Home Pickling

 
Weck jars

On the list of vegetables I hate in the US but love here, cucumbers rank somewhere in the top ten. From Dutch yellow to crystal apple and Jaune Dickfleischige, it's nearly impossible for me to make pickles- in fact, chopping cucumbers is sometimes expecting too much- because I eat more juicy slices than I set aside. Truncated with herbs, vinegar, and finishing salt, homemade pickles make up for the watered-down, disappointingly slim variety available in bulk. They are cool and crisp, spicy with just the right amount of acidity, fresh and package-free. I might add that the art of home pickling, once mastered, is an inexhaustible source of enjoyment. In Paris, you can buy produce that was picked that morning, cut it up, stick it in a jar with some vinegar, and have a tasty aperitif ready in a matter of hours.

Simply put 10 sliced cucumbers in 1/2 cup vinegar with three teaspoons salt, plus herbs and peppercorns to taste. Seal in a jar, shake, and place in the refrigerator. The pickles take five minutes prep time and an hour or two in the fridge, perfect when I'm worn out after a long day of pretending to speak French. I couldn't find dill (aneth) at the market, so I used a few sprigs of fennel instead; most recipes call for 5% strength vinegar, but French stores appear to carry only 8% acidity, resulting in crunchier pickles. Instead of messing with flavor profiles and aromatic spice blends, add a few peppercorns, pimentos, and sweet mini poivrons with Persian blue salt. Sometimes I use daikon radish, pears, kohlrabi, or turnips instead- try pickling watermelon and citrus rinds.

Delicious on good bread with goat cheese, refrigerator pickles require minimal effort and are literally impossible to mess up. Unless you're me- when I first made these, I covered the cucumbers in white vinegar. They were awful. To remedy an overly vinegary pickle, pour out 1/3 liquid and replace it with sugar (people say table sugar, but muscovado or turbinado works well). Mellow a few days and try again. Perfect!

I should have known better than to ignore the recipe- my sauerkraut / kimchi attempts fall squarely under the category "cautionary tales." Now these pickles turn out tasty and perfectly textured, every time. It's a gut-friendly way to dress dishes while preserving summer vegetables well into cooler months.

Paris to Go

Le Pavillon des Canaux

 
 
 
 
 

These are the worst blog photos in the world, but that's ok. I have other nice qualities. Like my ability to objectively review Le Pavillon des Canaux despite the glaring red flag raised by their weekly yoga classes.

Le Pavillon des Canaux staffers are nice, hard-working, and attentive- I wouldn't have thought I was in Paris if it weren't for Petit Bateau-clad children splashing in the Canal below. Cocktails have names like "Maverick" and "Jellybean," and each well-priced beverage comes garnished with a fresh and perfect strawberry. My friend Taylor tried Altiplano, a gluten-free quinoa beer. It was really good! The food is fresh, flavorful and wholesome, and decor is a cross between Carol Brady's basement, Laura Ashley, and a Billy Baldwin masterpiece. There's even a bathtub table for two.

After brunch or a coffee, ride along the Seine with Marin d'eau douce or head to the corner of Rue Crimée and Rue Manin and follow Petite Ceinture to Buttes Chaumont. When I first visited Paris, this section of canal ranked pretty low in the eyes of my Rue Spontini-dwelling friends. The hotel next to mine had bullet holes in the window, and some called it the Harlem of Paris, au bord de l'eau. Only a few years later, it's brimming with charm, all hummingbird wallpaper and faux sheepskin and mini neon straws. Le Pavillon de Canaux is a lovely, offbeat way to enjoy the last bits of Paris summer, and a cozy spot to curl up with a good book on the chilly days to come.


Le Pavillon des Canaux

39 Quai de la Loire
75019 Paris


Paris to Go

10 Piece Wardrobe

This post has been updated. Click here for my current wardrobe.

Moving to Paris and walking everywhere changed the way clothes fit, leaving me with little to wear. Now my wardrobe consists of ten core pieces, plus a few seasonal items. A little background: I need day-to-night pieces that carry me through the seasons, and clothes that withstand a sweaty commute. I bought almost everything secondhand, when I was supporting myself through college- I grew out of fast fashion years ago, and purchasing runway pieces used for less than the price of a bowl of risotto provides a satisfying rush.

10 key pieces: 

1. Pink dress
2. White t-shirt
3. Sweater
4. Green trench coat
5. Wool skirt
6. Navy dress
7. J Brand jeans
8. Pumps
9. Nike Dunk sneakers (they look nice with all my dresses, in a Kelly Rowland sort of way)
10. Longchamp bag

Seasonal / essential items:

1. Shirtdress (spring/summer only)
2. Petit Bateau dress (spring / summer only) UPDATE: I wore this to the market and met a four year old wearing the same dress- donated.
3. Vera Wang dress (my wedding dress, fall/winter and special occasions only)
4. Glasses and sunglasses- I need them to see, not complete an outfit
5. Wedding ring and watch, which I never remove

In other words, two tops, two bottoms, two dresses, two pairs of shoes, a coat, one bag and a couple seasonal items are all you need for a fully functional wardrobe year-round. Don't go out and buy new stuff! Almost everybody already has things they love in their closet. Why not try wearing those for awhile and see how you like it? Twice a year, at the end of summer and the beginning of spring, I inventory clothes. Ruined items, anything that doesn't fit, and anything I don't wear gets tailored, donated, refashioned, or sold. Each season, I'll choose two or three secondhand items from my closet to supplement this ten-piece wardrobe- a casual dress or extra t-shirt in summer, and a heavier coat, gloves, and boots in winter. I don't keep anything in storage, and if I lived somewhere else, I'd probably incorporate more color. In Paris, bright clothing feels conspicuous- as it is, I own only one black item.

Wardrobe maintenance

If you're worried about the effect frequent wear has on an item's condition, each article of clothing has a set life cycle, and constant use does not alter that. Any materials scientist will tell you clothes and shoes need only 24 hours rest to maximize their life span. I may mend or darn pieces more than other people, but that's because I buy secondhand and live in a city without a car. My friends still ask me, "Is that dress/shirt/pair of jeans new?" when I've worn the same things every day for years.

Dresses make it easier for me to get ready in the morning. Instead of dealing with a bunch of suit jackets, tops, and bottoms, dresses look professional and pulled-together for work, dates, parties, or walking around Paris. I wash clothes every two weeks or so, including dry-clean only items, my purse, and coats, at home. Turn garments inside out and machine-wash or soak in a bathtub with two inches water and savon de marseille. Don't use your dryer- turn right side out, steam, and hang to dry. This works on pure silk, wool-silk, virgin wool, cashmere, cotton, and linen fabrics. Dry-cleaning is wasteful and expensive, and I haven't found a Paris cleaner that didn't ruin everything anyway (shame on you, Record Pressing on Avenue de La Motte-Picquet, for scorching my favorite Dior dress).

I use a safety razor to defuzz wool and cashmere, but Truffaut, Nose, and Buly 1803 sell unpackaged brushes, sweater combs, and stones for zero-waste lint removal. A vodka spritz and vigorous combing freshens clothing between washes. If something gets dirty and I need it the next day, I scrub out the armpits and any stains with soap, rinse, and hang to dry. It takes minutes.

A coordinated closet

I like the idea of a uniform- a white t-shirt with a skirt and heels or sneakers; tucked into jeans, like Cindy Crawford in the 90s; or untucked, like Jane Birkin. Sandals aren't good for city streets, with broken glass, lit cigarettes, and people stepping on your toes, but I wore Ancient Greek Sandals from eBay the past five summers. Two swimsuits, one pair pajamas, and a dozen undergarments round out my closet. To extend their life span, I never wear shoes without stocking or socks. Six pairs of socks (ankle and winter-only wool socks) and two stockings (update- I wore only one pair all winter) are enough.

My goal was to own a single, perfect outfit for every occasion in life. I wear the same clothes over and over again, but nobody noticed until I wrote this post. Once a week, women stop to tell me my coat is "Jolie," Americans on the Métro compliment my shoes, or friends say, "I love your dress- it suits you." To curate a colorful, minimal wardrobe for round-the-world travel, click here. To read more about my wardrobe and beauty routine, click herehere, and here

Paris to Go

Zero Waste Beauty and Grooming

Zero Waste, Plastic Free Beauty and Grooming in Paris. For sustainable, green, plastic-free living. Homemade mouthwash, DIY tooth powder, glass cup for rinsing, sustainably harvested wooden toothbrush, siwak (miswak) sticks to replace floss, unpackaged Alep soap for cleaning and shaving, Merkur 25c safety razor, Buly 1803 grapeseed oil, RMS beauty cosmetics, bamboo toothbrush
This post has been updated. Click here to read the updated post.

I adopted a zero-waste (almost) beauty routine without knowing it- puberty struck, zits erupted, and I didn't have the cash to pay for products Jessica Biel endorsed on television. I started conditioning my hair with homemade apple cider vinegar and scrubbing my face with baking soda; I wasn't allowed to wear makeup, so I rubbed beets (from the garden) on my cheeks and lips. We don't have a medicine cabinet in Paris, which is one motivation for avoiding unsightly plastic. With everything out in the open, I'm more conscious of the products we choose.

Makeup


RMS Beauty products, available at Oh My Cream, are plastic-free in metal and glass, except the aluminum mascara tube with plastic wand. I won't buy them again- they break me out. For now, I'm sticking to plain cornstarch as foundation / facial powder, DIY beet blush and lip color, and bulk kohl (buy it at Marché Raspail to avoid lead). Kjar Weis offers organic, refillable makeup in metal, Ellis Faas sells refills, and Fat and the Moon uses glass and metal packaging for their vegan products. Click here for my diy activated charcoal and mascara recipe. I make my own perfume, but if you'd rather not DIY, Le Labo refills their products.

Dental hygiene


Here's our homemade mouthwash recipe: Boil 500 mL water and cool to room temperature. Add 30 drops peppermint essential oil and 15 drops clove essential oil. Shake well. Store in pharmaceutical grade amber glass (mine's an old Aesop bottle). Swish using small glass beakers.

Straight baking soda replaces carcinogenic, acetaldehyde-based flavored toothpastes- some say it's overly abrasive, but my dentist recommends it. My grandma brushed with baking soda daily for decades, and she has strong enamel and gums. I use a bamboo toothbrush and siwak (miswak) instead of floss.

Shaving and haircare


My hairbrush is beeswax-finished wood with a natural rubber base. For hands, hair, body, and face, I buy unpackaged soap at the market or Comptoir de Savonniers- usually Aleppo or savon de Marseille. Perfect for safety razor shaving, handmade soaps lather on their own, no need for a badger brush. Plastic razors last years if you dry the blade between uses, but with a safety razor I shave half as much and experience less irritation and nicks. 

I use lemon or lime juice to tame flyaways, cornstarch as dry shampoo, and bulk olive oil for makeup remover, moisturizer, and lip balm. Plain baking soda isn't irritating when patted- not rubbed- onto a clean, dry underarm. Baking soda is a mild abrasive that removes impurities from hair, and vinegar is a chelating agent. For best results, mix one part baking soda with three parts water and leave in a few minutes before rinsing, no more than once a week. Condition with white vinegar (it smells less than apple cider vinegar) to treat mineral residue and damage from hard Paris water. For cities with softer water, my mom swears by a shampoo bar to keep her long, thick hair shiny and clean.

Zero Waste Feminine Hygiene


I bought the Mooncup, packaged in cloth and cardboard, at Naturalia. It shortens my periods and reduces cramps. The very first cycle I biked 35 km, swam 50 laps, and slept leak-free- I was afraid to make the switch, but I've used it two years now without a problem. Just empty the cup before and after work and during lunch. It's cleaner than a tampon or pad, with no unpleasant odors. Click here for detailed menstrual cup options, including material, dimensions, and capacity. Click here for folding techniques (don't be intimidated, I fold mine in half and it's comfortable / leak-proof). Not everybody is a fan of silicone. There are rubber menstrual cups; others prefer vegetable sponges, sea sponges, or reusable cloth options.

Waste

  1. Paper bag from baking soda: recycling or compost (depending on how much carbon is in the compost), once every three months.
  2. Paper box from Mooncup: Kept for storage
  3. White vinegar bottle: Recycling- one plastic bottle every two months
  4. RMS Beauty packaging: Fully recyclable
  5. Box from razor and razor blades (paper wrapper): Kept the box for storage, composted the paper. When my first razor blade is finished, I'll take it to CVAE Invalides, which accepts them for re-use
  6. Toothbrush packaging: Compostable cardboard and cellophane
  7. Soap and water replace toilet paper, unless I'm in a bathroom outside the home. Toilet paper comes in plastic packaging only here (not currently recycled). I buy it for my husband and guests. One six pack lasts approximately 2-3 months. 
  8. Lemon or lime peels: Composted, grated for scrubs or candied if removed before use.

I used to make soap from fat drippings. No matter how many times I purified it, the soap always smelled like a Bob Evans. Also, I like Zero Waste Home's recipes for homemade makeup, but using cocoa powder as blush/bronzer gave me a caffeine rush.

Paris to Go

Postcard from Bangkok: Opposite Mess Hall

 
 
 
For all his accolades, Jess Barnes is still really nice. He raises pugs, loves his girlfriend, is all smiles, and surprised my husband with a gift of Chipotle Thaibasco. The lovingly prepared dishes at Opposite Mess Hall are stunning but not pretentious, filling yet artistically presented. There are always gluten-free items on Barnes' locally based, seasonal menus, and the Marou dark chocolate tart and strawberry soft serve wowed my dessert-averse husband, who usually hates sweets. Opposite Mess Hall's industrial setting and tinny acoustics match the kimchi-rubbed hot wings and exceptionally tasty, exceptionally petite roasted carrots perfectly. Don't leave Bangkok without trying their cocktails!
Paris to Go

Storing Food Without the Refrigerator

Photo, Jihyun Ryou 

Last Monday I unplugged the appliances, turned off the hot water heater, and tried no impact living for a week. This year, I biked or walked almost everywhere, took the stairs instead of the elevator, ate seasonally and locally, and gave up toilet paper, so no electricity seemed like a natural progression. Mostly, I think EDF is ripping us off and wanted to see if they adjusted our bill to reflect a week of non-consumption (they are, and they didn't). I found Korean designer Jihyun Ryou's system (above) pretty but excessive. You don't need sand or fancy shelving to safely store fresh foods- all you need are a few glass containers, some water, and a few staple ingredients you probably already have on hand.

 
Secondhand Weck jars, from Leboncoin

To prepare for a week without refrigeration, I did some field research, asking butchers, fromagers, and enleveurs how to store meat, dairy, and eggs sans electricity.  Everybody thought this was the weirdest question. "We keep those things on the counter anyway," explained the man at the crèmerie. The guy at Griffon was really mean and dismissive. "Americans always put stuff in the fridge that doesn't belong," he muttered. Unwashed eggs and mayonnaise keep indefinitely if you turn the eggs to prevent the yolk from sticking. Eggs have a natural protective coating, so buying the organic, unwashed kind is imperative, ensuring freshness and preventing bacterial spoilage. Make sure no bacteria gets in the mayonnaise jar, using a clean spoon each time.


Soft cheeses, packed properly in cloth and glass, keep several days out of the refrigerator- 3 out of 4 fromagers said young cheeses, like Brie and Camembert, can be left unrefrigerated for weeks! The key is plastic-free storage, since plastic wrap prevents breathing. Preserving the rind is crucial. Cut, semi-soft cheeses with rinds keep one week up to one month, depending on the cheese. Firm cheeses can be consumed safely up to one month or longer, but the flavor changes, becoming more pronounced with age. I kept feta suspended in brine in an airtight glass jar, and after one week, it tasted just as fresh as when I bought it. Same goes for shredded cheddar, stored in glass with plenty of salt.

 

I bought small cuts of meat and kept them in glass containers to prevent spoilage (similarly, small containers of jelly, jam, nut butter and maple syrup discourage mold). The medieval French preserved meat by roasting it, then generously applying natural honey, fat or jelly. Today, butchers sell fat for confits, a delicious food preservation method in which meat is slow-cooked, salted and sealed (my friend Francoise puts orange juice in hers). Meat prepared this way can be consumed safely for months. I drank nut milk instead of cow's milk, and I guess I could have made ghee, but butter keeps 2-4 weeks anyway. So do sour cream, fermented milk, and yogurt, stored in glass in a cool, dark place.

  

Olive oil, tamarind or citrus juice, and vinegar are best friends of the refrigerator-free. You can store soft cheeses in them or preserve fish- the leftovers make good salad dressing later. My mom sometimes made gravlax with salmon. Balsamic vinegar kept tomato sauce and roasted strawberries fresh, white vinegar prevented moldy bread, lime juice made guacamole last, and tamarind sauce preserved meats, fish, and vegetables. Strong spices, curries, and stews keep well- a coriander-coated fish my friend made stayed tasty- as do beans soaked in salted water, vinegar, and lemon juice. Bringing leftovers to boil every day or so will keep them fresh, even in humid climates.


I didn't worry about fruits and vegetables. Tomatoes do best outside the refrigerator, and carrots and asparagus just need to be kept upright in a few inches water. If cruciferous vegetables, like broccoli, wilt, soak the bottoms in water to restore. Remove potato eyes as they appear, and store with apples to preserve freshness. My simple system varied from day to day, but generally looked like this:

 

An unplugged, empty refrigerator smells stale after a few days. To prevent (or reverse) this, wipe the fridge down with white vinegar and keep an open jar of baking soda in there. A mixture of two parts water to one part baking soda applied with a clean cloth is effective, but you'll need white vinegar to wipe off any residue. Not that we should all go back to the pre-refrigeration days of botulism and food-borne illness, but this experiment tested my creativity and got me out of a cooking rut. I researched food storage methods from other cultures and nerdily tested bacterial levels to my heart's content (the difference between refrigerated and non-refrigerated food was nominal). That is paleo, vegan, gluten-free chocolate pudding at the bottom :) Made of homemade coconut milk and dark chocolate with sea salt, it didn't keep very long, because I ate it so fast! This post contains Shopstyle affiliate links. If you click on them, I make a commission. Thanks for your continuing support!

Paris to Go

The Perfect Bed

 
Habitat Ikebana bed from LeBonCoin, similar hereLinen sheet set, secondhand

When I lived in the US, I used to see Philippe Cousteau, Jr. at sustainability events every now and then. He always wore the same belt on the same pair of jeans, and he kept no cotton sheets or towels at his house. I thought this was a French thing, but en fait, there are 101 gallons of water hidden in every pound of cotton. It's toxin-laden and potentially mutagenic and considered one of the world's dirtiest crops. The rest of our beds might be even worse- endocrine disruptors, carcinogens, formaldehyde and respiratory irritants fill every polyurethane, memory foam, or latex mattress.

This isn't to say that as your body flushes out the day's toxins during a night's sleep, your bedding replaces them with fresh phthalates and VOCs- no one knows what effect these chemical levels have in the long run. Still, it's a good excuse to promote beautiful, handmade natural wool and linen bedding. French people get a bad rap when it comes to cleanliness, but the wool duvets and mattresses they make are inherently antimicrobial. Remember that scary Northern Exposure episode where Maggie was obsessed with dust mites? In France, generations of artisans divert hundreds of thousands of tons of steel from landfills with wool mattresses that regulate temperature and require little maintenance. Just wash, re-fluff, and service at a literie every ten years. In Paris, I like Special Literie, 19 bis Rue de Cotte 75012. It's right next door to Puerto Cacao, so you can eat bulk chocolate while you wait.

Linen sheets are perfect for Paris apartments lacking air conditioning and adequate heaters- clean and comfortable on the sweatiest summer nights and cozy in the dead of winter, when La France Mutualiste gets stingy with the radiator. Harvested from cellulose flax fibers, linen production uses minimal water and energy inputs. Since French washer/dryers don't really dry anything, the moisture-wicking properties of linen help on cold, humid laundry days. The more I wash and use them, the better they look- best of all, Kar and Toffel love their silky washed texture!




To learn more about artisanal wool mattress production, click here.


Paris to Go