So much has been happening in my little corner of France that I am incredibly behind on blogging about it – I’ll take that as a good thing! I still haven’t written about Grant and Matt’s end to their trip, and I’ve just returned back to work after having spent a week with parents visiting me. There are lots of exciting updates, but for now, I’m going to tell you all about what has been happening in my little French life. How is work? How is food? How are the SNCF train strikes? Keep reading to find out. (I probably won’t talk about the SNCF train strikes though… thinking about it too much can probably lead to stomach ulcers.)
I have been cooking a lot lately. Almost a year ago, my French boy gave me a cookbook called “La Bible de la cuisine ch’ti et du Nord,” or, “The Bible of Northern and Ch’ti Cuisine.” Ch’ti is the French word used to describe people or other things (like food or dialects) native to the north of France. I have baked delicious breads, whipped up fabulous stews, and smelled the worst smelling cheese I’ve ever smelled in my life.
My two worst cooking experiences that I’ve had involved cheese and beer. How can these two ingredients go wrong?! It’s definitely possible. When I attempted to cook soupe de poulet à la bière, I accidentally read 1 liter of chicken stock as 1 chicken bouillon cube. My broth was beer and a chicken bouillon cube. It was disgusting. My roommate cooked it later and it turned out perfectly… reading directions correctly is key (especially the part where it said to add water)! A couple of week s ago I tried another recipe called Tarte ch’tiflette. It involved potatoes, endives, butter, salt & pepper, and a cheese called vieux-lille. Sounded easy enough (and cheap too – I love recipes with only 5 ingredients). I forgot that endives were not my favorite, but that wasn’t the worst thing about this recipe. I had no idea that opening a package of this deadly cheese would literally make me gag. I decided to carry on, put the concoction in the oven, and the next thing I knew, all of my roommates and I were frantically opening windows and closing the door to the kitchen so that we didn’t suffocate from the smell. How embarrassing. We all hesitantly tried it afterwards, and… I definitely didn’t keep the leftovers.
But otherwise, I have thoroughly enjoyed my experiences cooking northern French food. I love my ch’ti cake (a type of thick bread made with cheese and pork), my Flamiche was perfect (sauteed leeks with cheese inside two puff pastry sheets), the Martiflette I made was easy and yummy (potatoes, onions, bacon, and cheese all baked together), my moelleux au saumon have worked out each time even though I still can’t pronounce “moelleux” (savory salmon puffs with dill and gruyère), I’ve made my first French quiche paysanne (filled with potatoes, onions, bacon, and gouda), and I have discovered the perfect go-to soup recipe called soupe poireaux pommes de terre de maman (Mom’s potato leek soup, with leeks, potatoes, onions, and sausage all chopped into quarters and cooked with chicken stock and thyme). All of these things have been made in my tiny kitchen using my trusty stove/burner combo cooking machine.
My work life has finally picked up. I am now working all 12 hours that I should be working per week. All 12! I have also started tutoring a boy that is the son of one of the teachers at my school. His confidence has already grown in the past 3 weeks, and he even received a 17/20 on his oral quiz. The other day we worked on prepositions: on, in, in front of, behind, between, etc. We used their cat for an example as he strolled around. Where is the cat now? Under the table. And now? He’s on the table! (Jean picked him up and put him there.) I love working one-on-one with people, and this 11-year-old has a refreshing motivation that my high school students sometimes lack.
Two weeks ago I was offered a job at a local business in Douai called La Maison de l’Europe (the House of Europe) that offers language classes for adults. The assistant who was previously giving the lessons had to leave, and somehow they found me out of all the English assistants in Douai and asked me to fill her place. I gave my first class this week to 9 adults and it went quite well! There is a book that I have to work with, they are all friendly and interested, and I am paid!
At the end of February, I have yet another 2 weeks of glorious vacation time. I had initially thought of traveling to Madrid, or maybe Italy, but I stumbled upon a suggestion in our Facebook group for us “Assistants in France” for an English Immersion Program in Poland called Angloville. I decided to apply and was accepted! I will be a volunteer native English speaker and “spend 6 stimulating days with Polish business executives in a laid-back environment in the middle of Bug River National Park in Poland. All [I] have to do is come here, relax and converse in English with the Polish participants on a variety of interesting topics.” Before and after the program, I’ll spend a few days exploring Krakow by myself. Poland. Who would’ve thought I’d be going to Poland?! Not me, but man am I excited.
Bref, sometimes my little French life feels anything but little. And I like it that way.