Monday, November 30, 2009

Things to Be Thankful For

We fêted Andrew's birthday on Monday, November 23, with a delicious but messy chocolate raspberry cake and some bellini's with a couple of assistant friends. I also made Andrew a yummy dinner of escargots, or snails (I just heated the pre-stuffed parsley/butter/garlic mollusks in the oven, so no real credit to me for cooking them), garlic bread, and linguine with scallops in a cream sauce.

I was disappointed that my cake collapsed, but the moistness and richness more than made up for it. It is too bad, though, as now there's no hope of starring on "Cake Boss."

This week was a tad hectic. Tuesday the teacher's were on strike, so things were a little weird at school. I opted not to participate in the strike, though now I'm regretting it as I really want to give the French government a piece of my mind. Once again we are late in receiving our salaries for the month of November, and I'm not sure how much more I can get away with by bribing my landlady with chocolate. In addition to being late, apparently we are also receiving 15€ less a month now, which isn't a lot unless you're an assistant and already made crap for pay. And finally, in the years past, assistants have qualified for government assisted housing, which is why our pay is so low to begin with. This year they aren't sure if they are going to extend this right to us, which means that many assistants are pissed. Normally this assistance pays for 1/2 the rent, so it's a really big deal if we don't get it. They will most likely eventually decide that we qualify, but once they actually make that decision and sort through the backlog of applications, it may be time to leave France, in which case there will be no way to receive that money. Andrew and I are a little better off than most, because we have two salaries for one rent, which equals what most assistants pay in rent per month, but it's still money we were counting on to get us home in April.

This week was a pumpkin pie filled week. I baked about 8 of them, all from stratch, to give out to teachers and students and other friends who have never experienced the wonder of Thanksgiving. Most adults really liked it, most of my students hated it. On Saturday we hosted a twelve-course Thanksgiving meal for my Canadian friend Catherine, her French flat-mate Julien, and one of the French assistants, Emilie, and her boyfriend Thibault.
If you've never tried to cook a Thanksgiving feast on a two-burner electric stove and a microwave-sized oven, well...consider yourself lucky. Andrew made two types of stuffed chicken, one a honey-thyme and one a bacon and herb, as well as a huge turkey thigh (we couldn't find a whole turkey cheap enough, and we weren't sure we'd have room in the oven, so we opted for chickens). In addition, I prepared deviled eggs, homemade rolls, in garlic and herbes de provence flavor, cranberry sauce made from dried cranberries, gravy, homemade stuffing, corn, green beans, glazed carrots, mashed potatoes, apple pie, and pumpkin pie. It was delicious and a lot of fun, and lasted over 6 hours. And left quite a mess.
This afternoon we had a lovely meal at the home of one of Andrew's teachers. She and her husband and daughter graciously welcomed us into their home and served us a walnut salad, roast beef, fresh mushrooms from the south of France, roasted potatoes, a cheese platter, and an orange meringue tarte. In addition to the vats of wine and obligatory coffee/tea. We had a great time speaking to them in French, though they all spoke English. They're going to California for the April holiday, and we're negotiating a car/house exchange with Andrew's parents, who will be in France at the same time. Their daughter also offered us a place to stay in Paris.

We left their house just in time to run home, grab yet another pumpkin pie, some stuffing, deviled eggs, apple cider, and roast chicken to bring to the assistant Thanksgiving dinner. There were about 30 people there, and surprisingly it wasn't as chaotic as I originally imagined. There was a ton of food, which I somehow managed to force down my throat despite the large lunch I had consumed mere minutes before arriving at the party. It was a mix of American, British, Australian, French, Russian, and even German residents, many of whom had never celebrated Thanksgiving before.

This year, I'm thankful that I am not in Mali for Thanksgiving, though the two Thanksgivings I celebrated there with friends were happy times. I'm just grateful to have that part of my life behind me. I'm grateful that I made it through that experience *mostly* intact. I'm thankful that I am here in France, living my dream. I'm grateful that my husband is still my best friend, and that we're still in love after six years. I'm grateful that I got to spend time with my family this summer, and I'm grateful to French people for welcoming me so warmly to their country and for accepting me so easily into their lives.
We'll be hosting yet another Thanksgiving dinner on Wednesday, for the French friends who couldn't celebrate with us this weekend. And the chaos continues...

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