my mind's eye...17 again

In my mind's eye, while walking down the Champs Elysées in the heart of Paris this summer, I imagined I was 17 years old once more.

My son, who was walking next to me, faded into obscurity as I imagined this same walk, only years ago.  My present-day short cropped hair grew long and thick again.  My 40 year old self morphed into my 17 year old self...young and lithe from years of intense ballet training.

I was part of a ballet company, recruited to perform in various parts of France.  My dreams, since early childhood, to dance and to travel, were unfolding before my eyes. As I took each step in Paris, my 17 year-old self marveled at the sights that would greatly influence my future self.

At the time, this trip symbolized a turning point in my  unstable young life.  I was, am, and always will be...a dreamer.  My taurus-like disposition clawed at the restrictions imposed in my childhood, railed at the treatment that I endured daily, and bellowed at the abandonment by those who were supposed to protect me.

Jardin des Tuileries (Tuileries Garden next to the Louvre Museum)

But, in Paris I experienced my first taste of freedom from a childhood of difficulty and continuous affronts.  Paris was a chance to lose the self that was rejected over and over again and reinvent a new self that gave me a first glimpse of a possible me. Paris took me in as a bewildered and emotionally needy young girl...and turned me into a graceful and promising young woman.

So many things changed in my life after that time spent dancing through Paris and France.  Paris, as an experience, was like a gift, that when opened offered me a chance at a type of freedom of mind and of possibility I had not thought probable.  

I remember, as if it were yesterday, walking down the Champs Elysées in Paris.  I had not yet seen such glorious sights.  I was captivated by it all, completely unintimidated by it all, and spellbound by the intoxicating allure embodied by this great city.

Braised Pork with a Roasted Apricot Mustard Sauce;
Zucchini and Squash Tart with Goat Cheese and french herbs

We were an intimate group of dancers sharing an incredible experience together.  We trained hard every day.  We knew each other's strengths and weaknesses.  We worked well together and formed a close-knit supportive group.

I remember one of the first evenings in the city, several of us randomly decided to enter a beautiful looking restaurant somewhere along the Champs Elysées.  We had little money for a full course dining experience but we thought perhaps a sophisticated drink would be a worthy albeit impromptu experience.

The restaurant that pulled us in glowed red from the light gleaming through the tall elegant windows.  The beckoning glow was radiating from the wall color. They were painted a crimson red and the interior lighting produced a dark and moody atmosphere that was cozy and welcoming.  The corners of the room were swallowed in shadow from the rich color scheme and the barely lit dining room.  We loved it. We  felt more sophisticated just being enveloped in its ambiance. 

Braised Pork with Roasted Apricot Mustard Sauce;
Zucchini and Squash Tart with Chevre and Fresh Herbs

Most of us had no idea what to order.  A drink...we all agreed...but which drink?  A sophisticated Parisian drink.  We all looked at each other, waiting for someone to cue each other in as to what defined a sophisticated Parisian cocktail.  It had not only to be elegant-sounding but it was suggested it should have a rather dangerous connotation as well...

Our eyes glistened with excitement and anticipation of it all.  Initially, we glanced uncomfortably around the plush interior knowing we didn't quite belong there, knowing our pocketbooks would certainly give us away as certainly not belonging there.

Treats from the Paris patisseries

When it was my turn to order, I bravely met the waiter's face and carefully stated in my rehearsed french that I would like "a black Russian".  

"A black Russian" he repeated, one intrigued eyebrow shooting upwards in a gesture that was either mockingly trite or mischievously amused. I couldn't quite tell really.

Truth be told, I had no idea if the drink I ordered existed.  I might have read about it in a novel or imagined this drink in my very overactive imagination.  Regardless, the freedom I was experiencing that day, and all the days that followed, was a freedom so heady that no fancy cocktail could match the intoxication that I felt in that year of life.  I barely took any sips of the strange looking murky concoction that arrived at our elegant french table.  I was simply thrilled to sit there, with supportive friends around me, and enjoy a freedom that I had not experienced before. 

Puro FairTrade Coffee Company samples

One drink, however, that became a habit for life on this trip...was coffee.  We ordered café lattes and café cremes one after the other that entire time in France.  Thus, a love for coffee was firmly established in France.  

I love coffee.  In Louisiana, there is the distinctively delicious roast enjoyed by locals, because of the addition of chicory root.  In France, I had been introduced to that dark roasted french coffee that is mixed with steamed whole milk... and I loved it.

So recently, when the fairtrade company, Puro Coffees contacted me to see if I would like to sample their blends, I was tickled and curious and said yes.

Their offer was quite timely.  Riley and I had been studying about the growing partnerships between large corporations and small regional producers around the world that are being called fairtrade agreements.  With my love of coffee and his learning about fairtrade partnerships in business, this taste testing experience was an opportunity to learn more about how businesses can do good things for our planet as well as small regional coffee bean producers. 

Puro is a leading brand of Fairtrade and Fair Trade Organic coffee that works in partnership with the World Land Trust to purchase and protect areas of precious rainforest in South Equador, Columbia, and Brazil.

Riley and I read about what it means to be a "fair trade" company.  We learned that the  Fairtrade Foundation has set the standard to help lift working conditions and improve the lives of millions of people that work in the coffee growing dependent communities in the developing world.  

Puro Brand coffee being sampled with
packages of french butter cookies brought back from Paris

Money from each bag of Puro coffee sold goes towards buying and protecting areas of rainforest vital for biodiversity in coffee producing countries.  They have a beautiful video that illustrates what they are all about.

Currently, the coffee beans are being purchased by a central company in Belgium.  The company, however, is looking to partner with countries around the world.  

I was surprised and disappointed to read that there is no distributor for the Puro brand yet for the United States.  When I inquired, I realized the  coffee beans can, however, be purchased through their online site

This past summer, I again enjoyed frequent cups of wonderful lattés and crèmes in France.  I remembered those initial tastes years ago and had no idea what a fun journey it would be to discover various types of coffees over the years.

Whereas I've given little thought to where and how coffee beans are grown, I now have another layer of learning to discover about these little beans.  What a terrific learning experience it was for Riley, as well as for myself, to interact with this company and understand how they operate.  

And how wonderful, as a parent, to possibly plant a seed for Riley to consider in his future.   Perhaps he may consider working for a business  someday that cares and  works to protect our planet at the same time as provide products we all want to enjoy...whether it be in a cozy Parisian café or the many coffee bars dotting our cities all over the U.S. 

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