Oooh, it’s hot out there. But nothing like it was last week. Then, the air was so heavy and lacking in oxygen that breathing was almost too much effort. Skin was clammy, relief slept in the folds of the big, angry clouds that passed overhead. Jokesters, they left nothing but more heat in their wake.

Finally, though, there was a little drizzle, then a big fat angry downpour paving the way to this glorious week which, despite temperatures climbing into the 30’s (90F and above), it’s sheer pleasure to be alive.

So much so that coffee and croissants sound good again for breakfast. You might say they always sound good, but no. Last week in that ugly heat they didn’t. Coffee ice cubes, perhaps, tossed down the back of a light linen shirt. But not hot coffee, nor buttery croissants.

Cafe expres and walnuts at Le Raspail

So this week it’s back to a hot morning coffee, a flaky croissant or pain au chocolat and, in the case of the other day, a bag of the freshest, nuttiest, buttery walnuts. I found them at the Raspail market in Paris when I was there checking out the season as I planned a menu. I was hunting for cherries – I found them – zucchini, eggplant, red currants and mint. I found it all and just needed walnuts to complete my haul. I tasted one before I bought them – it pays to be wary of nuts that are sitting out in the open – and was smitten. I’m a walnut fiend because I love their flavor and texture. That they’re heart healthy and contain lots of copper and manganese only helps the issue! I’ve very picky about those I’ll put in cakes, or sprinkle in salads, or sandwich between two layers of roasted eggplant. I want the best. These, from the Périgord, were the best. I didn’t buy the walnuts for nibbling, but somehow that little bag crept up onto the table and before I knew it those nuts became part of breakfast. I should have known they’d be a perfect fit – there’s a walnut and coffee cake recipe in Nuts in the Kitchen that is sublime (pg. 218). Breakfast was as well. I highly recommend a cup of rich, froth espresso (like the one served at Le Raspail, the friendliest café in Paris on the corner of the rue du Cherche-Midi and the Boulevard Raspail), a croissant, a bag of the worlds’ best walnuts, and the newspaper with its rundown of last-nights’ World Cup game. If it’s not World Cup season, you’ll find something else to read, I’m sure! After all, the Tour de France has just begun.


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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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