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“Stretching the Emotions and the “”Aligot”””

Ever feel you’ve been emotionally ‘stretched’ like an “aligot?”

“Stretched”…because just a few minutes before an encounter with the city’s best aligot, I painted ‘part’ of my entry door and inadvertently ‘myself,’ black… and “aligot” is one of France’s most delicious culinary treasures that goes immediately from your lips to your hips, but well worth it.

Let me explain.

You may recall that when the renovation of my 17th-century stairwell took shape, they turned the once classically burgundy red doors and trim into the worst color of “greige” one can stomach (or not, as in my case), so I took it upon myself to ‘fix the problem.’

First I attempted to rehang the glass light fixtures over the doors in the “couloir” (hallway), only to smash one of them into a zillion pieces, sending me to the nearest “Leroy Merlin” (the local “Home Depot”) to purchase a whole new fixture and call the handyman to install it.

Next, in an attempt to pretty-up the dull, dull door, I took it upon myself to paint the molding black (to add an interesting contrast), although this is a strict ‘no-no’ in French “copropriété” laws! (Quel risk!). At Leroy Merlin, there was special tape to create an edge before painted the molding with a thick la

yer of black shiny enamel paint. Naturally, the inky indelible liquid covered much of my hands, too, seeing as I’m no experienced painter. After a couple of hours to dry, the tape was removed, only to discover the black paint had dripped through making it look like child’s play. “Ah, non, didon!”

It took a lot of nerve to phone my neighbor. “Is there any paint remaining from the stairwell with which I can do a touch-up?,” I asked humbly. It was a relief to hear that the painters would return to do just that and there would be an opportunity to fix the door. Perhaps they will come to the rescue.

With turpentine to clean the black enamel off my hands and from under my nails, quickly I cleaned up and headed off to a surprise party
Saturday night. With about a dozen newly found friends circling a large oval table in a private room upstairs at Francis and Françoise Petrucci’ long-standing restaurant “Ambassade d’Auvergne” (a gastronomic ‘institution’ in Paris), we had been gathered to celebrate the birthday of a screenwriter, reader and friend of Parler Paris.

All of us were in awe as the tall thin waiter stretched the aligot as far apart as his long arms could reach. If you’ve never experienced the aligot or any of the other Auvergnate specialties, such as “Salade Tiède de Lentilles Vertes du Puy,” “Mille-feuille de Chou Farci” or “Poire Pochée, Caramel de Marcillac and Glace Pruneaux Armagnac” (for a mere 30€), then you should plan on getting ‘stretched’ sometime in the near future.

I couldn’t have said it better myself: in an excerpt from “Fare of the Country; In the Auvergne, Classic Potatoes” by Ann Pringle Harris (New York Times, Published: September 7, 1986)…

“Auvergne-style cooking can be tried in Paris at L’Ambassade d’Auvergne, a restaurant near the Pompidou Center. A typical meal might start with appetizers such as shredded new cabbage tossed with larded bacon strips, cured ham or green lentils followed by main courses in which aligot is served with sausage, tripe or veal. A pleasing addition to the meal is the ritual that accompanies it.”

“The captain wheels to the table a serving cart on which a metal dish sits over a flame. In it is a mixture made from cooked, thinly sliced potatoes, well blended but not mashed. To this he adds scrapings of a cow’s-milk cheese called a tomme, all the while working the fondant-like mixture with a large spatulate knife.”

“The tomme, which has been likened to a mozzarella but which in the raw tastes more like an immature cheddar, gives the potato mixture a certain denseness, although a properly made aligot is never thick or gluey. The texture is a matter of pride, obvious from the way in which the captain, with dramatic, sweeping gestures, draws ribbons of potato up to a height of about 14 inches without breaking them. As a last bit of drama he spreads the aligot on the plate in an elongated form, then deftly cuts into it a design that resembles the backbone of a fish.”

The plate of aligot got passed from person to person and we licked our forks clean. At midnight, under a bright sky and a beautifully lit city, it was a healthy 10-minute walk home to work off some of the added calories — an advantage living centrally in such a walkable city.

(For more information or to make your reservations, visit Ambassade d’Auvergne at http://www.ambassade-auvergne.com )

When I arrived home to the newly painted door, I realized what a mess had been made and vowed to emotionally ‘stretch’ myself again by repainting it, this time, with precision.

A la prochaine…

Adrian Leeds
Editor, Parler Paris


 

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P.S.

Happy Chanukah to all those who began to light their candles last night and bask in the glow!

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