Thursday, November 15, 2007

Zinc Cafés

This delightful article on the zinc cafés of Paris reminds me of the little place my husband discovered in 1999, around the corner from our hotel near the Luxembourg gardens. In one of the greatest cities of the world, there was a quaint and small-town friendliness to be found in the zinc. The old gentleman who owned the café was a colorful character who made wonderful soups. One evening, when I was not feeling well, he wrapped up some soup in a beautiful earthenware bowl for my husband to bring back to the hotel for me. A zinc café is the heart of the neighborhood, as the article describes:
A subset of cafés and bistros, zincs are named for a piece of furniture: the bars that are also their nerve centers. Technically the bar should be of galvanized steel, but they also show up in Formica, stainless steel, stone, copper, brass, and wood. Imperious and clannish, zincs are those places whose windows you’ve peered through a million times without, despite desperately wanting to, ever quite making it through the door. Hesitations usually have to do with the patrons looking too scary, the proprietor too crabby, the cigarette smoke too thick, the housekeeping too marginal. But be brave. Take a seat. No one can pretend to know and love Paris and not its zincs.

Zincs are the keys to their neighborhoods. (Apparently they’re a lot like pubs, but I can’t bear pubs and refuse the comparison.) Habitués treat them like home, coming and going, reading and slandering, daydreaming and grumbling. Zincs were originally defined by their limitations, serving coffee, wine, and beer. Hard-boiled eggs, dried sausage, cheese, and ham on a buttered baguette were an afterthought. All the following places uphold the spirit, if not the letter, of this model.



Anonymous said...

Unique places like that are what makes a large city fascinating. Love the story about the soup!

elena maria vidal said...

Yes, and it was still hot!