/patterned/materialed purses be carried in each season. It is currently between Summer and fall of 2009. That makes winter of ’02, all four seasons in ‘03, all four in ‘04, all four in ’05, all four in ’06, all four in ’07, all four in ’08, and two full seasons thus far in ’09. For those math studs reading, that makes twenty-seven seasons and…you guessed it…27 purses for Abbey (this list does not include VT themed purses carried to game day or those given as gifts). Now, I will be the first to admit that Abbey re-uses purses (she may have used the same fall purse from 2006 as she did in 2008). However, the bottom line is that I have travelled to grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations, and shopping malls with a pen and keys in my right front pocket, a cell phone in my left front pocket, and a wallet in my back right pocket for nearly a decade. In that time, Abbey has carried roughly 20 purses, all with different pocket schemes/storage spaces. Granted, in this time, I was a student carrying a backpack (purse). However, my keys, phone, change, pen, and wallet all remained in my pants and shorts pockets and I only carried my backpack (purse) to class-related/textbook-necessitating functions. I was not utilizing my purse to its full potential for fear of my manly man backpack being mistaken for a girly purse. Each time Abbey and I would venture out and she would find occasion to delve into the chasm strapped to her shoulder to locate the 43 cents for change I would spend roughly 17 minutes thinking “If I had a purse, it would be SO much more organized than that.” That “if” is now, at long last, a reality.

On to my purses: my timbuk2 brand purse has a pocket in the front of it that conveniently holds all of the prior contents of my pants pockets. Wallet: Check. Cell Phone: to heck with a cell phone, I don’t have one at the moment and I love it. Keys: check. Additionally, in this compartment I carry a small map of Paris, a thumb drive, and writing utensils - it also has a small zipper pocket for change. These are all easily accessible with minimal rummaging. Furthermore, there is ample room for all of the necessary books, folders, and notebooks, that I may need on any given day (It is even equipped with a padded compartment for my laptop). There is also a front pocket big enough for an ipod and a zipper compartment that conveniently holds my metro card. This is truly a student’s purse – American gender roles be damned. My AUP purse is the next size down from my Timbuk2 purse but has no compartment for my laptop. My third, and smallest, purse is fantastic – if you are facebook friends with myself or Abbey, you have already seen a candid shot of this purse in action. Just big enough for my wallet, keys, map of Paris, and metro card, there is no rummaging necessary in this little, awesome, blue-cloth purse.

I sense that you are judging me.

However, I wager that your judgment arises from jealousy or a sense of awe. If you are a NPCM (non-purse-carrying male) you are jealous of the fact that my right butt cheek doesn’t go numb when I sit down for an extended time due to the wallet in my pocket. Further, as a NPCM, you are likely envious that I do not get poked in the leg by my keys and change doesn’t fall out of my pockets when I sit down. If you are a purse-carrying female you are no doubt impressed by my organizational prowess displayed by the easily accessed contents of my various purses. I am sure that all the jokes that will be made at the expense of my purse-carrying are merely manifestations of the aforementioned envy and awe of the great improvements in my efficiency as a citizen directly due to my carrying of a purse as well as indications of the fear that grips American males as they come to terms with the fact that, perhaps, carrying a purse is a good (great)idea.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to get my purse together for class.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Baba au Rhum and the Evangelical Impulse

It happens to all of us. Well…maybe it doesn’t and I’m trying to convince myself of the universality of this phenomenon in order to lessen the worries that I am an egotistical twit trying to tell everyone else what to do. I’m talking, of course, about what is known as the “Evangelical Impulse.” While the term “evangelical” has its roots in the greek term “euangelion” which is translated in most versions of the New Testament as “Good News,” it has lately been used primarily to refer to Christians who occupy an extremely socially conservative point of view and voice their opinions regularly in public (three cheers for a seminary degree!). I, however, am not using this term in either of these ways, although the latter is probably closer to the definition I am attempting to utilize. The evangelical impulse refers to one’s desire that others engage in an activity that, for the “evangelist,” produced a highly desirable effect. In this manner, the folks mentioned earlier do, indeed, tend to act upon this impulse (i.e. I don’t imbibe alcohol and I am perfectly happy; ergo, if you cease imbibing alcohol you will reach a similar level of happiness [and have me to thank (I just used parentheses inside of brackets inside of parentheses, how you like me now high school english teachers??)!]).

However, this group of people (admittedly broadly defined and therefore problematic – exceptions to stereotypes, overly broad homogenizations, etc… you’re free to choose the reason I’m wrong) tend to have some kind of motive to convert others to their particular faith and, perhaps, believe that in getting you to act in a similar manner to themselves your belief structure may begin to resemble theirs as well and you will keep reaching new levels of “happy” until you are as “happy” as they are. I have no such ulterior motive to alter your behavior (or do I?). What I do have is an experience that has made me happy that I wish to encourage all of my readers to engage in...[after a discussion with my legal team regarding the contents of the blog to follow, I can only encourage those of proper age under the laws of their country, state, city, county, etc. to engage in the aforementioned experience]. This experience: Baba au rhum. Dear Lord, I thought Vietnamese nougat was delicious (this is the part of this post where I’ll cease to discuss complicated themes using difficult words/sentence structures and certain mother-in-laws may find themselves giggling more).

Baba au rhum is a pastry sent down from the kitchen of every God ever worshipped and every prophet ever to receive a revelation (I believe it was a collaborative effort) to France to be served at restaurants, boulangeries, and prepackaged to be sold at Carrefour (an establishment that probably originated in the same kitchen of the Gods and prophets when Vishnu turned to Joseph Smith and said “How will we get this delicious pastry to the masses?” And Joseph Smith responded…“The sacred place shall be called ‘Carrefour’ and they shall also be the keepers of beer for two euros/six pack and delicious frozen pizza…and an American shall stumbleth upon it…and he shall bloggeth). I have experienced this pastry in the Carrefour variety and eagerly look forward to experiencing au restaurant, and you should do.

Problem: Many of you are in America where Baba au rhum is scarce. Solution: I’ve got you covered.

You see, Baba au rhum is a four-part treat. One part delectable pastry. One part crème. Two parts rum…don’t judge me. Basically, what Baba au rhum is…is a twinkie dunked in rum. What I am saying, then, is that those with legal access to both twinkies and rum (I’m not sure of the particular statute on twinkies in each of your localities) should buy both, fill a cup with rum, and…




What I am further saying is “Yes, I have experienced something good…nay great.” As well as “Yes, for those who share the love of fine pastries, crème, and rum, this good is universal.” If you do not like rum, don’t feel obliged to dunk a twinkie in it…feel encouraged to experience a French delicacy that a friend of yours has enjoyed. If you have some sort of health-related issue preventing you from enjoying an Americanized version of this delicacy, come visit and enjoy a Baba au rhum in Paris – I promise they are full of vitamins here. For those thinking that I have no right to tell them how to live their life – including dictating the beverage in which they dunk their crème-filled pastries – even if I “claim” to be “merely encouraging” an action…go hug a tree, Baba au rhum is delicious and everyone reading this should try it and buy one for someone else (perhaps one small step towards world peace?).

One final piece of advice: should some well-meaning – but mistaken – friend or relative call you an alcoholic for dipping a twinkie in a full glass of Captain Morgan’s tell them what I tell myself: “I’m not an alcoholic…I’m experiencing French culture.”

thanks for reading

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Boarding the Morning Metro (A Haiku)

This just came to me on the metro this morning - like a kind of divine revelation, enjoy.

Boarding the Morning Metro (A Haiku)

Bonjour smoker breath.
Bonjour offensive B.O.
Bonjour urine smell.

thanks for reading.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

A Preliminary Proposal to the Plethora of Parisian Pedestrians

My Fellow Parisian Pedestrians:

From my past experience (going on three weeks now) I feel enlightened as to the plight of your everyday existence for I, now, am one of you. We are in a hurry. We must get where we are going. We are very important people doing very important things. There are unimportant people doing unimportant things who get in our way. These miscreants have regard neither for our individual societal status nor for the importance of the myriad vital engagements we have found ourselves speed-walking towards. In a country where the revolutions have historically begun by the people for the people, I propose the following guidelines and repercussions for Parisian Pedestrians which, henceforth, I shall abide by – whether the other pedestrians appear to be les nobles ou la bourgeosie.


1.) Walk on the right (droite) of the sidewalk and metro hallways.

2.) If it appears as though, should we both continue in our paths, that we shall collide, step to the right (droite), or make some effort to move towards the right (droite).

3.) Stop bringing your enormous carts/strollers to crowded markets – you are in the way and nobody appreciates it…as a matter of fact, most people are thoroughly annoyed with you

4.) Move your damn umbrella so as not to strike another pedestrian in the head (la tete)

5.) Do not stand in the middle of a small sidewalk talking on your cellular telephone oblivious to the world around you.

6.) Before walking in front of someone, please allow a proper amount of space so that there is little to no chance that you will infringe upon the path which will momentarily be occupied by the pedestrian whom you will momentarily step in front of, causing them to dart out of your way or come into contact with your person.

7.) If you are a slow walker, walk to the extreme right (droite) of whatever surface you may be walking upon.

8.) If you are a scooter on the sidewalk, you disgust me...but you win because your vehicle will do more damage to me than I to it.


Should you choose to ignore Rule #1 (regarding inhabiting the right (droite) side of the sidewalk): you have forfeited your rights as a pedestrian and may be bumped into or shoved with no regard for your personal safety or belongings.

Should you choose to ignore Rule #2 (regarding moving to the right (droite) should your path collide with another pedestrian) you have also forfeited your rights as a pedestrian and may be bumped into or shoved with no regard for your personal safety or belongings by the lady/gentleman whose path you have crossed. NOTE: should the person whose path you have crossed make no effort to move, they have similarly violated rule #2 and thus forfeited their rights as a pedestrian, allowing you the opportunity to collide with/shove them with no regard for their personal safety or belongings.

Should you choose to ignore Rule #3 (regarding your enormous carts/strollers in a crowded market): Your carts may be freely bumped into/purposefully kicked – as may your stroller under the condition that it has been established to be uninhabited by an infant innocent of your stupidity.

Should you choose to ignore Rule #4 (regarding your damn umbrella): Your umbrella may be forcibly confiscated and thrown into the path of a moving vehicle.

Should you choose to ignore Rule #5 (regarding standing stagnant on a sidewalk while talking on your cell phone): You have relinquished all rights as a pedestrian and may be shoved, bumped into, glared at, or have projectiles hurled in your direction…you arrogant ninnymuggins.

Should you choose to ignore Rule #6 (regarding not allowing the proper amount of space before walking in front of someone): You relinquish the right to not have the back of your shoe stepped on causing it to come halfway off. Furthermore, you relinquish the right to not be kicked in the non-planted foot causing said foot to collide with the back of the shin of your planted foot and you to stumble forward. You arse.

Should you choose to ignore Rule #7 (regarding walking too slow): You have relinquished your right to walk at your own pace without being bumped into.

Should you choose to ignore Rule #8 (regarding riding scooters on the sidewalks): The pedestrian has no course of action to follow. However, you will be considered to be a terrible person...take that.

I deem these rules to be obscenely self-explanatory and straightforward. If anything is lost in translation, please consult my wife. If you are walking through Paris and see that I am the one who stepped on your shoe/kicked your airborne foot, I did it on purpose – you shouldn’t have walked so close in front of me. If your basket falls on its side at the market – I kicked it: next time bring a bag. If a tall, lanky American's shoulder collides with your delicate French torso, you made no effort to move; and I make no effort here to apologize. If your umbrella strikes me, you have no right to be upset when I throw it under the closest, fastest-moving, tiniest, most fuel-efficient vehicle I see.

It isn’t difficult: follow the eight aforementioned guidelines and your life as a Parisian pedestrian will be as comfortable and collision free as mine will hopefully become upon the acceptance of this proposition. Thank you for your time, and happy walking.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Busy First Week

Please accept, dear readers, my sincerest apologies for the paucity of recent postings on this site – as you all know, this blog remains my first Parisian priority.

I’ll give you a moment to wipe the sarcasm off your screen as it may be dripping at this point.

In all seriousness, though, I will do my best to keep posting regularly on here because I do want to keep you all updated/entertained; however with classes (which are going very well), negotiating my way through miles of non-English speaking red tape to open a joint French bank account for Abbey and I (which sucks), being the “official blogger” for the MEIS program (more on that later), a part-time job (more on that at a later date) and, from time to time, enjoying some down time with Abbey this blog will fit in somewhere. Without further ado, here are some quips about the week:

- I’ve begun to either look too confident, too nice, or too French because the rate of French people stopping me (and Abbey) to ask questions (about the time, the bus schedule, school supplies, directions, if you have to use cash in this line at the grocery, etc) has greatly increased. This, I guess, is good for me and my French but bad for relaying amusing misadventures to you all (don’t worry, I have a solution…although perhaps I’m just guilty by association because Abbey is confident in her French and looks like a nice person…)

- Our professor walked into class the other day and asked if anyone in the class was web-savvy…I am not. I kept my mouth shut. He then said he was hoping someone would be able to set up an online blog or forum for our program. I kept my mouth shut and looked at my desk. What do I hear from the back of the room? “Tommy has a blog.” Damn it. Outted. Thank you [classmate to remain nameless]. So, I’ve got that just about set up, unfortunately it probably won’t be very funny and will be closed to people who aren’t in the program…because I’m an elitist jerk. Suckers.

- Pre-packaged “Baba au rhum” is delicious.

- Public parks often double as restrooms

- Zoolander is just as amusing in French… “qu’est-ce que c’est? un centre pour les fourmis?!”

- I almost bought a sausage at the grocery store the other day before Abbey pointed out that it was made from a part of a horse that she did not know the word for. Oops.

- I saw a Frontlett – that’s right, a Front Mullett – business in the BACK party in the FRONT…it was spectacular, rivaled only by the Dreadlock Mullett and the long, long, long neard that I saw on the metro as well.

- Sometimes, at fancy Cathedrals that you can walk in and look around as a tourist, weddings happen. It’s frowned on the take pictures during the ceremony. Oops.

- Many people here don’t seem to have qualms about passing gas in public. Loudly.

Expect another post to amuse you on your workday on Monday, as I know that many of you have “real” “grown-up” things to do during the weekdays, but still have access to the internet and probably commit time theft at your various places of employment. Additionally, expect my detailed plans for counteracting the perception the French seem to have of me (even though it is probably more so a perception of Abbey) as a nice, knowledgeable, confident person to be revealed sometime later next week.

Monday, September 7, 2009

On a Serious Note...

After dinner the other night at a Thai restaurant down the street, I was on the phone with a Pastor from Alabama who brought it to my attention that I was an American eating Thai food in Chinatown in Paris, France. Add to that that I am a Christian from Virginia who just finished seminary in Georgia studying the Middle East and Islam at the American University of Paris and you may be struck by the question “What am I doing here” that I will attempt to answer below (as a welcome(?) break from the self-deprecating humor characteristic of my previous posts).

In studying Islam and the Middle East, I hope to learn about and from those whose religious, political, geographical perspectives differ from my own and, in doing so, reflect on the process by which our perceptions of reality are shaped by the different facets of our identity that we have forcibly thrust upon us/were born into/willingly accept. As stated earlier I am a seminary graduate, so I hope to keep a particularly close eye on religious identity as a motivating factor for action as well as whether or not our religious identity is something we have thrust upon us (by some sort of divine agent/ultimate concern? Society? Culture?)/were born into/willingly accept. A further theological complication arises when one considers the role of a sacred text or texts. This/these text(s), to whatever extent, end up shaping one’s religious identity which, in turn is somehow involved in the complicated interactions between the individual and her culture. It seems that beliefs regarding every facet of the interactions between self, ‘god,’ text, and selves have ramifications for the way life is lived and other people are treated.

Devoting the next year to the study of a long trajectory of interactions between Christianity and Islam, the ‘west’ and the ‘east,’ the belief structure of the Muslim faith, as well as the myriad issues – both historical and contemporary – in a part of the world that I am currently admittedly unfamiliar with will be a challenge. In addition to studying an unfamiliar culture, I find myself immersed in multi-lingual, multi-cultural environment in which I feel a strange sense of comfort in our collective differences. I begin classes tomorrow (my non-credit-bearing, tuition-free beginner French class this morning doesn’t count) and so begins this year grappling with the aforementioned questions both inside and outside the classroom. My hope is that this year will be a time of preliminary explorations of these themes which I will hopefully have the opportunity to continue exploring in a PhD program beginning Fall 2010 or 2011, depending on what works out.

Thanks for reading.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Minor Differences in the Courses of Action Taken by Myself when I Arrived in Paris and Abbey when She Arrived in Paris

First thing I did: Wander around the loading dock of the Post Office next door with a ton of luggage looking for the front door of our apartment building while being laughed at by French postal workers.

First thing Abbey did: Walk through the front door and go right up to the apartment.

First thing I did in the apartment: Put luggage in the middle of the floor. Sent out an e-mail that I got here safely. Took a five-and-a-half hour nap.

First thing Abbey did in the apartment: took her suitcases to the bedroom, called family members to let them know of her safe arrival. Took inventory of the apartment, making a list of all of the cleaning supplies and household items we needed to go purchase.

First thing I did in public: Avoiding eye contact with people, I found a grocery store and bought an alarm clock, a six pack of beer, coffee, some frozen pizzas, and some apples. Did I say I bought apples? I meant that I took them to the cash register and got yelled at in French and had my apples taken away.

First thing Abbey did in public: Speaking French to people, she located all of the cleaning supplies we needed in the store and everything we would need for a nice, French dinner (I’ve been informed that despite being bought in France, frozen pizza is, by and large, not considered French) and bought them.

First thing I did after my first shopping trip: Came home, put the beer and French pizza in the fridge, figured out how to set the alarm clock, and took another nap (this time with an alarm set).

First thing Abbey did after her first shopping trip: Found a boulangerie near our apartment and bought dessert. Upon returning to the apartment, she put all the cleaning supplies and food away, wiped the kitchen counters with the disinfectant wipes she had purchased and began unpacking her belongings into the appropriate drawers, lamenting that there weren’t more organizational cubbies/containers while I checked facebook.

First meal in Paris for Tommy: Un frozen pizza and a few beers.

First meal in Paris for Abbey: Salad made from fresh produce with homemade balsamic vinaigrette dressing. Baguettes with a vast array of toppings including: Fresh Chevre, Fresh Brie, oil and vinegar, two types of pate (mousse de canard, terrine de champagne), a glass of pinot noir and – for dessert – crème brulee and un tart citron from the boulangerie she found on the way home from the grocery.

First thing after I finished my first dinner: Had another beer, emptied my suitcases onto the floor looking for toiletries and went to bed with the apartment in cluttered disarray, making a mental note to go buy toothpaste the next day.

First thing Abbey did after her first dinner: put all of the food away and began to do some dishes before finishing unpacking and putting all of her things away. She then brushed her teeth, turned on a movie and went to sleep.

My more generous readers will say that Abbey and I complement each other well. My more honest and realistic readers will agree with my assessment that I married up…way, way up.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

La Métro de Matin (The Morning Metro)

I’m just putting this out there: Riding the metro in the morning sucks. When the bus shows up, it is full. Nobody gets out. Everyone at your stop tries to get in. This mass act is one of groupthink combined with unbridled optimism, the anal-retentive adherence to punctuality, and knowledge that the next train has just as many, if not more, damn people on it. Add to all that the sense of panic people seem to experience when the Metro buzzer sounds alerting all patrons to get their belongings and extremities through the door or forever lose a limb and you have quite a spectacle. The only thing worse would be to hand each of these people keys to horn-honking, gas-guzzling, air-polluting, overpriced vehicles made by underpaid workers and stick them on I-85 in downtown Atlanta. And I did say ‘each’ because We all know that carpooling is beneath most Atlantans. But I digress.

This morning on the metro, I was privy to a real treat. I could feel on the side of my leg the contents of the pocket of the person on my right and was wedged between him and the bar we were supposed to hold on to…unless you’re wedged in too tight to be able to move, in which case the bar is rather superfluous. I couldn’t lean back. I couldn’t lean forward. I couldn’t take a deep breath. But I was on the train. When the buzzer sounded, we all breathed in, took up the least amount of space possible, and prepared for the ride. Just as the doors were about to close, the eight or so people in the three feet (or almost one meter) in front of the door fell backwards into the 17 people behind them who fell into all those around me, causing a ripple effect across our train. The culprit: a woman with some sort of bag or suitcase under each arm was using these suitcases as makeshift battering rams, swinging them to her right and left, knocking people over and securing herself and her bags a place in our 35km/hour sardine can. Once all on the train had regained their composure, the gaze of the entire car fixed angrily upon this woman and her bags/suitcases/weapons.

She then began to set down her bags.

Her bags were laughing.

They had legs.

They weren’t bags.

Or Suitcases.

They were her children.

I wish I was making this up.

I’m just putting this out there: Riding the metro in the morning sucks.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

An Adventure

Today I made a fairly brief, precipitation-filled visit to campus followed by an afternoon of avoiding contact with the outside world reading, thinking, and talking about exams (hurrah grad school). So tonight I was faced with a dilemma:

1. I am in a foreign country.

2. I am in an ethnically diverse neighborhood.

3. There are abundant cultural and linguistic challenges I could view as an opportunity to work on my French and broaden my intellectual horizons.

4. The Carrefour down the street sells really good pizzas for like a euro and a half that take approximately 5 minutes to cook in the oven and six packs of beer for just over two euros and I won’t have to speak French or talk to anybody.

Be proud readers; for rather than indulging my introversion I ventured out on a quest for a unique restaurant where I could experience the essence of Paris’ Chinatown. I didn’t have to travel far before I stumbled on “Restaurant Le-Dung” which I can only assume translates as “This Restaurant is the shizzle.” (I haven’t quite reached a decision as to how I shall treat profanity on this blog, so for now I am attempting to keep it friendly for all to view…hence shizzle as opposed to…) Here was my chance to combine my vast experience of eating strange foods with my somewhat limited experience with speaking French. Fortunately they had a Fixed Price menu where I had two options for appetizer, several for the main course, and several for dessert.

The couple whom I presume own Restaurant Le-Dung were very fun…and – better yet – they understood my butchering of the French Language and used simple 2nd grade vocabulary for the duration of the meal so that I could understand them…apparently I still have that ‘I’m a dumb American wandering around somewhere I’m unfamiliar with’ look about my person…c’est la vie. So I look at the menu:

First course: choice between ‘Salade Imperial’ or ‘Pate Imperial (3 Pieces).’ Easy. Everyone knows what Salade means and it is horribly unadventurous, give me the Pate.

Main Course: Ok, I am a sissy. For the main course I chose something that I knew what it was. Poulet Curry. There were several choices, but I’m not in the mood for an upset stomach. If you don’t know what Poulet means…booyah, I know more French than you, stupid! It’s chicken.

Dessert: now Dessert presented a Quandary. I do enjoy a good ‘café’ or ‘the’ after my meal…but this is an adventure. So those items on the menu are out of the question. My choices then were:

“Lychees au sirop (something ummm with…syrup?)
Arbouses au sirop (something else…with…syrup)
Nougat Vietnamien (Some sort of Vietnamese nougat?) or
Gingembre au confiture (which I can only assume has something to do with gingerbread and comfort…so it was certainly tempting)”

I was in a Vietnamese restaurant so I went with the Nougat Vietnamien.

For the first course…pate meant eggrolls with a mint/iceberg lettuce salad and some oil/vinegar/pepper dressing/dipping sauce. Now those familiar with my culinary quirks are aware that I am skeptical of most eggrolls because I believe that you will never know their full contents. This time, particularly, I firmly believe that I will never know their contents. However, this was an adventure, and...they were delicious...whatever they may have been.

The chicken curry was spectacular, I don’t know what all they did to that chicken/onion/carrot mixture but it should be done far more often. I could eat that in an omelet for breakfast, a sandwich for lunch, and over rice for dinner for a good month before I would get sick of it and even then I would probably ask for seconds. If you’re ever near ‘Place D’Italie’ find the Dung Restaurant and eat their chicken curry.

Finally the dessert. [Mind you I was the only patron at this establishment during my meal and made quite a bit of small talk with its owners. Their kids were playing upstairs and occasionally descended the spiral staircase to enjoy a beverage out of the cooler. Just reiterating that I utilized every bit of the 6 weeks of French I have under my belt during this endeavor.] The ‘Nougat Vietnamien’ can best be described as a Baby Ruth bar minus the chocolate, plus a little bit of heaven, cubed and covered in sesame seeds. If I am ever the pastor of a church in Paris I will use these cubes in the eucharist. They were spectacular.

Adventure: success.

I will definitely return to the Dung Restaurant several times in the next year. The service was impeccable and the food did not disappoint. And the restaurant’s name is another name for poo. Aren't I mature.