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"Other Colors"
by Orhan Pamuk

by Nathaniel Philbrick

July 14, 2009

We’ll always have Paris

Today is Bastille Day – the day French people celebrate the beginning of the French Revolution, when the Bastille, a grim prison, was stormed. It was July 14, 1789, 220 years ago, so we tip our berets to the French. The quote is from the movie, “Casablanca”. Rick, played by Humphrey Bogart, tells Ilsa, his former girlfriend, played by Ingrid Bergman, that she must leave Casablanca with her husband. He tells her, “We’ll always have Paris.” However when I think of Paris, I have a different picture in my mind.

I was 1996 and Mark and I were in Paris, however, not on Bastille Day. It was in early June. We had a little hotel room from which we could see the Eiffel Tower. At night, particularly, it was lovely. The hotel was on a very nice, short, pedestrian street. Along the street there were shops of every kind. We went to the bakery and bought a baguette. It is a slender loaf about two feet long and often unwrapped, just tucked in a shopping bag or even under one’s arm. It is crisp on the outside and soft on the inside. Since French law prohibits adding preservatives, it spoils quickly and must be purchased every day. When we were in France with Kay, when she was a girl, we would call it “Eel Bread” because of its size and shape.

From the bakery we strolled to the cheese store where the merchant had been trying to educate me as to the differences in cheeses. He would tell me where it was made and whether it was cow or goat cheese and if it was aged, etc. I asked him once for a cheese that would be good with bread. He responded, “All cheese is good with bread!”. This day we bought some lovely Brie. Whenever I buy Brie, I think of a BSF CA who once said in my hearing, “I would kill for Brie”. I am almost that bad. I love it. Mark preferred Cheddar or a good aged cheese but he indulged me not only on this occasion but often.

On the street just beneath the hotel was a market for fruits and vegetables. We bought a beautiful basket of strawberries and took all of our purchases up to our room. We spread out the napkins we used as placemats and cut thick chunks of bread (this was pre-9/11 so we could carry a knife with us) and thin slices of cheese. We put mounds of washed strawberries on the thin, light plates we carried for just such an occasion. We sat on the bed and watched the Eiffel Tower turn golden in the setting sun as we savored each delicious morsel.

Yes, I will always have Paris and that wonderful memory.

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