Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Feeling connected

I returned from my annual spring break trip to France last night.  Twelve glorious days speaking French, hearing French, eating French and living French.  This year, I took 14 eighth graders, two tenth graders and my co-chaperone along with me.  It was a trip full of adventure and fun.  For me it was a trip full of connections.  Old friends and new friends were waiting for me.
I know Quasimodo from reading Notre Dame de Paris and seeing various film versions of the Victor Hugo novel, but I'd never actually hugged him.  Nevermind that I paid two euros for this hug.  Paris is a very expensive city and I wouldn't want Quasi to go without bread or wine.
Venus de Milo and I go way back.  I visit her each time I go to Paris.  I love her elegance and calm in the midst of standing half-dressed among throngs of people taking her picture.
A visit to the Louvre would not be complete without saying bonjour to my serenely happy friend Mona.  I am not and never have been a woman of mystery so I admire her for keeping her secrets for all these years.  She probably thinks all of the speculation about her is very amusing. 
The girls introduced me to lait chaud.  Somehow I have missed this offering on café menus.  I do not know how because it was on every single menu that I looked at.  It is warm vanilla-y, slightly sweet milk.  And I am quite sure it is not skim or 2% milk, a fact that makes me very happy because if you are going to have warm milk, it should not be low-fat.
I also met more macarons than I ever have before.  After following Paris Breakfasts for several months, I've fallen in love with these delightful, colorful treats.  So, Carol, you would be proud... I sampled quite a few, including Pierre Hermé (found inside Galeries Lafayette) and Ladurée (inside Printemps).  I took photos of the ones at McDonald's on the Champs-Elysées, but I absolutely did not eat one there.  I sampled these at one of the restaurants at the Louvre while you were watching the fashion shows in the very same building.
I am thrilled that we have new friends in Villeneuve-lez-Avignon at the Collège du Mourion, the local middle school.  We've been writing penpal letters to them this year and were able to spend a couple of hours talking to them at their school.  The students have been learning The Pledge of Allegiance so we recited it for them, they recited it for us and then we all said it together.  A moving moment for the French teacher and the English teachers alike.  We now hope to start an exchange program between our schools.
I introduced my students to Chef Érick who helped them make tomato sauce for their individual pizzas. He made dinner for us the day we arrived, we prepared brandade de morue, a Provençale speciality, as well as the pizzas.
He also showed my students how to make crêpe batter and they each took a turn making one.  My little chefs de cuisine were very proud of their crêpes.
They, too, fell in love with Arles... as shown by the love note left in flour on the kitchen work table.
I didn't officially meet this saleslady at the Arles Saturday market, but I just couldn't help listening to her tell about her trucs.  I had no available space in my suitcase (okay, suitcases... I paid 50 euros to bring back a second one stuffed full of treasures) or I would've spent 20 euros for her vegetable choppers.  We had one in the Arles kitchen and it came in very handy to chop up vegetables for our couscous salads.
A highlight of the trip was meeting Olivier, on the left, my new penpal, and his wife, Muriel.  Olivier and I met on the New York in French social networking website a few months ago.  He started a group about Provence and, if you have ever read my blog or know me, you know that I am very much in love with this part of France.  Olivier introduced me to his son's English teacher at the Collège du Mourion, which led to our letters and visit.  Olivier and his wife drove over to Arles to go to the Saturday market.  They took Chappell, my co-chaperone, and me to lunch at La Mule Blanche
I had tellines, one of my favorite dishes from my sabbatical days.
I stood in the presence of Jules César himself, too, in the Musée Départementale Arles Antique. For twenty years, divers searched the Rhône River in and around Arles for treasures left during Roman times.  The pièce de résistance is this bust of Jules himself, made in 46 BC, during his lifetime.
During this trip, I came to the conclusion that it is through these connections and friendships, whether they are old, comfortable ones that fit like a favorite pair of jeans or new ones, just beginning with that blissful feeling of falling in love, that I know I belong in France.  It is my second home, my home away from home.
As Thomas Jefferson, ambassador to France from 1785-1789 and president of the U.S. from 1801-1809, said "Every man has two countries, his own and France." Oui.

makes about 15 medium-sized crêpes

Beat 3 large eggs in a medium-sized bowl with a fork.  Add about 1 c. of milk and beat.  Gradually add enough flour to make a really thick pancake batter.  As you mix it, it should pull away from the sides of the bowl.  Next, gradually add enough milk to make a thin batter.  Do not add too much milk.  If you try to rethicken it with flour, you will have lumps that are impossible to remove.  The batter is thin enough if it is easy to coat the bottom of the pan with it as you pour it into the pan.
Heat a well-seasoned non-stick pan.  The pan must be hot.  Melt butter and quickly pour in enough batter to coat the bottom.  The crêpe is ready when the edges brown and start to pull away from the sides.  You can try flipping it into the air to turn it over or you can just flip it with your fingers or a spatula.
Serve with sprinkled sugar, jam or nutella.

Bon appétit à tous mes élèves et à tous mes amis!


MPK said...

I'm glad you are home, and I am also glad you once again got to visit the place that holds a piece of your heart.

Grace said...

I miss France so so much!!!! This photos bring back so many memories