Sometimes certain smells rip me back to a particular past. If I smell this one perfume, I’m back in my elementary school, walking through a hallway doorway, on my way to 5th grade graduation. Sometimes, this happens with foods too. If I see a large head of cabbage, cut in half displaying the white and purple labyrinth – I am back in the Marais, waiting in line for my second falafel in two days.
If you’ve never been to Paris before, picture this for me – small streets framed with bright white, red, yellow, green and blue door fronts. Hundreds of people packing them on a Sunday afternoon. A cold chill is in the air, so people hunch a bit, and talk louder than Paris normally permits. Groups are stationed as obstacles for the moving, waiting for Ruggelach, shawarma, or falafel and a warm shelter for ten minutes. This is the Marais, “the swamp,” “the fourth,” or the Jewish section of Paris.
Walking in the Marais my first time, I was overtaken by the boisterousness of the store owners ringing people into their shops in French, Italian and English. After we gave a few of their walking advertisements the cold shoulder, my friend ushered me to the corner falafel shop. It’s the one with the red awning, across the sidewalk from the bakery that has “the best Ruggelach in town” and a block from the main road, taking you off to the Seine.
We went inside to get our four euro falafel, then back into the biting cold to wait for the assembly line. Within five minutes, I was holding the epitome of the Marais’ Cuisine – a warmed pita stuffed with chickpea fritters, cucumber salad, tzatziki sauce, garlic, a tomato-chili salsa, and at the bottom, the warm, red cabbage. » Continue reading this post…