Taste of Strawberries

June 3, 2014  |  Posted by Zohreh Ghahremani

“Aah, you’re so lucky!” my friends said as I announced an upcoming trip to Paris.

Indeed to return to a place believed by many to be the most beautiful city on earth is exciting. So I responded to their enthusiasm with equal amount of my own and promised to enjoy a pain au chocolat on their behalf.

It is fascinating how Paris remains the same, yet each time I seem to discover a new facet of it. Gone are the days when a trip to the Louvre, a walk around Montmartre, and a ride in a Bateaux Mouches were the highlights of my visits. Now that I’m an ocean away, it is the excitement of a family reunion that lures me there, though I retain an undying admiration for the city, too

On the ride from the airport, I marveled at the gentle rain, a thousand shades of green, and the tiny cars that have become even tinier. Once again I admired the ever-lasting monuments, lovely rose gardens, and quaint sidewalk cafés. The initial awe did not last long and it took only one ride on the metro to bring out the “Ugly American” in me. My bad knee criticized the absence of escalators, my summer shoes hated the filthy sidewalks and when the four of us could not fit into the toy-sized elevator, I had just about had it!

After a couple of days, I had settled into Paris routine, began to rediscover its delightful corners, and got used to the outrageous price tags. Soon a peaceful sense of pleasure had set in and I even found myself thinking, “I could live here!”

One afternoon, my niece stopped by a pastry shop for yet another box of delightful pleasures when her mom remembered their diabetic guest and darted out of the car to buy me some strawberries. This is my only guilt-free fruit and I was most grateful for the gesture.

Back in her apartment, we brewed tea, washed the fruit and sat down to a delightful chitchat. I studied the tiny, pale orange strawberries and thought of the gigantic ones in California, where one needs to cut them in half. Still, I figured they’d be a good distraction from the tempting pastries, so I put one in my mouth. I could not remember the last time I had actually smelled the scent of strawberries, not to mention worrying about the juice squirting out of my mouth! The unbelievable tender fruit had the flavor of melted sugar and the freshness of spring. To my shame and utter embarrassment, by the time others were done with their pastries, I had finished the entire bowl of strawberries. A fair trade, if you ask me, even a gain on my part.

That is what Paris does to you. It makes you appreciate good things as they used to be. Commercial as the city may have become, it has a way of stirring you away from the flash in modern life. You rediscover the pleasure of a small cup of coffee that has no refill, the aroma wafting from the bakery, and the pure taste of strawberries.

Now back home, I sit in the TV room and stare at the lovely basket of large strawberries I’ve just bought from Carlsbad. They are a deep shade of red and gigantic in size, but I know the taste is too subtle and that there will be no juice squirting out of them. Indeed these will make the most attractive display and a few may even win a prize for their sizes.  I close my eyes and imagine a room full of relatives where the space if filled with words. I imagine these lovely looking strawberries having the sweetness of the pale ones in Paris, the same tender skin, and juicy flesh.

Maybe I want the best of both worlds. But isn’t that what everyone wants? I rarely look back because I don’t want to miss anything or anyone. But as long as one has an imagination left, why not picture the best?


One Comment

  1. Connie O'Connor June 3, 2014 5:22 am

    Yes, I was envious of your traveling to Paris because my love for the city goes back 40 years when I was an exchange student with a marvelous family. Fortunately, I do get to return about every five years, and I too marvel at the small cars (I remember seeing people actually pick up the first smart cars in order to park them perpendicular to the others when there was no room on the streets!!), do smell the rain on the cement, usually have to use the stairs because the elevators are too small or old or simply do not operate,love to smell the aroma from the strong coffee as they gasp when I put in my Splenda brought from the US, and as a diabetic I do eat the enormous croissants that my family buys for me, and the pain ordinaire with the best butter or real rocquefort cheese, but what I adore about Paris is the seemingly sophistication of its people. They dress more smartly,more interestingly fashionable, more brilliantly colorfully, and when I go there, I pull out my two simple scarves from my drawer and feel terribly inadequate, so I buy one while I am there. Only in Europe do I wear my scarves.

    The Parisians love to watch people, and I love to watch the Parisians. Even with the internet and iphones taking over the world, they still put them down to watch others, commenting about a style of walk, a pair of red leather shoes, or what they had for dinner last night. Their ability to appreciate
    fresh. white asparagas or a delicate piece of chocolate or a simple reblochon cheese on their delicate plates on small tables crowded into tiny places is fascinating. Less is more for the Parisians. I begin to appreciate the less more when I am there and seem to forget that fact when I am back in the states. I suppose, as you say, perhaps, it has to do with the size of the strawberries, and the taste that arrives with the difference in size, or perhaps it is simply that the small size costs more for its taste that I appreciate it more there.

    And, like you, it is for the family I return. My head hurts after a few days of translating from English into French until the magic language switch turns to the French section and thinks of those unused vocabulary words and ghastly verb tenses that must agree with the subject. However, to sit in a cafe, watch the people saunter by, hear the spoken conversations that I can finally understand, sip my delicately aged wine, take small bites of tasty, oozing creamy cheese and devour simple bread, and see the scarves everyone is wearing makes me think I could live there too – but only for awhile until the snows come, the rain increases, and the scarves and coats must become thicker to weather the wind,

    Until next year when I will return again to hopefully see both my aging “French” mother and and father and all of the family, I will survive on Costco camembert from Normandy, drink the vin de Macon, occasionally read my Paris Match magazine, try to see a French movie that makes sense, once in a while wear one of my scarves, and reach into the deepest part of my brain to write to my family in French, And then the week that I will be there, I will remember to enjoy the less is more to appreciate that if I want, I have the more in California whenever I want. Vive la difference!