Paris, March 7, 2012
Cloudy descent into Paris airport – a little bumpy this landing in the city of haute cuisine.
The taxi ride to my first accommodation in the 19th
arrondissement goes smoothly: beautiful older apartment building with worn out wooden stairs and a sign to please wipe your feet. My friend is not home but his wife Paula and lovely 3 year old daughter Olivia are – she speaks Spanish, French and English – what a way to grow up. My bed is made in the office – there are big glass doors with a French balcony overlooking the court yard.
The next day the driver from the Estonian Embassy picks me up and we deliver two cases of books to the Paris Cookbook Fair grounds – nobody is there to receive the books but we leave them where the bookstore will be set up and hope for the best.
In the afternoon I check out the vegetable and health food store nearby to see whether they carry all ingredients I will need for my cooking demo on Sunday – for the most I can find everything except beets – the only beets I can find are pre-cooked. But Paula is able to get me some from another market.
First ride on the metro – everything goes well, except I don’t know that you have to push a button for the door to open – I just stand there and wait – luckily others want to get out as well and push the button for me.
In the evening I meet the Estonian Ambassador and his wife at the Folies Bergere theater for the Awards Gala. There are many categories of wine and cookbooks – many emotional, some funny, some witty responses to winning the first price. I am thinking and rethinking my acceptance speech – you only get 30 sec to say something. My book Essential Nourishment is a finalist in the health and nutrition category – 2 hours go by – and then the moment of truth arrives – I am nervous, excited, hopeful – but when Mr. Edouard Cointreau mentions my book second in, I know that I am not the winner of the first place. He says however “… a book that everyone should read” – and my book lands on third place. I will not deny that I was disappointed. C’est la vie …
It’s Wednesday, the first day of the book fair – I take the bus but halfway to where I am going the driver makes an announcement that I do not fully understand – however I get that there will be a rerouting – I stay on and hope that this rerouting will happen before we get to where I need to go. I follow the moves the bus makes on my map only to find out that it goes further and further in the wrong direction and instead of stopping every couple of blocks as he had done before there seems to be no stop in sight, I bravely walk up to the driver and ask what ever happened to rue Riquet? When he finally stops he points me towards another bus stop and tells me to take that bus back. So it is the same bus number but going the opposite direction and it will take me to where I have to go – go figure.
I arrive at the Paris cookbook fair. The atmosphere is relaxed and friendly. I go to the Gourmand office to pick up my certificate. It says Best Nutrition Book in the World, Third – I like how that sounds.
I get the catalog and rip out the pages that have the layout and a list of all presenters with stands on it. I start marking up who I want to speak to and approach them one by one. Everybody is so nice and almost apologetic, when they have to tell me that my book is not for them. Sometimes they recommend other publishers who might be a better fit for my book. My goal here is to find foreign publishers who would like to translate my book and publish it in their country. When I introduce my book I tell them that it won third place the day before in the healthy cookbook category and it really does not sound so bad. And they happily congratulate me. I have some promising exchanges with several German publishers and a Brasilian publisher. Lunchtime approaches and I am in the mood for a hearty lunch, knowing that dinner will be on the light side. There is a French café/restaurant in another part of the building. I study the menu but do not understand most of it. Luckily the waiter does speak English. There is a lunch deal where you get a discount if you order an appetizer and a main dish. My body tells me, go for it! My cravings for vegetables I quench with a cauliflower soup and for the main dish I order the one thing I recognize as a French classic thanks to the movie Julie and Julia – it is Boeuf Bourguignon – or something like it. I must admit that I am quite ignorant when it comes to French cuisine but am an eager student. I am not a big meat eater either but will try to eat like a Parisienne when in Paris. And again a flashback to the movie – I was tempted to make loud moaning noises just like Merryl Streep as Julia Child always did, when she dined with her husband - that expression of utter surprise and unexpected pleasure – but I controlled myself – however I must report that that beef was the most tender and juicy I have ever encountered – it literally melted in my mouth – I mean it was truly incredible – wow!
In the evening there was a party for all professional guests of the cookbook fair. A Swedish chef prepared 8 dishes for 300 people with the help of some 20 students of the Cordon Blue Culinary School. It took place in the International Show Kitchen, so we all could watch if we were so inclined. I stayed for the beginning, as it was interesting for me to see how he organizes his work and how he gives instructions to the students.