Category Archives: France

Rambling into 2013: An update

I think I’ve always been a bit of an all-or-nothing type.  I’m melodramatic and a bit self-involved quite a lot of the time, much to the annoyance of anyone who loves me and many who don’t.  A knock-on effect of those tendencies happens to be that I give something a go and if it doesn’t work out, I let it go pretty easily.  I don’t give up, mind – I just shift.  My attention.  My effort.  My raison d’être.

When I was 15 I thought I might be a writer.  By 17 I was hoping to fall head-first into rockstardome.  At 18 I boarded a plane to Manila.  Said I to me, “Either animals, children, or music…that’s gotta be it.”  By the time I boarded the plane back to LA I was set upon working with kids.  Homeless kids, to be exact.  And I did – much more than I ever did poetry or rocking out.  But life has, in the past couple of years, led me in a number of different directions, and so I’ve found myself doing the things life has led me to do.  Most of those things haven’t involved homeless children…or children at all, really.

The last year has been an interesting one.  At the start of it, I was feeling rather zen about all of it, like things were sure to fall in place if I just kept my head about me and stayed focused.  I suppose things did fall into place, if by “things” I didn’t mean “money” and by “place” I didn’t mean “my bank account.”

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Second time’s a charm: Compote 101

Wintertime in (this part of) rural France is marked by many things:  coats and gloves, but more importantly scarves; apéros in more often than nights out; alternating wind and rain and snow; and food…lots of food.  France is a foodie country…I know – lots of countries can make that claim, but a few are just a little more so than others.  Ethiopia, Italy, China, Morocco, Mexico…these are countries known for their food.  France is right up there.

As a vegan there are, of course, all sorts of French nibbles in which I happily do not partake.  But there are two staples in near enough everybody’s fridge and freezer I could eat year-round if they’d let me: soupe and compote.  Now I realize that I could have spelled soup without an “e” and left the italics off it, but la soupe of which I speak is not something eaten by the average anybody-else, and it is eaten with a nearly religious reverence – it’s not quite borscht (borsch?), but almost.  Incidentally, there are those here who fervently hate la soupe.  Chris is one of them.

But la soupe is for another post.  Chris is coming back tomorrow.  And he does not hate la compote.  In fact, he’s usually (read: always) the one to make it.  I tried once.  It was going to be wonderful.  The apples were soft, but I was off to lunch at the in-laws.  I turned off the stove – swear I did – and came back a couple hours later to find the flat filled with smoke, my compote, and my – ahem – our Le Creuset pot ruined.  A scary, bad afternoon, that was.  But apples were 1€/kilo at the market last weekend, so I thought I’d give it another go.

This isn’t, ladies and gentlemen, your ordinary ol’ apple sauce – non!  Because you make it at home.  Because it’s hot before it’s cold.  Because you literally put sugar and spice into the pot.  This is compote.  I had no idea what I was doing in terms of quantities or timing, but it turned out perfect.  Which leads me to believe it might be pretty hard to mess it up.

Makes 2 big mason jars’ worth.

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It ain’t all fun & games in the partie profonde*

I was an infant when my mom started taking me into the water.  I don’t remember ever not being able to swim, although it was sort of a freestyle doggy-paddle rather than anything proper.  My grandfather tried to sort me out one day in the summer, but alas, my swimming experiences in this life since that day have been almost exclusively recreational, so I never really mastered the coordination of it allFace in the water breathing out through the nose for one-two-three strokes, kicking legs almost-straight, toes pointed, arms digging, thumbs first, then face up to the side – inhale, face back in the water, breathing out…

We didn’t have a pool when I was little, and by the time we moved to a complex that did, all anybody my age was doing was sitting in the jacuzzi and occasionally diving into the deep end when nobody was looking.  In the summer, my friends and I would wake up early and board the bus before 7 to get to Huntington Beach as early as possible.  We’d snooze in the sand and talk trash to each other for the first twenty minutes or so, willing the water to warm up under the California sun.  I learned to dive into, jump over, and even catch waves with grace, and I could swim out so far my friends on the shore were indistinguishable from the other beach bums dotting the white sand.  But this wasn’t proper swimming.  It was playing.  I could swim, but I couldn’t really swim.

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London Musings Vol. II: If you’re S.A.D. and you know it, get up off your bum and get outdoors.

The weather in London has been, frankly, lovely.  In fact, I’m certain that anybody who lives here would stick their tongues out at us, since the past summer was by all accounts beyond tragic.  Still, in spite of the fact that the sun has made at least a fleeting appearance on virtually every day since we arrived, there are only too many reminders that summer is making its way steadily toward the exit, sheepishly in these parts, perhaps all too aware of its less-than-impressive performance this year.

I love the sun.  Lovelovelove it.  I think I knew I had Seasonal Affective Disorder before the seasons ever had the chance to affect me in a negative way.  Barefoot has always been my fashion statement.  I never feel more radiant than when my hair is streaked with blonde and my shoulders are peeling just a little from forgetting to put on sunscreen a couple of days ago (I’m getting better).  When the days are longer and hotter, I feel solidly more optimistic about all of it.  Future, present and past just all seem more the way they should when one can go outdoors after dark in nothing more than flipflops, shorts and a tanktop.

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Cause vs. Reason

I’ve been thinking a lot about that famous poem by William Carlos Williams, “The Red Wheelbarrow“.  It keeps popping up…and I find that it intoxicates me for reasons I can’t explain.

Words are like that.  They can be magically and musically inexplicable, for all their ostensible explicability.  I’m reminded of Bill Borroughs’ cut-up novels…the way that Kerouac chose the words in his novels for their be-bop readability…the way that Shakespeare would rather make a word up than let insufficient syllabic content muss up his perfect iambic pentameter.

I’ve recently been forced, by way of my efforts to secure a slightly more dependable paycheck, to undergo a bit of intense personal reflection.  It started like this:  I received a convocation from the French Office of Immigration and Integration (OFII) informing me that I would need to attend a one-day information session on la vie française.  

Lunch would be provided.

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A contradiction, sort of…

Remember that time when I was all like, “Yeah – you have to give to get, the more you put out the more you bring in, blah-freaking-blah-blah”? OK – most of the time, that’s true.  But I think I’ve found my first exception.

Last weekend I had to attend an obligatory course on la vie en France – a full day learning about how the health system works, buying or renting a home, getting French citizenship, and getting a job.  That last bit was particularly interesting.  I learned that if a person has a degree, or a whole bunch of paid or voluntary experience in a particular field, France will often honor that background by giving said person a French equivalent degree or qualification, thereby making it much easier for employers to find an immigrant appropriately qualified for a post.

Excellent, I thought.  Sign me up!

So I made an appointment with the lady who handles that for our region.  At first I thought Chris would definitely need to go with me, but after speaking with her over the phone, I decided I could hack it alone…she was nice, spoke slowly, and obviously was accustomed to dealing with foreigners like yours truly, so we’d be OK.

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