How to celebrate Thanksgiving in a country that doesn’t celebrate Thanksgiving

1. Don’t do work.  Any work.  At all.
Ok, to be fair I’ve been very productive in the past 2 weeks.  I’ve written an 18 page preliminary report and drawn up sketches to show my bosses from Nice AND Chicago.  I think I deserve a break.  Plus, it just wouldn’t feel like a holiday if I worked 🙂

2. Take advantage of the things that would normally be closed on this day in the US.
For example, museums.  On Thursday, I walked to the Nice Archaeology and Roman Ruins Museum.  It’s small, but cool.  I’m not that into history museums (I like the art museums better), but I liked looking around at all the ancient stuff.  Plus, since I’ve been around here for a little while, I recognized some of the modern areas mentioned in the posters around the exhibits.

Outside the museum is the site of the ancient city of Cemenelum, the capital of the Alpes Maritimae province.  Most of the remains are from the third century, but some of them have different construction periods between the first and seventh centuries.  These remains display an ampitheater, 3 thermal baths, streets, a sewer, a school, and shops.  Here are some pictures!

Image

Image

Image

I also went to the grocery store (usually not open all day in the US) and bought a steamer, which I am excited to try at some point for dinner this week!

3. Be sure to incorporate as many nationalities as possible.
In order to avoid eating Thanksgiving dinner by myself, I invited my friend Isabelle, who is from England, over to eat turkey with me.  So we had an American girl and an English girl celebrating an American holiday in France.  Doesn’t get weirder than that.

4. Eat turkey.
Obviously, come on.  I debated my menu for Thanksgiving dinner for a while, starting with duck, moving on to chicken, and finally settling on turkey because it’s just not Thanksgiving without turkey.  I got 3 turkey legs from the store, and potatoes, green beans, apples, and rosemary from the outdoor market.

This is going to count as my Sunday Night Dinner for this week, but sorry, no recipes this time.  Here’s the menu:
– roasted turkey legs with rosemary roasted potatoes and onions
– green beans almondine
– croissants
– mini apple tarts with cinnamon and honey
– and Isabelle brought a lovely white wine (Picpoul de Pinet)

Image

Loot from the market

Image

The delicious spread 🙂

Image

Apple tart for dessert

 5. Give thanks for everything!
I’m not going to lie, it was REALLY hard to be away from home for this holiday.  Because Chicago is only 7 hours from Cleveland, I’d always gone home for Thanksgiving.  I’ve never celebrated the holiday by myself or had to cook turkey by myself and it was intimidating.  I was sad in the morning, thinking that I should’ve been at home and looking forward to real apple pie, turkey and gravy, mashed potatoes, pumpkin bread, Mom’s stuffing, Grandma’s jello, sweet potatoes, green beans, and rolls.  I should’ve been sitting around talking to and laughing with my family, and getting ready to go Black Friday shopping with my sisters.  I should’ve been enjoying the colors of the changing leaves and the quickly cooling weather, and I should’ve been listening to Christmas music.  I was seriously missing all of it.

Walking home from the museum, I saw the first beautiful changing leaves I’ve come across in Nice.  That cheered me up a little bit.

Image

As the day went on, I kept telling myself that going home was obviously not going to happen and to quit dwelling on it.  I’m thankful for different things this year.  I’m thankful to be here in this beautiful city, having a once-in-a-lifetime experience that not everyone can say they’ve had.  I’m thankful I’m working on a project that I really like, with helpful supervisors and support in Chicago and Nice.  I’m thankful that I’m making friends here and I’m thankful that Isabelle came over for dinner so I didn’t have to eat alone 🙂  I’m thankful that things are starting to become familiar and I’m starting to feel a little bit less like a stranger.  And I’m SUPER thankful for the care packages I received today 🙂 🙂 🙂

Today’s French word is:
reconnaissant (ruh-ko-na-SAHN)- grateful, appreciative, thankful
Je suis reconnaissante de mes amis aux Etats-Unis et en France.
I’m thankful for my friends in the US and in France.

Advertisements

Sunday Night Dinner: Aubergine

So I haven’t done too well at keeping up with writing this week, since I’m already at another SND, but this one is is a good one 🙂

This week’s ingredient: eggplant, or “aubergine” in French

2 small-medium sized eggplants

This week’s recipe: eggplant parmesan with a TWIST– layers of prosciutto (dry-cured ham) and mozarella cheese yummm.  I got the recipe here and made a few modifications:

Sliced prosciutto and mozarella

Ingredients:
1/4 c vegetable oil (I actually used olive oil)
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp herbes de provence (a mixture of dried herbs typical of Provence, usually includes some combination of savory, fennel, thyme, basil, lavender, and sometimes other herbs– since most of my readers are probably not in Provence, Italian seasoning is a good substitute)
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground pepper
2 cups tomato sauce
(NOTE: the preceding 7 ingredients are for the sauce, but you could totally use a 16-20 oz jar of pasta sauce instead, just skip the instructions for making the sauce)

2 small-medium sized eggplants
1 egg
1/4 c milk
1 tsp vegetable oil
flour
vegetable oil for frying
about 8 oz sliced mozarella cheese
about 4 oz sliced prosciutto
1/4 c parmesan cheese

Instructions

For the sauce:
1. Heat the 1/4 c olive oil in a large skillet.
2. Add onions and garlic and saute over medium heat until the onions are soft, about 5 minutes.
3. Add the salt, pepper, herbes/seasoning, and tomato sauce.
4. Stir and simmer on low for 30 minutes.

For the rest of the dish:
1. Slice the eggplants in 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch slices (I got 12 slices out of 2 small eggplants).
2. In a bowl, beat the egg and add milk and 1 tsp veg oil.
3. Pour some flour in a separate bowl.
4. Dip each slice of eggplant in the flour, then in the egg mixture.  Let drain.

Sliced eggplants, flour, egg mixture, dipped eggplants

5. Heat about 2 tbsp veg oil in a frying pan over medium heat.
6. Fry each slice of eggplant on both sides until golden brown.

Eggplants frying and sauce simmering

7. Brush a 9″ x 13″ baking dish with veg oil.
8. Layer the eggplant, tomato sauce, prosciutto, and mozarella cheese slices in the pan.  Top with parmesan cheese.

Layer eggplants in pan, top with sauce, add slice of prosciutto, add slice of mozarella

9. Bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees.

Before baking

10. Serve hot with spaghetti (and wine!)

This recipe was DELICIOUS.  Vegetarians can take out the prosciutto and it would still be awesome.  A 9″ x 13″ pan with 2 small-medium eggplants serves 4 hungry people, so I had plenty of leftovers.  I’d make 2 changes to this recipe though.  First, next time I’d 1.5 or double the amount of sauce the recipe makes.  It’s enough for the eggplant, but I like to have some sauce on my pasta, too, and there wasn’t quite enough for that.  Second, I’d cut up the prosciutto in smaller strips.  The cheese and the eggplant were easy to cut after being cooked, but the prosciutto was too tough.  Smaller pieces would make the dish stay together better, I think.

Happy eating! 🙂

Today’s French word is:
paner (PA-nay)- to coat with flour, beaten egg, and/or breadcrumbs
Coupez l’aubergine en tranches avant que vous la paniez.
Slice the eggplant before you coat it with flour, egg, and breadcrumbs.

Sunday Night Dinners

I’ve been going to the fruit/vegetable/flower market at least twice a week for the last few weeks. I walk around and look at all the produce and preserves and cheeses and meats and oils and spices and wish I knew how to cook with all of them.

I’ve also taken to planning out my dinners for the week every Sunday. I find that it makes me more likely to actually cook a healthy meal most nights instead of opting for a frozen pizza or pasta. It’s hard to cook for one person, so I usually make dinner 3 times a week and do leftovers the rest of the nights. Since I’m not engaged to a chef, like my sister, I look for recipes online that are conducive to my needs.

So these two situations led me to a new idea: Sunday Night Dinners! My goal is to go to the market on Saturdays and pick one ingredient. It can be anything, familiar or strange, French-based or not. I’ll find a recipe online, make it for dinner on Sunday night, and then share the recipe and let you all know how it turned out. To be clear, this is NOT me making up my own recipe… I’m not that talented.

My first attempt was last week (it didn’t happen on Sunday, but oh well) and I kind of cheated because I had a recipe before I picked the ingredient, which was…… CAULIFLOWER.  Here’s what I did!

The star ingredient

Coconut-Curry Cauliflower and Chick Peas
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 25 minutes

Ingredients

– 2 tsp vegetable oil
– 1 small yellow onion, minced
– 1 carrot, thinly sliced
– 3 cups small cauliflower florets (what you get from 1 small cauliflower)
– 2 tbsp curry powder or paste (I used powder)
– 1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained
– 1 cup vegetable broth
– 1 (15 ounce) can chick peas, drained and rinsed
– 1 cup frozen peas
– 1 (13 ounce) can unsweetened coconut milk
– 1/2 tsp salt
– black pepper

Instructions

1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.

2. Add the onion, cover, and cook until softened (about 5 minutes).

Onions cooking

3. Stir in the carrot, cauliflower, and curry powder to taste.

4. Add the tomatoes and broth, cover, and cook until the vegetables are softened (about 10 minutes).

Carrot, cauliflower, curry, tomatoes

5. Stir in the chick peas, peas, coconut milk, salt, and pepper to taste.

6. Cook uncovered until the flavors are well blended and the mixture thickens slightly (about 10 minutes longer)

YUMMM

7. Serve hot over rice.

Hungry yet?

Whenever I make a rice dish, I like to make double the amount of rice that I need and make fried rice the next day (this time it was shrimp and pineapple fried rice)

The best part about this dish is that it is DELICIOUS. The second best part about this dish is that it’s vegan, so if you’re entertaining and don’t know what to make for a vegan guest, check this out! It’s sure to please everyone. Also, I got the recipe here and it says it makes 4 servings, but they’re actually talking about 4 football players. I ate half of this in 3 nights and froze the other half to eat another time.

I’m really excited for this “project” because it will give me an excuse to keep going back to the market, to explore different fresh ingredients, to discover some of the local French cuisine, and to broaden my limited knowledge of cooking 🙂

And our French word today is:
mijoter (mee-jho-TAY)- to simmer
Le ragoût mijote depuis ce matin.
The ragout has been simmering since this morning.

Indulging My Sweet Tooth

Earlier this week I decided Election2012 trumped the post I’m about to write, so this is a bit late, but still just as delicious.

Last weekend in Antibes (about 25 km southwest of Nice) was the 39e Salon du Sucre et du Chocolat, which translates roughly to “heaven.”  Imagine getting some of the best candy and chocolate makers on the Cote d’Azur together in one room with free chocolate samples and demonstrations.  Now add some of those sugar and chocolate sculptures like they make in those Food Network Competitions.  Now add an entry fee of just 2 euros!  Plus the smell of chocolate.  That was my Saturday afternoon 🙂

In Antibes, I joined Isabelle, who I met at an “expat” meetup, and two of her friends for the Chocolate Expo.  When we went in, the first thing we saw was a table of spectacular sugar and chocolate sculptures, which were mostly Olympic-themed.  As we were walking around looking at the sculptures I was talking about how I’d seen all this stuff on the Food Network and they were really impressed with how much I knew.  I guess watching too much TV pays off hahahah.

Here are some of the sculptures:

 

Then we walked around and saw some of the demonstrations and sampled some of the chocolate.  One chef was making a pulled sugar rose.

Another was pouring liquid sugar into molds.

There was also a baking demonstration where two chefs made a parfait of strawberries, mascarpone cheese filling, and pistachio crumbles that smelled so good!

And I’d never had a macaroon before and they’re in every pastry shop in France, so I decided to try my first one– coffee flavored.  Delicious 🙂

 

After we made one round, we went back around again!

 

 

And Isabelle took my picture with the Eiffel Tower! 🙂

Overall, a great afternoon.

 

Our French word this time is:
péché mignon (PAY-shay MEEN-yon)- literally “cute sin,” it means guilty pleasure
Le chocolat et “Keeping up with the Kardashians” sont mes péchés mignons.
Chocolate and “Keeping up with the Kardashians” are my guilty pleasures.

Rouge, Blanc, et Bleu

I’ve only been in France for 3 weeks, but in that time, most of the people I’ve spoken to about being from the United States have asked about the presidential election– who do I want to win? How do I think it will go? Am I excited?

The French have been covering the American elections every day. Flipping through channels at night I’ve seen numerous documentaries about Obama, about Romney, about the 2012 elections, about the 2008 elections, and about the evolution of the US presidency in the last 100 years.

Let me ask you this, how many of you remember the French presidential election earlier this year (in May) where the Socialist party’s Francois Hollande beat out presidential incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy of the UMP to become France’s first leftwing president in almost 20 years?

Yeah, that’s what I thought.

Which brings me to my next question– why do the French care so much about the US election?

Now this isn’t a political blog and I was an engineer in college so I won’t pretend to know all about the intricacies of political science or international relations. But I did some research and found out some interesting stuff.

Obama has overwhelming public support all over the world. An MSN poll showed that MSN readers in 34 out of 35 surveyed countries support Obama. Only in China did the stinkers that support Romney edge out Obama supporters. The same poll showed that 88% of French MSN readers support Obama, compared to Romney’s 12%. The Economist conducted a similar poll which showed that 79.51% of self-reported voters worldwide supported Obama and that only 19.91% supported Romney. A YouGov poll in Britain, France, and Germany put the challenger’s popularity at only about 1 in 20, while he was greeted with less dismay in Pakistan, the Middle East, and North Africa.

In 2008, the French media was relieved that the Bush era was over. Obama was also the first African American president, a quality that was not lost on a multi-cultural country like France. I read an article that said that the popular opinion of Obama now has migrated over to France through the media– in other words, it’s not so much the French media that perceive Obama as a “disappointment,” but rather the French media portrays Obama as being perceived as a “disappointment” by Americans. Still, French television portrays Obama in a flattering light and affection for the American president hasn’t changed much in the last 4 years. On the other hand, Romney’s representation in the media has been mostly in relation to Obama, so the public may see him as “less charismatic, less intelligent, and less progressive.”

If Romney wins the election, France will be in a rather uncomfortable position on numerous foreign policy issues. Additionally, at a time of global economic turmoil, people outside the US look to the US president for strong leadership, economic and otherwise.

Let’s just put it this way. If Romney wins the election, I’ll strongly consider staying in France for 4 more years….

Bonne Toussaint!

La Toussaint is a two-day holiday encompassing both All Saints Day (Nov 1), a day for remembering Catholic saints, and All Souls Day (Nov 2), a day for praying for the souls of the deceased. In the US, All Saints Day is a Holy Day of Obligation. In France, it’s an excuse for the French to take another day, or a couple of weeks, off. French banks and businesses close their doors for the holiday and students benefit from a two week vacation from school! I found out today, after walking to the med school to work this morning and encountering locked doors, that it’s a vacation day for me too!

So today after working diligently from home for the morning (read: Skyping Emily, Facebooking, and Google searching “pediatric inguinal hernia”), I decided to give myself a well-deserved break. I’d been wanting to go to the Musée d’Art Moderne et d’Art Contemporain (MAMAC) for a while and I figured today should be the day, since it was open. It’s only a 15 minute bus ride from my apartment, and the bus goes literally door to door. The museum isn’t that big (1 floor of featured exhibits and 2 floors of permanent exhibits), but I spent a good couple hours walking around.

Front of MAMAC

One of my favorite exhibits was a collection of donations from Niki de Saint Phalle, a French sculptor, painter, and film maker. If you’ve ever been to the Pompidou Center in Paris, the fountain next to it is called the Stravinksy Fountain, and it was created by her and a Swiss sculptor, Jean Tinguely, whom she eventually married. Saint Phalle’s work was heavily influenced by Gaudi, whom she discovered after visiting Parc Guell in Barcelona, Spain. This exhibit was really cool to see because I’ve also been to Parc Guell and I can definitely see the connection. Saint Phalle also has a sculpture garden in Tuscany called Giardino dei Tarocchi (Tarot Garden), that I’d love to see if I can make it to Italy!

Fonte des Nanas (Melting of Nanas)

Motorcycle Heart (this one is for Dad <3)

La mariée sous l’arbre (The bride under the tree)

My other favorite exhibit was from the Ecole de Nice (School of Nice). It was a fluxus exhibit that blends different artistic media and challenges the border between art and life. It was really interesting. One of the artists, Ben Vautier, included a lot of quotes from different people, and some of them were very thought-provoking. The quotes are actually all over Nice (bus stops, restaurants, even the med school lobby), so it was cool to see their origin. The exhibit reminded me of a French class I took at Northwestern about Guy Debord and blurring the border between real life and its representation by the media.

Fluxus exhibit from the Ecole de Nice

View on the inside– the poster says “la gloire c’est des emmerdements” (glory is hassles/bummers)

“If art is everywhere, it is also in this box”– blurring the line between art and life!

Plus, on the top floor of the museum, there’s a terrace that offers a 360 degree view of the city– breathtaking!

After the museum, I was planning on going to a coffee shop to get some work done, but I got caught up in the beautiful streets of Old Nice. In this neighborhood, the streets and alleyways are so narrow, there isn’t enough room for a car to fit through, and the streets are lined with boutiques, specialty shops, souvenir stands, restaurants, and épiceries. I ended up buying two scarves and ending my afternoon with a scoop of salted caramel ice cream from Fenocchio’s– they have 94 flavors, including cactus, tomato basil, Bailey’s, and bubble gum! My goal is to try all 94 flavors before I leave 🙂

YUMMM

So I didn’t make it to church today, but I managed to take advantage of the holiday 🙂  Bonne Toussaint!

 
Today’s French word is:
feu tricolore (FUH tree-ko-LOR)- literally “three-colored fire,” it’s a traffic light!
Tournez à droite au feu tricolore et vous arrivez à la faculté de medecine.
Turn right at the traffic light and you’re at the medical school.