Let me just start by saying that vegan really is the way. It really really is. I know it's going to be a bitch sometimes but I also know that it's 95% nostalgia. Read on...
So, on Friday, since both girls were going to be at daycare all day and since Sam had the day off and could stay with Ryan, I made a few plans. I was going to spend the morning cleaning the kitchen/living areas while Sam took Ryan up into the mountains close by so they could play in the snow (while it snowed pretty much all day on Thursday, it never does more than just powder sugar the roofs for an hour or so, but up in the nearby mountains--Les Domes--it does collect enough for Sam to hold a snowball seminar for Ryan). Then, I was going to find the raw foods resto I saw a few months ago while looking for organic restos. THEN, I was going to meet my friend D down at The Smoking Dog for drinks and writes. The only thing that didn't happen was the cleaning (and well, we went to a different resto).
Speaking of the resto... So, I go online looking for that raw foods place. I'm sorta staking it out because I gotta buddy back in H-town who's into that stuff and wanted to use this resto as a way to woo her ass over here (heyyyyy NJ!). But, for some reason, I can't find the place anymore. BUT, what I DID find was a 100% organic, 100% seasonal resto who caters to vegetarians and vegans!!! I go to their website and find out that we'll prolly need a reservation (I'm figuring cuz it's prolly small and whatnot); so, I call Sam and after a bit of bickering (and me finally retreating to bed out of depression caused by Sam's lack of support and enthusiasm--a pattern in our relationship have you noticed?), he finally calls me back and with a reluctant sigh asks me for the number so he can call to get the reservations. I didn't tell him that had he not called me back, I probably would have just gone there by myself. I don't WANT to go there by myself. I want to find some way for the two of us to connect on this. I don't need him to go vegan, but I want him to see that it's not some sort of alien diet. That it only means eating veggies and not eating animals. That it doesn't mean I'm gonna start frying up tofu for the family, yo.
He gets home and after another bout of bickering over whether or not we're going to get the van back out (to drive to a place to which we can essentially WALK) or take the bus and metro since 1) it's the "right" thing to do and 2) Ryan is with us and LOVES the mass transit adventure--the holding of the ticket, the validating of the ticket, the asking at EVERY SINGLE stop "is this it?" Ryan and I finally win and we take the trolley bus to the Hotel de Ville and take the Metro up the hill to a very steeeeeeeep stop called Croix Paquet (why am I giving you this info? because I want you to know where this place is if you ever get over this way and I'm not the one taking you there.) From the metro stop, it is a short--but incredibly steeeeeeeep--hike up to the resto--Toutes les Couleurs (which means all the colors... this is a garden reference but it also may be a reference to the sexual orientation of the ownership and staff, this judgement based on my first encounter *wink*).
I learned two things at this resto: 1) Vegetables can be turned into the most delicious, colorful, creative and flavorful dishes with the right amount of know-how and 2) there IS a word for vegan in French: vegetalien. There is vegetarien for vegetarians, but vegan is vegetalien. Sounds like an Italian (italien in French) who eats veggies, but WHATEVER.
There were both kinds of food but the vegan stuff was marked on the menu with a little clover leaf. The menu. That's another thing. Instead of having paper menus covered in plastic, they have a big chalk board that they bring to your table and set up on a make-shift easel (a chair) because their menu changes so often--if you're working with seasonal veggies and you can only prepare what you find at the market, that's what you get, right? Personally, I find this AWESOME because it means that whatever I eat there, I can come home and try to replicate myself.
When asked if we wanted something to drink, Ryan took a fresh organic apple juice, Sam stuck with water, but I tried an organic spelt beer. I don't know what the hell spelt is (epeautre in French), but it's some kind of really healthy grain that makes a damn tasty (and potent *hiccup*) beer. When she brought us our drinks, she brought a small bowl of mixed seeds (sunflower and pumpkin mixed with raisins).
As a starter, Sam ordered the saurkraut and curry "terrine" which is supposed to be like a loaf sorta thing. That wasn't vegan cuz it had eggs in it. So, I chose a celery tartare... Let me explain again that the French eat the bottom of the celery plant more than they eat the branches (the thing that we Americans put peanut butter on... well the thing that YOU Americans eat that way... I don't eat that shit unless it has had 95% of the bitter nastiness boiled out of it (soup)). So, this was a celeri-rave chopped into miniscule pieces and mixed with raw beets (I think) chopped into miniscule peices and soaked in a fresh orange juice. I had a severe mouthgasm.
By the time we were done with our starters, my beer was gone. So, I asked her to bring me one of their other beers. She told me they had a BIG some kind of beer and a smaller bottle of chanvre beer. I said, "I'm American and a little linguistically challenged." She smiled and held her fingers to her lips and said, "joint." My mouth dropped open. "Hemp beer?" A light went on in her eyes and she reached for the English menu, "Yes. Hemp." She pointed at it, obviously excited to get to use her English (which is ADORABLE sometimes you know?).
"Um, absolutely. AB.SO.LUTELY, I want a hemp beer." I couldn't be any more emphatic.
Seconds later, she brought me a yellow bottle with a big pot leaf on it. Eyegasm. She noticed and told me that I could take the bottle home with me if I wanted to.
Let me tell you... this beer was AWESOME. The hemp flavor wasn't overpowering. Just enough to be there and be delicious. And I DID bring the bottle home and I WILL put a pic of it up here for you to see (but, ahem, later... be patient with me, my five year old is on vacation). To tide you over, here's the company's website: http://www.cannabia.com/flasmenu.htm
For our main dish, we all three had a tajine d'hiver aux fruits sec. A tajine, if you don't know, is a Moroccan dish... not just the food IN the dish, but the actual DISH (it's like a flying saucer with a sawed-off funnel on top of it...here's an image I found on Google: http://www.cocinaceramics.co.uk/photos/tajine1.jpg). It is traditionally a sort of runny stew served on a bed of couscous. Well OUR tajine, though not served in an actual tajine, was a "winter" dish with carrots, fennel, lentils, rutabaga, celery branches (with the crap boiled out of 'em), some other kind of green stuff and a stewed prune (that was actually the only fruit sec or "dried fruit" in the dish *snicker*) and it was served on a bed of organic pollenta instead of couscous. That shit was DELISH. I mean, I could have eaten three times the amount we were served but that's the American in me. Don't get me wrong, I was FULL by the end, but I wanted MORE.
For dessert, Ryan had the fondant au chocolate (like a choco-brownie-cake thingy), Sam had the plateau de fromages (it's a platter of cheeses they bring to your table and you choose a slice from whatever cheeses you like... this is a very typical French thing... some people eat cheese AND dessert, some people eat cheese AS their dessert... either way, the platter was one of purely local and organic cheeses), and I had this kick ASS thing they called gateaux coco-datte avec compote panachee, which was basically a ball of coconut and dates that had been finely chopped, formed into a ball and chilled (this, I suspect wasn't as "local" as I'd like (probably Spain or the islands nearby... or Northern Africa which really is pretty close to here comparatively), but I wasn't gonna complain as it really was delectable) accompanied by a small ramekin of freshly made pear-apple compote (apple sauce with pears in it). We opted to drink our coffee at home, since I don't drink milk and wasn't sure at that point whether I'd wanna drink soy milk in my coffee (plus, I've really taken a renewed infatuation with herbal tea (yummy Yogi Tea usually)).
I came home, grabbed my computer and jumped on the bus to head downtown to write with my friend D. When we got to the pub, there was no one there, so we had our choice of tables!!! I got a pint of McEwan's and she got a fruit juice. I guess I'm just more anglo-saxon... She wanted to start out doucement (slowly or softly) whereas I just wanted to get my drink on. *grin*
We spent our first drinks catching up (another part of going doucement... instead of opening up our laptops, we made conversation... not a normal thing for me and my writer friends--we usually pepper our writing time with little micro-breaks of conversation--but a welcome change nonetheless). After my second pint, I pulled an "American" and interrupted her writing by saying, "I have a dilemma."
And I did. *sigh* Okay, if you're not interested in the writing process, if stuff like that bores you, you make want to skip ahead.
For all these years, I have been stubborn about the "plot" (you can't really call it "plot" in memoire because I'm not "plotting" out the course of action. It happened, I'm recounting it... but "storyline" sounds even MORE artificial, so I'm sticking with "plot") being linear. What I always wanted was for the reader to FEEL what I felt and discover what I discovered as I discovered it. I wanted them to feel my naivete in the beginning. I wanted my readers to WORRY about me and FRET when I got myself into stupid situations because I believed it would make them root for me all that much more when I found a solution to my predicaments. Right? Doesn't that sound like a good idea? Don't you think that that would keep you hooked, always wondering if I'm going to make it (even though you KNOW that I do make it because, ahem, I'm the one that wrote the damn story)?
Well, so far, this approach has worked well for my writer friends. They seem to understand my purpose. But other people aren't getting it. Well, it's not that they aren't getting it... it's that they aren't getting hooked at the beginning. The beginning is about my flight to France and how excited and scared I am and how I have all my eggs in one French basket... In setting the scene that way, I wanted to draw the reader in with me. Make him/her remember a time when they felt that way about something. But, for some reason, that flight just doesn't seem to be as riveting for most as it was for me. Am I not expressing myself well enough? Or is a flight to France really not that exciting for most?
I have been dealing with this dilemma for years. I have had several suggestions from writer friends, but they all seemed to be coming from a fiction-writer's mind and that just didn't mesh with what I am trying to do.
A few years ago, I had an idea, but I felt it so counter to what I had always wanted to do (make the memoire linear instead of retrospective), that I just dropped it. But the other day, while I was talking to Sam, just saying it out loud made it seem like the most obvious solution. Like a brainstorm. I sat down and wrote out a two-page chapter account of the "climax" (again, not really an appropriate word, but whattaya gonna do? *shrug*), so that I could begin the book in the middle, flash back to the beginning and catch up to the middle. But I wrote that chapter during a very grim day. As I wrote it, I felt catharsis, but afterward, as I reread it, I found myself blushing. It just didn't feel like me. I began to cut and revise and cut some more until the final product was less and less what I wanted to say. I found it poetic and skillfully written, but in the end, it was just way. too. "emo."
Still, I sent it to a friend (holla Boudy!!!) and checked my email every day thereafter waiting for him (he whose writing can be downright tangibly emo sometimes) to write me back telling me how good it was and how much he appreciated it (but secretly hoping he would call me out for my fraud... because really, that's what it was... me TRYING too hard to be dark... which I'm just not... even in the depths of my own depression, I'm only just a little gray, really... I'm never pitch).
And that's exactly what he did. He wrote me back and told me that it was okay but just not me. And then he sent me a link to a youtube video of Hank Williams, Sr. that fished me right the fuck out of my depression. Something about being So Lonesome I Could Cry and Your Cheatin' Heart that makes me smile.
But I digress.
So, I'm sitting in the pub and I think, "Shit, why not pitch this to D and see what she thinks? Get the French writer's perspective."
And she gave me some GREAT advice. And even though I got drunk (after three pints and the rest of her pina colada) I felt like I had gotten a LOT done even though I didn't get much DONE. The thing is, the story has been reorganized in my head and will soon be thus in my computer. I'm not gonna tell you the final verdict because I don't want you to know yet (plus, how the hell am I going to pay for the farm if I tell you the whole story here and you don't buy my damn book?), but let me just say that the Universe is at peace now. The struggle, I think, is over. Stay tuned.
Later that night, I was supposed to go out with Flavia and Gilles, but F texted me to say that she didn't feel well. So, when D and I parted ways, instead of taking the bus, I decided to stumble drunkenly along to my second bus. On the way, I stopped into a kebab resto and ordered a vegetarian sandwich (um, lettuce, tomato, onion and FRENCH FRIES... dude... I think I found my soul-sandwich) with NO SAUCE making it vegetalien. I walked and ate my way to the bus stop. Then, waited, drunkenly, but sobering up, for almost an HOUR for my bus. I got home LATE and still a leeetle tipsy but felt like it had been a pretty productive day.
Okay.... I know this one has been long and that I really should blog every day when there's shit a-happenin', but when there's shit a-happenin' they ain't no goddamn time to blog, yo. So, I'm going to put an actual PAUSE in this blog so that you can go eat, drink, pee, masturbate, watch some tube, read a chapter in that book, study, pick your nose and start another load of laundry and then come back for the rest. Here it is.
So... You'll notice the title of this segment is about cheese.
"Cheese?" You say? "But aren't you a vegan? A vegetalien? Whatever?"
Yes. Yes, I am. But you'll also note from the REST of my frickin' blog that I frickin' love me some dadblammin' cheeeeeeeeeese!!!! And I personally don't think that cow mind that much when they get milked gently and regularly (but not over-frequently, if that's a word).
So, as I'm walking drunkenly down the street away from the pub, my dear husband calls me to tell me that his father, whom we were going to visit on Sunday (yes, yesterday), is making us a RACLETTE. You remember what raclette is, dontcha? Yes, it's that freaking amazing, ass-smelling cheese accompanied by all sorts of meats and yummy potatoes, etc. Is that vegan? NOOOOOO!
"You told him about me?" I say, cringing.
"Yep. I told him."
I stop in my tracks and let my surprise and appreciation duke it out with the beer in my brain... Sam actually TOLD his dad? When he had been UBER embarrassed of my diet and told me not to talk about it too much with his parents and to please take a hiatus from being vegan just for the Sunday we would visit his parents?
"And what did he say?" I said in a near whisper.
"He said, tough shit." Sam laughed.
I laughed, too. "Yeah, I figured. What did YOU say?"
"I didn't say anything. I'm not getting any more involved in that. I told him and there you go."
"So, are you going to eat the raclette?"
"I dunno. I guess. I mean, I'm not a purist. I'm mainly doing this to see if I can, right?" My stomach growls at the THOUGHT of raclette.
"And taking a day off from being vegan won't KILL me, right?"
So, I get home and I don't remember the whole rest of the story because, as I said, I was still pretty tipsy--not that I-just-started-to-drink tipsy, but the I've-already-eaten-enough-to-soak-up-some-of-this-alcohol-but-am-still-officially-drunk tipsy, BUT, whatever was said, I went to bed in a huff.
In the middle of the night, I was awakened by my infant child screaming out in dental pain (she's cutting teeth) and in the midst of the struggle (read: her kicking me over and over in my back since Sam's solution was to bring her to bed), I had an epiphany: The cheese is a test.
"I'm not going to eat the raclette," I said allowed.
Sam grunted with a question mark.
"I'm not going to eat the cheese. I'm going to take a salad."
He grunted again and I could hear the eye roll in his noise.
In the morning, I asked Sam why after nine years of being with me does he still take everyone else's side.
"I don't." The eye roll was almost VISIBLE in his voice.
"Yeah, you do. Why are you embarrassed that I want to change my diet? Do you feel like your father's SOUL will be harmed if I don't eat his fucking cheese? I mean, I sincerely want to know why you want ME to be the one to make the concession. When someone is a guest in your home, you cook to THEIR tastes and THEIR needs. You don't make whatever the fuck you want and tell your guests to eat or go hungry."
"This is different."
"I don't see it that way," I said. "I'm gonna go make a salad."
I got up, steamed some broc, some cauli, some julienned carrots. I made a vinaigrette. I put some sesame seeds into a little ziplock. I even packed some stuff to make a pear-rice-soy milk dessert I wanted to try.
BUT... I also made two pear-chocolate pies for the family... Pies I can't eat because they have egg in them (and butter in the crust).
We went. And it was HELL... HELLLLLL I tell you. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine that ASS would smell so fucking good. As they ate their bubbling cheese (cuz I don't really give a shit about ham, really), I chewed my salad with a vengeance. It was probably one of the hardest, most difficult things I have ever done (and I'll remind you that I've had four babies and slept in a tent, a car, a camper and a phone booth).
The good part is... Sam's father didn't react in a bad way. He made light-hearted jokes about it, but he didn't throw a tantrum. And then, when R&A, and M (these are my nephews and one of their girlfriends... all grown) came over, they actually APPLAUDED my diet. A said, "Yeah, I LOVE soy milk. I love OAT milk even more!" R (who is a professional cyclist) said, "Yeah and I LOVE rice milk because I'm allergic to soy and dairy." And then we talked about not shaving and not wearing deodorant and all their comments were positive and supportive!!!!!
Okay... I wanna keep going on and on about yesterday (because there's more... Sam and I made a new and very complex connection), but Ryan is telling me that it's time to go to the park (and he's gotten dressed all by himself--including shoes), so it'll have to wait.
Just one last thing. *shooting the bird* Take THAT ass cheese!!!!!