Saturday, August 8, 2009

France Top 10

Okay, so I feel like I've been giving France a hard time, so in an
effort of positive thinking, I'm go to do a top ten reasons why
France is okay and I promise no more than half will be food.

1. Proper respect for rhubarb: So rhubarb is one of my favorite foods.
I like it in any baked good, jelly, etc. However, not only can you
only seem it get in Spring, but it is rarely featured as a dessert
choice even when in season, with the two notable exceptions of Crane's
in Michigan and Acme in Carrboro. The few jellies you can find are
always strawberry rhubarb, which is always really just strawberry
jellies with so little rhubarb you can't even taste it. It is not
rhubarb season in France, but it's on the menu and you can buy plain
rhubarb jellies and compotes without any strawberries. I'm considering
leaving clothes, so I can use the weight to take back rhubarb.

2. The weather: after being in Spain, where the temperature was often
in the 90s or 100s with no rain in sight, France is usually in the
high 70s during the day and cools to probably low 60s at night. That
is what I call a pleasant summer.

3. The grandeur of their department stores: I'm not just talking
about the scale of them, which is impressive in it's own right. French
department stores are like having a Nordstrom, Barnes and Noble,
Michael's, Crate and Barrel, Toys 'R Us, Sephora, and Southern Season
all under one roof with a couple of cafes thrown in for good measure.
Now imagine the while thing set inside a really fancy 5 star hotel and
you can see why I was content to just stare at everything for hours.

4. Coulommiers: the first time I had Brie, I was convinced I would
never find a better cheese. I was wrong. Coulommiers looks just like
Brie and has the same texture but an even better flavor. We are
currently on our third wheel of it since arriving in France.

5. The unlimited movie card: So French people, Parisians in
particular, love going to the movies be them French, American, Indian,
Korean. etc. movies. There are over 300 different movies playing at
any one time in Paris. The best part is that that you can can pay 20€
(the price of two movies) a month to see as many movies you want
whenever you want. For 35€ a month you can take someone with you each
time, and it doesn't have to be the same person. Sadly, this program
requires a year commitment, so we were not able to take advantage of
it. However, I definitely think we should have this in the States.

6. Our daily bread: Not only does it remind you of several Bible
Stories, getting our bread everyday has grown on me. There is a
certain charm to walking home every day with a Euro's worth of crusty
baguette after exchanging friendly bonjour's with our village baker.
The bread is good enough to inspire me to eat toast for breakfast
every morning, something I never do at home. But come morning, the
leftover bread is stale and gross, so we have gotten better at
realizing how much we need for a day. It reminds me daily of manna, a
lesson about trusting God every day that has always been hard for me.

7. Chiming the hours: This year I was introduced to the spiritual
practice of praying the hours, something I actually wrote weekly
handouts about for our church during Lent and something similar at
Advent. There has always been something very weird to me about doing
my own handouts. So for all the prep, I have done very little
practicing myself. Our cottage here sits adjacent to a church built in
the 13th century. Some one still rings the church bells every hour
from 7am to 10pm. They get a little crazy at both 7s for some reason,
ringing the bell for almost a whole minute. It has reminded me several
times to pause a moment a reflect on higher things, and that when I
get back to be more disciplined about reading Phyllis Tickles'
wonderful books for I have enjoyed these pauses.

8. My Algerian friend: On one of the worst afternoons I had
experienced in France with creepy guys hitting on me, bad smells, and
bus mix-ups, I passed a delightful half hour talking to a complete
stranger. He spoke wonderful English and we talked about different
countries and cultures, our families (I got to see a picture of his
two month old son) and even schooling. While he turned out to be
Algerian, he spent many of his formative years here, and even went to
school at the Sorbonne, so I feel I can include him in my French
list. If he had not come along when he did, I think I would have
cried. For that, he will always be one of the favorite parts of our

9. Flan: Now I know this dish has been made famous in Spanish speaking
countries, in fact they sold it in pudding cup size in Spain. I have
to admit the French have improved upon it, though. They sell it in
every patisserie here, but in a tart crust and a slightly sweeter,
firmer texture. They also sometimes add fruit, chocolate, or coconut,
all with tasty results.

10. Vetheuil: We still can't pronounce it, and I am beginning to
suspect no one else can either for it has been said several different
ways to us. However you say it, it is quiet, beautiful, and friendly.
It has been wonderful to come home to each night after the craziness
in Paris. Like Albano in Italy and Nuevo Portil in Spain, I have
grown fond of our village.

Having said all of that, I'm ready to be home in Durham!

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