From France to the U.S. and Back Again

I just took a ten day trip from France – where I live – to the U.S. with my eleven year old daughter, Fiona. Our first stop was New York, where we were welcomed by my nineteen-year-old son, Joe, and a dear friend. We all had dinner together, then the next morning Fiona and I flew to the sunny but freezing state of Florida. We’d expected hot temperatures, but there we were, just north of Key Largo at the Ocean Reef Club, shivering in the early spring sun. It’s been an odd, odd year.

I was there to teach, and Fiona was there to swim. I’d planned a seasonal menu and though it was cold I did get to use local strawberries. All went beautifully. On my time off, I was in the pool with Fiona – we’re “northerners” so even though the air was cold and the locals were wearing wool scarves, to us it felt pretty normal.

We spent some time in Miami Beach with friends. What a gorgeous place, what delicious key lime pie, stone crab claws, Cuban sandwiches. We saw a movie in the most gigantic theater complex I’ve ever seen – the bags of popcorn were bigger than a French grocery sack! I consider myself relatively well-traveled with a certain level of sophistication, but there I felt like a rube as I observed the dozen escalators going to the more-than-a-dozen movies; the gigantic “small” cups of soda; the popcorn; the massive people; the crowds. Alice in Wonderland in 3-D seemed unexaggerated by comparison.

We flew back to New York and had a couple of days there. It was fabulous, from a sunny boat ride to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty, to strolls along Fifth Avenue, Rockefeller Center, Times Square… Fiona was star-struck by everything from the taxis (“Mom, they’re all yellow just like in the movies”), to the limousines (“Mom, in my whole life I’ve seen one; within the last hour I’ve seen three.”), to the skyscrapers (“Mom, I’m small here.”).

Too soon, we were in a car going to JFK, then snaking our way through security (off with the shoes, the belts, the earrings, the watch, the coat…you all know it).

At this point, you are wondering how this all relates to nuts, I’m sure. Well, it all does because travel of any sort means that one often finds oneself in situations where many hours go by with neither food nor drink. A flight is delayed; a miscalculation is made; a Cinnabon is rejected; a salad is wished for and nothing else will do.

I try to be prepared. To me, this means a bag of toasted nuts is never far away. This trip was no exception. I had toasted and salted some almonds just before leaving France, and the bag was always in my purse. Mostly it stayed there. But on that flight home, which seemed to last forever and required so much energy as we climbed up and down stairs to get on and off of planes (it turns out to be less expensive for the airlines when the plane comes to a halt miles from the terminal so that passengers work up a sweat as they get to the next step in their journey) , the almonds were a godsend. What is so great about them is that when you’re starving and you know that in your immediate future there is nothing decent to calm the beast, a toasted almond tastes like the best thing that ever was cooked.

And when your hunger is sated you can play with them, too!

Bon Appétit!

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In the 14th century, a pound of nutmeg was purportedly worth three sheep and a cow; in the 17th century, the little, fragrant nut was valued higher than gold.

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