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  • Writer's pictureAine Dougherty

Week Eight in France: Potato leek soup and chicken katsu

A work of art (and a cool street mural in Mulhouse). LOL just kidding..,.

09/11/2019: I woke up earlier than I really wanted to on a Saturday, but I wasn't mad about it because I was going to meet a student I'd be privately tutoring (extra euros, y'all!). I was a little early, so I stopped by a boulangerie and grabbed my first Alsatian bredzel, a flakier, more tender pretzel that put Philly to shame. Sorry! The student, a hockey player, was very sweet, and I'm full of ideas to help him prepare for the bac, the big test every French kid needs to take at the end of high school. Afterwards, I met up with my friend I. at the Mulhouse farmer's market. It was my first time, and I was not prepared – I didn't come with a list or recipe ideas or anything, so I got overwhelmed and didn't buy a single thing. No fresh produce, no cheese, no merguez sausage, nothing. It was a great market and I loved walking around, but I felt a little down walking away empty handed. Next time, I'll have a plan. Some of my gorgeous friends then let me to practice my photography and posed for a little fall foliage / Mulhouse street art photo shoot, subsequently followed by an absolutely stunning apéro with delicious cheeses, buttery Tuc crackers, charcuterie and lots of wine. The living room in our flat finally fulfilled its purpose and hosted a lively, wonderful, cozy night among friends.

My (magazine-worthy, dare I say?) potato leek soup.

10/11/2019: For dinner today, my friend I. planted the idea in my head to make potato leek soup for the first time. I think the last time I made soup was a summer clam and corn chowder maybe six years ago, so I was excited to tackle this classic French recipe and fight the impending chill of winter in Alsace. It was so easy! Next time, I'll peel the potatoes, but I was so thrilled with the final result – rich, satisfying and so, so flavorful (the croutons I doused with olive oil, black pepper, thyme and flaky salt only added to the experience). It looked beautiful, too. I cannot even tell you how happy I was to be back in the kitchen cooking something from scratch again. The feeling of accomplishment, even after making just a simple recipe, is unmatched.

11/11/2019: I woke up to a welcome text: my prof référent, C., inviting me to her house for Sunday lunch with her family. It was so nice to see each other after a few weeks of vacation, and we tucked into a luscious béchamel-y lasagna, followed by what can best be described as a jelly roll, made by maman (Grandma). It sounds humble, but the spiral of fluffy génoise cake and tart strawberry jam was a sweet end to a delicious meal. I left with a gorgeous plant and some potimarron (squash) soup for dinner, which I decided to eat after a lovely (if chilly) surprise afternoon at the Basel Zoo, where I smiled a lot and learned many new French words for animals. So, once we came back from across the border, I got a little creative and put a ladleful of the orange soup on top of the leftover potato leek – the final canvas belonged in a modern art museum, I swear. A little salad on the side made for a nice and well-balanced meal with my flatmate S. before I started freaking out about lesson planning. Tea and some CBD calmed me down a bit, but not much. I just can't kick this bad procrastination habit...

12/11/2019: Back to reality again after a long weekend. I'd say the majority of my classes went well today, and I have ideas for how to make them go even better next time! I had the closest thing to a normal packed lunch that I've had yet – leftover potimarron soup (that got all over my tote bag, it's fine), an apple and a stracciatella Greek yogurt. Later, after five hours at school and one class left to go, I ate a Kit Kat from the vending machine in the break room to give me the energy to finish off the day.

13/11/2019: There's nothing worse than waking up at 5:45 a.m. to take the train to Strasbourg for a 3-hour meeting that could have been an e-mail. But at the same time, it was nice to catch up with some of the other assistants from the académie, and the exercise on lesson planning we did was actually helpful and gave me lots of ideas. Plus, not that I don't eat well in Mulhouse (I do), but being in a bigger city gave me an excuse to treat myself a little. So, after the réunion, my Mulhousien friends, fellow Fulbrighter G. and I went to a nearby Japanese restaurant, Matsumotoya, for a leisurely two-hour lunch. My crunchy chicken katsu bowl and accompagnements (miso soup, salad, takoyaki and fried aubergines) absolutely hit the spot, and don't even get me started on dessert. I don't know how I had more room in my stomach, but I devoured the wonderfully savory and tangy matcha cheesecake in minutes, along with the scoop of mouth-puckering framboise and yuzu ice cream. I wish I could have spent more time in Strasbourg, but we had to power walk (ok, sprint) back to the train station after lunch so I could make it home in time for tutoring – which went really well, by the way!

Homemade bolognese on tagliatelle (yes, I eat green things – peep the salad).

14/11/2019: The school week ended on a major high note – I felt useful and passionate and like I was getting through to the students. I taught a lesson to a class of 30 about Colin Kaepernick and protest in sports, and I got them to talk! Then, I worked with a really sweet, enthusiastic group on "the world of work" and job interviews. It went so well that I almost didn't want to leave at the end. And that's shocking for me... When I got home from school and SuperU, I looked around at my kitchen and decided to whip together a homemade bolognese sauce for dinner. I used garlic, a leftover onion I'd bought by accident, a dash of crème fraîche, ground beef and the rest of a jar of tomato sauce hanging out in the fridge. On top of tender tagliatelle, it made for the perfect comfort food. It was nothing special, but I feel like I'm getting somewhere, finally.

15/11/2019: Today's activities included a casual drive across the border into Germany to check out Marktkauf, a shopping center that's as cheap as it is big, where I understood nothing and bought several blocks of Ritter Sport chocolates for around 1 euro each (score). Before heading back to France, we stopped to watch the sunset and to have a delicious hot chocolate. I ate more chocolate later that night (a strawberry yogurt Ritter Sport square) when I met up with my friends for a couple beers at a new bar we wanted to check out. We played a hilarious game called "What's in your milk?"; I spoke English and French, and I got a welcome ride home from my housemate, personal chauffeur (JK) and savior J. Going out at night in Mulhouse is not the easiest thing in the world, given my longer commute back home, but J. makes it much simpler!

A gorgeous sunset (seen while standing in Germany, looking across the Rhine at Switzerland).

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