By Ann | July 1, 2013
A few days ago, I tried to wash some dishes and noticed there was no water. I had seen no announcement of a water cut in my apartment building’s lobby, received no letter from the Syndic. Without warning, the taps had, quite simply, gone dry. This being France, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of foreboding, but I convinced myself I was being ridiculous.
An hour or two after the water disappeared, the building’s gardienne knocked on my door. “Do you have water?” she asked. “Pas du tout,” I responded. “Do you know why there’s no water?” she asked. My heart gave a little flutter. After all, if anyone knew why the water had been cut, wouldn’t it be her? The sense of foreboding loomed.
The minutes ticked by. It was a hot Friday afternoon and everyone seemed to be crawling towards the weekend. A plumber arrived in the courtyard and I spied on him through my living room window as he poked around the pipes below ground. I hoped fervently that the water would reappear. It did not.
At five o’clock, we had news. Thanks to a problem with the city’s pipes, a lack of pressure had caused the water cut in the building. Alas, no one could reach Eau de Paris — they had already closed for the weekend (remember, this is France) and their emergency hotline number was out of service (again — this is France).
Yes, my friends, I was looking at an entire weekend without water.
Saturday morning dawned parched and aggravated. After spending a good twenty minutes ferrying bottles of water from a tap in the courtyard to the reservoir of my toilet, I decided to take matters into my own hands. I called the Mairie, the pompiers, the police. I pleaded. I told them I was pregnant. None of them could help. ”You need to speak with Eau de Paris,” they all said.
Finally, I did what any hopeless, frustrated, 21st-century netizen would do: I posted about the situation on Facebook. Within an hour, my luck had changed. Excuse My French came to the rescue.
As you might remember, Olivier Cappaert of Excuse My French helps expats in France solve their administrative woes. (I think of him as the “fonctionnaire whisperer.”) He made a few phone calls, spoke to a few of his key contacts and, an hour after my despairing Facebook post, Eau de Paris workmen descended through a manhole cover across the street to repair a leak. Soon, our taps began flowing again with sweet, clean water. I have never been so appreciative of this basic necessity of human life.
To thank Olivier for his time and kindness, I decided to bake him some brownies. But not just any brownies — I made him a pan of the “absolute best” brownies from David Lebovitz’s brilliant cookbook, Ready for Dessert.
The recipe doesn’t have any secret ingredients, but it does have one secret step — you have to beat the batter for at least a minute until it turns smooth and glossy. (I outsourced this task.) With a generous scoop of nuts (I’m American so I used pecans) and a king’s ransom of melted dark chocolate, these brownies are decadently moist and rich, almost fudgy — succulent, as they say in French. Packed in a sturdy plastic box, they travel well — even via La Poste — making them a perfect gift of gratitude.
You can find the brownie recipe here. I recommend keeping it on hand for those moments when you need to express your appreciation.