I'm sorry for the lack of updates in the past couple of days. Two big things happened that caused this: 1) I went on vacation and 2) my computer - after an easy, breezy train ride to Paris - broke. I can still use about two-thirds of the screen, which, frankly, is about one-third less than I prefer to have when being on the computer. While having a broken computer makes me sad and cranky, being in the South of France and soaking up all the warmth it has to offer, is making up for my disdain.
The Too Small Pot Incident
Doesn’t this look delicious? Warm and inviting? Cozy and comforting? Well, I can tell you my friends, the natural emotions caused by eating this bowl of soup are 100% inversely proportional to the emotional state it caused to make it.
Have you ever tried to make soup in a pot that was too small?
I’m not talking about a pot that is inconveniently too small, where you have to gently stir for fear of overspill. I mean a pot that is way too freakin’ small. Like, halfway through chopping your vegetables, onions sautéing, potatoes already peeled (AKA the point of no return) you realize that there ain’t no way that head of cauliflower is gonna make it in there, too. Even after you’ve chopped it up real small. And then all that stock on top of it. Oh, no. No, no, no. This is not going to happen. Then (if you’re me at least) you start silently panicking and searching for pots to move things into. Because, on top of the fact that that damn pot is too small, you’re still in the middle of chopping and the bottom of the (crappy, inherited from some other poor fool) pot is starting to burn.
That’s when it gets real. This is when crisis mode switches into high gear. You find a big sautée pan that is suitable for the stock. Because, bien sûr, the French don’t sell chicken stock in a can. It’s bullion only and bullion means you have to make the stock in – what else – another pot. So you transfer the stock to another pot. Then, you throw all the vegetables into the now empty stock pot. As you race to the sink to clean out the burned bottom of the pan, you look up to see your roomie entering your room of mayhem, also known as the kitchen. While you’d like to pretend as though you spent all that time in the kitchen bathed in Zen-like tranquility, it’s no time for delusions of grandeur here, so you keep scrubbing that damn pot. You chat to her, she politely asks what you are making and you continue chopping cauliflower in a style that would make Edward Scissor Hands look calm. Finally, after the chopping is done, you can add the stock, which mercifully ends your fear of more blackened cauliflower soup that you were trying desperately to avoid.
While disaster is likely averted, you’re still doing damage control. How do you cook one soup in two pots? How are you supposed to flavor them right? How do you get them to cook at an equal speed? And why, in the name of God, did you decide that soup was such a good idea anyway?
Your roomie leaves, because she can see the disaster and has to go to class anyway. You start to clean the bits of vegetable from every imaginable surface while your vegetables boil away. You try to manage the quality of your soup by moving some of the soup from the first pot into the second and then vice versa. It kind of feels like a hopeless cause. After you’ve managed to make the kitchen look more like its once civilized self, you decide to go in for the taste.
Ugh. If watery soup was the idea, then by golly, you’ve got it made! But alas, it needs seasoning. And probably more stock. And now, come to think of it, probably more bullion too. So you add all those things. You tinker. You taste. And finally, despite everything, the soup’s good. Thank goodness.
So what’s the moral of this story? What, you are hankering to know, is the wisdom of my fiasco. Well, it’s this:
Make sure you have a big enough pot for your soup.
Ah, life lessons.
Luxembourgish Ain't No Made Up Word
What is Luxembourg? Well, it’s not France, but they speak French. It’s a little more like Germany, but they’re certainly not German. They speak Luxembourgish (yes, that’s an actual language) but you almost never hear it. People switch from French, to English to German whenever they need to. There are a lot of expensive cars. And a plethora of well-dressed businessmen walking the streets. They supposedly have a soft spot for the Americans. And they really seem to love their royal family.
I guess ambiguity of culture is exactly what makes Luxembourg, well, Luxembourg.
It’s hard to say. I visited Luxembourg City for just a few hours, but I definitely liked it. It had the kind of character that feels authentic – like real people live and work there – despite Luxembourg’s reputation for being a very wealthy place. My friend, Wisconsin (the alias I’m giving her because of her deep Midwestern roots and thick accent) and I decided to spend our free Wednesday taking the train over to have a look.
We decided to take a leisurely approach and headed towards the city center, where we ambled amongst the streets, shops and monuments.
The highlights of our excursion included:
Walking the main bridge into the center of town. The city is divided by an enormous valley, with bridges connecting the two sides.
Happening upon the Ladurée store. We bought incredible macarons in beautiful boxes, served to us by an incredibly charming man at the counter. True luxury.
Having lunch in a small café-type place. My salad had shrimp and some sort of cream sauce. Wisconsin had the pasta. This place was teeny tiny, which was what added to its charm. Being squeezed in - fellow day trippers on one side, lunching businessmen on the other and the single waitress serving everyone with an ease of someone who knew how to do her job – is what made the place, so unassuming from the outside, feel so charming on the inside. And of course, we desserted on our macarons, which were delicious.
Walking through the streets, happening upon fun little gourmet shops and walking through a maze of beautifully kept government and judicial buildings.
Luxembourg is charming, but not in a storybook kind of way. Which I like. It makes it more real, in the way some university campuses are charming and clean, but also useful and functional, too. I don’t know much about the people of Luxembourg, can’t really sum them up. One afternoon doesn’t seem a fair amount of time to try and make a judgment anyway, does it? So I’ll just leave it at that. A charming mash up. A crossroads of cultures. Something entirely unique on its own.
Baker. Traveler. Writer.