Thursday, September 28, 2006

Around Western Europe in 12 Days, Ice Cream Technology, The Triumphant Return of Giuseppe Punzo, and Other Amazing Tales

Hello again. I know I've been lacadaisical lately about the blog, but rest assured I'm still alive and eating. Here's an abbreviated rundown of the past month or so:

-road tripped a good portion of Western Europe... castles, rainbows, tripe, spiders, le mistral, caves, black bread and superlative smoked fish all made appearances at one time or another
-took a very interesting ice cream technology class this week with a very hilarious prof... my favorite flavors (of around 30) included sorbet yaourt, crème glacée à la vanille (I actually liked the eggless version the best), banane flambée, sorbet framboise fraiche, crème glacée au cassis et crème fraîche, sorbet ananas vanillé, crème glacée au caramel fleur de sel, crème glacée wasabi, & crème glacée à l'huile d'olive
-one of our beloved former roommates has returned to Paris to continue his studies, making life much more fun again

Fall continues its approach, but has yet to sink the mercury too low or fade the green from the trees. We're starting to discover new places and things to do, which I suppose should not be too surprising, given this is Paris after all. I'm more and more in love with our neighborhood, which is diverse and, although maybe not as lovely as some others, packed with busy little bars, brasseries, markets etc. In addition, we're a brief stroll away from the wonderful Parc Buttes Chaumont, Gambetta, Oberkampf, and the reknowned À la Flûte Gana, a bakery at which the two head bakers are women (something practically unheard of here!). Despite the fact that I have some months left here, I feel time slipping away... more than six months have passed since I left Minneapolis. I'm filled with a desire to absorb as much of this insane city and culture as I can. It can be remarkably difficult, for me at least, to balance the neccessary -and don't get me wrong, certainly also desirable- normality of everyday life with the richness and enormity and goddamn complexity that is this city. Sometimes I almost feel like it's a sin to not go out, that by eating spaghetti at home on the couch with a book is a punishable offense when Paris -by god, PARIS!- is surrounding me with nearly infinite possibilities. To not answer its call can make me feel like a sad fool. But in the end, it's simply not possible to do it all. I'll never see all there is to see, eat everywhere, meet everyone. So, spaghetti on the couch is inevitable. But I'm doing my best in spite of it.

Classes are very good, I've finally altered my schedule to a pretty ideal state. I cancelled on chocolate bonbons and small breads for restauration, replacing them with Entremets de Tradition and a Viennoiserie course. I will hopefully be filling the couple gaps I have with some good stages, but I have yet to arrange them.

P.S. 200 new photos up on Flickr from classes, the road trip and more.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Back to reality

Minnesota represent!!

The city has refired its engine after a month of mass exodus and repose. Our neighborhood is much more vibrant now that shops have reopened their doors, and everywhere there seems to be a desire to be out and about, soaking up the last traces of summer before the inevitable grip of fall and then winter settles in for good. Already I can some mornings see faint traces of breath on the air while waiting for the bus just before sunrise. But upon leaving school, it will be sunny and humid, too warm for the sweater and scarf from that morning.
Like the rest of Paris, I'm back to work. It wasn't as awful as I had anticipated having to wake up early for the first time in over two months. My commute is indeed long and bothersome compared to the extreme ease of where we last lived, but I've using it as an opportunity to read more (and am devising an intricate schedule of cellphone alarms to allow for potential napping). It also allows for meeting people: on Tuesday a business-looking man started chatting with me and we stumbled upon the subject of my recent apartment woes. "Well, if there's anything I could do to help, I'd be happy to lend a hand," he'd offered. I'd replied that that was very kind, but unless he was a lawyer there wouldn't be much he could do... but in fact he is!! He said he would be more than happy to get together and have a look at my contract, which he confirms to indeed contain the illegalities I had suspected. There may yet remain a sliver of hope! But regardless, more than anything it is heartening to meet a stranger who would sympathize, let alone offer assistance. And a Frenchman, no less!
Class is good, although it certainly is a different beast altogether than the first 3 months. This past week we were a modest group of 6: two Korean women (of which one is in my program), three French men, and me. I didn't like my partner terribly much, and luckily the only times we all paired off was to scale ingredients. I immediately tagged him in my mind as a frimeur-- showoff. Cocky, quite young, a wise-ass, and some type of manager at a Lenotre production facility in Dubai, India, he made no real friends of us three girls (nor the other French men, perhaps?) by sometimes mocking our baking gestures or treating us like fools. It's very interesting to be a categorical member of not only the Inept Girls Who Would be Bakers club but also the Clueless Foreigner club. Being frequently patronized, whether intentionally or not and to varying degrees, by teachers and classmates is going to get old, very old. And there's nothing you can do about it. It makes me ponder just how some immigrants manage to tolerate such treatment, in more severe manifestations and for sometimes their entire life. I'm not used to encountering prejudice, albeit not crippling in this case, against me on such a regular basis. It's a curious position. But I can't say it's a great shock, I suppose... I'm some scruffy, bawdy American girl studying a Good Ol' Boys' Club profession in a renowned capital of Good Ol' Boys' culture.

P.S. Many new photos on Flickr, some from this past week in class and also a bunch of old photos from June/July.