Sunday, June 29, 2008

Out of control

Today was the braderie in Laval. It's like a big sidewalk sale, shops bring out stuff they haven't been able to sell since 1994 and try to talk someone into thinking it's a bargin. I saw some clothes that, if you'd just buy them now and wait 20 years, would look fabulous as vintage pieces. But for now they just look very early 90's. Anyway, I didn't have the boys this morning so I was out on the streets looking for the rare find at 8:30. What I really wanted was clothes or shoes. What I was determined not to buy was kitchen equipment. What I ended up buying was kitchen equipment.

A pretty red ceramic fluted tart pan to replace the one I broke last week. Funny story. I was doing too many things at once. Boy1 was in the kitchen doing his homework so I was listening to him read. Boy2 and I were playing catch, he was in the hall that leads to the kitchen. I was making swedish meatballs (so fluffy!) and had just baked an apple and salted butter caramel tart. I took the tart out of the oven and put it on one of the gas burners. Which should've been off because I'd finished making the caramel 5 minutes before. But wasn't because when I took the caramel off the burner to add the butter and the cream, I forgot to turn it off. So, five minutes later I heard a crack and smelled burning and discovered I had ruined a beautiful tart and broken a tart pan.

A chocolate fondue set. Yes, I already have a full fondue set but it's way too big to use for chocolate unless I'm cooking for 8. This one is just perfect. It's red and has a little stainless steel candle holder thing and has matching picks. So I think all the chocolate bases have been covered.

For dessert tonight we had nectarines and pears and miniature butter cookies to dip into our all-spice chocolate fondue.

The only one in the house not happy about this purchase is the tablecloth.

Friday, June 27, 2008

What the....?

So, I was walking home from my favorite café a couple of days ago and this is what I saw.

First, a horse and buggy. Being driven (does one drive a horse and buggy?) down a small street a couple of blocks from mine by a very salt of the earth looking 70ish year old man. Not far from where I saw the nun coming out of the bar.

Two minutes later, a beautifully restored 68 VW Bettle, driven by a nun of indeterminate age. Like most nuns.

Two minutes later and now just a block from my house, a big black Hummer. Driven by a young, show-offy Italian (his look screamed Italy and his license plates confirmed it).

He bumped into 2 side view mirrors on his way down the street.

I'm not sure what any of that means, but I'm certain it's significant.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

What's in your database?

Yesterday I spent the day teaching English to some people who work for a large company in the north of the department. In a town I'd never been to, never even heard of actually. I got the information on the class about a week ago, over the phone, but just the basics, names of the participants, levels, what they wanted to work on and where the company is located.

But all week long I haven't been able to remember the name of that town. In your native language you have a whole ocean of possible names of places. Like if I told you my grandmothers lived in Raeford and Astoria or that one of Beth's grandmother's lived in Rockford, these names would sound perfectly reasonable to you, even if you'd never heard of them before.

But in a foreign language, there's nothing for names to hook on to. Nothing that sounds kind of similar or that you heard someone mention 15 years ago.

So I spent the week calling that town, Gorron, everything that starts with G and ends with N. Goulon, Goudon, Goudron, Gordon, Gobon. The third one means blacktop or tar, which would be an unfortunate name for a town.

Now that I've been to Gorron, population 3000, and seen (only the outside) its bright pink tatoo shop, I'll never make that mistake again.

Monday, June 23, 2008

My new toy

Is a whipper. Or a siphon or whatever you call it.

You know, one of these things. Because you can never have too much nice kitchen equipment.

So far, I've only used it to make eggless chocolate mousse (basically just whole cream, cocoa, melted chocolate and sugar) and strawberry yogurt cream (whole cream, whole plain yogurt [I used sheep], strawberry purée and sugar).

It's all very fluffy and sweet and pretty. The chocolate mousse tastes very good on coffee. And fruit. And my index finger when I go to the fridge 'supposedly' to get something else, like water. The strawberry cream tastes good on those things too, except for the coffee, although I think it probably would. I just haven't tried it there.

I can apparently also make fruit espumas and avocado mousses and foie gras foams. If I can get beyond the chocolate mousse stage. Which is looking doubtful at this point.

Between the chocolate sorbet and the ganache and now the mousse, chocolate has become something of a theme lately. Wonder what that means?

Crise de foi? Or crise de foie?

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

On things predictable

Prévisible. Predictable. Although I kind of like the French word better - things which can be pre-seen as opposed to pre-said.

I was sitting in the dining room looking out the window and I saw a very large truck driving down my street. You know, my street, my little one way street that has parking spots on both sides running along the sidewalk, my little street that a fool driving a Hummer would have a very hard time getting down, my little street that ends at another even littler street that runs perpendicular to mine and is cobblestone. And the truck? It was one of the those big huge trucks 18 wheels or something like that.

So as I watched the truck drive down I thought, "I should really go out there and tell him to back up now, he'll never make it around the obligatory corner at the end of the street." But it was morning and I was lazy and I thought he'd probably dismiss me with a "I know what I'm doing lady," kind of thing so I just stayed put. And waited. And as pre-seen, a few minutes later, I heard the beep-beep-beep announcing his return, tail end first.

Question for the day: what is the difference between pre-seen and pre-said?

Monday, June 16, 2008

In your eyes

Un oeil, des yeux, un regard, un coup d'oeil. An eye, eyes, a look, a glance. Do not ask me why the plural of eye looks nothing like the singular, I have no idea. Some linguistic quirk that, no doubt, took root in logic a long time ago but is so far from home that now it just looks quirky.

I witnessed an interesting conversation about those things recently. A group of people talking about reading people and reading their eyes and things to be seen there. Boy2, as we know, keeps good things in his. Boy1, I would say, has a whole world in his. That group of people said a few things about mine but I think they were drunk on the nice weather.

So here's the question for the day: when we look in your eyes, what do we see?

In mine? Blue-green and some yellow flecks. That's it.

Friday, June 13, 2008

La Maison

My home away from home. Seriously, when I go there I do feel like I'm at home. And at least half the people I see there I know and half of those I know because I met them there. And Laurent, the owner, is sweet and kind and gives me real hugs when I look like I need one. You know, because the French don't hug. They kiss. Can't have it all. Anyway, chances are, if I'm not at my house, I'm here.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

These days

I walk through the halls of my house and my life and nothing, really nothing, is how it was. Or even how I thought it would be. It's not bad, well, some of it is, but mostly it's just not what I expected. And some things, some of the really bad things, even as I stand in the very middle of them, resist me. Or I resist them. Whatever. Despite all the evidence, the things and I, we resist and we do not believe what we see.

There should be more words for things, in the generic sense.

Like in French.

Un truc, une chose, un machin, un j'en passe.

A thing, a thing, a thing, a thingy-thing...

Friday, June 06, 2008


I just got back from my favorite café. And on the walk home I saw a nun, dressed in full habit, cream colored, with the hair thing and the cream colored rosary dangling, walk out of the bar up the street. A star for the day for the person who comes up with the most creative and holy reason for her to be in the bar. My guess is she was having a cup of coffee or using the restroom but neither of those is creative or holy.

Just after the nun in the bar (sounds like the beginning of a bad joke) I heard a rooster doing his rooster thing. (Another beginning of another bad joke.) No, really, at 10:00 am in the city center of Laval, a few blocks from my house, I heard cock-a-doodle-do.

Know what French roosters say? Cocqorico.

I wonder how his neighbors feel about that.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Forget the bed, let's talk about the bathtub

I was talking with a friend the other day. A French friend. And we were talking about movies and then actors. And then commericals with actors in them. And then hot actors. And then sex with hot actors. That last sentence is going to get me some weird referrals from Google.

I mentioned, in reference to one or another hot actor that there was an expression in English from my youth (the 90's) that was appropriate - I wouldn't kick him/her out of bed. Friend laughed and said they had a similar one in French, Je ne le ferais pas dormir dans la baignoire. I wouldn't make him sleep in the bathtub. I like that.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

The bed and the nose

Does this count as a real post?

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Secret planning and clever tricking

I'm not one to battle with kids about food. Eat it, don't eat it, whatever. But my kitchen isn't a restaurant so there is only what I put on the table, no but-I-don't-like-green-beans-so-make-me-something-else allowed chez Nicole. But I have to draw the line sometimes, somewhere. So today I bought some fresh ravioli from the Italian deli and Boy2 tried and didn't like them. Which I can accept. His solution was to skip straight to the sliced pears with warm allspice and chocolate ganache that were waiting on the counter. My solution was to offer a ham sandwich first so he wouldn't go back to school hungry. No, no, no. He actually started to throw a fit-like thing. So he was banned from the kitchen until he could manage himself a little better.

He came back a few minutes later, ready, he told me, to eat every bite of his ham sandwich. He sat down and started. I went downstairs to deal with laundry. He called me a few minutes later: I ate all my sandwich, every bite, now can I have the rest of the pears? Yes, of course, I said. He ate them all and licked the bowl. I brought the boys back to school. I came back and started cleaning up the kitchen. As I moved the chairs back from the table to sweep the floor, there were major remnants of a ham sandwich under Boy2's.

Now, the thing you must know about Boy2, his name is Raphaël. And, as my mother pointed out once his character started to reveal itself, in the story about the Archangel he was named after, he doesn't reveal himself to be an angel until the very end.

And if you're wondering why I post less about Boy1, Gabriel, it's not because I love him less but because he has far fewer secret plans and clever tricks. And when he does, they show in his eyes in an instant.