jeudi 27 mai 2010

Where no endings end

I guess I must be the kind of person that everyone thinks they can talk to because I often find myself approached by complete strangers who wish to tell me things. My friend Abbie once suggested that's simply because I look nice.

Back in the days when I visited Paris on a regular basis, I remember my first time in Père Lachaise cemetary, wandering around with a map unfolded, trying to locate the grave of Maurice Merleau-Ponty, a phenomenologist philospher I was crazy about at university. Looking across to my left, I noticed a middle aged man following my movements in the parallel alley. I'm not sure how long he'd been there but within seconds he was standing close to me and offered to show me the grave of Simone Signoret and Yves Montand. For some reason, I politely accepted which made it possible for him to tell me that he came from the midi region, that he was dying to take me out for lunch and then go back to his place together. I asked him whether he went there often to pick up girls, "Oh sometimes", he replied, "Ça dépend des jours. " Suppressing a smile, I explained that my Mum would be meeting me in around ten minutes and that in any case, I still needed to find where Merleau-Ponty was buried. Disgusted that I wanted to waste my time looking for someone he'd never even heard off, he left in search of easier targets. Since then, I've been approached by countless other drageurs who wanted to come under my umbrella or share my Kitkat.

Yet it isn't just the lonely hearts keen to have a chat. Waiting on the platform for the underground at Stadtmitte, a man with long grey hair approached me and asked whether I'd heard of the bakery Kamps. Since there's practically one on every corner, of course I said yes, whereupon he started to explain his business idea of expanding the franchise to the UK. To my horror, he took the same train as I did, sat next to me and asked me to find a job for him. I did the only rational thing and got off at the next station already. Luckily he didn't follow.

The strangest encounter though was one Sunday last summer when I'd been out to take pictures and drink coffee. Walking back through one of the streets close to my home, I paused to look at a shop window when a young guy asked me if I enjoyed reading. My previous encounters had made me learn that the best thing to do when you want to avoid talking to people in Berlin is to pretend you only speak French, although it's not 100% foolproof and I often wish I know some Hungarian instead. The question was a nice one though so I answered in German. The man took a large brown envelope out of his briefcase and explained that it contained the secrets of the universe. Since it was Sunday, he was feeling generous and had decided that one lucky person would receive a chapter of this magical text, based on numerology, for free. I tried as hard as I could to convince him that I didn't believe in those kinds of things but he simply replied "How do you know before you've read it?" He gave me his email address and asked me to let him know how things developed after my reading session. I took that along with the envelope and the moment he was out of sight, put them both into the nearest bin.

Reading this and my last post, you probably have the impression that I attract the worst kinds of people and have a terrible life but honestly, looking back all of these people just amuse me. I suppose not everyone is fortunate enough to have someone to open up to, even if these days I keep my eyes fixed on the book I'm reading when someone approaches me.

Photos from the market on Karl-August Platz where I go every Saturday

My cherries being selected
Speciality roses
If you're in an Alice in Wonderland kind of mood, you might want to try the oyster bar

I finally got around to taking a picture of one of those Apfelbrötchen I love
A walk on Sunday round Mitte
At the Alter-Garnison Friedhof
At Kaffeemitte on Hackescher Markt
Crostata with apricot jam - you'll get my recipe next time
The last remaining graffiti covered courtyard at Hackescher Markt
At the Dorotheenstädtischer Friedhof

The grave of the DDR poet Heiner Müller
Today was meant to be the day when I reveal the Daring Bakers challenge to you. The May Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Cat of Little Miss Cupcake. Cat challenged everyone to make a pièce montée or a croquembouche, based on recipes from Peter Kump's Baking School in Manhatton and Nick Malgieri. I managed to find time to attempt them but unfortunately, they weren't a success. You may remember that the macaroons I attempted were also unsuccessful so I guess I don't work well with a piping bag. Basically, it was all going well until the moment when I had to add the eggs one at a time to the dough. It's supposed to go shiny then become drier like buttery mashed potato but mine just remained liquid which made it impossible to pipe. Then I made the mistake of adding more flour, the choux buns didn't rise at all and I gave up. At least though the coffee flavoured crème patisserie was a huge success and I could enjoy it on the bought chocolate cake, although I would have preferred it inside the choux pastry. So you see, nobody's perfect, though I wonder if my croquembouche would have been a success if I hadn't thrown that mysterious brown envelope away. For the recipe click here.

Coffee flavoured crème patisserie

Proof that I did try - my choux pastry mix before it all went wrong

26 commentaires:

  1. Anxiously awaiting recipe for crostata with apricot jam. :)

    Last year—for the first time in my life—I was approached on two separate occasions by gentlemen far into their senior years. Both times in the produce section of the market. Both men asked me this question: Can you help me remember what I forgot?

    I had to do a double-take, you see. It was indeed a different man the second time. I could only laugh. Could this be happening to me? I could only smile. The first man was rather nice and went about his business quickly when I said: I'm trying to remember what I forgot. However, the second man was not quick to be put off (I used the same response—it worked the first time). He said I looked very smart. He asked: Are you a teacher? I replied: No. I said that I worked in an office. He then proceeded to ask: Do you sit on your bosses lap? I proceeded to go red in the face and say: No, my boss is a female.

    It reminds me of an old refrigerator magnet that said: Dirty old men need love too.

    I digress.

    Photos are lovely. Thanks for the journey.

  2. What amazing shots! I really have to visit Germany some day...

    I hate such strangers/dragueurs/psychos who come to you and hold your leg. Creepy somehow. I do sometimes get normal people who want to chat a while...

    I'm sorry to hear that your cram puff shells didn't turn out right. I had the same problem at first (too runny = too much liquid). Next time, beat the eggs together and add the liquid a little at a time until you obtain the desired texture...



  3. That is so strange! I was having a conversation with my sister just this morning about how I feel that I must have the sign "Doctor In" on my back (like the Peanuts cartoon) because everyone seems to be telling me their woes. And I always get asked directions, even when I am on holiday. She is the same. We decided it was because we both look "nice and approachable", which basically means safe.

  4. Thank you for the mention! Yes, I do think it happens to people who look nice and approachable. You reminded me of two times when it happened to me:
    1. Strange American guy stopped me outside Kaiser's by Stadtmitte and invited me to a nudist beach (I said no thanks and moved on swiftly).
    2. Grumpy aging Canadian professor was berating his teenage grandson on the U1 and was clueless about the track-maintenance disruption, so I helped like a good Samaritan. He was so annoying that when he asked my name, I said I was called Jane. 'Yes, you look like a Jane.' Ha! Small twinge a revenge as I left the train...

  5. I was really drawn to several of your statue photographs. They are beautiful. I've had some similar "stranger" experiences. I think some people are drawn to individuals who are comfortable and happy while alone. Of course, I'm not sure. Just a guess.

  6. Beautiful shots! The 'approaching a stranger just to talk' phenomenon is really interesting to me, especially in a graveyard! But maybe your friend is right, you could just be a very approachable person- and there's nothing wrong with that! Thanks for the story!

  7. Wonderfully interesting post with amazing photography. Then again I find all of your posts interesting.

    The randomness of life and our chance interactions. I personlly am not the person people come up to. I must not give off a nice person vibe.

    Thank you for sharing another cool post.

    Have a great weekend


    PS...Mandarian might be a good one too. For the purposes of keeping people away.

  8. Your artistic eye feeds my soul. A gorgeous post and little trip back to Berlin. Love the markets and the contrast between them and your start urban images shocked with the graffiti! Powerful.
    ... and I would not make a great choux after such a beautiful day, either.

  9. That's lovely - no one ever approaches me and my friends say it's because when I go out into the big bad world I assume my "fuck off" face. Sometimes it's good, but I don't always want that. I think it *would* be amusing to be approached by funny characters from time to time. Even evangelical Christians avoid me.
    Love the art pics - especially the cut out of the woman on a door (wall?)
    I flagged the crouquembouche too, though not as honourably as you - didn't thik getting my hands continually wet would help my eczema ^^

  10. Come to Canada! No one will bother you here, you can walk peacefully in the streets. My interpretation is that they're too scared they'll get sued... I find it a bit sad, actually...

  11. Those are amusing encounters. Ultimately, I believe that being approachable is a great quality to have.

  12. ça me rappelle un type, l'an dernier, qui m'a entretenue à l'arrêt de bus - puis dans le bus ; au début il était sous le coup de je ne sais plus quelle peur, un accident juste évité je crois.... et puis les dizaines de minutes passant, il parlait de son fils, de ses méthodes d'éducation... c'est étrange toute cette vie dévidée...

  13. Wow, thanks for all the comments!
    @Tracy - I can imagine how annoying these two guys were, although I must say your stories made me laugh too, as did the fridge magnet. I tested the crostata already and unlike the choux pastry, it was success :-)
    @Rosa - It's a pity I didnt have time to repeat the challenge or know the mistake I'd made but never mind. I wouldn't mind trying your croquembouche with lemon cream though, yum! Like you, I do actually talk to lots of nice, "normal" people in the street too though.
    @cj - It's strange that you have that too and yes, people have always asked me for directions as well, even on holiday. I guess we must all look "safe" and sure of where we're going which is funny with me because I'm hopeless at findng my way.
    @Abbie - It's great that you can leave a comment now :-) What is it about the people hanging round Stadtmitte? The other day, I was asked by a blind person in Kaisers where the potatoes were. Of course, I was happy to show him but then I saw that his companion was also blind and that they went round the fruit and veg section feeling everything so I can't imagine how long it'd take them to do their shopping. At least it's nice they were trying to be independent. Going back to your point, how does somebody look like a Jane?
    @Denise - I'm pleased you like the statues as I'm always strangely drawn to them. I think you're right, people approach me because I look comfortable alone and ready to help. That's not such a bad thing, I guess.
    @Nicolette - The graveyard guy still makes me laugh as it's the only time I've ever been propositioned in one. Still, the guy must have felt he'd meet the right kind of girls there. When I'm lost myself, I normally approach older people or friendly looking ones who are usually alone so it's not si hard to understand.
    @Lazaro - Thanks for all the lovely comments! I'm sure you give off good vibes and it's something to feel happy about, not getting a weird person pouring out their heart to you while you wonder how to make a quick exit. I've already considered Madarin which would almost certainly be foolproof but the problem is, I'm not sure I could master even just a few phrases..
    @Valerie - That's what I really love in Berlin, the contrast between old and new, the delicate and the rough and you can usually find all of these things within a few streets of one another. It's really fun taking the new camera out and just experimenting.
    @Sasa - I should get working on developing that kind of face. It can be fun getting approached by weirdos but at the time, you wish people would just leave you alone. I think the cut out woamn graffiti was on a wall; I love it too as it's unusual and really striking. Hope your eczema gets better soon and thanks for the nice message you sent me. Mine flares up when I'm stressed and tired but goes down at the weekend so today I'm happier. Exposing it to constant water is awful though so I think you made the right decision.
    @Julie - Right, I'll pay you a visit. It's a pity when people are afraid to talk to each other spontaneously although the weirdo free idea appeals to me.
    @Des - Although it has its annoying moments, I agree with you deep down. These encounters are strange but make me laugh and I've had a lot of positive ones too which I wouldn't have wanted to have missed.
    @Rose - Ton histoire est étrange et on se demande exactement ce qui pousse tous ces gens de se comporter comme ça, d'avoir besoin d'un étranger et la raison pour laquelle ils nous choisissent. Mais ce sont des expériences qu'on pouvait utiliser pour l'écriture :-)

  14. Tes photographies sont splendides! Je déteste me faire approcher par des étrangers et je t'avoue qu'ici à Montréal c'est plutôt rare que cela se produit. Mais tu sembles si sympathique que je ne suis pas surprise que quelqu'un a eu envie d'interagir avec toi... Désolée pour ta pâte à choux, c'est toujours un peu frustrant lorsque tout ne fonctionne pas comme on l'avait prévu. Je te souhaite une très belle journée!

  15. Ok. So I started making plans for this summer, wanted to go to Berlin like always, and then dropped the idea. And now you make want to go again!!
    I also attract lunatics... but in Paris it almost goes without saying...!!

  16. That post was so funny! I wish I could tell you my stories; I used to be approached too when I lived in Lebanon and Europe; it is harder in the States, people live in boxes, either their cars or their homes and nobody is outside, at least in Texas. But I like to meet weird people, it is more interesting than watching TV! I think when you are a wanderer at heart, people sense it; your photos reflect who you are and I enjoy them very much. Don't worry the croquembouche is a pain!

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  18. Picked up in a Paris cemetery? That really made me smile. I hang out a lot in cemeteries when I travel and nobody has ever tried to pick me up. A rather clever gimmick, I might add.

    Would you believe I've never been picked up? How odd is that?

    Sorry your croquembouche did not work out...I made it once, years ago, but never did it again.

  19. @Pia - Oh but you simply must come to Berlin soon, please reconsider. I'll bake you tons of cakes if you agree :-) Ha, I can imagine all the weird people you can meet in Paris.
    @Taste of Beirut - It's true it's rather entertaining and stragely enough, if it never happened I might miss it. I'm so glad you like the pics and I'm reassured that croquembouche isn't so easy.
    @Lazaro - Aw thanks, I really appreciate that
    @Barbara - What, you've never been picked up in a cemetary? You don't know what you've been missing although the draguer wasn't particularly attractive. I might feel coragoeus enough to try the croquembouche again although i'm not a fan of pastry bags.

  20. @Isabelle - Merci bien pour les compliments! Des gens me demande toujours la route aussi ce qui est marrant car je me perds si facilement. Pour la pâte à choux, je m'en suis remise car parfois ça marche simplement pas avec la cuisine. Pourtant, je suis sûre que tes croquembouche auraient été magnifiques.

  21. hummm j'ai hate de trouver cette recette de crostada à la confiture d'abricot !!!!
    ceci dit, une tite recette de Apfelbrötchen serait la top en complément !!!

    hihihi non non je ne suis pas difficile juste gourmande !!!

    bises et bon mercredi gourmand

  22. WOW. You are a great photographer. Super pictures! Some of the places I often pass ;)

  23. I am really crazy for those statues. FOr some reason, half the movies I do have cemetery scenes in them and I have collected quite a cache of lost angels...yours are so beautifully photographed... love them all and they are nicely counterpointed with the vivid market shots...lovely job!

  24. strange people always approach me also, homeless people especailly any where I am, sorry about your challenge, at least you tried, I could never


  25. I was in Berlin last December.... I love it. Ich komme aus Hong Kong
    und spreche ich ein bisschen Deutsch. This is the first time I visit your blog.... I love it, I wish I can be in Berlin too! My cooking blog also have a German version, aber mein Deutsch ist sehr schlecht. When you have time, wish you can scroll my blog little while. I wait for your beautiful pictures. I also love you have a selection on Music, mine have too : ) really nice to meet you here

  26. @Virginie - C'est chose faite dans le nouveau billet. quant à l'Apfelbrötchen, ce serait un peu plus compliqué je crois et je préfère me les acheter au marché, même si c'est un peu fainéant. Bises!
    @Small caps - Hey there, thanks a lot. I'm dying to get my hands on those gorgeous ink stamps asap so hopefully we'll meet soon.
    @Deana - Thanks for the lovely comments, I feel really honoured. It's funny how we all have our trademarks; mine are statues, berries, bikes and chairs at cafés. I have this real passion for lost angels in cemetaries and would love to see your collection.
    @Bonnie - I'm glad to know it isn't just me then.
    @Mia - Great that you were in Berlin and liked it. Thanks so much for your visit, I'll be sure to call by soon.