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By Joseph Conrad

The memoirs of the well-known Polish-British novelist Joseph Conrad.

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The four of us wrestled through the massive wooden doorway of my unfamiliar apartment building and landed in a deserted courtyard. After twenty years of living in San Francisco, I had sold virtually everything I owned, and the rest I brought with me. In addition to the cherished items in my suitcases, a few weeks earlier I had packed up two cases of my absolute favorite, most cherished cookbooks from a collection that I’d amassed over the years at Chez Panisse, all signed by the authors whom I’d met and cooked with, timing the boxes’ arrival to coincide with mine.

I entered the store and waited in the short line at the acceueil counter, which, even though the word means “welcome,” is, paradoxically, the most unwelcoming place in France. There I waited and waited…and waited and waited…and waited and waited. Even though there were just a couple of people in front of me, a half-hour passed before it was my turn. Each transaction seemed to take forever, with lots of back-and-forth negotiations on both sides, ending with either reluctant acceptance by the cashier, or an admission of defeat by the customer, who would shrug his shoulders and walk away.

When there are lots of pots and pans to be tackled, there’s much more room in my generously sized bathtub than in my dinky kitchen sink, which would frustrate even Barbie if it were installed in her Dream House. Imagine if you had to scrub clean a stockpot in one of those washbasins on an airplane and you’ll understand why my bathtub’s the best place for lathering up the Le Creusets. I fill the tub with soapy water, then get down on my hands and knees, like the lavandières of yesteryear doing their scrubbing in the Seine.

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