Saturday, October 29, 2011

Failure, Fafi, and Food

Bon soir de la commencement du Pont de la Toussant, mes amis!  Good evening to the commencement of the Bridge of All Saints, my friends! 

I just happened to visit the East Cemetery yesterday, highlighting this time of year.

This week has flown by so fast!  There have been plenty of things that have happened that I need to recap.
First of all, I have to note that as much as I'm loving France right now, I'm kinda put out at the fact that I can't dress up for Halloween, my favorite holiday.  Nor can I see all of the obnoxious decorations my dad puts up every year for Trick-or-Treat.  Nor can I try to steer clear of the millions of pounds of Halloween candy in the grocery aisles (not without glancing towards the Mounds, Twix, and Midnight Milky Way Snack-size bags).  Nor can I carve pumpkins.  I'm starting to get a complex, and I'm afraid that my host family's spaghetti squash might meet an untimely death with a bread knife before all is said and done.  Le sigh.

Other than my lack of "what are you gonna dress up for" questions in school, we’re currently focusing more on discerning between the use of the French Imperative and the Passé Composé.  Anyone who has anything to do with French will tell you that this is one of the most important things to know, and for people like me, one of the most difficult.  You would think that someone who uses the English language every day, I could determine if something is happening in the past in the Imperative sense, like say, describing a day that was in the past as being beautiful (Il faisait beau), and something that happened in the Passé Composé once, such as when I fell down the stairs (in my red boots) on the first day of class (Je suis tombeé dans les escaliers pendant le premier jour des cours).
I have to admit, the difference between the two is harder for others than me, bien sûr, but the feeling I got on my first day of learning the Imperative, wayyy back in my French classes at UNC-Asheville, constantly repeats itself in some of my other classes, such as Grammar.  You know the feeling: you’re drifting along, feeling like a champ at the French language (or anything else you’ve had to learn over a long stretch of time), and all of a sudden, the teacher introduces something you have NEVER seen before.  Where did that word come from????  Why would you say it in this context???   The next thing you know, you get that feeling.  Your stomach turns inside out, you pray that you can figure this out, because if you fail at this, there’s no way you can continue to speak another language without feeling like a total doofus.  Or hear another language without feeling like a total doofus, like I do in my Oral Comprehension class.  

Also, in my case, your ears turn beet red.  Beet. Red.

Nevertheless, the good news is that my professors here are super-nice, and are waiting to help everyone and anyone with homework, questions, or even with good subjects to cover with other French people.  Such as the goings-on regarding France’s presidential race for next year’s elections, where the Socialist (not a taboo word in France, it just means “the left”) candidate François Hollande just won the spot against Martine Aubry in a debate this previous week.  Or responses to the opinion that Time magazine stated in 2007 that France has lost its appeal to the world, and should embrace its multiethnic roots in order to survive.  Although I agree with this statement, and feel that by integrating French minorities more to improve the diversity and eclectic cultural influences in art, food, etc., I disagree that France is completely devoid of cultural invention right now.  Take, for example, the works of Jean-Pierre Jeunet, who directed “Amelié” (aka Le Fabuleux Destin d'Amélie Poulain), and the songs composed by Yann Tiersen, who also composed the Amelié soundtrack,

Or the musical talent of the Plasticines and the Hellboys, who unfortunately lost their lead singer, Nikola, recently:

Or the club sensation David Guetta, who just came out with the song "Without You", which is being played on all of the French radio stations: 

Or the awesomeness of artists like Fafi, who hails from Paris:
I don't know what kind of animal that is, but I WANT IT!

On another note, speaking of beets, I have to say, I envy the French for how cheap it is to find fresh fruits and veggies.  I mean, you can get four pounds of apples for the USD equivalent of $2.83 right now?  You can buy fresh figs, plums, pineapples, lettuce, anything you can think of for super-cheap, too, and you can buy beets here fresh, not just canned.
I know that my excitement for beets may seem silly, but you haven’t had French beets.  They are amazing.
Not to be confused with The Beets from the Nickelodeon show "Doug".  Although I love them, too.

More importantly, I am truly blessed to be living with amazing cooks here in France.  As I have mentioned before, I live with a host family, like most of my classmates.  However, most of my classmates are around the 18-22-year-old mark, which makes this a special circumstance in my case, because for the past 10 years, I haven’t been used to having my dinners made for me by a set of “parents”.   À
Don’t get me wrong, I love my Mom’s cooking, like her specialty dessert “Mountain Mamma Mudslide”, and her awesome meatloaf.  (I actually hope she sees that I wrote this, and that I could possibly have these waiting for me when I fly back to Ohio before heading back down South before Spring semester starts!)
But that’s just the thing, I only see my Mom so many times a year, and right now, I’m staying with these folks until January, and they are baller cooks.  For example, Marie-Anne single-handedly changed my view of not liking to eat anything “with bones or a face,” a motto of mine since a horrendous incident in the Amazon Rainforest 10 years ago with a trout. 
I don’t want to talk about it.
ANYway, that was just one of many awesome dishes she has made for me here.  We had quiche last night, which was my first experience with homemade quiche, not the stuff you get from the freezer aisle.  I’ve also had duck with potatoes, apple tarts, and one time, Jean, the husband, made this:
(Pot-au-feu from Heaven, people!)

Oh, and did I mention figues en flambé with Cointreau, which is made not far from here? 

France is awesome.

For the long weekend, some of my friends went to different places, including Marseille, Bordeaux, and one friend is even sleeping in a barn in Switzerland.  Unlike most of my friends and other students, I decided to stay here to rest up.  I also and borrowed a bike for the weekend from a friend who is crashing in Germany until Wednesday, and hope to ride it a bunch this weekend. 
I am pretty clumsy on it, especially considering it’s a bike used for real transportation and errand-running, not just leisure, and it’s the first time I’ve rode a bike in, oh, about 15 years.  As I’ve mentioned before, I need to keep my body in check, especially with such good food not only for dinner, but everywhere.  There are patisseries and boulangeries all over the place, and there’s nothing I love more than a nice cup of espresso with a pastry or a piece of baguette (as you’ve surely noticed if you’ve read any of my other blog posts). 
Luckily for me, along with walking all over the place, which is the general consensus for all French people, bike riding is serious business, and although all of my biking experience for the past couple of years has been on an exercise bike, I need to keep moving for exercise and general stress relief.
At the mention of having a bike for the weekend, my host family proposed that we go on a bike-riding excursion this weekend.  We had recently driven around the ancient village of Bouchemaine, overlooking the Maine River, where we crossed the Pont de Pruniers, a bridge that was a gift from the U.S. for use during WWII.  We also saw a monument honoring hundreds of those who, literally, were pushed off a cliff overlooking the Loire Valley for going against the Monarchy during the French Revolution.  It was eerily peaceful there, and made me respect the value of human life even more.  On a more mirthful note, I also discovered during this time, while visiting a greenhouse, that my host family’s relatives discovered and patented, of all things, a special kind of cabbage.  Yep, apparently cabbage is trademark-worthy.
Today, my host family and I went on our velos to the neighboring towns of Trélaze and Saumur, winding our way through 15.5 miles of roads and old slate mines.

(Reminiscent of watching Germinal in Mme. Malicote’s French lit class, based on Emile Zola’s novel, but, you know, less death and politics and stuff.)

My famille d'acceuil with our bikes, using a ferry you use by pulling a chain that goes through the floor and is connected to either river bank

It even rained during our trek, but I didn’t care.  I was riding a bike in France, and I was happy.

No comments:

Post a Comment