A walking tour of Julia Child's Paris
PARIS -- As the French Open nears its final days, the coverage schedule has eased up enough for a little sight-seeing. And so Thursday, my wife and I took a walking tour of Julia Child's Paris.
Long before there were such things as foodies, Top Chef reality shows or networks devoted to food, there was Child's French cooking programs on PBS. These shows were popular enough to be parodied on Saturday Night Live and pretty much led to all the current food shows.
The tour included the building where Julia and Paul Child lived, the Rue Cler markets where she shopped, a stretch of mouth-watering patisseries with customers lined out onto the street and one of her favorite restaurants. But the highlight was a stop at her favorite cooking store, E. Dehillerin.
It's a fascinating old store of narrow aisles lined with towering, bare wood shelves filled with all manner of cooking utensils. There are all sizes of pots and pans, including some large enough to bathe in. But the most interesting part of the store was checking out.
We bought an apron with the store's logo and a cookie cutter in the shape of the Eiffel Tower. To purchase this, I had to take the items to a clerk standing by a table. He took out a booklet of order forms and marked down each item for purchase. Then he handed it to another worker who searched for the inventory numbers of each item, and these were added as well.
Then I had to stand in very slow-moving line at the checkout counter. When I reached the front, a woman took my form, examined it and then handed it back to me, instructing me to write my name down on it. I did so and she took it from me.
She went to the back of the store and plugged the information into a computer to get the prices. She wrote the prices down on the form and showed them to me. I nodded in agreement and she went back to the computer to print out another form. She then showed me this form with the printed prices. I nodded again and she took my credit card. She ran it through a machine and gave me a receipt to sign. Then she gave me the order form again.
I then took the order form and receipt back to the main at the table who placed my items in a bag to take away. All in all, it took about as long to buy these two items as it would to cook Julia's Coq au Vin recipe. John Isner plays matches faster.
With such a long, involved checkout process, it's a wonder this store is still in business. Or perhaps they are still filling orders from when Child was here in the 1950s.