Thursday, April 28, 2011

Porokhane - A Taste of Senegal

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A few days ago, Tom and I met our friend Daniel for a repas dépaysant. (Roughly translated, this means “a meal that removes you from your own country.”) We often eat such meals with Daniel, and enjoy searching for restaurants that provide great food at low prices for these occasions.

For this dining experience, we selected a Senegalese restaurant named Porokhane in the 10th arrondissement. As it is located just off the rue Oberkampf, we were not surprised to find the neighborhood to be quite lively. The restaurant is only a couple of blocks away from the passage de Menilmontant, the street where we saw Almeta Speaks perform at the Ateliers du Chaudron in March.

Porokhane Restaurant
© Discover Paris!

We arrived at 7:30 PM and found Daniel already waiting for us. Only one other table was occupied at that time, but the restaurant began to fill by the time we left. We were cordially greeted as we entered and were immediately ushered to our table. There was a long wait before the waitress came over to take our order, so we had plenty of time to discuss the different dishes on the menu. I told Tom and Daniel that the portions would likely be large, and said that I planned to order only starter and a main dish. Both of them opted for a main dish and a dessert.

I ordered aloco sauce – lightly fried plantains served atop a large lettuce leaf with a lightly spicy tomato and onion sauce in a small serving dish alongside. As I predicted, the serving was enormous! I invited Tom and Daniel to help me finish it, as there was no way that I could eat this entire tasty appetizer and hope to be able to eat my main course afterward. They obliged, and were happy that they did!

Aloco Sauce
© Discover Paris!

For the main course, I selected Colombo de Cabri (goat stew). Tom chose Poisson Yassa (fish marinated with lemon juice and smothered in onions) and Daniel chose Poulet Yassa (chicken marinated with lemon juice and smothered in onions). Each dish was served with a large mound of tender, white rice, and the server was sure to place a small dish of the obligatory hot pepper sauce condiment on the table before leaving us to savor our meal.

While Yassa is a traditional Senegalese preparation, Colombo is known to be from the French Caribbean. I love Yassa, but I selected the Colombo because it is rare to find goat on the menu at restaurants other than Caribbean ones. The gravy (called sauce in French) was a bit grainy in texture, but both meat and gravy were bursting with flavor. Tom and Daniel both consumed their Yassa with gusto and declared that they were completely satisfied with their meals. After helping me with the aloco and devouring their main dishes, neither of them could find room for dessert!

As beverages, I selected a punch baobab to accompany my appetizer and a punch tamarind to accompany my main dish. I had never tasted either before, and found them to be somewhat similar in flavor. Though each was supposed to contain alcohol, I could not detect any in either drink. Tom and Daniel split a Senegalese beer called La Gazelle, and said that they liked its flavor.

We enjoyed live music – singing and acoustic guitar – by Senegalese artist Malick during our meal. We plan to return to the restaurant to purchase one of his CDs.

The décor of the restaurant is not anything special, with the exception of the paintings by Senegal’s Souleymane Ndiaye that grace the walls. In fact, you could say that it is a tad “run down.” We also found the dining room to be quite dark with (no candles or “mood lighting”, so it is advisable to sit next to the windows if possible. The service was slow, though friendly. However, the food was beyond reproach!

Views of Porokhane dining room
© Discover Paris!

3, rue Moret
75010 Paris
Metro: Saint-Maur (Line 3), Menilmontant (Line 2), Couronnes (Line 2)
Hours: 7 PM to 1 AM from Monday through Sunday. Closed for lunch.


Entrée to Black Paris!™ is a Discover Paris! blog.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Next of Kin: A Book Review

Priscilla Lalisse-Jespersen is the editor and founder of Prissy Mag, and the author of the novel Stockdale.  You may have read her Black Paris Profile™ here last November.  I am pleased to present a review of her latest book – Next of Kin.


Priscilla Lalisse-Jespersen’s Next of Kin provides a stark and poignant look at how death can reveal the dark side of family relationships. It is the story of the sudden passing of her father, Eddie, and what she experienced upon returning to her hometown of Heflin, Alabama from her expatriate home in Paris in the aftermath of his death.

Next of Kin book jacket

Shock, confusion, sadness, and guilt are among the emotions that Lalisse-Jespersen vividly portrays in the opening pages of this brief book (66 pages). As the only child of a man whose marriage with her mother ended in divorce and who left home when she was two years of age, we can only imagine what had transpired to build the strong father-daughter bond that she felt at the time of Eddie’s death. The decisions to be made about which members of her family in France (her husband and two children) would make the trip back to the U.S. and when to leave, the anxiety over seeing the exact place where her father died, and the hostility that she felt from relatives whom she had not seen in months to years were only the beginning of her story. She would soon learn that one of her relatives – a cousin named May – would turn out to be an ingratiating, self-serving, and dishonest person who systematically eliminated Priscilla from the list of persons who could access information about her father during his illness. For Eddie had cancer and was unable to speak, and May was his primary caregiver.

The planning of the funeral was the next ordeal that Lalisse-Jespersen describes. The type of service, confusion regarding its date, and importantly, the decision about how much each family member would contribute toward the cost were all part of the unsettling experience for her. She describes the funeral as unreal, particularly because her husband was not there to support her.

The story takes a turn for the better after the funeral. Relatives (excluding May) were suddenly open and honest about things, and Lalisse-Jespersen was able to make progress with settling her father’s estate before going back to Paris. Over several weeks, she was able to re-establish a routine of sorts, and began to cope with her loss. Then, another dreaded phone call…this time, she was informed that Eddie’s mother had died.

Next of Kin resonates for several reasons. All expatriates with family connections “at home” dread the phone call in the middle of the night. The longer we are away, the less cognizant we are of the daily happenings that slowly change a loved one’s life. Unless we are single and independently wealthy, it is generally not feasible to go back and forth frequently between our expatriate home and our original home in the event of a serious illness in our immediate family. Yet this contributes to feelings of guilt at not being able to provide care when that person dies.

Any expatriate who has not yet experienced these circumstances and emotions has simply not been away long enough. One cannot read Next of Kin and not be moved.

Despite the theme of love and loss, readers will find hope and inspiration in Next of Kin. The fact that Lalisse-Jespersen was so distressed over the circumstances surrounding her father’s death stemmed from the warm, loving relationship that she was able to establish with him after reconnecting with him during her college years. The epilogue of the book speaks briefly and lovingly of her twenty-year journey in getting to know him.

Priscilla Lalisse-Jespersen
Photo courtesy of Prissy Mag

Priscilla Lalisse-Jespersen wrote Next of Kin as a tribute to her father. Half of the revenue generated by sales of the book is being donated to the Joe Lee Griffin Hope Lodge, which offers accommodation at no cost for cancer patients in the Birmingham, Alabama area.


Entrée to Black Paris!™ is a Discover Paris! blog.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Aimé Césaire at the Pantheon

On April 6, 2011, France commemorated the life and work of Aimé Césaire at the Pantheon. French President Nicolas Sarkozy presided over a grand ceremony that was broadcast live on France 2 and France ô, as well as on giant screens installed outside the building.

Ceremony viewed outside the Pantheon
© Patrick Kolavik, AFP

Roughly 1000 persons were invited to participate in the ceremony, including Césaire's family, junior and senior high school students from Martinique and France, and students from the Paris' prestigious educational institutions Louis le Grand (high school) and l'Ecole Normale Supérieure (college). Césaire attended both of these schools in his youth.

To celebrate the event, entry to the Pantheon was free from April 7-10. I took advantage of this opportunity to photograph the visual and literary tributes to Césaire that were mounted inside.

The famous pendulum of Foucault was dismantled for the occasion so that a huge fresco comprised of four images representing different periods of Césaire's life could be projected from the ceiling of the nave onto a disc-shaped screen below. An eight-minute film by Euzhan Palcy that reviews the life of the revered poet and statesman was not functioning during my visit.

Image of Césaire fresco and its location in the Pantheon

View of Césaire fresco and projection screen in background
© Discover Paris!

Four quotations from Césaire's works were displayed in front of the stone pillars that border the nave. The works quoted were Cahier d'un retour du pays natal (1939), Tropiques (1943), Moi, Laminaire (1982) and La Poésie (1993).

Quotation from La Poésie (1993)
© Discover Paris!

A plaque that honors the memory of Césaire and his work has been placed in the crypt. It lies between Caves XXV and XXVI. Alexandre Dumas, père and Félix Eboué are laid to rest close by, in Caves XXIV and XXVI, respectively. Dumas and Eboué are the only two men of African descent whose remains are found in the Pantheon. Césaire's remains are interred in Martinique, his native land.

Aimé Césaire plaque
© Discover Paris!

While in this corner of the Pantheon's crypt, visitors should not fail to look for the plaques that honor Toussaint l'Ouverture and Louis Delgres as well. These are located along the side walls of the short passage that leads to the tombs of Félix Eboué and Victor Schoelcher in Cave XXVI.

In the souvenir shop that is located at the exit, there were two tables stacked with books written by or about Césaire. A number of visitors took their time examining the tomes and leafing through them.

Looking at books
© Discover Paris!

The montage for the ceremony in Césaire's honor was quite striking, and the plaque will serve as a permanent reminder of this great man.

Homage to Aimé Césaire
© Discover Paris!


Entrée to Black Paris!™ is a Discover Paris! blog.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Black Paris Profiles™: Almeta Speaks

I was inspired to write this profile after a recent brunch hosted by Almeta at her Paris apartment on a Sunday afternoon. After over five hours of sitting around her table enjoying a delicious home-cooked meal (including a perfect cornbread), scintillating conversation, and laughter, I determined that I would write a profile on this woman who is a never-ending source of incredible stories about her life on two continents and her travels around the world.


Almeta Speaks
© Hudson Taylor, Toronto

Almeta Speaks is a singer, pianist, professor, and film producer.

Born in Reidsville, NC, she began singing and playing piano at an early age. She graduated from high school at the age of 15, then studied and worked as a hairdresser in her home town for three years before moving to New York, where she hoped to study cosmetology. However, because she felt insecure about the math and chemistry requirements for completing the program, she decided instead to work as a mother’s helper (nanny) for a Jewish family on Long Island while considering her career options.


Black Paris Profiles is now available on Kindle.  Only excerpts are available on this blog.
To get your copy of Black Paris Profiles, click HERE.


Entrée to Black Paris!™ is a Discover Paris! blog.