La Rentrée

And we’re back.  Phew!  The worst part about all the vacations in France is the constant ‘rentree’ or begrudgingly going to back to reality.  I can always sense the day of the rentree.  Parisiens walk the streets grumbling with their heads held lower.  I can hear more crying babies in the distance.  The Paris sky is a little bit more grey than usual.  Chatter is instantly consumed with talk of  the next vacation.  And ‘watch your step’ refers rather to the deposits of naughty dogs than to Alpine ice.

But Spring is about to put all the grey days to rest!  The trees are on the verge of blooming.  And the 5 bank holidays in May will swiftly bring the summer vacation.  Oh, and there’s the two-week Easter vacation somewhere in between, too.

Les Vacances.

Bridget Bardot, my snow bunny inspiration.

The first weeks of March, all the French people I know flock to the French Alps for the obligatory February ski trip.  Luckily, I am a part of the majority this week; it’s a family tradition of my new in-laws.  Bonjour, French Alps!  Bonjour, Mother-in-Law!  We are in Meribel, a favorite ski station of Bridget Bardot.  Unfortunately, I do not ski or snowboard.  And I have not found a good snow sport compatible with my two left feet.  Any recommendations?  In the meantime, I’m trying out the snow bunny look and learning to eat 5-course meals gracefully.  More on that soon…

P.S.  Sorry I forgot my camera!  I will let Bardot do the talking.

Souvenir de Paris

As much as I am continually charmed by the life in France, some things lag behind. For example, to complete most bureaucratic tasks (banking, visas, health insurance), a secretary hands me a blank piece of paper to put my request in writing. Most secretaries have a desk piled-high with said requests. Hmm.

Peeling paint and spiderwebs are often a part of the decor.

Our old washing machine has been bust for months now. I’ve been begging my husband to ditch it. However, there is only one issue; it is also our only counter space. How I long for one of those stainless steel and granite American-style kitchens with a French-doored refrigerator and a freezer larger than a shoebox!

Finally, the other night I was brushing my teeth on my way to bed. Not only to find a worm on the bathroom floor. Of all the things that could come off the street and into our humble bathroom, a measly little worm is the least of our troubles. But it doesn’t mean I want to have my bare feet in the proximity of an unannounced worm.

Old world charm, first world woes.

Twee for Truffe

In France, instead of calling something cute, choux (or cabbage, respectively) is a term of endearment of choice.  Does this have anything to do with the unfortunate invention of the Cabbage Patch doll?
And mind you, baguette refers to not only to the staple of my ex-patriotic diet, but also to magic wands and chopsticks.
And dogs noses are affectionately given the name of truffe.  Or the 2000 euro/per kilo mushroom. What could be more precious? Shameless plug for my pending birthday present….darling, if you are reading this, a german short-haired pointer is much less expensive than a kilo of truffles!

Lentils Continued…

Yes, here is the recipe for lentils I promised you a few weeks back!  Oh, Lentils.  The mighty, high-protein, highly-economic standby food!  Like all simple foods in France, they get the VIP treatment.  Lentils are always dressed up with bits of foie gras or smoked salmon.  However, considering we just bought an apartment, they rest unadorned, but nonetheless delicious.

Sadly, my husband is opposed to spice.  He will find ways to eat around herbs.  As I heard so eloquently said recently (in David Lebovitz’s blog), Americans are into fireworks when eating.  However, the French prefer something truly simple and well-made. It goes to show that my own personal style is to throw a handful of cilantro on everything.  Needless to say, the following recipe is tasty whether you choose to dress it down for dinner for two, served with some baked potatoes and grilled sausages.  Or in my case, incorporate some chopped ginger, garam masala, creme fraiche and a handful of cilantro for lunch!

Compromise be gone!

Lentils for one and all (or 8 people)

1 ½ Cup Green Lentils, soaked for several hours or overnight

2 leeks, finely chopped

3 small onions, finely chopped

1 clove garlic

2 carrots, shredded

3 plum tomatoes, grated

1 tsp salt

½ tsp pepper

2 bay leaves

1 tsp. olive oil

6 cups water, more if needed

1.)  In a heavy-bottomed pot, sauté the leeks and onions over medium/low heat until soft and translucent.  Add bay leaves, carrots, garlic, pepper and tomato.  Cook until softened and lightly caramelized

2.)  Add the drained lentils and cover mixture with water

3.)  Cook for 30 minutes until the lentils are soft and stewy.  Add salt

4.)  Enjoy!