Marie Antoinette Poses in Front of Soul Food, Photo (by Erica Simone)
You Gotta Have Soul on Sunday or Anyday
Monday, March 4, 2019 • Nice, France
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March 12, 2019
Annabel Simms, Author
Following the format of the small classic An Hour from Paris (2002, 2008, 2017) and written with the same delight in the little-known treasures of the Ile de France, comes Annabel Simms’s long awaited sequel, Half an Hour from Paris. It describes 10 surprising new destinations only half an hour by train or métro from central Paris, yet unknown to many Parisians.
Annabel was born in England, of Hungarian parentage. She has lived in Paris since 1991, when she arrived from London on a year’s sabbatical from her job as a college lecturer in English language and literature – and never left.
Join us as she discusses her travels and her books. Don't miss it!
The second Tuesday of every month 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.
I'm back in Nice, having left Paris Fashion Week behind. One can always tell when the event hits the Paris streets, as so do the tall skinny women and the supporting staff who are seriously overdressed (trying too hard to look fashionable) plus wearing inappropriate shoes for hoofing it around town. We just laugh to ourselves and move on.
It reminds us, however, that Karl is no longer with us — Karl Lagerfeld, that is. The German-born creative director, fashion designer, artist, photographer, and caricaturist died on February 19th at the age of 85, leaving us with his legendary creativity and imagination via the House of Chanel, and before that Fendi. I saw him in person once — it was at Paris Photo AFTER hours when it took place at the Carrousel du Louvre. I was sitting with a gallerist friend in her booth when Karl and his entourage of disciples strolled by. My friend casually remarked, "Look, there's Karl. They let him in after hours to avoid the crowds." There was no mistaking him. A small-framed man with a gorgeous head of long white hair, wearing all black, in very skinny jeans.
Fellow New Orleanians have been sending me photos from Mardi Gras to make me jealous that I'm not there and show off the difference between the New Orleans carnival and the one I attended a week ago, and just ended yesterday in Nice. Part-time Paris resident, Tom Regan, provided stunning shots he took of the Krewe of Hermes parade from Friday night. The Knights of Hermes krewe first paraded on the streets of New Orleans in 1938 and was the first to use neon lighting for its floats. The floats were created by Kern Studios, the premier float-builder in the Crescent City since 1932.
"Mardi Gras Day" — what we called the main event — is tomorrow, Tuesday, March 5th. It's the culmination of all the festivities that have taken place weeks before. Eleven krewes* will parade that day alone. If you've never had the pleasure of Mardi Gras in New Orleans, then maybe it's time to visit my home town for the annual event. (*A krewe — pronounced "crew" — is a social organization that puts on a parade or ball for the Carnival season.)
Paris has its own carnival, the Carnaval de Paris, although not widely known. The 22nd edition Promenade du Bœuf Gras paraded yesterday under the theme of “One for All and All for Sport,” from Place Gambetta in Paris' 20th arrondissement beginning at 2 p.m. going through the east of Paris towards Place de la République. I am sure this was one reason the buses weren't running along boulevard Beaumarchais and traffic was in gridlock making getting to the Gare de Lyon for my afternoon train to Nice a lot more challenging than usual.
Maison Noire Américaine, the site for the African American + Black Diaspora Experience in France, is bringing the authentic Soul Food experience back to Paris with what they call their "Soul Food Atelier/Paris™," this coming March 15th to 17th. It's "a series of intimate curated culinary experiences that showcase African American culture, authentic Southern Cuisine, and its contemporary American innovators featuring Atlanta-based Cordon Bleu Paris Certified chef and cookbook author, Jennifer Booker."
Organizer of the event, Robin Bates, wrote:
"Remember Hayne’s? Remember Randy and Jay’s? Remember Soul on Sunday’s (S.O.S.) with Sharon Morgan and Bennie Luke? Remember Percy’s Place? How about Sharon Morgan’s Bojangles? For many of us, these weren’t JUST RESTAURANTS, they were a little slice of home, places to gather, places that gave us a sense of community. If you’re like us at Maison Noire Américaine, you MISS those days. The food. The laughter. The energy. The music. The surprise guests that would swing through if you were lucky be there at the perfect moment. In short, THE MAGIC."
I do. And she is so right. I was one of the "honkies" who was a regular at S.O.S. and Bojangles. It didn't matter that the color of my skin was a paler shade than the others. We were all Americans, plain and simple. Sharon Morgan tested her first Louisiana gumbo in my own kitchen, before offering it up as the Friday night special at Bojangles. I was there most Friday nights, enjoying the gumbo and the blues/R&B/soul/jazz played by American musicians and hoping Sharon would give me the big crab that put the zing in the gumbo. (Other diners were terribly jealous!)
The events of the Soul Food Atelier include a champagne and amuse bouche mixer on Friday; hands-on cooking classes or a demo and tasting (for those prefer to be spectators rather than get their hands dirty) on Saturday; and then a Soul Food Sunday Pop Up Dinner at Nola Restaurant on Sunday. (Nola is the name of the restaurant, but the letters stand for New Orleans, LA, in case you didn't catch that!)
I will be attending at least one of the events, not only to support the worthwhile organization, but in memory of the now-defunct Bojangles and of Patricia Laplante Collins, recently deceased host of "Paris Soirées.
"Maison Noire Américaine is a San Francisco-based cultural nonprofit organization designed to educate and inspire people of all ages, ethnicities and backgrounds about the African American presence, experience and influence in France. For more information and to get your tickets, visit: maisonnoire.org/ and tell Robin Bates I sent you.
If you didn't see the disheartening news about Patricia Laplante Collins, you may read my eulogy. The article has been reprinted in its entirety in this month's edition of Expatriates Magazine. Get a print copy in spots around Paris or visit their site to download an online version, available as of today.
For those who are interested, someone close to Patricia has taken the reins to deal with the social services, banks, the funeral directors and the IML (forensic services of Paris) to organize Patricia’s cremation and funeral. She has signed the necessary papers in order to receive the administrative judge’s authorization. It is thought that the City of Paris will pay for her funeral and reclaim money from Patricia’s estate. As soon as it's possible, a date will be selected for her funeral and civil ceremony to be held at the Père Lachaise Cemetery. Patricia's remains will be cremated and ashes will be dispersed in the Jardin des Souvenirs the next day.
As soon as I have more information, I will make an announcement in the Nouvellettre® so that all of you who wish to pay your respects may do so. Stay tuned.
P.S. I will be taping another House Hunters International episode the week of March 11th in the beautiful region of Champagne, near Epernay. We are seeking comparable properties in which we can tape: single family home, or village house, with character and charm, with three-to-four bedrooms, furnished, rentable for about $1500 to $2500 a month (but, it doesn't need to be "for rent"). If you have something or know of a property that meets these specifications, and are open to letting a small film crew in for about four hours, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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