It was 1977. A day and age when our knowledge of Paris only came from history books, movies, or discussions with high school French class teachers. But we didn’t care. My sister and I couldn’t wait to accompany our father on his weeklong business trip to Paris. She was fifteen and I was sixteen.
We flew from New York’s JFK directly into Charles de Gaulle and, by the time we arrived at our hotel, Wendy and I had our assault on the city all planned out. On a trusty city map, we located and traced a finger along the River Seine that ran through it. Then, we highlighted the Avenue des Champs-Élysées to the river’s north; the street where all the good shopping and key sites are. To the west, we circled L’arc de Triomphe. On the east side, we marked the Musee du Louvre. And, with those bases covered, finding the Tour Eiffel and Notre Dame was pretty easy. So, as soon as Dad went to his business meetings, we hit the streets of Paris.
We walked for miles and miles. We stopped at a boulangerie and bought some yummy croissants. We were “ooh la la” as we window-shopped. We practiced our French. We stood in a world-famous-museum and shrugged our shoulders; unable to fathom why people fussed over a small portrait of an unattractive woman with a sly smirk.
By the time we met up with our father for dinner with some of his colleagues, we were exhausted. But, we were excited about eating at the quaint little restaurant that predominantly served soufflés; soufflés as appetizers, entrees, and desserts. It seemed that the group ordered one of every type and lots of French wine to go around. We were determined to try a bit of everything and, while drinking age back home was eighteen, wine at meals was free game in Paris – even for teenagers.
The food was awesome. The conversation was lively and engaging. Eventually the jet lag kicked in and my eyelids got heavy. When I glanced over at Wendy, she was face down in her chocolate soufflé!
* * *
I recently had the opportunity to visit Paris again. This time, however, I went with my husband. We pulled up Google maps and plotted the same path through the city that my sister and I had taken so many years before. This time around, however, I knew much more about Paris – especially about France’s history of Antisemitism and its own mistreatment of Jews during World War II (read Sarah’s Key) – so we made sure to visit the Holocaust Museum too.
We walked for miles and miles. We stopped at a boulangerie and bought some yummy croissants. We were “ooh la la” as we window-shopped. We practiced our French. We stood in a world-famous-museum and shrugged our shoulders; unable to fathom why people fussed over a small portrait of an unattractive woman with a sly smirk. We paid our respects as we read from the Wall of Names at the Shoah Memorial.
Le Soufflé is still in business. It’s a one-of-a-kind restaurant that’s been in business for fifty-one years; warm, homey, and inviting. Specializing in soufflés (considered to be the epitome of comfort foods), we willingly experimented with soufflés of fromage (cheese), poulet et champignons (chicken and mushrooms), chocolat, and Grand Marnier, along with complementary wines.
Revisiting this unique place seamlessly tied my present and past together. A special time in my life today became inextricably linked to a wonderful memory of my youth. While I was happy to have my husband with me at Le Soufflé, I was disappointed – when I looked around the room – that Wendy wasn’t there too; face down in her soufflé.
C’est la vie…
 Wall of Names: The Wall of Names in the Shoah Memorial in Paris lists the 76,000 French Jews sent to the Nazi death camps from 1942 to 1944.
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