Three weeks in to the confinement and I hit a bad milestone: I’m completely out of Frank’s Redhot hot sauce. My flavor link to America. My drops of hot tasty goodness. I put that shit on everything. And there is no way to get more.
A buddy from NYC was kind enough to bring over a few bottles last summer. I had found the very hot version of Frank’s in an American grocery store (which is not the same but better than no Frank’s), when I had three bottles I felt like a king and slathered it atop my meals with reckless abandon. I had planned trips back to the states. I didn’t even bother to bring more Frank’s back with me such was the level of abundance.
I still have plenty of hot sauces. My brother and sister-in-law gave me a collection of hot sauces last year as a gift and my buddy here gave me three bottles of Le Piment Français by Maison Martin, a French indie hot sauce maker which I strongly recommend checking out. In a pinch I can still buy Tabasco from the store. But I will miss Frank’s.
There are so many things that I miss about life before coronavirus. On a culinary level I’ve already written about missing my ultimate comfort food: ramen. What is even worse is that ramen in the summertime isn’t the same as ducking into a ramen joint on a chilly winter day, sitting alone at the bar crammed in elbow to elbow with strangers (when social distancing was only for introverts) and sucking down noodles and killer broth while vapor engulfed my face, steam streaming up my nose. Dotting my sweaty forehead with the napkin. Those last spoonfuls after everything is gone except for the concentration of flavor that the chopsticks and ladle had left behind. Downing the rest of my cold Asahi and leaving the restaurant a mere 20 minutes after going in.
And pints. Pints and pints of beer with friends and coworkers. After work, the weekends, after the kids are asleep on lucky evenings. Strolling down Rue Timbaud stopping by Petit Clou for a glass (or three) of Lecaster IPA. Even just sitting down at any café, with their tiny chairs and even tinier tables, waving down the waiter and asking for a blonde. Sweet cigarette smoke wafting around while people chat about nothing and everything. Being part of the bustle. Feeling part of Paris.
I miss Paris. I live in the 11th in a trendy and up-and-coming neighborhood that I played my part in gentrifying. We have excellent bakeries and restaurants, more art galleries and quirky shops than you can realistically explore and endless amounts of creativity. We live a block from a huge supermarket and from a practical standpoint it’s hard to find a better balance between cost of living and convenience. But when I run up to the top of the Parc de Belleville and I look over the city I am reminded that the Paris that I love is far from the limits of my quarantine.
There’s the steps at Montmartre at night illuminated by yellow street lights that cry out for romance. There’s the pedestrian thoroughfare along the Seine with riverboat restaurants like Les Macquereaux and tunnels under bridges, the defense ministry fortress with its towers over the water and a cascade running out of it like some medieval relic. There’s the Place des Vosges that celebrates the pomp of Parisian life with Victor Hugo’s home nestled in a corner. Notre Dame, Pont des Arts, the pyramid in front of the Louvre. Each time I pass in front of them I am reminded how lucky I am to call Paris home.
And how lucky are we all to live in a time of mass aviation where the world is connected and vacations can take any different form. Many people complain about flying but it never lost any luster for me. Each time I get onto a plane I am amazed by the fact that you can fly through the upper atmosphere while reading or perusing endless amounts of films and munching on candy and arrive in another destination. Then that feeling when you grab a cab in a new place and head to wherever you’re staying. It’s pure excitement. Exploration. Discovery.
Last year we didn’t travel as much as a family since my wife gave birth at the end of May and started a new job in October. 2020 was supposed to be the year where we started to explore the world again. We had planned to be in Sicily for the first week in May. I always try to spend at least one week a year in Italy, looks like that’s going to be difficult in 2020. All of our other trips are of course on hold. I dearly miss the thrill of planning a trip, checking out things to do and what and where to eat. Dragging the Airbnb map along the coast to find a truly amazing place with a view. Anticipation can be as rewarding as experiencing.
The uncertainty of the future is making it very hard to look forward to anything. People are already starting to talk about how the unconfinement is going to work. Getting relief from the pressure of staying inside will be sweet, but life will take a long time to get back to normal, and those crowded ramen bars might be a permanent casualty.
At least I’ll be able to go out in search for Frank’s.