Yesterday, we met with the students traveling with us to France next summer. Some have already traveled there, others not. Regardless of their past experiences, though, they just seemed so *excited*. (Which, of course, they should be 😉 )
Their excitement has me reminiscing about some of my first French and Parisian experiences …
Like visiting Mont St Michel, a “floating” monastery in Normandy …
One of my *favorite* Christmas gifts this year was a crêpe pan. Have you seen one before? They’re very similar to a regular frying pan, but the edges don’t come up nearly as high, facilitating the flipping of that thin little pancake.
The one and only thing I accomplished on this year’s New Year’s Day was a mini crêpe extravaganza, something I plan to turn into a bit of a tradition. We were prepared with all the necessary batter ingredients and our choice of fillings. (No, vitamins are not a crêpe filling, they just happened to figure in the background.)
I love classic ham and cheese (preferably grated gruyère) with a healthy dose of freshly ground pepper. I chose to double the batter recipe I’ll share in a few, which has allowed me to snack on my ultimate favorite treat, a crêpe nutella-banane, all week long. Délicieux.
Once you get the hang of having the pan at the right temperature (pretty close to high) and using the right amount of batter (about a 1/4 cup for a medium-sized crêpe), the rest is a piece of cake crêpe. You might mess up the first couple (one of mine landed in the burner flames, woopsie), but that’s part of the fun as you perfect your technique.
Crêpes really are as simple as whisking together the ingredients listed below ~
-1 cup all-purpose flour
-1/2 cup milk
-1/2 cup water
-1/4 tbsp salt
-2 tbsp melted butter
~ whose measurements I locatedhere. Once they are all whisked, add 1/4 cup batter to a hot, lightly oiled pan. It’ll only take about a minute, maybe a bit more, for the super skinny pancake to cook through. Flip it when it’s safe to do so (it’ll start forming some bubbles in the middle) and then add in your chosen fillings. I added mine down the middle so that I could fold the sides in on another like so.
The last step (eating) is the best of course. Bon appétit !
Despite my affinity for all things French, I had not. It’s a sort of “cake” (well not really), but a dessert which can resemble a cake in its form. Croquembouches can be composed of many different types of French pastries, including but not limited to macarons (my most favorite French decadence), dragées, candied fruits, éclairs (which I just learned used to be called pains à la duchesse – duchess bread – love that) or croquignoles, small crunchy pastries, among many others.
These elaborate, ornate constructions remind me of old France, pré-Révolution. I’ve yet to see one in person (although maybe I just looked past them in patisserie windows during my Parisian life), but I’ll be keeping my eyes peeled next summer. What do you think? Too much or just right?
October brings me vividly back to Paris, and my mother’s first “big” trip to see me there. (She had previously spent a quick week with me at New Year’s when I studied abroad.) This trip, however, would be two weeks, and I wouldn’t be able to spend as much time with her as the previous trip-let. I had carved out my own little life, going from class to volunteering with the English speaking kids at the school down the street, to let’s face it, a daily apéritif at my favorite café-bar.
Compared with the demands of true “adult” life, it all sounds quite quaint and remarkably stress-free, but I was eager for my mother to see me as the adult I perceived myself to be at 22. I was so proud I had found a way to achieve just the life I wanted post-college and wanted her to be, too. I couldn’t wait to show her around my new neighborhood, have her partake in an apéritif amongst friends both old and new, and of course get in some requisite cultural outings and site seeing.
When I think back to those two weeks, what stands out to me is the many afternoons and early evenings we spent at different cafés, both famous and hole-in-the wall. We enjoyed Croque-Madames and French onion soup at Le Départ, a cafe adjacent to the Place St Michel …
… and Notre Dame …
… and known more traditionally for late night revelers than late afternoon mother-daughter outings.
We sipped delicious and rich hot chocolate on an unseasonably cold day in Chartres …
We sipped on cheap red wine in our not-so-tiny (by Parisian student standards that is) apartment. That’s actually my home-sweet-home of two years right there. We’re in those apartments hidden behind the little dormer windows on the top floor.
We tried died-in-the-wool French classics like Brasserie Balzar on the rue des Ecoles.
My mother and I (as I’m sure many of you are) are extremely close. The high schools years, by both of our standards, were not the calmest in our relationship. And we’re still not perfect. I should revise that. I’m still not. I can be bossy with the people I’m closest to, and my mother graciously puts up with that. But when I think back to when we grew as close as we are now, when we shed the drama of my growing pains, I think it must have been when we started to travel together, in my late college years. By finding solutions to (and sometimes squabbling about) problems as simple as which métro stop to take to more complicated ones like deciphering how-to guides in another language, we learned to communicate more clearly. Emphasis still on me learning to be more patient since my mother is about as patient as can be with her children. She doesn’t utter an unkind word, makes us feel accepted no matter what we are currently interested in and in fact makes a great travel companion. I’ll miss her on my French exchange next summer but I’m sure she’ll be ready to hear all about it and actually want to look at every picture I take. What are your best memories with your mom?
With the leaves beginning to turn, I’m thinking of quiet villages and inviting medieval architecture, both of which abound in the French region of Bourgogne (Burgundy). There’s something about this paysage that lends itself to the raucous oranges, yellows and reds of autumn. Do you agree?
I get really annoyed with all that extra stuff – dish and hand soap, lotion, matches, kitchen candles – that tends to clutter up my counter tops, so I’ve been keeping all the runaways all together on a tray. Only thing is the one I have is oddly shaped for its purpose ~
So, I need a new tray. Par the course for moi, pulling the trigger and making a decision is not easy.