formats

Savory Summer Clafoutis

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If 12-year-old me knew that there would be some days when I wouldn’t even think about the fact that I was a loser in 6th grade, I don’t think she would know what to do with herself.

Let’s be clear, here, before I go down this road. 12-year-old me coped pretty well with the fact that she was kind of a loser. She didn’t feel like the kinds of losers you see in movies. She didn’t gasp and say, “My God! That’s me!” when she watched She’s All That or whatever other Freddie Prinze Jr. movie featured a loser girl at the time (there were many). She had a handful of friends she hung out with. She didn’t get invited to too many parties, but she wasn’t all that into parties. She felt pretty dumb at church basement dances, and she couldn’t figure out how to deal with her hair, and her uniform skirt was a bit too long to be cool, but she was a good writer, which she liked, and she was pretty good at pretending that everything was all right, and so she believed it.

There were only a handful of instances where 12-year-old me came face-to-face with the fact that for whatever reason, she wasn’t really winning the whole middle school game. A former best friend uninvited her to a party once. That happened right after we had done a project in social skills on how not to be a bully, and 12-year-old me, instead of getting too upset about it, tried to decide if it was bullying or not. (It was.)

12-year-old me let a sometimes friend tell her that the popular kids were talking about the way she dressed, which may have been true and may just have been the way that this sometimes friend decided to tell her that she didn’t really like the length of the pants that 12-year-old me was wearing at the time. It doesn’t really matter which one it was, because 12-year-old me still cared what people thought.

I distinctly remember thinking, maybe not at 12, but soon after, how great it must be not to care what people think. I might have read it or heard it or seen it in a movie, the people who say, “I don’t care what people think,” “I don’t care what people think of me.”

I didn’t realize that you have to put in effort not to care.

In high school, things got better. I started not caring what people thought right about at the same time that I met people who really cared about me and whose opinions I valued. The combination allowed me to forget that there was a time when I was always scared that people were talking about me, and, worse, the fact that if I was always scared, it was because it was sometimes true.

I’m 27 years old, so you’d think that these sorts of school-aged politics would barely cross my mind anymore. And that’s true, most of the time. I’m a pretty well-adjusted person, when all is said and done. I get along  with people for the most part, and I have a very small handful of close friends, which is the way I like it.

I’m not used to being on edge, to wondering if people are talking about me behind my back. I’ve mostly forgotten what that feels like.

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I’m one of the foreigners that people look at after a rant about foreigners in general and say, “But not you.” The reasons that they say that are multi-faceted. I’m white. I speak French. I come from America. I speak French. I have read classic 19th century literature, know who Astérix and Obélix are, enjoy listening to music by Jean-Jacques Goldman and nod along when people complain about social security, taxes and politics.

Did I mention that I speak French?

I come from a country built on immigration, and while I am fully aware that there are immigrant groups that are not fully integrated into American culture, it’s important to recognize that we don’t really ask people to integrate in the same way that the French do. We are proud of diversity. We are excited by difference. We want to know about your culture, and we will try to understand when you make English blunders. I’m reductive in my logic here, I know. I know that things are hard for immigrants in America as well. But I will say that if a French person with my level of English moved to America, people would find accents, trip ups and mistakes charming.

And if said person had a good enough level of English to be able to correct native English speakers’ writing, I think we’d call that a success.

Why am I telling this story?

Because I found out recently that I’ve been committing a major French gaffe, and worst of all, people have been noticing it and, instead of telling me about it, talking about it behind my back. Office politics are the same as school politics, but 27-year-old me does not have quite the happily oblivious nature and rhinoceros-thick skin that 12-year-old me had. When I found out that people were talking about me, I took it fairly badly. With poise on the outside, granted, but inside I was steaming.

Want to know what my gaffe was?

I don’t say bonjour enough.

And here I was, thinking that I was doing a pretty good job of integrating. I wrote my Masters thesis comparing French and American culture as expressed linguistically in literature. I can change up my language registers like a pro. I can condescendingly “Mais Madame,” with the best of them. Surely I was close enough to this topic to know how to do things right?

Nope. Wrong. I don’t always say bonjour; I am the office bitch.

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The friend who told me this tried to explain why bonjour was so important, but it’s hard to explain something so culturally ingrained. You have to step outside yourself, and that’s not an easy task. When I really think about it, really think about the values that are important in French culture, I think I can understand it… especially because it’s the topic of my thesis.

If you get really reductive about it, America was founded on the principles of freedom. Freedom to work. Freedom to speak. Freedom to thrive. If you build it, they will come. If you work hard enough, you can achieve anything. Freedom from the English became freedom to do what we want. Freedom to be American. Freedom to be.

France, on the same reductive principles, was founded on the value of equality. Equality between the tiers état and the aristocracy. Equality of opportunity. Equality of pay, of paid vacation, of rights, of privilege. Every citizen is a citizen. Everyone is the same.

My friend who tried to explain this to me balked when I, frustrated, said that bonjour doesn’t actually mean anything. That it’s a cultural word devoid of true meaning. Merci I can get behind. Pardon has a purpose. Excusez-moi is just plain polite. But bonjour? It doesn’t really mean anything.

No, he reasoned. It means that you recognize the other person.

Everyone is equal. Everyone deserves a bonjour.

I get it, now, I think. It doesn’t mean it comes easily to me. I’m used to telling visitors that when they walk into a store, they can’t just smile and say, “Excuse me, do you have this in a size 6?” That’s very rude in France. You have to preface it with bonjour. I’ve been proudly crowing this for years, only to realize that I’ve been committing an even bigger sin — not saying bonjour to my colleagues every single day.

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Oh Victor. I like to think of us reading together along the Seine and laughing jovially about your clever use of tutoiement and vouvoiement to evoke the changing balance in equality in Les Misérables… but the truth is that I probably would have committed some major gaffe and you would have silently hated me and told all of your friends that I was a bitch. And then Charles Baudelaire would have hated me too.

It’s probably good that I get to love Vick and Chuck from afar. Like, 200 years afar.

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I’m a big enough person to admit that I chose to live in a country, which means that I choose to live by its principles, norms and standards. (Doesn’t mean that more often than not I’d rather live in a hermit cave and meet up with my friends from Hermits United every 10 years or so…) I’ll apologize for my linguistic gaffe. Today, I said bonjour to everyone. I said it four times in a row when four people walked into the office slightly staggered but not close enough for a group bonjour.

But I won’t apologize for this. I took a classic French dessert and made it savory. I don’t know if that’s blasphemy, but I do know it’s delicious.

My kitchen, my rules. The autonomous dictatorship of Emily Thinks This Is Delicious-Land.

So there.

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Savory Tomato and Zucchini Clafoutis

1 zucchini
1 onion
1 pint cherry tomatoes
2 Tbsp. olive oil, separated
2/3 cup flour
2 eggs
1 cup milk
3 oz. feta, crumbled
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Dice the zucchini and thinly slice the onion. Place the cherry tomatoes in a glass baking dish and toss with one tablespoon of the oil. Bake while preparing the rest of the clafoutis.

Heat the other tablespoon of oil in a pan. Add the onion and zucchini, and sauté until the onion is soft and slightly browned and the zucchini has given off a good deal of its liquid, about 10-15 minutes.

Whisk the flour with a bit of salt and pepper. Whisk in the egg, then slowly add the milk, whisking all the time, until you have an even batter with no lumps. Season with salt and pepper.

Remove the baking dish from the oven and remove the tomatoes, leaving any juices they have given off in the pan. Add the zucchini and onion and then cover with the clafoutis batter. Top with the roasted tomatoes and the feta cheese.

Bake for about 20 minutes, or until the clafoutis puffs up. It will fall the moment you remove it from the fridge.

Eat warm or cold. Share it with your friends if you want, but don’t give a damn what they think about it, because it’s delicious.

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formats

Early Autumn Savory Fruit Salad

Published on September 26, 2014, by in Salad.

fig and goat cheese salad

It’s hard to have the same voice in two languages.

I’m not talking about timbre and tone, though I know my voice is pitched differently in French and in English. My father told me once — it’s higher or lower in English, but I don’t remember which.

But when I talk about voice, I mean it as a writer, as a person who relates to the world through words, whether written or spoken.

I do not write in French as I do in English; this bothers me less, except when it comes to the Country Boy, who doesn’t read my English the way others do. As a writer, that can be a strange thing to experience, having the person who knows you best unable to know your craft.

But what strikes me even more is the way in which I communicate in both languages, especially now that, after nearly eight years, most of my friends in France are French.

I find that nearly everyone I meet in France speaks a passable amount of English… except my close friends. I can count them on one hand, the people whose high, solid boundaries I have finally been able to break down, the people who, in a short time, have become so close that we call each other sister, that we share clothes and beds and secrets. I didn’t think I would find that now that I’ve left the comfort of dormitories, but it’s happened again. And yet of my close friends here, nearly no one speaks English. I speak to my best friends and my boyfriend in French; I write, I am moved to write, in English.

And I don’t feel like the same person.

It’s not a new problem; it’s one that’s been following me for years. I once assumed that it would dissipate as my French got stronger; maybe it would have if I weren’t a writer, if I weren’t still so drawn to my native tongue.

My friends are interested in my writing. They want to know what stories I tell. They want me to teach them words in English. They want to be part of my world.

I’m not looking for solutions… just asking questions.

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I’ve created two versions of this dish, one simpler than the others. Fresh black figs with olive oil, black pepper, basil and fresh goat’s cheese is hard to beat, unless there’s even more fresh fruit at your market stand. For the second version, the recipe’s at Organic Authority.

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formats

Feeling Good About 27

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I am feeling really good about 27.

I’m not too good at figuring out what my feelings are. I don’t have a lot of them — I mostly just have moods. Moods are not necessarily excellent when you’re being raised by my mother — of German extraction and not a huge fan of moods — but I have them all the same, even now, maybe more so now, than I did when I was a moody teenager. Maybe it’s because I don’t feel like a stereotype anymore. It’s just the way I am.

But ever since I turned 27 a bit over three months ago, I’ve been feeling really good about it, in a way that I haven’t felt all that great about most of my 20s… a large part of which has to do with the fact that I really, really enjoyed being 17. I don’t know if everyone feels this way about certain ages, but as one of those kids that people were always calling an “old soul,” I’ve never quite felt that the age I was was the age I should be. With a few exceptions.

I loved turning 7. Not only was it what we elementary school kids in the know called “my magic birthday,” (I was born on the 7th of the month), but I also had a fantastic party complete with a baker dressed up as Snow White teaching us to make frosting rosettes on the dining room table we otherwise never used and a “pin the apple on the wicked witch” drawn to perfection by my father.

And it wasn’t just the party. Being 7 felt right to me. There were 4 of us then, aged 1, 3, 5 and 7. I liked the evenness of it. (Aside: I have always been excellent at counting by twos. I aced those 2nd grade tests.)

But after turning 7, I didn’t really feel that way about another age. I liked being 10, because that’s double-digits, which everyone knows is awesome. I enjoyed turning 16, because I had a great group of friends, a fantastically obsessive crush on a boy, and an excellent summer to look forward to. But 17… 17 was kind of a magic number.

I guess the best way I can explain it is that I felt like myself at 17. Many of the things that, today, still feel like me were things that I started doing that year. I’ve always read a lot, but 17 was the year I started carrying a book everywhere — then in cargo pants, now in an oversize purse which, let’s be honest, is just a more socially acceptable version of said cargo pants. I started carrying a coffee thermos around with me everywhere. I started spending evenings wandering New York in the dark with my best friend.

What’s strange, looking back, is that I remember feeling very clearly at 17 that I wasn’t having the experience of the age that most people do. I didn’t drink or smoke or do drugs. I listened to ‘At 17′ by Janis Ian and felt very far removed from the lyrics. But still, I have felt slightly 17, in one way or another, since I turned 17.

Until this year, that is.

Is it because a decade has passed? Decades have meaning because of our numbers system, so I have a hard time believing that the number 10 could be so important to my way of identifying myself, but maybe it is. More than that though, I feel like maybe it’s the number 7. I was born on the 7th; maybe all of my 7 birthdays are magic birthdays.

Or maybe I’ve just found my way back to the things that were important to me at 17.

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Another thing that I really, really felt connected to at 17 was my Italian origins. 17 was the year I wrote two embarrassingly poor plays, one of which was a cheap, transparent adaptation of Goodfellas and the other of which was about a 17-year-old girl who finds out that her grandfather was a mafioso, which actually could have been good, except that I am and always have been a strict realist and refused to take my teacher’s advice to create some sort of drama, because I was convinced that even a mafioso wouldn’t start a full-out war on Christmas in front of his grandchildren.

Mafia references aside, my interest in my Italian background had me trying my hand at dozens of Italian specialties once I got my own kitchen, the following year. Eggplant parmegiana was one of them, though I never really got it right.

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This version isn’t exactly traditional, but I find it even more delicious. The eggplant stays crispy, the scant mozzarella doesn’t turn globby but adds flavor and texture, and the homemade tomato sauce adds the perfect amount of tanginess and freshness.

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Eggplant Parmesan Stacks

For the sauce:
2 onions
1 clove garlic
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 can peeled tomatoes
2 tsp. soy sauce (optional)
salt and pepper

2 eggplant
salt
2 eggs
1/2 cup flour
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
olive oil for shallow frying
6 oz. mozzarella
fresh basil

To make the sauce, finely chop the onions and mince the garlic. Heat the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pot and add the onions. Season them with salt and cook until translucent and slightly browned, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, 1 minute.

Add the juice from the whole peeled tomatoes and cook until reduced and thick. Add the tomatoes, using a spoon to break them up, and reduce the heat to low.

Simmer the sauce for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, slice the eggplant into rounds. place them in an even layer on paper towels and salt them.

After about 30 minutes of simmering, taste the sauce. If it lacks depth, add the soy sauce. (I nearly always do, but it depends on the quality of your tomatoes.) Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper, and purée the sauce with an immersion blender.

When the sauce is finished, brush the excess salt off the eggplant. Set up bowls of flour, beaten egg and panko. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and heat a pan over medium-high heat with a thin layer of olive oil.

Dredge the eggplant slices in flour, then dip in the beaten egg, and finally into the panko. Add to the frying pan and fry on both sides until golden brown.

When all of the eggplant slices are fried, place a layer of tomato sauce in the bottom of a glass baking dish. Stack the eggplant slices by threes, trying to keep slices of the same size together. Add a small amount of mozzarella between each slice, and top each stack with a bit of mozzarella. Bake for about 15-20 minutes, until the cheese is melted and the eggplant is soft all the way through.

Top each stack with a basil leaf. Serve with extra sauce on the side and a side of pasta.

formats

tomato, roasted onion, corn, tuna salad

Published on July 20, 2014, by in Uncategorized.

tomato, roasted onion, corn, tuna salad

I have a tendency to assume that every trouble I encounter — no matter how big or how small — has something to do with the fact that I live in a foreign country.

I know that it’s my own decision, that the troubles I encounter here are my own doing. My dad used to make fun of me for making my own life difficult. But as much as I find little things that are irksome, it’s really not all that difficult to live in France, now. I love it, but that’s not all. I’m used to it. I’ve been here for almost 8 years.

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Of course, there are some things here that are still difficult — bordering on surreal. A few weeks ago, I had to go to the tax office to get proof that I had declared my taxes, a form I’d need for my application to renew my visa. After asking very nicely at the front desk, I was informed that when I sent my declaration, it became property of the French government, and so I couldn’t have any proof.

After a bit of arguing, I was told that if I called and asked very nicely (emphasis was put on the fact that I had to ask nicely… I can’t say I was surprised), I might be able to get some sort of signed, stamped proof. The issue wasn’t the phone call, which I dislike but would have been willing to do. The issue was that I was being asked to make a phone call to a man working in the exact building in which I was standing… behind a closed door right next to me.

I got the form (stamped and signed — I checked) and a story. If I’ve gotten little else from the French bureaucratic system, it’s stories.

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But those little blips are few and far between, now. Most of my day goes about in the same way that the days of my friends and colleagues do. I don’t really notice the things that may seem strange or odd or different here as much as I used to. I think American things might seem stranger to me.

And what’s more, just as many things that happen in the day-to-day don’t fall into a nationality-centered category… they just are, and I couldn’t tell you which residents of which countries experience them.

Case in point: a recent conversation with The Country Boy. I told him that I hadn’t gone to the gym after work because I was having a good hair day. After years of speaking a combination of both languages, we’ve recently grown comfortable with each of us speaking our own language and offering translations and explanations as needed. When he cast a confused glance my way, I armed myself with translation, chalking it up to one of many lost in translation moments, when I realized…

What boy, American or French (I’m not including Parisians — they’re a different breed) would have any idea what a good hair day is?

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Tomato, Roasted Onion, Corn and Tuna Salade Composée (serves 4)

1 lb. potatoes
10 small red onions
1 lb. tomatoes
3 ears corn, cooked and cut from the cob
8 oz. canned tuna
extra-virgin olive oil
salt
pepper
basil

Place the potatoes, skin-on, in a pot of cold water. Bring it up to a boil and season with salt. Cook for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Halve the onions, toss with olive oil, and roast for 20 minutes, tossing once as they cook. Remove when caramelized. Allow both the potatoes and onions to cool slightly.

Cut the tomatoes into eighths. Drain the tuna. Assemble the salad by cutting the potatoes into coins and lining them at the bottom of the bowl. Top with the corn. Surround with the tomato slices. Drizzle with olive oil.

Mound the tuna in the center of the dish and drizzle with more olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Chiffonnade the basil and sprinkle over the top of the salad. Serve.

formats

Cobb-ish Salad

Published on July 3, 2014, by in Salad.

cobb salad

I am fully aware of how odd this post will seem, coming right after the last one which was, for all intents and purposes, a long-winded whine about feeling homesick for a place that no longer exists. But please, hear me out: there is a thing that has happened, and I didn’t notice it happening. Or if I did, I played it off as a one-time thing, one good moment in an expanse of grey, for while Toulouse is the pink city and Cannes has always felt blue to me, Paris, for years, was grey.

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I have found my people. After eight years, I am a regular.

There’s the Peruvian man downstairs from me, the one who runs a Latin-American grocery store and knows I like Mexican ingredients and coconut popsicles, who knows that I understand Spanish but will only speak it maybe once out of every two visits, even though I always say gracias at the end of our encounters. I asked him, once, if he liked living in France, and he reacted as though I was the first person to ever ask him that.

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There’s the fruit and vegetable man, or rather, men. They call me mon ange or mademoiselle. Some of them say tu, and I like it. The owner calls me la Miss,the way the Parisian’s father used to — it’s strange how quickly that can send me back. The herbs in my bag are always câdeau, but sometimes, when I stop by for a quick mid-morning snack, my hand-selected pêche blanche is rinsed, wrapped in paper towel, and câdeau too.

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There’s the bartender at the local café, the one we call the PMU, even though it’s just a café that will sell you 8 euro packs of cigarettes sometimes, but you don’t get to choose the brand. He waves at me even when I’m just walking by, calls me ma belle, ma chérie, mon ange. I always stop to give him an exaggerated wave and smile, because apparently once I forgot, and it ruined his morning. I don’t know if i believe him, but I smile anyway. The last beer — I won’t say of how many — is always on the house, and we can pay for even just a demi with a credit card and get change back on 10 euro.

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There’s the butcher, who I see rarely, as those who frequent this blog may guess, but if he’s ever out smoking, he calls me Emily, smiles, and sometimes says Emily-i-grec, just so that I know that he knows, that he remembers.

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It’s been at least a year in the making, maybe more. But when I’m gone for a few days, they notice. When I’m in a hurry, they ask if everything is OK.

I always wanted to be a regular somewhere, though when I wanted it, I assumed it would be at a dive bar. I can’t hide how happy I am, now, that I’m a regular at the places where I buy my groceries instead.

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Cobb-ish Salad (serves 2)

100 grams lardons or bacon cut into matchsticks
2 chicken breasts

20 cherry tomatoes
1 red onion
50 grams Roquefort
1 avocado
2 Romaine hearts
2 Tbsp. mayonnaise
2 Tbsp. sour cream
2 Tbsp. cider vinegar
1 tsp. salt
fresh black pepper

Place the lardons in a cold pan and slowly heat. Allow the fat to render out. Cook until the lardons are slightly browned. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. Add the chicken breasts to the pan and cook 4-5 minutes per side, until completely browned. Remove and set aside.

Halve the cherry tomatoes. Thinly slice the onion. Dice the avocado and slice the romaine.

Whisk together the mayonnaise, sour cream, cider vinegar, salt and pepper. Toss in a large salad bowl with the romaine. Top with the tomatoes, onion, blue cheese, avocado, chicken and bacon. Serve.

formats

Barbecue Pork Roast, Corn, Avocado, Tomato

Published on June 26, 2014, by in Pork.

bbq pork

What is home? I know that I’m not alone in not knowing. While the same question used to cause me an unbelievable amount of anxiety, I feel as though it doesn’t trouble me quite so much anymore. But that doesn’t stop me from thinking about it.

I started out with what felt like so many homes, spread across continents: the life of an expat, I thought. But expat life, sometime between 22 and 27, stopped feeling like an adventure and started feeling like normal. I never wanted to live out of a backpack. I wanted to live in a different country. Pay my taxes, rent an apartment, do my grocery shopping, buy socks. The concessions I made to this lifestyle at the beginning — traveling home twice a year, plus a handful of trips to meet visiting friends and family in other parts of Europe — were just that: concessions. Not that I’m complaining about my concessions. But they weren’t the end goal. That wasn’t the point.

Now, years later, most of my friends have decided where they want to live. Many are in New York, some are in Chicago. Of those who are not from Europe, I can think of a handful still living here. They’ve settled down elsewhere, and I’m not the only one who doesn’t return home for summer. For Christmas. I find myself missing my concessions. My fractured sense of home.

Paziols

I wasn’t planning on going to Paziols this year. It hurt too much to think about returning. I don’t remember if I mentioned it here, but for a brief but very intense moment, I had considered buying the house there, making that my home, a home that, when I first saw it, had terrified me with its raw unfinishedness, the exposed beams, the mattresses on the floor. I came from a world where everything had always been in its place. I had never felt so displaced before. And then, slowly, Paziols became one of those many homes, and I fell in love, again and again, over and over, the kind of love where you feel like it could never get any better, and then it does. And when I had to make the decision that buying the house couldn’t come at a worse time, I was convinced I would never want to see it again. I knew that it would break my heart to say goodbye, over and over and over again, when the last time I had said à bientôt instead of au revoir.

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I’m not convinced I was wrong, but I’m going back this year anyway.

Cannes

A bientôt has always been easy for me. I say it even when I don’t believe it, but I’ve believed it for Cannes. To be completely fair, for years, it was true. For years the trip from Paris to Cannes seemed as easy as that from home at Pont de l’Alma to my favorite bar at the Luxembourg Gardens. I don’t even know how many trips I made there in the first few years I lived here. But slowly, my connections to the place faded, and trips there seemed fewer and more far between. The last time I went was in 2010. I was so sure I would be returning at the beginning of 2011 that I left a box there, filled with books and Jergens lotion. I wonder if it’s still there.

I’ll be going to Cannes this summer, too. I’m scared to see how much it’s changed.

I don’t have the same liberty with the homes I’m supposed to call home, my “real” home, though my connection there feels no realer than any here… just different. The home that I grew up with, the home that was so normal that I don’t have any pictures of it at all, is no longer ours. It belongs to someone else, someone I know, which means I could go. But saying goodbye is even worse when goodbye comes a year too late. Long Island isn’t home anymore. New York isn’t home anymore.

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I think what I have to come to terms with — if you even can use such a phrase when the thing with which you are coming to terms is living in Paris — is that this is what home feels like as an adult. It feels like normal. It feels like knowing where the corner of the coffee table is in the dark. It feels like recognizing your neighbors.

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It feels like having memories of another home, a home that someone else built for you, a home that you existed in but that was never really yours. I hope that someday I can give that sense of home to someone; I don’t know if I’ll feel it for myself again.

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Barbecue Pork Roast, Corn, Avocado, Tomato (serves 4)

1 pork tenderloin
1 cup of your favorite barbecue sauce (I like this one)

2 cups corn kernels (fresh, if possible — leftover corn is great for this)
2 avocados, diced
2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
1 green onion, thinly sliced
1 Tbsp. olive oil
juice of 1 lime

salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Coat the pork loin in barbecue sauce on all sides. Place on a rack and roast for 25 minutes per pound. Baste with more barbecue sauce if it looks dry during cooking.

Meanwhile, combine the corn, avocado, cherry tomatoes, onion, oil, lime juice and salt and pepper. Allow to marinate, outside of the fridge, while the pork finishes cooking.

Remove the pork from the oven and tent for 10 minutes before slicing. Serve slices of pork on top of the salad.

formats

Pasta, Gorgonzola, Asparagus, Tomato

Published on May 24, 2014, by in Pasta.

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Watching a movie where the main character is an American falling for a European is always an extremely bizarre experience for me.

It may seem like a strange thing to generalize, but if you really think about it, there are a lot of movies that fit this definition. French Kiss. Under the Tuscan Sun. What a Girl Wants. Roman Holiday. Midnight in Paris. Only You. My Life in Ruins. P.S. I Love You. At least six of the later Mary-Kate and Ashley movies.

(I never promised high-quality cinema on this list. By definition, the genre I’m describing is escapist at best and Mary-Sue-esque most of the time.)

It was Vicky Cristina Barcelona that spurred this most recent line of thinking, and as I watched Vicky fall in love with a very sexy Spaniard even though she had a perfectly lovely man waiting for her at home, I realized that there’s no way for me to really comprehend this sort of movie, in that I can’t quite insert my own life experience into what these so-called typical Americans are experiencing. I don’t live with a khaki pants wearing lawyer, but I don’t live with a disturbed artist either. The foreignness of Barcelona can still mystify me, as can that of the man in permanently wrinkled linen. My Frenchman is far from the bourgeois 16eme resident that would be the best cultural transfer for a rich Carter-the-third-called-Trip depicted on screen, but it’s comfortable. It’s my normal.

European, in American cinema, is a synonym for new. So what happens when European is normal? What does novelty look like then?

Paris stopped being foreign to me a long time ago. I can still see the beauty and quirkiness in my everyday life here, don’t get me wrong. Maybe it’s the fact that I’ve had so many American visitors of late that I can see how this has truly become my reference, as I distance myself more and more from the world I grew up in.

But what surprised me most of all, as I was pursuing this line of thought, was a visit from a boarding school friend I hadn’t seen in four years. One of those people I used to know as well as myself but, on the spring evening a few weeks ago when we shared wine and dinner near Mabillon, a person I had to ask what she did for a living. Strange, but there it is.

What was particularly strange about this conversation was that, as I explained a bit of this train of thought, she got it. She felt the same way. Television didn’t feel like reality for her, she who lived in Boston, New York and Chicago. It felt false… the way it’s supposed to feel. The falseness and distance I feel for what I see onscreen has nothing to do with the fact that I don’t live in the States. It’s fiction. It seems so obvious to say it now, but watching shows on television here for the past few years, I’ve been assuming I was missing out on something that, apparently, I’m not.

For years, I have been assuming that what I see on television about Americans is the truth. I have become, for all intents and purposes, the Parisian who asks if all Americans are fat or have guns. I have replaced my personal day-to-day experience in America, a truth that’s slowly fading, with something that Hollywood wants us to believe is the truth.

It’s not the fact that I buy baguette or sometimes say pardon to Americans when I bump into them or find it insane to do any sort of errands after dinner that has made me as European as I suppose I’m starting to feel today. It’s that I’m willing to believe what the media wants me to believe about my own people. And that’s definitely one of the strangest realizations I’ve had since I moved here.

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Risotto-Style Pasta with Gorgonzola, Tomatoes and Asparagus

1 pound asparagus
1/2 pound cherry tomatoes
1 Tbsp. olive oil

1 tsp. olive oil
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 cups dry pasta
1/4 cup dry white wine
2 cups stock of your choice
1/4 cup Gorgonzola cheese
salt and pepper

fresh basil, for garnish

Trim the ends of the asparagus and cut them each into three pieces. Halve the cherry tomatoes. Toss the vegetables with the olive oil and a pinch of salt, and lay them on a baking sheet. Roast at 350 degress for 25-30 minutes, until the tomatoes have broken down and the asparagus are tender.

Heat the stock in a saucepan. Heat the olive oil in a separate pot and add the shallot. Cook until translucent, then add the pasta. Cook 1-2 minutes, until slightly translucent at the edges. Add the wine and stir until it is absorbed.

Add the stock in two additions, making sure that it is absorbed before adding the next addition. Taste the pasta before adding the second serving of stock.

When the liquid has mostly absorbed and the pasta is tender, remove the pot from the heat and add the cheese and vegetables. Cover without stirring for 2 minutes. Transfer the pasta to a serving bowl and stir to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper and garnish with fresh basil.

formats

Poached Eggs, Pea Mash, Goat Cheese Tartine

Poached Egg, Pea Purée and Goat Cheese Tartine

Two weeks ago, the Country Boy was right about ready to kill me.

For several weeks prior, I’d been chanting a constant refrain pretty much nonstop.

“My Daddy’s coming! My Daddy’s coming!”

When TCB saw that I was actually participating in the housekeeping, for once, he said my Daddy could come back whenever he likes.

Poached Egg, Pea Purée and Goat Cheese Tartine

My mom tries to come out about twice a year, but my dad hasn’t actually been to Paris for years. My mom and I have our rituals for her visits: neighborhoods we like to visit, shops we like to frequent, restaurants where we are always sure to get a reservation. But my dad, with memories of a different sort of Paris in his head, had a visit that was completely different from anything I’ve done before.

For one, he stayed two weeks instead of my mother’s long weekend. He stayed with me instead of in a hotel. He worked from home for at least a few hours most days. He went to bed by ten.

It was different.

It was lovely.

We went to the goat cheese farm near TCB’s parents’ house. He and TCB’s parents got through an hours-long lunch, though they speak no English and he learned his French in high school. We stopped to smell the flowers at the Jardin des Plantes, the Luxembourg Gardens, the Georges Brassens park and the Tuileries. We saw a lot of Impressionist paintings and watched an entire season of Breaking Bad. We ate more croque monsieurs than I think I ever have before.

Poached Egg, Pea Purée and Goat Cheese Tartine

Now that he’s gone, there are a thousand things about his trip I wish I could change. I wish it hadn’t rained every day. I wish I had booked museum tickets in advance so that we didn’t have to wait in long lines. I wish we had realized that the few rays of sunlight we got were some of the only ones we’d see so that we could cherish them more.

I wish I had thought to make this dish for him, because even though we went to several restaurants and tried some of the best steak in Paris, he maintained that the best meals he ate were at my house. And poached eggs will always remind me of my father.

Poached Egg, Pea Purée and Goat Cheese Tartine

When I was growing up, every once in awhile (but with enough frequency that it seemed like a regular thing) my father would take me and the Actress to breakfast before school. We went to a diner across the street, and he always ordered “two poached eggs on dry white toast.” Then he would pierce the egg with his fork and pretend it was an eye.

He’s still ten years old at heart.

I realize that this is a bit of a strange hodgepodge of ideas, but there’s no way to sum up everything that happened while he was here in just one post. I hope he comes back soon; TCB will know the day has arrived when he sees me take out the vacuum cleaner.

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Poached Eggs, Pea Mash, Goat Cheese Tartine (serves 2)

2 cups frozen peas
1 Tbsp. butter
5 leaves of fresh mint

2 eggs
1 tsp. white vinegar

2 handfuls baby spinach
2 spring onions, sliced
2 tsp. olive oil
1 lime

1/2 baguette (this is actually a bâtard, but a baguette will do nicely as well)
1 round of fresh goat cheese

salt and pepper

Heat a very small amount of water in a pan and add the peas. Cover and cook until warmed through and tender, about 10 minutes. Add the butter and mash together with a fork. Chiffonnade a few leaves of mint, saving some for garnish. Add the chiffonnade to the pea purée and keep warm.

Bring a saucepan of water to a boil. Reduce to a simmer. Add the white vinegar. Crack the egg into a ramekin. Use a spoon to create a whirlpool in the water and gently add the egg. Use the spoon to fold the whites around the yolk, if necessary. Cook for 1 minute 30 seconds, or until the white is cooked through. Place some paper towels on a plate and gently remove the egg and set it on the towels. Bring the water back up to a boil, reduce again, and repeat with the second egg.

Toss the spinach and onions with the olive oil and some lime juice.

Cut the bread in half lengthwise and cut each half into two pieces to form an open-faced tartine. Toast the bread if you like. Add the pea mash to each slice. Top one slice with goat cheese and the other with the poached egg. Season with salt and pepper. Mound the salad to the side of the sandwich. Serve immediately.

Be sure to make screaming sounds as you pierce the poached egg. It’s not appropriate, but it’s super fun.

formats

Raw Spaghetti and Tomato Sauce

raw spaghetti and tomato sauce

My name is Emiglia, and I’m addicted to vegetables. I realize that that’s kind of an obnoxious thing to say. Like people who love running or people who don’t like chocolate. (While I don’t like running, I’m not a huge fan of chocolate, but let’s deal with one obnoxious trait at a time.)

I’m not saying I have a perfect diet. I eat way more cheese than any human should ever eat. The Country Boy’s cousin told me this past weekend that he’s never seen a girl drink more beer than I do. I have my faults. But let’s put a pin in my faults for a second, because this post, while not preachy, is a bit virtuous.

I really, really love vegetables.

It all started at my boarding school salad bar, where things were in whole form and therefore slightly more appealing to me than overcooked pasta and chicken in sweet “Asian” sauce. And our cafeteria food was actually pretty good. Nonetheless, I still spent most of my mealtimes bulking up the aforementioned overcooked pasta with salad bar goodies… I believe my love affair begins there.

Today, I have to remember when cooking for the Country Boy that not everyone is a fan of eating “just vegetables” for dinner. I admittedly will often add a touch of cheese (I do love my cheese), but it’s often several weeks before TCB pulls a frozen hamburger patty out of the freezer to make for himself, and then I realize that we haven’t eaten meat in a very, very long time.

He’s a good sport.

That being said, I have to admit — as much as I hate to brag — that I can do some pretty awesome things with vegetables. I can’t take all the credit; I just think that vegetables are particularly delicious. And I’d rather eat grocery store zucchini than grocery store chicken any day.

raw spaghetti and tomato sauce

This recipe in particular highlights my love, not only of vegetables, but of tomatoes and using obnoxious amounts of herbs in things.

I also eat salads where the lettuce is just herbs, but once again, I’m trying to keep the weird food habits to a minimum in this post. That’s another story for another day.

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Raw Spaghetti and Tomato Sauce (serves 2)

3 zucchini
1 hefty pinch salt
1 pound cherry tomatoes (I like to use a combo of red and yellow), halved
1 large or 2 small cloves of garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 small bunch (20-25 leaves) fresh basil
4 Tbsp. pesto sauce

Remove the tops and bottoms of the zucchini. Using the large holes of a grater, grate them lengthwise into a colander set over a plate. Rotate them so that you avoid using the seeds. Add the salt and toss. Set aside to drain slightly.

Halve the cherry tomatoes and add them to a large glass bowl. Add the minced garlic and olive oil and a touch more salt. Allow to marinate for about 10-15 minutes.

Rinse the basil leaves and set them one on top of the other. Cut them into a chiffonade.

Spread the pesto over the serving plates. Squeeze the zucchini slightly and pile it on top of the pesto. Top with the fresh tomato sauce.

 

formats

Tomato and Spinach Tortellini

Published on April 21, 2014, by in Pasta.

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My mother’s favorite game when I was growing up–to me, it seemed more a game than anything else–was flipping apartments.

My childhood is marked, not by memories in one room, but by days of finding my room at the back end of a new apartment, like a treasure hunt. The four of us kids usually didn’t see the new place until it was completely finished — wallpaper we had helped pick out of a catalogue already dried, the floors emanating the scent of linoleum and the walls still smelling of fresh paint, the furniture we recognized from the old place in new and unfamiliar places. To this day, when I walk by an apartment being renovated and smell that smell, I’m propelled back in time.

Every once in awhile, though, my mother would have to meet with a contractor, and we would be allowed to play in the new space, brown paper covering the floors, doorknobs removed and set aside until the fresh coat of paint had dried. I remember, especially as I got older, being in awe as I watched my mother go over floor plans and look at swatches of color and fabric; in her mind, the house was already ready to be lived in. To me, it looked like a mess.

I have never been able to look at a map and see what it’s trying to say. I get lost coming out of the métro stop, even if I’ve just looked at the map of the area. I call the Country Boy, who sighs and laughs a little and then gives directions that make sense to him, but not to me.

“Cross the street.”

“Which one?”

“The one in front of you.”

“I’m at an intersection.”

“Well just keep going on that street.”

“Up or down?”

“Towards Bastille.”

“How the heck should I know where Bastille is?”

I’m very frequently lost. My spatial reasoning is horrible. I don’t get how other people see the world.

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That being said, I’m very much at home in the kitchen. I know where everything is, and there’s a logic there that makes sense to me and that, I recognize, does not make sense to TCB. One day last week, after a very long filming, I came home and told him I was too tired to make dinner, something that has never actually happened before. On the rare occasions where I don’t feel like cooking, we order in. But I was hungry and it was late, and I asked him to take care of it.

After 15 minutes, he came out of the kitchen, a worried look on his face, holding a bag of raw pasta.

The kitchen doesn’t make sense to him. Pretty much no other place makes sense to me. It’s a very odd — but quite symbiotic — relationship.

 

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Tomato and Spinach Tortellini

300 grams fresh tortellini (I used a combination of ham and cheese, but use what you like)

1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 clove garlic
1 large can peeled, whole tomatoes
2 handfuls of fresh baby spinach
2 heaping tablespoons of crème fraiche
fresh black pepper and salt

Heat the olive oil in a large pot. Crush the garlic clove and add it. Cook it, stirring frequently, until it becomes golden on all sides. Remove and discard.

Add the tomatoes to the pot, crushing each one in your hand as you add it. Add the juice and season with salt and pepper. Simmer 10-15 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook the tortellini according to package directions.

Drain the tortellini and return it to its pot. Add your desired amount of sauce; you may have extra. Add the spinach directly to the pot of tortellini and stir until it is wilted.

Serve the tortellini in bowls. Top with the crème fraiche and some freshly ground pepper.

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