Important piece of information #1: This entry really is about my summer in Europe and the Omari family–it just takes a while to get there.

Another piece of information that will be relevant later.  Today is December 21, 2011 and we have been asked to pick up the Buche de Noel again this year from Patisserie Poupon on December 24.

Flashback #1: University of Virgina 1980s; Miami 1990s:

My Wimbledonphilia began sometime in the early 1980’s, when Tom introduced–and converted–me to his T.V. tennis-watching addiction.  This addiction was difficult to maintain in those days before the Tennis Channel and before ESPN started continuous coverage of the Grand Slams.  Generally, tennis coverage began in the quarter-finals (if you were lucky), was often live–a problem, because, young as we were, we didn’t want to watch the Australian Tennis Open at 3:30 a.m., and was often pre-empted. So watching tennis on T.V. was itself a bit of a sport, involving checking the T.V. guide continually for when tennis might actually appear on T.V. and feeling a peculiar sense of triumph at the mere sight of man (or woman), ball, and racket, appearing simultaneously on the T.V. screen.

I’m still angry about one particular tennis final.  Tom and I were all set to watch the final of the U.S. Open on Sunday with Willander and probably Lendl (it was pretty much always Willander and Lendl in those days).  This was the days of the slow, long rallys, in which one could blissfully spend the day on the sofa being lulled by the regular back-and-forth hitting of the tennis protagonists.  If it was a Lendl-Villander match, it would be expected to last three hours and a bit.  And, indeed, that’s what we got, until the finals suddenly disappeared to be replaced by the Jerry Lewis telethon, or equivalent–something that seemed only to be happening on this particular channel in Charlottesville, Va., since our Washington D.C. newspaper had the tennis finals listed on the TV Guide.

Sometimes I get very very angry very very quickly.  I bounced out of the sofa, grabbed the red phone (it really was red), dialed the number on the T.V. screen and yelled at a poor volunteer who thought I had called to pledge money.  She clearly didn’t even know what a tennis final was.  But I felt a bit better for having done something with my frustration.

[August 6, 2012, Just read this to Tom; his response: “That was so awful; I felt like I was personally insulted”  (Not about my being angry, but about having the finals cut off.)]

The 80’s were also the years of Stefan Edberg, probably the most graceful tennis player I’ve ever seen.  In the 90’s Tom and I watched him play doubles at the Lipton Tennis tournament in Key Biscayne, and he did an actual pirouette (ok, well, at least a very quick and graceful spin) to get at a ball and win the point.  I was in bliss.

Edberg was always the most fun to watch when he was playing on Wimbledon.  His game and body were clearly meant for a grass surface, and it is in watching Edberg that I learned to love, appreciate, and look forward to the now-almost-defunct serve and volley (or, as Edberg would say “serv and wollee”); a beautifully set-up structure that would use up pretty much the whole court.

Back to Day Two:

I’m going on an on here to those who have zero interest in tennis, because I had never actually been to Wimbledon, and that is exactly where Tala and Anisa took me on the afternoon of my first full day in Wimbledon.  The drive itself was a treat for an Anglophile like myself.  An Anglophile is, of course, is a person (usually an English or History major) who falls in love with an England that only exists in the pages of a Jane Austen novel, in BBC Masterpiece Theater, or in Merchant-Ivory films.  This England is always quaint, sunny, strikingly lovely; its citizens are romantic and witty and have very nice furniture.  Well, this day was an Anglophile’s dream.  Not only was I with great company, but it was a sunny, warm, cloudless day, as we drove through streets that led us past those English Elizabethan-inspired homes made of white plaster and timber, then past the gorgeously brick and pastoral green King’s College, where Tala’s son went to high school, then climaxed at Wimbledon itself, a brick-filled, flower-woven village of curved, hilly, mildly labyrinthine streets.

A small family moment here.  Like Mami, Anisa tends to walk slowly, but Tala doesn’t, so I wasn’t sure whom I was supposed to walk with.  Tala later told me, “I can’t walk slowly, so I just walk my normal pace, and, when I get to an intersection, my mother catches up.”  We caught up in front of Le Pain Quotidien.

Flashback #2: Christmas Eve, Washington, D.C. (Dupont Circle area), 2009 and the Pain Quotidien; plus early 1980s in Potomac:

This is about a Buche de Noel in the early 1980’s.  I just asked Tom if he had witnessed the event. Tom’s said yes and added: “If I remember correctly, things did not go well.”

2010: Christmas Eve; last minute shopping, and a day of running around, getting ready for the chaos of a family Christmas.  Tom and I are driving back from whatever shopping we were doing downtown, when Katharine calls.  “The Buche de Noel (somebody tell me how to do accent marks on this blog) is ready for us at Patisserie Poupon in Georgetown, can you pick it up?  “Sure,” I answered (later to my regret); “we’ll just swing by Georgetown on the way home.”

The Buche de Noel is an allegory for the Meyer family.  The important thing to know is that the Meyer women (including me: note to self) think they have more energy than they have; so we take on too many projects, then have a meltdown. I think all our husbands, current or ex, including Daddy up in heaven, are firmly nodding at this moment, examples multiplying in their heads like babies in spring.  I can’t remember who started this particular manifestation of Meyer Buche-de-Noel mania, but I think my mother did.  For two or three Christmases, the somewhat sleepless Mami (from Christmas shopping, wrapping presents, and going to Christmas Open Houses) would do her usual Christmas dinner ritual.  It involved the hair-raising combination of starting things last minute and being a perfectionist.  Such episodes often ended with Mami turning into a stereotype of the Latin woman–screaming because the cute little meringue mushrooms hadn’t turned out in just the right shape.  All of us would then go into a version of the drill students do in California in case of  earthquakes.  And then, of course, the buche would be perfectly lovely and meltingly delicious, while we would still be feel slightly traumatized, until we ate a slice of the lovely buche.  After about two years of these episodes Ani took over.  Ani has the Meyer mania and she is a perfectionist with the buche, but she had one advantage over her mother: she starts projects early, and the end result of the Ani buches was so stunningly beautiful that, for a second (until one tasted it), one felt bad about having dug a fork into it.

2010: It became clear, after a few years, that even with Ani making the Buche, the Buche-making was draining enormous amounts of energy from the Meyer family, what with the shopping, the cathedral-like hush in the kitchen at key moments of complex cooking, and the Cat-in-the-Hat-like mess that was the kitchen at the end of the buche-making.  By the 1990’s the Meyers were happily engaged in ordering buches from places that enjoyed making buches because they got lots of money for making them.  And in 2011 this place was Patisserie Poupon.

It is important to note that I have nothing against Patisserie Poupon, except that it is in upper Georgetown, and any trip through that area around Christmas is about as dangerous as that maze in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, in which most people seem to disappear or get swallowed up by nasty hedges.  Briefly (since I’m already on something like paragraph 10), Katharine called on Christmas Eve, as Tom and I were in downtown Washington, asking us to pick up the Buche de Noel from Patisserie Poupon.  To do this we had to navigate through the Scylla and Charybdis of Dupont Circle.  In the snarl of traffic coming at us from at least three directions, I suddenly yelled out “P street! It’s P street!  Turn right Tom! Turn right!”  I did not give Tom enough forewarning, so to turn the sharp right, he ended up going over a curb, and there went the tire.

Christmas Eve, 5:00 p.m., very cold.  Most shops are closed; Dupont Circle.  Flat tire.  While waiting for AAA, I shivered over to–yes–Pain Quotidien.  My heart melts when I think of it.  They were closing, had already shut down the register, but the very nice young man behind the counter made me a free hot chocolate.

So, I thought of this very nice young man in downtown Washington, D.C. when we went over lunch at Le Pain Quotidien in Wimbledon, because this nice young man and the very helpful AAA man helped restore me to my Christmas spirit and helped us get to the buche before Patisserie Poupon closed, hence ensuring another traditional Christmas eve meal chez Meyer.

This particular Pain Quotidien was the nicest I’d been to–large, light, and airy, with an array of tempting dishes.  Tala and I both went for the Italian board of olive paste, artichoke paste, parmesan, ricotta, prosciutto, and lovely crunchy warm bread.  Anisa had the bab ganoosh plate.

Now I was ready to hear what Anisa had to say.


  1. I’m so glad you did get the Büche de Noël that year!

Speak Your Mind