Wednesday, February 28, 2007

That's just plain mean

Why would anyone mess with perfection? And don't go telling me that perfection is relative or personal or whatever. Some things are perfect and there's no denying it.

Take the escargot au chocolat that could be bought at Jacques and Véronique Duguet's bakery in downtown Laval, across the street from the cathedral. It was not a piece of chocolate, but a pastry. Croissant dough formed into a snail shape, like a pain aux raisins, but with dark chocolate morsels instead of raisins. And a light, faint caress of pastry cream the chocolate clung to. So wonderful.

When we first moved to Laval, we lived a block away from that bakery. I've never been a baguette-a-day kind of girl, preferring rye or sourdough or spelt varieties, and even those not every day. But I quickly became a chocolate snail every day kind of girl. Until I realized my metabolism couldn't keep up. So I cut down to once a week, on sunday morning. My special sunday treat.

Well, Jacques and Véronique got tired of their situation. A baker's hours are, to be fair, difficult. The bakery opened at 7:00 every morning except wednesdays, but Jacques started work at 3 and Véronique not much later.

So they sold their bakery to M et Mme Moise-Derval, who have a pastry shop on the other side of town. That's life, right?

Well, it would be if they had not changed the chocolate snail.

They have replaced the croissant dough with pain au lait dough (which is a bit like brioche dough but denser). Which has RUINED the snail.

I have nothing against pain au lait. It's good for some things. Spreading with jam or nutella or caramel. It does not, however, have a place in a chocolate snail.

The strange thing is, I've been to their pastry shop across town. It's quite good. Their chocolates are excellent, made only with cacao butter (no soy lecthicin or other such nastiness that doesn't belong in chocolate), they make excellent cakes and pies, and they sell the only ciabatta to be had in Laval.

So I cannot even imagine what possessed them to change the chocolate snail. If they wanted to differentiate themselves, they could've found a much more positive way to do it.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Someone else's secret plans and clever tricks

I've seen 5 rainbows in the past 4 days.

I'll let you draw your own conclusions about the weather we've been having.

After the second one, I started making deals with the Universe.

Along the lines of...

If I see another rainbow today, I'll stop X-ing. (Fill in X with bad bad habit involving cuticles.)

If I see a fourth rainbow, I'll start Y-ing. (Fill in Y with a good habit. Like yoga.)

I stopped after the fifth, as I had begun to suspect that St. Anthony and the weather were working on a joint project to improve me.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Secret plans and clever tricks

I've been conducting experiments. Mostly of the linguistic variety but occasionally other varieties as well.

When I moved to France and was shocked and dismayed to discover the nearly national (the east of France being excluded) dislike of cinnamon, I couldn't help but wonder, was it nature or nurture? If Generation A doesn't like it, having never been exposed to it, they probably aren't going to introduce it to their offspring, Generation B. And so on.

I don't know any French people who like cinnamon. None. I'm sure there are a few out there, but they're rare. At least in my neck of the bois. You will be hard pressed to find any baked goods here with cinnamon in them, including ginger bread. Not that I'm complaining about the baked goods. They're excellent.

But I do like cinnamon. I like it in my gingerbread. I like it on in my apple tart. I like it in my carrot cake. I like it in my coffee cake. I like it in my fruit crisps.

Sometimes I make things with cinnamon when we have people over. They almost never like it. These are open-minded people. Could it be genetic? Have the French been short-changed at the cinnamon-liking-gene market?

My children, being half-French and raised in this cinnamon-disliking nation, have been excellent participants in my evil culinary plotting.

They love cinnamon.

You can all take a deep breath now, the suspense is over. It's been proven, it's nurture, not nature, that determines one's propensity to like cinnamon.

Peanut butter too.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Further proof of my Americanism

I ordered Pride and Prejudice (the most recent version) on DVD from last week. And I received it on Friday.

Husband and I rented it when it came out on video in France. And of course I loved it. I've read that book a gazillion times and I love any attempts at adapting it. Anyway. I watched it a couple of times (4) this weekend. And I noticed in the bonus was included an 'alternate US ending.' Huh?

It's true, the first time I watched it, I was a little put off by the abrupt ending. It was what I consider to be a totally Frenchified ending. Meaning there is no ending. The film justs ends but doesn't have an ending. And now I know why I felt that way. It's because I'm American.

When I watched the US ending, I felt much better. Much more satisfied. They kiss. I've spent decades of my life waiting to see that kiss. I've seen that kiss a gazillion times in my head.

In further Pride and Prejudice news, after watching in on Friday, I took a short nap. I woke up to answer the phone, but missed the call. I listened to the message. It was S, a British friend. I swear, when he started to speak I honestly thought, "Mr. Darcy has called me." I think I was still a little bit asleep.

I actually consider Pride and Prejudice, in any form, to be like porn for girls. It's totally addictive and we need hits of it regularly. It does something to my brain.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

I'll post for real tomorrow

Due to technical difficulties of the compter variety and mechanical difficulties of the bad-encounter-with-a-vegetable-mandoline variety (sliced off a chunck of my finger) and catching up with laundry difficulties (Boy1 took over vomit duty for four days), I am currently unable to blog with any efficiency.

Oh, yeah, and it's school vacation. Again.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Bitch, bitch, bitch

Boy2 has had the stomach flu, otherwise known as laundry hell, for 4 days. He woke me up 5, that's right, 5 times, last night to cry, vomit, whine or some combo of all three. He's pitiful and I'm exhausted.

Our landlord, and I use that name loosely, finally agreed to pay a professional to paint the shutters and windows. He's professional alright. A nice and very professional mess maker. There's a centimeter of dust EVERYWHERE in my house. Because he had to scrape 20 years of old paint off the windows. So actually, I probably have a centimeter of leaded dust EVERYWHERE in my house. And the smell of paint is so strong in the office I can only spend four minutes on the computer before I start to get dizzy.

I have two friends who live far away who are having a hard time right now. And there's not much I can do about it. Sucks too, because they're both so kind and generous and compassionate and funny and smart and they don't even know how much they are admired and loved by their friends. I'm sure of it. Somewhere along the line they got into the habit of not seeing their value and apparently the people who live close to them aren't saying often enough or clearly enough, "You're so cool. I love you."

Actually, good things about great people are probably not said enough. Beth, Julie, Beth, Kim, Alecia, Wendy, Geraldine, Adrienne, Maria, Lorraine, Jenny, Meg, Tanya, Amy, Audrey, Shelly (gosh, if I left someone out I'm going to feel like crap) - you are all amazing women and I feel priviledged to have had you in my life. For some of you, it's been a while, but believe me, you left a beautiful imprint on my life. Never forget how valuable you are.

Our trip home this summer is looking less and less likely to happen. I haven't been home in 4 years and that's just too long.

Ok, I'll stop bitching now. I have to anyway, I'm starting to get dizzy...

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Ode to Jeanne

Husband's paternal grandmother died last week. We went to Nantes this weekend for the funeral and meal-type activities that follow.

I met Mémé for the first time 10 years ago. She and Pépé were still living in the house they had bought when their kids were little. She was a strange mix of kind and sharp, deferential and opinionated, stingy and generous. Whenever we went for a visit, I never left empty handed. Her gifts ranged from panty hose (Pépé had worked for years at the Dim factory) to pears off the tree in her yard. But she never remembered anyone's birthday other than her husband's and she liked it that way.

Pépé died in 1999 and she really was never the same. She was one of those women whose entire existence revolved around her husband's. She didn't have friends to count on or former work colleagues she could talk to, having never invested in relationships with either. She couldn't balance a checkbook or drive a car. She was lost without Pépé and you could see it on her face.

She moved into a retirement home near Husband's parents a few years ago. She hated it. Hated the people, hated the neighborhood, hated the food and hated the change; everything was a reminder of what she had lost. Her greatest desire was to die and once again be with Pépé. There was never a doubt in her mind as to certainty of their reunion, it was only a question of when.

She was a tough old bird, she said so herself.

I hope she has found peace in the arms of her love.

Friday, February 02, 2007

I'm living in a frat house

I took the boys to get their hair cut yesterday afternoon. When we got back to the house, I told them to go upstairs for a shower (to get all the little hairs off).

When I walked into the bathroom, Boy1 was trying to make fart noises with his arm (the hand in the armpit thing) and Boy2 was peeing in the empty bathtub.

During dinner, I actually had to say, "It's not ok to touch your private parts at the table."

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Someone push my off button

Have you ever had one of those experiences where you're floating above your body, watching and listening to yourself, powerless to keep yourself from doing or saying that thing that's about to make you cringe? Let me illustrate.

I was at a PTA meeting at the Boys' Catholic school. Very nice people, very relaxed meeting where we had been discussing the set up and profits of the Christmas market. We were drinking tea and eating galette des rois. Bascially the meeting was over and we were just chatting. Yeah, that makes it less cringesque.

One of the members is pregnant (with her 5th [!] child). Someone asked her is she was planning to breastfeed. Someone asked me if I had breastfed mine. When I told them I weaned the boys at 2 1/2, I got an evitable, "2 1/2 years? Oh my gosh that's so long. What about their teeth?" This is the standard comment amongst populations where breasfeeding typically stops at 3 or 6 months, tops. Which is fine. People have always been respectful of my choices here, including where, when and how long I nursed. Anyway.

So I responded with my standard, "No, teeth aren't a problem. They can nurse without hurting you with their teeth. And they know that." Really? But still, blah blah blah. A lot of moms have a thing about the teeth thing. So finally, exasperated, I said, "You know, it's like with a straw, you don't have to put your teeth on the straw when you use one." Yeah, but still the teeth thing. Just couldn't let it go. So finally, REALLY exasperated, I said, "Oh come on, I can think of at least 2 fairly mainstream sexual acts that involve sucking things without the use of teeth."

At least the pregnant mom laughed.

I don't think they're going to include that in the meeting report.