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  • Writer's pictureAine Dougherty

Week Four in France: Sardines and spaetzle

Updated: Oct 26, 2019

A successful night out in Mulhouse.

16/10/2019: Not having been paid yet by Fulbright or TAPIF, I was stretching my box of rice as far as it could go for dinners at home. After a couple nights of rice and ratatouille, I spontaneously decided to pick up some beef, broccoli, soy sauce and ginger and give myself a little respite from French food. A little Sriracha from the fridge further upgraded my fairly basic meal, and yet I felt more competent than I had in a while.

Catherine's tarte de saison.

17/10/2019: My prof référent C. generously invited me to dinner in her beautiful home with her family this evening, and the real star of the show came out after the cheesy pasta gratin with chicken – a homemade tarte de saison with quetsches (a sweet, juicy plum variety) and apple slices, arranged in a gorgeous pattern atop a crunchy yet tender crust. I think I ate half the pan.

18/10/2019: Yet again, living with professors paid off, and I headed off to an event at the local university with my flatmate. Not quite knowing what to expect, we ended up sitting fascinated for an hour listening to a presentation about deaf poetry, or how to convey meaning from a written work when translating a poem into sign language. It was unlike anything I'd ever learned – and then the dancer took the floor. He performed a contemporary dance as a visiting American poet read her work aloud. After this enlightening evening (sadly, I stayed seated as the dancer invited the audience to learn the moves with him), we headed to a cozy, intimate wine bar in the center of Mulhouse called La Quille. Yes, that means… another planchette! We piled slices of rustic bread high with stinky Munster cheese (a local delicacy that I'm still getting used to), prosciutto, fig jam and vinegary mustard. As usual, we drained several bottles, and I closed out the night by climbing on top of a statue in town, as one does.

19/10/2019: If you expected my Saturday to be thrilling and filled with adventure, you'll be disappointed to know I simply did a little grocery shopping and lounged around at home all day. However, things picked up later in the evening when my flatmate invited a friend over, and we kicked things into "host mode." It started with a simple bowl of salt and vinegar chips and ended with a plate of sardine tartines drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt, plus mini saucissons, the French equivalent of Bugles, some nuts, many cheese cubes and a six-pack of Leffe Ruby beer. We lit a candle, haggled over which vessels to present our snacks in, and beamed with pride when our guests arrived. Nothing lifts your mood quite like a successful apéro.

A successful, mood-boosting apéro.

20/10/2019: Sunday scaries can hit, people, even in France. I spent the day packing for my upcoming vacation (yes, I'm already on vacation – the French school system is wild) and thinking about possibly going outside. Eventually, after another lazy day at home and a gorgeous sunset, I ventured downstairs to ask a question and ended up sitting across from my landlord T. at the kitchen counter, chowing down on a plate of just-sautéed spaetzle and a well-roasted chicken thigh. It was the perfect comfort after a somewhat reclusive weekend, and just what I needed to recharge for les vacances de Toussaint. Stay tuned… I'm going to Paris, Greece and Italy!

My last Brunstatt sunset before I jet off.

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