Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Dangerous changes...

First of all, Ryan and I made a cake. After spending all morning practicing R's--my new Wednesday project is to help him get used to writing and we started with R's so he can eventually write his name completely by himself... I'm nearly convinced, however, that he might be "slow"... not that I care... I think he'll catch up--which are straight vertical lines that we turn into P's and then give an extra leg to, LOL, we made a "cake" from scratch. Scratch.... Like well, a lot of head scratching. I looked all over the place on-line for just a basic cake recipe that I could change to suit my tastes and ingredients and measurements and temperature (so I wouldn't have to waste time on conversion) but in the end, I just found a French cake recipe and modified it.

Look, "cake" in France is not the round, two-layer thing you put yummy gooey frosting on. "Cake" in France is a loaf of whatever the hell you want it to be. I found "cake" recipes for just about everything under the sun--Chorizo cakes, bacon and mushroom cakes, vegetable cakes, lemon and salmon, banana nut, lemon poppy seed, etc. No, a "cake" in France need only be made in a loaf pan to qualify as a "cake." On the other hand, a gateaux (uh, that's French for our "cake") is a different creature as well. So... I took this marble-y "cake" recipe which was supposed to have a rum top and a chocolate bottom and turned it into something else. The bottom was still chocolate, but since I didn't have powdered baker's chocolate, I made the basic batter, cut it in half and to the chocolate half, I used four tablespoons of our regular drinking chocolate (which is 70% cocoa anyway) and minced up some squares of dark chocolate into crumblies. To the other half, I added a tablespoon of muscat (a cooked wine), a tablespoon of litchi liqueur and a very ripe pear (which I minced and practically smashed). I put the chocolate on the bottom and the pear on top and put both of my loaf pans in the oven. Within minutes, the "cake" had risen and this really pretty effect had taken place... The chocolate had sort of poked its way through the pear batter in several places, making it look all marble-y on top. And the house smelled SO good!!! When they were done, I tried to take a pic for you guys but the camera battery was dead. So, I had Sam take a pic with his phone... Not sure if we'll ever figure out how to get it off the phone and onto here, but I'll try.

I was proud of us! I might never be able to duplicate it but damn it was good!!! I'll see how long I can keep the guys from eating the second loaf and try to get a pic before they tear into it.

Sooooooo, *sigh*... Well, after I mentioned that I had recently cut some toxic strings from my life, I got all kinds of response from peeps wondering if they were one of the strings. First of all, if you were a toxic string, you'd probably know it, wouldn't you? And secondly, if you're reading my blog, chances are you're NOT a toxic string. I doubt any of the toxic strings even know they are toxic strings because they'd be too toxic to follow my blog, eh? Okay, I'm even confusing myself. The only thing I can say is, no. It's not you.

That said, I have to reveal some changes that are happening without my bidding and against my will. I had forgotten that it happened last time until it started happening this time (kind of like alcohol memories... you know, the ones you remember only when you're drunk and they usually have to do with something that happened the LAST time you were drunk?). It's an inevitable (for me) and painful (for me) metamorphosis. I'm becoming French again. *sigh* You may wonder what that entails and I'm not sure I have the words or energy to go into it too deeply, but what I can say is that it makes me feel like I'm in limbo.

The only tangible example I can provide is, well, sometimes, when I think I miss home, I think about home... I picture myself there... and... well... I used to like it. I'd imagine myself getting up, going to the Y, coming home, doing my daily stuff, blah blah blah, and I would be sad and miss it and it would give me strength and make me work harder on my projects here--as if working harder here would make the time pass. But ironically, it doesn't work that way. The more I work on my projects here, the hazier the images of me back there get. And now, it's to the dangerous and scary point where, when I look back and imagine myself back home, I don't recognize or like myself. It makes me wonder if I've already--in just the short couple of months I've been here--gotten so used to being here, or am such a chameleon and have absorbed so much of France again, that I can no longer imagine myself American again.

When I think about eating, thinking, playing, being the way I was back home, it almost makes me mad... No, embarrassed. I can't explain why. The main thing is, it makes me scared. Cuz I know that I AM going home some day. Even if I loved everything about being here (which I don't), what I DO know is the SECOND I consider France to be forever, I desperately want to go home (it happened before when I decided to stay here and get married to a Frenchy... as soon as it was forever, it felt like jail). So, I AM going home. But I know, that if I already feel this French after a couple of months, I'm going to be wicked French after two years. And that means that it's going to be a thousand times more painful when I go back. Reverse culture shock sux. I'll get home and everything will seem so fake and plastic and new. It'll feel so wasteful. So cold and uninvolved. So callous and individualistic. The grass will all be green and the lawns landscaped. And the sidewalks will be all straight and the flowers all blooming and I'll feel like I've been sent to Disneyhell. And the food will seem like nursing home, mass-produced, over-processed, stuff warmed in a microwave. And I'll lie around crying about how bad the media is. How I'd just like to have more than a five-minute blurb on how the rest of the world is doing.

And I'll want to turn to my friends for comfort. But, either they will all be so different from me that they will not understand. And that will frustrate them. Which will frustrate me. OR, I will have so alienated all of them during my time abroad that they won't even be reachable in the first place.

I used to think being as adaptable to new situations was a gift. But then, I remember. When I start to feel too comfortable here, I remember that I'll go home some day and that I'll have to purge the Frenchness from me all over again. Maybe that's one of the reasons I HATE visiting here!!! Because once I get all the Frenchness out, I don't want to get my hands dirty again.

Blah blah blah...

I'm sorry to sound so schizo, but I remember going through this last time, but back then, I hadn't seen it coming. THIS TIME, it's not my first time... I know what the future holds and I know it's gonna be a mean row to hoe.

Anyhoooooooo, our ship shipment gets here tomorrow! YAY!!! That might be just the medication I need!!! Having more of my "back home" stuff around me will either make me feel closer to home and ever more ready to go back... OR it'll just plunge me deeper into the twilight zone. Whatever happens, one thing I know is that I won't be sleepin' on no damn futon no more, yo!!! I can't WAIT to roll around my humongous king sized sleigh bed!!! I can't WAIT to see the look of disgust on French people's faces when they see how utterly ridiculously ginormous my bed is... Mwah ah ah ah ... Yep... if you're wondering... I HAVE truly lost it!!!

And tonight, I'm printing out my manuscript because She Who Must Be Worshipped (um, my friend Rachel), sent me two reams of printer paper and I got it yesterday. The only reason I didn't print it yesterday is because I'm still making a few teensy changes (thanks Ju) and because Sam bought cheap ass printer cartridges that are all smudgey and I'm making him buy me the primo ones tonight. So, yep, I'm sending it out tomorrow, yo... Just in time for my ship shipment to get HERE!

I just remembered... Here's the potato leek soup recipe from yesterday. I made this as a base to which I'll thaw and add more milk, but if you like it really thick, just eat it as is.

Okay, here's what you'll need:
Some buttuh (just enough to saute the leeks)
Some olive oil (just enough to "burn" the buttuh)
3 big ole leeks (sliced thinly)
a mess o' potatoes (up to you...if you like your soup leek-i-er, add fewer potatoes, but I think I put about twelve medium sized potoes in there) sliced nice and thin
Stock (veggie or chicken... I used half and half.. .both organic) probably a can or two
Milk (I used organic 2%) I used a litre (about a quart)
Cream (I used organic reduced fat)
Salt and peppuh.

Put the oil in the pan and let it dance around. Add the buttuh and let it brown. Add the leeks and saute them until they start to get clear. Put the taters in and cover them with stock and milk(not drown them... just covered.. this makes the soup really thick... like I said, it's a base for me). Let it cook down until the taters are cooked enough to smoosh. (You'll need to stir from time to time to manage the sticking to the bottom of the pan.) When the taters are all mashed (I didn't have a masher--in the ship shipment, yo--so I used a big slotted spoon), take it off of the burner and add the cream. Taste it to see if it needs salt (it might not if the stock reduced enough in the simmer) and add some pepper. I let the whole thing cool and put it in freezer bags (I wish I could find a way to freeze safely using old jars... grrrr). I KNOW I'm gonna make a kazillion bags of this until there are no leeks and taters left at the organic market cuz I LOOOOOOVE this soup and plan to eat it all winter long!!!

Cake recipe:
250 grams sugar (I used raw)
250 grams softened buttuh (I used organic)
6 eggs (I used free-range/organic)
400 grams of flour (I used organic)
2 packets of baking powder (I don't know if you can FIND that organic... it's called "chemical yeast" over here, so I doubt it *eye roll*)
1 "pot" of plain yogurt
chocolate in some form, whatevah you wanna
a ripe pear
2 tablespoons of some kind of liqueur or liquor... you choose... I used muscat and litchi liqueur... tells you what I have in my fridge and what I'll be drinking later tonight *wink*

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Centigrade (HA! YOU do the math!!!) and grease/flour two (maybe more in the States, depending on the size) loaf pans or maybe try a pound cake pan).

Cream together the sugar and buttuah. Add in the eggs, but ONE AT A TIME. Add in the flour and baking powder (I think you should prolly mix these together separately and then add them in, but I didn't cuz the recipe didn't say to). Add yogurt. Mix until smooth and elastic. Cut the batter in half. To one half add the chocolate (and maybe a splash of milk... I did cuz part of my choco was powder...oh, and the chocolate pieces worked really well because they didn't melt all the way and the bottom layer of the cake had little choco chunks in it). To the other half, add the liqueur/liquor and the pear (the pear also left chunks in the yellow part of the "cake" and it was delectible).

Put half of the choco batter in each of the pans. Then, pour half of the pear batter in each of the pans.

Bake at 180 degrees Centigrade for 20 mins and then at 150 for 20-30 mins.

I'd give you the link to the original recipe, but it's in French, so most of you'd just be like *eye roll* anyway, right?

Here's the tomato paste recipe (all organic):

Ripe tomatoes
Onions (diced)
Garlic (diced/minced but fresh)
Fresh Basil (chopped finely... can't remember cookspeak for how to say that)
Green peppers (finely sliced)
Olive oil
Sugar? (I didn't need it cuz I don't like my paste that sweet, but you do what you do, yo.)

Preheat yer oven to roast stuff.

Peel and seed the maters (cut an X in the bottom of the mater and dip it for 30 secs in boiling water and the peel slides right off... I seed them with my fingers cuz it feels cool... *blush*). But, while the maters are cooling, oil the bottom of a cookie sheet with olive oil (generously). Sprinkle all the diced whatnots (onions, garlic basil and peppers)on the pan and stick it in the oven until roasted. Cut your peeled/seeded maters into little chunks.

Put your peeled/seeded maters in a big deep pot (this is better for later splashing and blopping that happens when you cook mater sauce). Add the roasted whatnots. Cook until there is everything is skuh-wished!!! That means at least an hour, probably more if you don't chop the heck outta yer maters. Let it cool for a long time (both so that it's, well, cool and also so that it can sort of steep, in a way. The mixture will sort of keep cooking internally for a while. Put the whole thing through some kind of straining device. I used a teensy slotted collander and then a sort of cheese cloth (well, a clean gauzey diaper (not prefold obviously)). The object is to squeeze out all the juice into a pan--to keep the juice and toss out the pulp. Then, put the juice on the stove and boil the hell out of it. I boiled it for about an hour and then when it started to thicken, I lowered the heat and let it simmer uncovered for I don't know how long... Until it became tomato paste. Then, when it's done, put it in a glass jar (I used an empty pasta sauce jar but they're really little--they don't smother their pasta like we do... they like a little pasta with their sauce... go figure) and pour enough olive oil to cover the top. This creates a preserving mechanism. Put it in the fridge. Whenever you wanna use it, spoon out how much you need (including the oil on the top) and put it into your sauce (or use it as a sauce itself). Remember to put mor oil on the top of the paste before putting it back into the fridge to help keep it preserved.

There you go.

Plum preserves (all organic):

Plums (I used about a pound and a half)
Sugar (for a pound and a half, I used two cups)
Honey (this is optional, but if you don't use it, add another cup of sugar... if you DO use it, use about 1/2 to 1 cup... I used local, non-pasteurized honey from my brother-in-law's honey farm... it's this weird honey that crystalized about half an hour after you put it in a jar... it stays white like that, but it tastes SO frickin' good!!!)
Water (I used a cup for a pound and a half of plums, but I wish I had only used 1/2 a cup cuz it took FOREVER to reduce).

Wash your plums. Peel 'em if you like a sweeter jam (the skin adds tartness and gets sorta hardened and candied, but I like it that way). Pit 'em and quarter 'em. Cut the quarters in half. Put 'em in a saucepan and cover them with sugar/honey/water. Start boiling. It's gonna boil and boil and boil and boil until is "gels"... You get to decide how thick you want it to be.

As for storing it afterwards, you gotta be careful. If you're like me and don't yet have a pressure canner, you can put it in a water bath and boil it for 5-10 minutes (go to the Department of Agriculture's website to find the actual canning times) OR you can just put it in your fridge right away. OR, you can put 'em in smaller containers (old jelly jars) and freeze 'em. Just make sure and leave enough room at the top of the jar for the jam to expand. You could even use baby food jars and then, you'll have several days' worth of jam every couple of days (well, in OUR house... they're all jam fiends!!!).

Well, y'all, that's about it for the multiple personalities (okay... dual "identities") ramble and recipe update. Let me know if I left anything out.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Yes, living in two cultures is not easy!!! Hang in there and enjoy the one you are in for now. You can always worry about plastic here later :)

Can I book my tickets now?????