Three Parisian Thanksgivings


My first Thanksgiving as an expat was in 2010.  It was the first time spending this quintessentially American holiday in France, so I really wanted to go all out and impress my French family with a traditional Thanksgiving experience. I even posted a little article from French Wikipedia on Facebook for them, explaining what Thanksgiving was — that it’s about more than just parades, football games, and oven-roasted turkey. Then I ran off to a little American épicerie in the Marais (incidentally called “Thanksgiving”) and loaded up on the traditional fixin’s. Here’s my Facebook status from November 24, 2010, pretty much summing up my grocery list: Continue reading Three Parisian Thanksgivings

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Carrot Cake, Part Deux

Photo: Michel‘s first carrot cake © 2012 Samuel Michael Bell, all rights reserved

We have an expression to describe something that’s quintessentially American: “as American as apple pie.” The truth be told, though, apple pie isn’t all that American; they have apple pies in every culture where folks grow apples, and the French themselves make some pretty amazing variations of this “American” dessert. On the other hand, it’s pretty difficult to find a dessert more American than carrot cake. Even though it’s known here in France, it still has an air of mystery about it. It’s not at all easy to find, except in some American bakeries (like my favorite, Sugarplum) and at Starbucks (although I don’t recommend a mass-produced carrot cake that’s been deep-frozen, shipped from who knows what cake factory, and then thawed out in a display case).

If you’ve been following my story here on je parle américain, you probably remember that last summer, when Michel and I were babysitting our niece and nephew in Metz, we introduced the kids to this dessert that had recently become a favorite of their Tonton Miko (that’s Michel). The kids had a great afternoon helping us mix the cake but, when it was finally out of the oven and iced with homemade cream cheese icing, they refused to even taste it. A cake with CARROTS in it? Yeah. Not so popular with the four- to seven-year-old crowd. It wasn’t half bad for a recipe from the internet, but it wasn’t a great success either — even with the adults. Continue reading Carrot Cake, Part Deux

Carrot Cake!

Photo: the ingredient that makes it what it is © 2011 Samuel Michael Bell, all rights reserved

Yesterday, we went for a long walk in the countryside with the kids. We searched out the neighborhood farm, where we saw THREE TRACTORS and smelled COW MANURE! Then we walked out into the fields and saw a DUST DEVIL and got shocked by an ELECTRIFIED LIVESTOCK FENCE! It was a big day! So what could the uncles think up to top a day like that?

The answer?

CARROT CAKE!

This morning, we told the kids that our project for the day would be to make very special American cake: a gâteau aux carottes.

Carrots?! Carrots in a cake?! Ugh.

Well, yes. There are little pieces of carrot in the cake but there’s no carrot taste. Tonton Michael doesn’t even like carrots. There are little pieces of nuts, too. You’ll see! It’s good.

I don’t like nuts.

Tough crowd.

Continue reading Carrot Cake!

Sugarplum Cake Shop

Don’t let the name fool you, Sugarplum‘s not just a cake shop. It’s a self-described “real deal—a genuine, bona-fide, authentic American Coffee Shop” nestled between Paris’s super cool Latin Quarter and the Mouffetard district. There’s real American-style filtered drip coffee (with free refills!), cookies, muffins, and cinnamon rolls … but, in my humble expat opinion, it’s the cake that will bring you back. Unfortunately, there are no free refills on that!

My personal favorite is the carrot cake: four layers of moist, spicy carrot cake like your mom used to make, slathered with a cream-cheese icing like you can’t find anywhere else in Paris! I mean, take a look at this and tell me your mouth isn’t watering:

© 2011 Samuel Michael Bell, all rights reserved

I know, right?!

But wait! There’s more! There’s …

© 2011 Samuel Michael Bell, all rights reserved

That’s right. Real cheesecake. No need to go to Starbucks when you have that craving.

The owners, two Americans and a Canadian, opened Sugarplum a little more than a year ago, and they pride themselves on the quality of their products: all the baked goods are homemade from all-natural ingredients, with no mixes or preservatives, baked onsite in Sugarplum’s big, bad kitchen (which you are invited to take a peak at through the windows of their courtyard). And they have fair trade coffee and organic fair trade tea. All of this is served up with a smile and free wifi.

So, the next time your sweet tooth is craving a taste of America, stop by Sugarplum. You will not be disappointed.

Sugarplum is located in the cinquième arrondissement, between Place Monge and Cardinal Lemoine Métro stations at 68 rue du Cardinal Lemoine. Sugarplum is open Tuesday through Sunday, 12pm – 7pm.

P.S.—They also make some amazing cakes for weddings and other special occasions.

© 2011 Samuel Michael Bell, all rights reserved