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  • Writer's pictureAine Dougherty

Week Nine in France: French fries and tartes flambées

A funny scene from the Musée du Papier Peint in Rixheim (I identify heavily with the hookah-smoking sloth).
My adorable little brunch at Le Nid.

16/11/2019: I woke up excited, despite the cold, cloudy weather – my friend G. was coming from the big city, Strasbourg, to visit Mulhouse, and it's always fun introducing people to your little town. I find that it helps you see it in a different light. Luckily, the sun eventually came out, and we headed straight from the train station to a bougie, hangover-curing brunch at Le Nid, the adorable café I discovered a couple of weeks ago. G. got gorgeous fruit-topped pancakes, and I downed a caramel latte and a warm, sugary gaufre with whipped cream. The menu, designed to look like a student's homework, made G. and I chuckle. After a little window shopping and lamenting the fact that we're too broke to buy cute clothes, we headed to the Saturday market to grab some things for lunch. I had a plan this time, so I definitely redeemed myself. We picked up a baguette, creamy burrata cheese, beautiful blood-red figs and some charcuterie, making for a gorgeous and satisfying little picnic lunch back at the flat. One afternoon at the Musée du Papier Peint later, we had a quick apéro at home before heading to a Japanese restaurant in town, a lovely spot called Royal Sushi. There were rules: For 17 euros, you had three chances to order all you could eat, but you couldn't leave anything on the plate or you'd be charged extra. We had to be strategic about it, and after a half-bottle of wine and several rounds of sushi, yakitori, fried rice, noodles, dumplings and spring rolls, we somehow still had room for the ice cream buffet (I got mango, apple, lemon and raspberry). The evening, which we'd been planning for days, was wild and delicious. We hit another wine bar and the infamous Gambrinus for darts with a couple friends before finally heading home, exhausted and extremely full.

17/11/2019: A bit worn out from yesterday's gluttony, G. and I had a lazy morning and shared some scrambled eggs before she headed back north. Then, I spent the rest of the Sunday under the covers watching Netflix as the freezing rain fell outside. And just because we were already in such a state of complete laziness, J. and I went to... McDonald's. I'm ashamed, of course, but my nuggets and French fries totally hit the spot. For dinner, I needed yet another taste of home, so I made my absolute go-to meal – a quick chicken quesadilla with sautéed peppers. It's been too long. It tasted like fried cheese and perfection.

18/11/2019: Thankfully, this Monday was kind of a softball start to the work week. One of my classes (math in English) was cancelled because they were taking a test, and I got to do a fun presentation about magazines – my thing! – in another class, even though I could've done a better job of making them actually shut up and listen to it. Ah well, next time. And thus the routine begins again: I came home, ate a pear while lying in bed, put a load of laundry in and cooked up some delicious fried rice with red peppers, peas, ground beef and an egg. I swear, basically all I eat is different variations of rice, but it's just so easy to make when I'm tired at night! Listen, it's better than a microwave meal.

19/11/2019: My 11 a.m. class was cancelled, so I slept in and woke up to a piece of chocolate cake waiting for me on my kitchen table from downstairs. I ate it for breakfast, naturally, and it tasted like that emoji smiling with all the hearts around it. Just... content. It was a good start to a long day – classes went okay. I still feel like I'm floundering a bit when I take groups from one certain class, and I think I need to spend some more time figuring out what kind of exercises will actually be useful and interesting to them. In another class, I talked a little bit about food (my favorite subject), very casually in tandem with the teacher's main lesson, but not all of the students were, shall we say... motivated. How could you not be interested in food!!?? I don't understand. Anyway, I was supposed to talk about gun violence in my final class, and I was looking forward to it because it's a good group of students, but we ended up not having time. Definitely a bit frustrating. To close out the day, I met up with another student I'll be tutoring, who's studying management at the local university. I have some good ideas for what we can do together, and I'm looking forward to the extra cash it's going to bring in. I could use it. Although, in other news, today I finally received my pin code for my bank card that I've been waiting six weeks for. Now I can actually access my money!

20/11/2019: This morning began with a helpful call with L., our Fulbright angel advisor in Paris, about the community project I'm supposed to be leading at the high school – a Pop-Up Zine, live storytelling workshop-type thing. I've been really nervous about the logistics, but talking through it made me feel better and more hopeful, and I have some concrete steps I can take to get things going. Still *stressing* though. My only class today was a highlight of the week. I did the Deal or No Deal math lesson that I did a couple weeks ago with another group, and they absolutely loved it. Everyone was engaged; they seemed to understand the math concepts, and they liked it so much that we played through it twice online. We had to, really, because the first time we literally won $0.01. The second time, though... I couldn't believe it, but we actually won the $1 million. If only it was real money. I think the kids will be talking about that class for a while – I know I will! Before tutoring, I stopped by my favorite café, Le Nid again for some lemon poppyseed cake and a hazelnut latte. After a good session with my student, I headed home and put a (sort of pitiful) frozen tarte flambée in the toaster oven while I sat down to plan tomorrow's lessons. Bon appétit...

21/11/2019: Wow, I really love the fact that I haven't had class before 1 p.m. at all this week. I headed to the cantine at noon for my weekly lunch with my fellow English and German assistants, hoping and praying that we would fare better than we did the last time (Choucroute-Gate). This week's meal was a success – rice and mushrooms in a cream sauce, with a flaky vol-au-vent (puff pastry) alongside and butterscotch pudding for dessert. Afterwards, since yet another one of my classes was cancelled, I sat down to finish a lesson about immigration and its influence on American food for this afternoon. It was the first time I worked with this class, and the lesson went perfectly. It felt so good to end on another high note. A nap was then needed, and when I woke up, J. came upstairs with ingredients for homemade tartes flambées: dough, lardons, crème fraîche, chèvre, shredded cheese and chives (and beer, of course). I cannot even express how much better they turned out than my sad frozen one from last night – the good company probably helped too. And to finish the meal, we had chocolate mousse with a salted caramel core. Quite simply, the whole evening made me very, very happy.

Nice light and clouds in the neighborhood at sunset.

22/11/2019: Leftover tarte flambée for breakfast! Well, lunch, since I woke up at 1 p.m. Old habits die hard. A couple of hours later, my flatmate, S., J. and I went to a friend's house to celebrate his birthday. Naturally, this meant beer and snacks. We had cheese, pommes dauphines, charcuterie, chips and raspberry cake while debating what it means to turn 30. I tried to teach everyone how to play caps (I've been collecting them for this very purpose); we played Heads Up (which is a million times funnier with a French speaker), and all in all we had a very nice night. I left feeling grateful for my young age ;).

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