This past summer I was lucky enough to spend a few weeks in Paris and Normandy with my peers. We skipped from markets to patisseries as we criss-crossed neighborhoods in order to better understand how the French expressed their identities through their food ways. I was blissful slurping oysters and guzzling wine; climbing castles and mastering metros. Life in France was as seductive and sweet as a perfectly ripe peach. I didn't want to leave. A short month later synagogues and shops in and around Paris were attacked as angry crowds chanted "death to the Jews" in protest of Israel's invasion of Gaza. Back home in Brooklyn, I wondered how my time in France would have been different had the violence erupted while I was there. I thought of the Jewish butcher, Michael Kalifa, and his wife Franca who spoiled us silly with house charcuterie and good wine on the cobblestoned streets of the Marais. Were they fearful? Their tiny shop, Maison David, had Jewish stars conspicuously carved into the storefront. I was fearful for them. Here in New York I take for granted all of my freedoms whether it be speech or religion. Even though I am not religious, I know there are people who wish me dead because I am Jewish. I am devastated by the senseless murders of the poor journalists who were silenced forever because they dared to have a voice. I am terrified by the continued targeted hate and violence against the Jews in France and around the world. #JeSuisCharlie? Je ne sais pas. Do I stand in solidarity with the murdered journalists and all of those who have ever shouted loud enough to be heard over all the noise or had the courage to believe the pen is mightier than the sword? Yes, YES of course. But have I ever felt that I was putting myself at risk by speaking my opinion? No, I haven't. I have never experienced personal persecution or threats of any kind and maybe that's because I'm an American or a white person or a New Yorker or all of those things. I only know what I am and I have never had to feel afraid because of it. #JeSuisJuif I was born that way. Why should anyone have to die for it?
It's a been a week since I've back in Brooklyn after a month exploring, eating, learning, eating and traveling around Europe. Did I mention I ate a lot? I spent two weeks in Paris, a week in Berlin, and a week in Spain, so can you blame me?
I went to Paris for two weeks as part of a course offered through the Food Studies Dept at NYU, where I recently graduated from. My professor, Jennifer Berg was kind enough to let me tag along. Or maybe I insisted on going. Either way, I was lucky enough to spend two wonderful weeks studying the performance and identity of Parisians as expressed through their food ways. This this of empirical study required that we eat our way through paris in order to uncover the authentic who, what, when, and why do Parisians eat the way they do. Yes, it does take a Masters Degree to analyze that many croissants.
Paris is all that and a baguette. It is an orgasmic sensory overload of twinkling lights, the smell of butter and sugar mingling in the air and the sound of music coming from somewhere. To not fall for paris is to not have a soul. It whispers to you in its sexy accent, daring you not to fall too hard. Oh man, I love that town.
Berlin. A city of paradox in which the tension seeps from the graffitied walls to the shiny new structures. Artists are beckoned to come live here then struggle to make a living. Efficiency is prized above kindness and giant cranes symbolic of the new Berlin loom like hawks above what's left of the gates and the walls and the squares where so many people have laid down their lives. Berlin is a gray gray city many times painted over. Some wars are just too difficult to recover from. Berlin is still struggling to heal.
Spain, you sexy beast. To spend a week in Spain ingesting and imbibing all it has to offer is like not getting out of bed with a lover for 7 days. You feel foggy; head clouded with wine, covered in a slick of hot sun and heavy food. Finally, around 10pm the sun goes down and the night feels young and suddenly you are alive with the vibrations of the people crowding its streets, drinking in doorways, kissing in crevices. You drink the night air until you are intoxicated and wake up again tangled in sweaty sheets, head pulsing, wondering what happened to the night.
It's good to get away and get out of your normal routine every once a while. It's good to taste new foods and be surrounded by a language you can't speak. It's good to explore, get lost, and somehow find your way back again. I feel like I've had my eyes opened just a little bit wider. For now, it is summer in NYC. It is hot and and I'm sweaty and I am filled up with new memories and bittersweet goodbyes. For now, it is good to say hello again.