Food – a Universal Language

Food – a Universal Language

Food – a Universal language

Markedet på rue LevisLast week I went on a business trip to Paris.

My next meeting was in the afternoon and I decided to visit rue Levis, a wonderful street in the 17th arrondissement, conveniently starting at Villier, a direct stop on my Metro-line.

I have come here since I worked at the Norwegian Export Council. My office was close by, and rue Levis is the perfect place for food shopping, a quick lunch or just a stroll to take in the atmosphere of the city. The market stalls have absolutely everything; fresh fish, delicious cheese, all kinds of meat and poultry, enormous vegetable displays. The vendors cry out their offerings at all times and encourage you to stop and taste and buy. There are shops in between the stalls. Wine, perfume, gifts, the wonderful quenquaillerie where they sell almost anything you could possibly need, clothes, flowers and perhaps I forget to mention someone, but they are all there, spread out over two blocks for you to enjoy.

At the end of the market, the street continues with more regular shops. I went to visit Madame Coupons, a store selling fabric cut into coupons. Monsieur greats me and starts by asking whether I am familiar with the shop’s style of letting the customers look, toss, turn and dig among their fabrics to find the hidden treasures of the hundreds of pieces of different colors and qualities. When I tell him I have come several times to his place, and even bought the fabric that became my wedding dress, Monsieur is delighted. We enter into a polite conversation and Monsieur soon detects the fact that I am a foreigner. He enquires about my nationality and what I do for a living. I tell him briefly about Martha Mettlig and mention (but of course) that we offer a French-style cuisine.

All of a sudden, the atmosphere is yanked up a notch and Madame appears behind a pile of fabrics. Food? Cuisine? Do we offer Boeuf Bourguignon? French Cheeses? We enter into a joyful conversation of our favorite dishes and quickly agree on a couple of “must-have”.

As we speak, I continue to browse and my eyes fall on a beautiful cashmere fabric at the very back of the shelf. Ah! That one- it’s a piece from the Hermès collection this winter, and we all agree that it is perfect to me and just what I need.

We are now almost old friends, and as he wraps up my purchase and goes on about the business of accepting my credit card, Monsieur tells me that they have run the shop for 30 years and just signed another 30 years lease. I understand he knows the neighborhood well, and take the opportunity to ask his advice in another matter. My purse needs repair and I was looking for a coordonnier to get a quick fix. No problem: first street on my right hand, there are two. Go to the first, they are more forthcoming, say I sent you and you’ll have it fixed in no time, we are good friends.

The whole incident took 20 minutes. I left with my purchase, in a good mood, smiling and went straight to the coordonnier and got my pursed fixed.

Food is such a wonderful universal topic! Everybody is interested and enjoys sharing their views. It was easy to make conversation with the strangers and it resulted in a very nice moment spent that gave me a good start of my day. It even led me to getting help and information I needed to fix my other problem of the day.

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