Vocab Friday: A croissant in the oven.

Oh how I wish there really was an actual croissant in my new oven. Because that one up there? I ate it. And I could really use another one.

Why? Well, I can tell you it’s not my usual appetite for pastry at work here. There’s something far more serious going on. And franchement, I don’t know whether to be honored or alarmed that no one’s called me out on it yet.

I mean, have you read my blog lately? First of all, I was completely missing in action for the month of December. That’s because I was busy walking around in a nauseous stupor, contemplating whether or not I was eating enough Ritz crackers to get their corporate sponsorship.

Then New Years came and went without one single mention of champagne. Not one! And nobody thought to check and see if I still had a pulse?

And what about all the obsessive talk about eggs and chocolate pudding? Do I scare you enough with my normal eating habits that the news of me eating nothing but huevos rancheros and Jell-O wasn’t even a blip on the radar?

Sheesh. I guess I’m going to have to spell it out for you.

Je suis enceinte.

That’s ehhn-cehhhnt. As in preggo. Knocked up. With child. Scared out of my mind.

Ok that last one isn’t entirely true. Husband and I are actually really excited about this little alien growing in my belly. What I’m scared of is not being able to eat a good rare steak until, oh, August or so. And letting go of smelly, unpasteurized cheeses. And the champagne! Oh the champagne. It’s a travesty.

And while I’m overwhelmed by the miracle of life and the pregnancy glow and all that crap, what strikes me as truly momentous is the growing list of things this baby is going to owe me when s/he comes out. Oh, I’m keeping track. Right now we’re up to about 6 bottles of bubbly, 4 steak dinners, a big wheel of brie, one ski trip in the Alps, all of my muscle tone and 2 pants buttons. And most likely a boob lift.

I think that’s fair, don’t you?

 

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Vocab Friday: What the….

Meet my new oven. Well, “new” is probably not the most accurate term. Sure, it’s new to me. But it most definitely looks like it came from someone else’s apartment. Oh well. Beggars can’t be choosers, right?

Anyway, she was wheeled in this afternoon, as the old pièce de merde was unceremoniously wheeled out (sans sledgehammering). After she was hooked up, the repair men called me in to check it out. And because I’m living in Paris, with open access to pastries and champagne, the gods decided to even things out a bit by again making sure that my oven has pictograms where most logical people would just put a bake/broil/self clean dial:

Hmmm. Looks like light bulbs, snowflakes, meat logs, fish/croissants, pie, and some things I can’t decipher. Right. Luckily, this oven also comes with a handy pictogram translator on the front:

And thankfully there is a well marked temperature dial, so I can adjust to my temp of choice, after of course figuring out if I’m making gibier, gratin, or a pièce a la broche. Of course.

Just to make things extra special, the repair men then informed me that after setting the pictogram dial to meat log, it was imperative to also set the timer. Nothing would work without setting the timer. I gave them my most incredulous look. They both just shrugged.

On the way out, I thanked them and said in my best french that I’d call them later if my dinner turned out crappy. The older man smiled and said, “You can invite me over, but I’m not coming if the food is bad.”

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Let’s see what some of my pictograms mean, shall we?

1. gibier

Pronunciation: jee-bee-ay

Definition: Wild game, as in some animal you hunted and dragged home for dinner

2. gratin

Pronunciation: grah-tegn (with that really nasally “eh” sound at the end)

Definition: Anything with a broiled, cheesy topping, like a potato gratin (sooo, is gratin the broil setting? only time will tell.)

3. pièce a la broche

Pronunciation: pee-es ah la bro-sh

Definition: Meat on a skewer. Grilled kebabs. (No idea how my oven is even going to do that.)

 

Breaking news!

I’m getting a new oven! A brand new French oven, that will probably also have pictograms and drive me up a wall. But I’m holding out hope that things will be better this time. And that the people that come to take the old one away will let me push it out our 3rd story window.

Forget the New Year. Let’s talk about my oven.

I know it’s a new year, and we should all be moving forward — letting bygones be bygones, forgiving, forgetting, and all that jazz. And I really do want to move on, leaving all the grocery store hate and Sephora hate and french cable company hate behind. I want a year without hate, if you will.

But my god damn pièce de merde pictogram oven just won’t leave me alone.

See that smug look on its door? The mocking tone in its clockface? Just sitting there, refusing to let me cook food in any kind of logical, efficient manner? It makes my blood boil.

I thought we had reached a mutual peace, the god forsaken oven functioning in a fairly consistent manner if I promised not to get too adventurous with the pictogram settings. We had some good times together even, churning out molten caramel brownies and cinnamon rolls and some delicious roasted carrots. Things were good.

But the oven just couldn’t leave well enough alone. It had to get one last jab in before the New Year, just to spite me. So on Christmas morning, with a houseful of in-laws, one delicious egg casserole and a tray full of unbaked sticky buns waiting, my oven decided to give me the finger.

Not only did it refuse to let me change the temperature settings. Oh no. It decided to only function in broil/dangerous fireball mode, heating and heating and heating itself (from the top only) into oblivion as the digital thermometer said it was still preheating.

I discovered this at about 8am, after letting the thing preheat for a good 15 minutes. When I checked back, it said it was still preheating. That seemed odd, since smoke was seeping out of the oven door. So I opened it up to check and almost singed my eyebrows off.

The stand-alone backup thermometer assured me that my oven, supposedly “still preheating,” was in fact trying to kill me. The inside temp was about 260 degrees Celsius, which is about 500 Fahrenheit. In other words, a very clear “F-YOU!” from le four.

So after rousing Husband with a jolly string of profanities and threatening to take that mo fo out once and for all with a sledgehammer, I decided I couldn’t give up. That would be like letting the pictogram oven win, and lord knows I was not about to give it the pleasure.

Hence, egg casserole was transferred to a cocotte for stove top preparation. Sticky buns were broiled on both sides (not a method I would ever, ever recommend, but don’t you dare tell the oven). Christmas dinner went from beautiful roasted filet to filet chops fried on a grill pan. Broiled mushrooms took 3 minutes instead of 10.

So suck it, oven. I don’t need you anyway. We’ve put in a work order, and I hope some French maniac with a tool box comes to tear you apart, burner by burner, wire by excruciating wire.

You know, some time in the next month or so when they finally get around to it.

100 Funny Things.

This is officially my 100th post – Cue the fireworks and free bottles of champagne! Yaaaahoooooooweeeee!

(I’m totally ignoring the fact that this being only my 100th post in about a year means I really need to try harder to post more often. But who wants to rain on their own champagne infused parade? Let’s just consider it New Year’s Resolved.)

Looking back through all my anecdotes and diatribes has made me realize just how much we’ve all learned over the past year. You readers are so totally prepared for life in France now! You’ve got Paris covered, no sweat. Why? Because I’ve shared all there is to know about dog poo covered sidewalks and how to call someone a “nice beetch.” You know all about hoo-ha molds, danger bees, and of course, baby jesus in velvet pants. You have been well versed in the many merits of champagne and pain au raisins for breakfast. And the looming danger of butter brain.

And let’s not forget the informative pieces on pictogram ovens, boob vocabulary and most importantly, sharts.

There have been bike trips and toenail clippings, giant vats of chocolate mousse and master bites. There were lessons on pre-pubescent pickpockets and avoiding Sephora at all costs. I’ve given you the lowdown on castle dwelling in the Loire, excessive wine sipping in Bordeaux, and tan seeking on the Cote d’Azur. I’ve shared the critical details of proper Oktoberfest attire. And just for your sake, I’ve repeatedly tasted and reported on eating oysters, rabbit, rare steaks, pigs feet, kilos of pizza, duck fat fried anything, beignets, baguettes, croissants, pâté, fois gras, pork belly, and cheese. Lots and lots of runny, dead-body-smelling cheese.

After all that, I’d be shocked – SHOCKED! – if you felt you needed a real travel guide to France. Fodors and Lonely Planet? Pshaw. They’ll just recommend a bunch of touristy restaurants and point you straight toward hell on earth, otherwise known as the Louvre. Me? I’ll show you how to get nice and tipsy at the perfect picnic, then make an ass out of yourself trying to speak french to the locals.

So yes. You’re welcome.

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Update: I’m back, I’m no longer jet-lagged, and I’m ready to write. So we’ll return to our regularly scheduled programming starting next week!

Grocery store hate.

After nearly a year of living here, I have quickly learned that France is a place of many contradictions. It’s a land where stunning beauty nearly knocks your socks off at every corner, but also where dog poo threatens at every turn. Where one can fathomably subsist on cheese, pastries and wine and still not gain a pound. Where people will not hesitate for one second to mount a fierce strike or protest against even the smallest infringement, but only if it doesn’t interfere with les vacances.

But I’ve found these contradictions in national character to be no more prominent than in the grocery store aisles. Where else in the world can you find more than 200 kinds of cheese and 20 varieties of cream, but not one single can of beans? No beans, people! Not dried, not canned, not anywhere to be found. Only lentils. Man do these people love their lentils. But any other bean? N’existe pas.

Now, I can fully understand when I go in search of Worcestershire sauce or instant oatmeal or canned pumpkin and come up empty handed. Those are weird American things. But beans? Aren’t they an international magical fruit? It’s ludicrous. And it just further confirms my love/hate relationship with the supermarché.

You see, I try to shop at the open air markets as much as possible. They’re wonderful. Spectacular. A regular cornucopia of fresh goods. But it also means you have to speak French to lots of different people, explaining what you want, when you want to eat it, how you were thinking of cooking it. And you have to plan really well, because the markets are only open certain days, for certain hours.

Sometimes you just want the old isolating American shopping experience, where you don’t have to interact with anyone and you can go at whatever time you want (well, almost). Other times you just really need toilet paper and diet coke, so a trip to the grocery store is a necessary evil.

I say evil because the grocery stores (in Paris at least) all seem to give off a communist Russia vibe. They smell bad. They’re not particularly well stocked. The isles are cramped and full of old ladies who won’t hesitate to run over your toes to get the last jug of milk. They haven’t yet caught on to the idea that if you make the food look nicer, people will want to buy more of it. And in mine, if you want to buy toilet paper, you have to go up three floors from the food level, where it’s stashed in between children’s toys and office supplies.

Many an afternoon I stumble across the most perfect sounding recipe ever, only to find out that the MonoPrix is out of flour and cannellini beans are considered an exotic legume. It’s super frustrating, and further supports my theory that the French government is secretly giving everyone crappy ovens and smelly grocery stores to bolster the restaurant industry. Which, now that I think of it, is pretty brilliant. And totally fine by me.

The French oven strikes again.

This is what happens when you mistakenly set your stupid pictogram oven to Lightning Steaks and leave your gorgeous peach-blueberry cobbler in there for a few minutes before realizing your grave error.

Notice, however, that the charred top did not render this dish of brown sugar, biscuits and bubbly fruit inedible. I think something that good would have to actually be in flames to give me pause.