April 30, 2005

Paris, etc.

First the update on comments: they are still not working. Sorry. Still struggling with typekey, though I believe I've got the correct URL in their system and the correct typekey code on this backend. Ugg. Shouldn't this be easier?

So, Paris was lovely. I have to thank Loic and Geraldine for the conference. They pulled it off well, even if I was a little tired at the end of the end of the day, and wished for something other than panels. They brought us to beautiful places, with delicious food and spoiled us with a good time and lots of lovely new bloggers to meet.

Had a wonderful time hanging out with Halley, Doc, Caterina and Stewart, Lo�c and Geraldine, Paolo and Monica, Neville, Hugh, Gaby who tells great stories, and lots of others too numerous to mention. There is something wonderful about being in a city like Paris with a bunch of friends for a couple of days, for what is essentially a road trip. You can't really work, you can't do your normal stuff and there are no real worries temporarily.. except where to go next together. It's very light, very fun, and we spent time sharing delicious food and practicing our erratic French. We spent loads of time laughing too.

At one point, Doc, Halley and I found ourselves on the street, near a patisserie, buying bread and amazing butter, and being so hungry, we just ate it right there. I'm sure the French were appalled. Only Americans eat on the street. But then, there is no way we could ever measure up there anyway, so why worry. And yet, the snobbism is useful, because it does mean that they demand a level of quality in their experience (and get it!) for everything. But it is also out of touch with the realities of internet life, where just being a snob doesn't get you anywhere. You have to have good ideas and do something about them. Just being a snob about every little nit-picky thing is kind of obsolete in light of the flat hierarchy of the internet.

In fact, though, the butter was so good I brought home three packages. I was thinking of cooking something like a chocolat flour-less cake, as I also brought home some 80% dark stuff and it would be so good with that butter, baked softly. Okay, I'm a food snob too. You know. Food is not scalable. And certainly food production in the EU, which is still pretty small production, is amazing and proof of that point. Partly it's because their soil is 5 to 7 (updated from 100) times as old as California soil, so the minerals taste much more subtle, instead of our big, blow-out-your taste-bud flavors here in CA. Flavors are at a lower wattage in the EU, clean and fresh, but they are far more complex -- you can taste what the cows who gave the milk and creme to make that butter were tasting.. and it's so so good.

When going through customs, I list each food item by name, often because I push the limits of what is allowed to bring in. You aren't allowed to bring in meat, and so my giant tin of cassoulet was a mystery to them, and they mumbled something about meat, and then moved on. The package was all in French. Who knows what confit means (it's duck and is in the cassoulet) and so they went on to puzzle over the butter (who brings back butter?). Two years ago, from Italy, lost in my custom's list of wine, vin santo, chocolates, cheese, nougat, dried beans, dried fruit, olive oils and balsamics, was some bresaola, some sprek, and some prosciutto. I checked the box that said I had meat. And they waived me through because they didn't see meat on the list. I guess it pays to be a snob in that case too. And very precise about it.

Posted by Mary Hodder at April 30, 2005 08:53 AM | TrackBack

The soil is 100 times older in France than in California? Where did that factoid come from? The French?

Posted by: Jim Armstrong at April 30, 2005 07:00 PM

Hi Jim, Actually you're right.. it's not a 100 times necessarily.. Doc Searls told me the 100 times figure, but actually it's probably more like 7 to 10 times as old in Europe as here. The reason is that our last volcanic activity was 15 million years ago and our last ice age was 2, and so people consider California to be young soil, and the Ag Department at UCDavis has documented this effect. But I think if you just taste like items from both places you'll notice the difference, regardless of the difference in age. It's still a lot. But you're right that I should have been more precise. However, this is a blog about things other than the age of soil, and I was relying on hearsay. But check out this site for some additional info: http://www.landinstitute.org/vnews/display.v/ART/2000/12/01/3aa90b0d9.


Posted by: mary hodder at April 30, 2005 07:19 PM


There was a time when the North America continent was connected to the Euroasia continent. At that time the beginnings of soil formation was pretty much the same. Billions of years ago.

California's last volcanic activity was within the last two hundred years, and our volcanos are still considered active. (I'm from California too)

Glaciers carved out Yosemite less than 20,000 years ago, but then again glaciers are still carving out France today. There are still glaciers on Mount Shasta and Whitney today also.

But I still don't see where France's soil is 7 to 10 times the age of California's. We are both on the same geologic timeline.


Posted by: Jim Armstrong at April 30, 2005 11:28 PM