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So longed-for, so sighed-over

Hi, guys.

Thanks for keeping the place so warm and tidy while I was gone. It’s good to come home to you.

Three weeks, gone in a blur. It’s hard to know where to start.

I remember saying to people sometimes, during the year or so that I lived in Paris, that the city felt like my second home. In retrospect, it seems funny that I should say that, since I hardly even know where my first home is. I guess it should be Oklahoma, technically, since that’s where I was born and raised. But it doesn’t really seem right. Let’s be honest: when you grow up in a place known pretty much exclusively for being shaped like a frying pan in silhouette – a frying pan that, I might add, somebody chucked squarely and carelessly into the middle of Tornado Alley, where it gets held to the fire each spring – it’s not terribly hard to leave. My parents were from the East Coast, so Oklahoma never really had a shot. My parents raised me to know that I would leave, and that, in fact, I was supposed to. It never even occurred to me to stay. I was too busy making plans. I think that’s why I’m such a sucker for Born to Run. Swap out Bruce Springsteen’s motorcycle and the back streets of mid-seventies New Jersey for an airplane and mid-nineties Oklahoma, and you’ve got me. Not quite so sexy a story, of course, with no chrome wheels or wind in my hair, but you get the idea. Six days after my nineteenth birthday, I was gone. I spent the next four years in California. Then I went to Paris, and now, Seattle. I’m still not sure where home is. I have a hunch that I’ve hit on it, but I can’t be sure. My second home, though, is still the same. I’m predictable. Paris.

There’s been so much said and written about Paris that it’s daunting to hazard a statement of my own. That city just has something. I can’t think of any other place so idealized, so longed-for, so sighed-over. My Paris isn’t always such a sweet one, brimming with kisses à la Doisneau, but I like it better that way. It’s the place where I’ve been loneliest, and where I’ve been happiest. Sometimes I’ve been both at the same time. It’s where, at twenty-one, I met my first love in the belly of a lighthouse-boat-cum-club on the Seine, and where, six weeks later, when he stopped calling, I sat on a bench at the Champ de Mars and filled an entire Kleenex mini-pack with my snot and tears. It’s a place where even crying feels romantic somehow, where heartbreak makes you feel like a part of history. It’s unrequited love. It’s who and where, for a long time, I wanted to be.

Paris is an incubator, and a catalyst. It’s where I feel most awake. It’s where, at twenty-five, and in the span of a few summer weeks, I decided to leave graduate school, broke up with a boyfriend of three years, drank my first gin and tonic, scattered a Ziploc baggie of my father’s ashes into the Seine, ate scandalous amounts of Comté and pâté, and, at the suggestion of a very wise friend, decided to start this blog. That city means business. For a place that clings vehemently to its history, it has certainly helped speed along mine.

So it seemed intuitive to go back there this spring. I’ve never been particularly cuddly with the idea of change, and this year is nothing but. It’s all the good kind, of course – a wedding! a book! – but sometimes a girl needs a little incubating, so to speak – not to mention ten days with her mother, a solid supply of baguette sandwiches, some stinky cheese, whites from Cheverny, reds from the Côtes du Rhone, and a jaunt down to Lyon for some old-fashioned, fat-rippled cuisine de bonne femme, which, for future reference, is immensely fortifying. Mom and I even shared our first blood sausage, served in a quaintly dented silver dish with a bed of caramelized apples as brown and translucent as a tarte Tatin. I quite nearly set up camp right there, atop the checked tablecloth. Second home, you know.

So it was good to go back. But I have to tell you, it’s also good to be back.


Anonymous Mary said...

So great to always have Paris, right? It's nice to have you back here, though.

5:29 PM, April 30, 2007  
Blogger Shira said...

I'm so glad you enjoyed your return visit to my new home-of-sorts. I'm looking forward to hearing about your discoveries and re-discoveries. But you've reminded me that I should really import some quality g+t. On that one, I think London might have the edge.

5:31 PM, April 30, 2007  
Blogger Il Fornaio said...

Welcome back! I missed arriving to work on Tuesday mornings and looking for a new post, but I have to say, now I feel like leaving for Paris. That was a beautiful post.

5:35 PM, April 30, 2007  
Blogger Deborah Dowd said...

As a famous Kansas woman said- "There's no place like home"- no matter where that is! Thanks for letting us go along.

6:28 PM, April 30, 2007  
Anonymous Coralie said...

Welcome home.

I was just in Paris a few weeks ago, and feel the same way. No matter how much I love my home here in the States, it always takes a while to get its sheen back after I've been in Paris.

7:02 PM, April 30, 2007  
Blogger Mercedes said...

What a thoughtfully written piece. When it comes to 2nd homes, the good thing is that you can have more than one, so I hope you (and Brandon) continue to find many more. You've certainly made a home in the hearts of many readers.

7:08 PM, April 30, 2007  
Blogger Lia said...

Welcome back, Molly! Your post got me so excited for my own trip to Paris in a few weeks. And I couldn't agree that it's the place I've felt the loneliest and also the happiest. It also feels like a second home, and I can't wait to go back.

7:33 PM, April 30, 2007  
Blogger hannah said...

yay molly! so glad you had a wonderful time. a few days ago out of nowhere i thought to myself, i wonder what molly is doing in paris right now. probably sleeping, but you get the drift. and your pictures, oh your pictures! i have a feeling that those are just the tip of the iceberg. wonderful post, do do carry on my friend!

7:38 PM, April 30, 2007  
Blogger pomegranate said...

A sigh-worthy post.

8:08 PM, April 30, 2007  
Blogger Tea said...

It's so wonderful to have places like that, that take us out of ourselves and bring us back. And to think you'll be a different person still, next time you wander those cobblestones.

Welcome back, my dear. So nice to see the city through your eyes.

8:26 PM, April 30, 2007  
Blogger Anali said...

Welcome back! Wow quite a lot happened to you at that quarter century mark. I agree that Paris is an incubator. Without even knowing it, it sort of happened to me that way too. After I finished sending out my applications to law school, I went to Paris for a week.

I decided that it would either be a congratulations gift for getting into law school or a consolation prize if not. I was 29 years old and on the verge of something. I needed Paris.

8:41 PM, April 30, 2007  
Blogger Lauren said...

Yeah, but where but Oklahoma can you find such beautiful red dirt?

8:53 PM, April 30, 2007  
Blogger Janice said...

The "je ne sais quoi" cliche about Paris is so incredibly true. There is something in the city makes the wistfully romantic weak in the knees. Maybe it's the cheese. Or the offal. In any case, je ne sais pas.

I can't wait to read more about your culinary adventures in Paris!

8:53 PM, April 30, 2007  
Anonymous Leah said...

Welcome home, lovely! You have been missed. I don't blame Paris for casting such its spell and wanting to keep you for its own, but I'm so glad you come home to this coast.

PS - Now that bottle of Hendrick's in my cabinet is calling my name... and I've pretty much given up the hooch these days. Darn you and your evocative writing, Molly!

10:07 PM, April 30, 2007  
Blogger Kirsten said...

Welcome home!! What an honest and lovely post.

We missed your food and life musings...


10:09 PM, April 30, 2007  
Blogger Nina said...

damn fine post. Thank you!

3:27 AM, May 01, 2007  
Anonymous Dee said...

So glad you're back, Molly! Beautiful writing and it describes my sentiments EXACTLY......about Italia! :-)

We missed your presence, your recipes, your fabulous writing.


5:07 AM, May 01, 2007  
Anonymous Mia said...

I've been anticipating this post ... and you have surpassed expectations as usual. Your writing is so clean and honest, it makes a person feel as if you're speaking directly to her. You explain a place wonderfully and give such an intense feeling of it. Interesting post, beautiful pictures.
Welcome back...

5:24 AM, May 01, 2007  
Blogger shari said...

glad you are home molly. i've missed you and your recipes. ;) paris sounds amazing. i've been to france but never to paris. i love how you describe it as the place where you are the most awake. beautiful my friend. and those photos!! xo

6:39 AM, May 01, 2007  
Blogger Rose said...

It's good to have you back Molly. When I read about your days in Paris and how it felt like going back to your second home, it reminded of Madeleine peyroux's song: " J'ai deux amours! mon pays et Paris".
And do I see medlar on your plate?? and comte on another picture??
Lucky you!
Bienvenue chez toi.

7:52 AM, May 01, 2007  
Anonymous kayenne said...

this is one of your nicest posts... kinda of like comfort food, it's a comfort post.

8:49 AM, May 01, 2007  
Blogger Emily said...

Molly, it's so nice to have you back.

If you haven't already seen it, you should check out the movie "Paris, je t'aime."

9:40 AM, May 01, 2007  
Anonymous Taryn said...

And it's good to have you back!

It's so lovely to get away once in a while, it gives a person a bit of much needed perspective.

I've been wanting to take my mother the Paris for a while now. She hasn't been out of the U.S since she lived in Japan as an army brat in the third grade. I want her to enjoy it before she's too old to get out. Thanks for reminding me of Paris...I've got to keep an eye out for a good deal on tickets!

10:32 AM, May 01, 2007  
Blogger nicole said...

I am also not particularly 'cuddly' with the idea of change, so I understand how you feel! Your trip sounds fantastic, the food divine, and the pictures are dreamy. Glad you had a good time :)

10:33 AM, May 01, 2007  
Anonymous Meryl said...

Yay! Molly welcome back - I can't tell you how excited I was to stop by and see a new post. Tuesdays aren't the same without one :-)

12:33 PM, May 01, 2007  
Blogger Christine said...

Delurking to say, "welcome back!"

I read the post on your father and got all teary eyed.

Then I saw the loquats and have a serious craving. Man I'm all over the place.

12:37 PM, May 01, 2007  
Blogger wendy said...

oh your words are magic....simple beautiful and magical.

2:06 PM, May 01, 2007  
Blogger Lizzy said...

That was lovely. Welcome home.

2:32 PM, May 01, 2007  
Blogger Bill said...

I love Paris. I love the noise and the traffic and no one has ever been rude to me. Charmed life, I guess.

Two comments: Les Moules, a wonderful restaurant serving baskets of steamed mussels, fresh bread and wine. No need to eat anywhere else.

Second, while enjoying some vin rouge at a bistro a man stopped at the traffic light. Nothing unusual about that. Then, he pulled out a pair of drumsticks and proceeded to beat a tattoo on his steering wheel, dashboard, rear view mirror and windshield. When the light changed to green he stowed his sticks and drove off. We thought nothing of it.

3:33 PM, May 01, 2007  
Blogger Alice Q said...

Beautiful Molly - glad to have you back!

4:29 PM, May 01, 2007  
Anonymous Erin said...

When I think of Paris I always picture that scene from Sabrina where Audrey Hepburn transforms from a girl who can't crack an egg in culinary school to a willowy, sophisticated beauty in a matter of 10 movie minutes. So fitting for you and your talent to star in your own Parisian post!

6:46 PM, May 01, 2007  
Anonymous April said...

I completely relate to your statement about Paris being where you were the loneliest and happiest. My husband I lived in Paris for two years when we were in our early 20s and it is where I found my love for cooking, myself, and what I need out of life. It is a city that teaches you many lessons without doing a thing. It is a city that turns an adolescent into an adult. I will forever have a place in my heart for Paris.

7:05 PM, May 01, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Welcome back. I feel the same way about Oklahoma.
Take care, sweets. - Aylin

9:27 PM, May 01, 2007  
Blogger Gemma said...

I have been feeling an urge to revisit Paris soon, I just love sitting in the parks eating a picnic and enjoying the feeling of being in Paris (oh, and the shopping isn't too bad either!).

Welcome back.

6:06 AM, May 02, 2007  
Blogger amisha said...

so good to have you back, molly, with these stories and photos and your beautiful words. you capture the magic of a place that touches you at a particular moment and becomes a part of you and your history so so well.

7:18 AM, May 02, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Molly--As yet another former Okie...I couldnt wait to get out of there either but now, twenty years later, it has grown on me-I go back there every year for the wheat harvest. And I'm from the panhandle-which has to be even more diametrically opposed to Paris than OK City...


8:33 AM, May 02, 2007  
Blogger Molly said...

Goodness, guys! I can't keep up with all these comments! I'm touched that this post resonated with so many of you. I spent the better part of Monday afternoon sitting on the couch, thinking and daydreaming and writing it, and the process felt so good - just the sort of re-entry I needed. (The jetlag, however, I could have done without.) I'll write more in a day or two, about some of my favorite Paris addresses.

In the meantime, merci mille fois, as they say.

9:45 AM, May 02, 2007  
Anonymous lynn said...

Welcome back. I've missed reading your posts and look forward to hearing more of your trip and living Paris vicariously.

10:01 AM, May 02, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a fellow foodie, I'm a fan of your work. I hope you'll have a chance to visit my blog www.voiceofreason.net and let me know your thoughts on all things food!

10:38 AM, May 02, 2007  
Blogger Max said...

Welcome back Molly! I certainly missed reading your posts and this was the perfect comeback. I hope you'll share more about your food adventures in Paris! I'm especially curious about that blood sausage......

11:58 AM, May 02, 2007  
Anonymous Terry B said...

What a beautifully evocative post. Including the Kleenexes filled with snot and tears--nicely, unsentimentally and truly put. Two perfectly Paris memories for me [besides all the obvious ones] are people everywhere carrying extravagant armloads of cut flowers and the almost constant soundtrack of revving, whining motorbikes.

1:45 PM, May 02, 2007  
Blogger Bad Home Cook said...

OK. I'm prepared to BUY that one photo of the blue saucer with the cup....gorgeous!
Welcome back, and what a beautifully-written post! I've always thought I'd go to Paris, but never spent much time there as an adult. My lone memory of the place is being yelled at by an ice-cream vendor at 11, because I didn't have enough change and trying in vain to point to my stepfather in the window next to us. "Un moment, s'il vous plait! Un moment!"
But they say similar things about NYC and I didn't believe them. Until I went at 27, and found out for myself. Maybe Paris will wait for me.

5:50 PM, May 02, 2007  
Blogger Lily said...

I feel the same way about Bali. I know, complete opposites, huh!
That being said, welcome back darlin, Seattle is always happy to have you!

9:12 PM, May 02, 2007  
Blogger SF Money Musings said...

I'm so glad you're back!

I was obsessively checking the last week every single day to see if you'd update from Paris with any recipes or pictures.

So thrilled that you're back and blogging!! Your posts get me excited about food, cooking and trying new things.

12:10 AM, May 03, 2007  
Anonymous Adelaide said...

Mon dieu, are you a kindred spirit: I ran away to Paris after highschool, worked in a beautiful bistro on rue de Seine, had the strangest and most honest affair with an older man, developed a lifetime attachment to the G&T and the Negroni, and felt like I'd finally come home. I went back to study during college and there was that same sense of return. Now, I'm living in Martinique, having confused my love of Paris for a love of all things francophone, and while I can't complain (that would be obscene) the city of all cities still holds my heart. I.e.: je comprends.

Thank you for your beautiful writing, images, recipes and this particularly evocative post.

9:13 AM, May 03, 2007  
Blogger Jenn said...

..deep sigh...

Welcome back and thank you for the peek into your trip and life journey. Beautiful!

12:45 PM, May 03, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I never experienced Paris like you did, perhaps because I already had a first and second home at my grandmother's house in a teensy-tiny little Belgian village. But I think I would like to try. Paris does have something.
May I ask where you stayed during your visit? I noticed that your picnic had plates - does that mean you were staying in an appartment rather than a hotel? I'm curious, because hotels are always my least favorite part of the travel experience.

6:52 PM, May 04, 2007  
Blogger Marta Elena said...

very god your blog, i am photographer and graphic designer.
Hola desde Venezuela.

1:28 PM, May 05, 2007  
Blogger ** Terramia ** said...

Home is where the heart is... for the fleeting moment.

Your images and insight are poetry.... merci for sharing.

10:27 PM, May 05, 2007  
Blogger Shaun said...

Molly - I returned to Paris for the first time in 10 years, and it was the first time visit for my partner, Eric. It was all things familiar and welcoming as I had hoped. Paris does not seem to change (externally, that is - shops come and go, but the buildings and Seine stay), and this is probably one of the reasons why Paris is so loved and easy to return to. A lovely blog entry.

2:03 AM, May 07, 2007  
Blogger catalyst0527 said...

It's really good to back to Paris, Molly.
I envy you of your beautiful words.
Have a great day~ :)

7:22 AM, May 07, 2007  
Anonymous ellen said...

Yes, Paris is fantastic but isn't it nice to be back...we all are glad to have you back...

10:42 AM, May 07, 2007  

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