Archive for the ‘France’ category

“I’m still thinking about that pizza…”

July 19, 2011

“I’m still thinking about that pizza…”

These words were said in French, but that’s what they meant. A couple of weeks earlier a friend and I had split a margherita pizza at a small joint in Sete, France (known for its famous poet Paul Valery, pink cliffs and water jousting competitions).

Sete, France

The pizza, which we ate with a fork and a knife, was very good, but were it not for my friend, the thought of it would have vanished from my mind within 24 hours. What’s the point of remembering a pizza when its purpose has long been served?

So when my friend made the comment about remembering the pizza two weeks later, I was caught off guard. What a different way of looking at life, I thought. Not just drawing  quick pleasure from everything, and forgetting it, but actually making the pleasurable experience live on.

I liked that– it made me feel special to be in his presence (even if the American idea of “you’re special” is not really part of French culture). If he remembered a particular pizza with fondness weeks later, he’d surely keep me in his mind for a while, right? Yes, I was comparing myself with a pizza.

Another statement he would make that sort of changed my paradigm was “C’est normal,” which is “It’s normal” in English. He would do me a favor like bring me a bouquet of handpicked flowers, help me completely rearrange my messy bookshelves, or surprise me with some homemade oreillettes, and I would enthusiastically voice my appreciation. To this he’d say “C’est normal.”

This struck me as funny because no one says this in English in this context (at least no one I know). You use the word normal to describe a heartbeat, a person’s upbringing, and a person’s psychological state of mind, but not to justify a romantic act.

As different as I thought it was, the expression sort of grew on me  It’s like people are so used to doing kind things for the ones they love that they don’t think they’re doing anything special.

My new Eiffel Tower bag

July 11, 2011

 

A birthday gift from my fiance's mom!

Mont Saint-Michel breakfast tray

June 22, 2011

My fiance just got me a breakfast tray for my b’day (I’ve wanted a breakfast tray for a long time). He ordered it from WardMaps on Massachusetts Avenue in Cambridge, and had them print a photo of Mont Saint-Michel on one side. Boy do I love it.

P.S. I visited Mont Saint-Michel (it’s in northern France) about nine years ago. I went there by myself and would really like to show it to my fiance/anyone else who’d like to come along.

What we can learn from the French

February 25, 2011

What we can learn from the French

It’s been seven years since I last lived in France, but I picked up on a lot while I was there. Plus, I’ve visited France a few times since 2004. I know you can’t clump everyone together and say they’re all one particular way. But you can point out things you noticed about many of the people you encountered.

  • The French know how to eat healthily.

This has been written about a lot (e.g. French Women Don’t Get Fat) so I’ll stick to what I observed personally. I noticed that French people (in general):

  • Don’t snack between meals (and when they snack they just have a cookie or a few pieces of chocolate)
  • Eat big lunches and relatively small dinners (That way, they have something to look forward to during the work day AND don’t go to bed on a full stomach.)
  • Have small breakfasts with coffee (Because they have big lunches, they don’t need a huge breakfast. And, coffee helps suppress your hunger).
  • Drink water with their meals (much healthier than soda, of course)
  • Eat lots of vegetables
  • Eat a wide variety of foods (For example, they don’t just eat chicken and beef. They eat chicken, beef, ham, pork, duck, rabbit, horse, fish, bull, boar, guinea fowl, oysters, mussels, shrimp, sea urchins, etc.).
  • Finish most meals with a dairy item (yogurt or cheese) and a piece of fruit
  • Take their time eating

I think all of these habits are good for you.

  • The French exercise less than we do.

But, because they eat healthily they don’t really need to exercise. I mean, their daily activities (walking, doing chores, etc.) are enough for them to get their daily dose of movement. Maybe we should follow their lead given this recent Wall Street Journal article.

  • The French take time to cook.

Obviously, this point relates to the first point I made. But I will expand on it a little here. Most of the French people I encountered just go out to eat for special occasions. The rest of the time they make their own meals. This allows them to control what goes into their bodies, save money, and go out to nicer places when they do go out. They also have a fair amount of dinner parties; those provide a great opportunity to see their friends and share their favorite recipes.

  • The French are polite.

OK, maybe this is a real stretch. And maybe their politeness often masks their true feelings. But frequently I observed French people saying (or doing) the right thing at the right time. Say your brother-in-law just died, for example. The next time they saw you they’d start off the interaction with a “Oh, I’m so sorry about your brother.” Or when they are invited to a dinner party they bring along a gift. While these might seem like obvious things to do, I’ve noticed this type of behavior isn’t always practiced here (and yes, I’m guilty of not being polite as well).

  • The French are experts in their fields.

In France, it’s really hard to get into a particular field when your degree is in something else. So, you’re forced to find a job in your area of expertise. While this certainly limits you choices, it helps ensure you’re good at your profession (or at least better at it than your average bear). Here, you might just get a sales job because you’re deemed friendly. But you don’t necessarily know the ins and outs of how to be an effective salesperson.

  • The French are into equality.

I’ll always remember this one particular experience I had while teaching English in France. I was in a fifth-grade classroom, quizzing the children on their knowledge of animal vocabulary. One of the students– Yoan (pronounced “Yo-on”)– was answering practically every question correctly. Each time I interrogated the pupils, his arm would shoot up in the air. Sometimes no one else would raise their hand, so I had to pick him. He’d get the answer right, and I’d congratulate him.

Well the class’s main teacher (a French woman) was not a fan of Yoan’s behavior. Whereas I viewed his ability and willingness to answer the questions as a positive thing, she viewed it as a horrible thing. She started screaming at him, saying it was not his place to answer so many questions. The others deserved a chance, she said, adding that he couldn’t participate any more. While most Americans would consider her reaction unfair or harsh (I think), it actually worked. Once he stopped raising his hand, the other students began participating in the exercise.

  • The French are fashionable.

They don’t necessarily have many clothes, but they know how to pick out items that fit them right. Sometimes this means spending more money on individual garments, but overall they might even spend less than your average American.

In a future post, I will write about what the French can learn from Americans.

Photo credit: www.flickr.com/photos/kalleboo/2036413105

Crazy things I’ve done

September 28, 2010
  • I had my mom drive me several hours through cold and ice to a summer camp reunion, only to get there and decide I didn’t want to go. She drove me right back home.
  • I didn’t get on a plane to France after realizing I didn’t want to go (yup, I lost out on hundreds of dollars).

A week after I didn't get on the plane

  • I quit my job as a journalist without another job lined up.
  • When I was 19 I hitched a ride in Washington D.C. with a random Israeli and Palestinian.
  • I dated people from three different continents in one weekend.

I met the guy from South America (Colombia to be specific) in Collioure, France the day this photo was taken.

  • While in France I played bridge with elderly French ladies on Friday nights.
  • I carelessly ran into the street as a car was coming, fell onto the ground, and just missed getting hit by the car.
  • When I was in France I went to see a movie once  a week with my 60-year-old friend Gerard.

Gerard and I before the start of "The Kid Stays in the Picture"

  • I gave a tear-filled speech about how I had become a born-again-Christian on the last day of evangelical Christian summer camp (when signing up I had thought it was just a photography camp). I hadn’t really been born again, but I felt that’s what they wanted me to say.
  • At middle school lunch my friends would pay me to eat weird things. I remember the mayonnaise-filled cookies made me throw up right at the table (gross, I know).

My friend Jeannie (on left) was one of the ones at that lunch table.

  • I covered a car crash after having had a little too much wine (in my defense I hadn’t known I’d have to cover this…it was breaking news).
  • When I was living in Cortland on Friday nights I’d play Texas hold ’em Poker with the motley crew of people in my apartment complex. They included the unemployed guy with epilepsy, the seven-year-old girl with behavioral issues, and the heavy woman with fibromialgia.
  • I went to a club with a couple of friends (including my friend Tia) all ready to see Daft Punk. Turns out it was just a DJ spinning Daft Punk music.

Me and Tia in Annapolis, Maryland

  • In college my roommates and I pretended we were Sailor Moon characters.

My roommates and I

  • In college my friends and I scared away one of our roommates by pretending we regularly communicated with the late Pedro Arrupe (the Jesuit our dorm was named after).
  • My roommates and I did not drink freshman year of college. Instead we went to the symphony.
  • I sold so much Cutco I made it to their big end-of-the summer conference. To fit in I told them I was interested in becoming a branch manager.

I sold Cutco right after high school graduation.

  • I got myself fired from a waitressing job after serving coffee cold and bleaching a load of blue towels white (they were used as napkins in the pub area).

These are just a few of the crazy things I’ve done. Some are tamer than others. And believe me there’s more where that came from!

Some funny French expressions

September 21, 2010

Because I don’t currently have much of an opportunity to use my French, I instead subject my boyfriend and various friends to the English versions of my French expressions. They sounds quite ridiculous, but that doesn’t bother me.

Here’s the first expression:

  • “I have the ants.”

When the French have a body party that’s asleep, they say “J’ai les fourmis,” or “I have the ants” in English. It sounds hilarious, but I can see why they’d say this. A body part that’s fallen asleep kind of also feels like it’s been invaded by ants. It’s like there’s a bunch of ants scurrying around inside of your body.

Here’s the next expression I anglicize:

  • “I am a poor pilgrim.”

When a French person is feeling like a loser, either after doing something stupid or befalling a negative circumstance, he or she says “Je suis un pauvre pélérin,” or “I am a poor pilgrim” in English. One time a Frenchman called me a poor pilgrim immediately after I had gotten caught in the pouring rain, broken my umbrella, and dropped my book into a muddy puddle.

I suppose this expression also makes sense. Pilgrims likely faced many obstacles on their way to the holy land, some of which probably made them feel pretty uncomfortable, frustrated, or hopeless. They were poor pilgrims!

The next expression is:

  • “He gave me a rabbit.”

When a man stands a girl up, the girl says “Il m’a posé un lapin,” or “He gave me a rabbit.” This one really doesn’t make sense to us English speakers, and I would reckon most French speakers don’t know the origin of the expression. I found several explanations, but this one made the most sense to me. It says that “rabbit” used to signify “the refusal to pay.” It was, for example, used to explain the act of traveling (say, by train) without paying. The expression was “voyager en lapin,” or “travel like a rabbit.”

I’m not sure why a rabbit reference was used for someone who didn’t pay, and not a reference to a bird, turtle or squirrel. Maybe because rabbits are especially sneaky.  But anyway, I guess the French then started saying “Il l’a posé un lapin,” or “He gave her a rabbit,” when a man didn’t end up paying a prostitute. Basically the man “gave her a refusal of payment.” The expression evolved over time, and now means someone didn’t respect a planned rendezvous.

Photo credit: www.flickr.com/photos/cplapied/1278788003

Zucchini fritters

May 10, 2010

I love fritters, especially vegetable fritters. I think that my love of fritters developed when I was a youngin attending the LaFayette Apple Festival in upstate New York. Those apple fritters were amazing!

When I was living in France I had the opportunity to try fritters made with various types of vegetables. I vividly remember a friend’s mother serving pumpkin fritters as an appetizer one Sunday lunch. Pumpkin was in season at the time, and she was all excited to serve this dish for the first time.

Recently, I craved zucchini fritters. So I made them. Here’s an easy recipe I found from the Easy French Food website:

You need:

  • 1 pound of zucchini (My two cents: feel free to substitute a vegetable of your choice)
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • oil for frying

Here’s what you do:

1. Shred the zucchini with a food processor (I use a handheld shredder because I don’t have a food processor).

2. Put the zucchini in a big mixing bowl.

3. Stir in the eggs, garlic, flour, salt and pepper and mix until blended. Don’t worry if the batter looks runny– it holds together once it is cooked in hot oil.

4. Heat half an inch of oil in a skillet.

5. Drop the batter by the tablespoon into the oil.

6. Cook the batter until it’s browned– three to four minutes per side.

7. Remove from the oil with a slotted spoon and drain on a paper towl.

This makes about 20 fritters. Serve them warm if possible.

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