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  • Writer's pictureAine Dougherty

Week Nineteen in France: Cranachan and a stale croissant

Calm before the storm at Lycée Schweitzer.

25/01/2020: Let's set the scene: Ten or twelve of us are sat around my friend I.'s living room, blue and white Scottish flags painted on our cheeks, and we're talking to haggis. That's right, we were celebrating Burn's Night, a Scottish holiday celebrating a Scottish poet with a very, very Scottish menu. Not only did we address the haggis (you have to read one of Burns' poems to it before eating it), but we also danced the cèilidh, ate cranachan and drank plenty of whisky. I have to admit, I haven't heard many good things about haggis, but I ended up actually enjoying the savory meat mix, especially with some mashed "tatties," as my Scottish friend A. calls them... After lots of traditional dancing that the neighbors down below could not have appreciated, we dug into the dessert I'd brought – cranachan, a mix of whipped cream, oats, honey, whisky and raspberries that ended up being much more delicious than I was expecting. A bit nutty, not too sweet, nice acidity from the raspberries, and an airy texture with some chew from the toasted oats. I love a little cultural exploration, especially when it tastes this good!

26/01/2020: On this chilly and cloudy Sunday, a day of "hiking" turned out to include absolutely zero hiking and lots and lots of good food, which I couldn't have been happier about. J., a group of his friends and I kicked things off at a quaint ferme auberge in a nearby mountain town, complete with a giant wild pig head adorning the wall. For our first course, we all partook in a squash potage, which benefitted nicely from an extra pinch of salt. Already feeling full from my soup and sparkling wine with pear syrup, I buckled down and dug into my bouchées à la reine, featuring a flaky puff pastry overflowing with meat and mushrooms in a rich cream sauce, which was delicious but absolutely kidding itself if it thought I was going to eat all of it. The group of us rolled practically rolled out of the restaurant after a little espresso and eau de vie, ready to "hike." After a winding drive up into the Vosges, we got distracted by the luge d'été, a type of rollercoaster-sledding hybrid that provided an exhilarating 30 seconds and a stunning view of the surrounding mountains. Once we'd all done our fair share of sledding, we had one common thought – crêpes and chocolat chaud. And thus, our day began with the best of intentions and ended in a ski-lodge, stuffing our faces with sugar. I wouldn't have had it any other way.

27/01/2020: Happy Monday! With all of my classes cancelled today, I snacked on leftover tarte flambée for lunch (because yes, we had tarte flambées last night for dinner after our day of indulgence, naturally). Then, I cleaned the apartment and tackled my to-do list to start the week off on a productive note.

28/01/2020: I woke up at 6:30 a.m. for a very, very long day featuring seven hours of classes (normally I have three or four) and snacked on a stale croissant and a vending machine cappuccino. During the day, my tasks included everything from helping small groups of students write radio ads about a new neighborhood to discussing gun violence to continuing my Pop-Up Stories workshops. The day, which began at 8 a.m. and ended at 6 p.m., was tough but successful, and I'm proud of myself.

Live your dream! Fall in love! Live with passion and without fear! Listen to your heart! Believe in miracles! Laugh! Sing! Dance! And so on...

29/01/2020: To celebrate yesterday's long day and to get some work done before my afternoon class and tutoring today, I headed to my other fave, Kohi café, for a slice of fluffy cheesecake and a chai latte. The last time I was here, the last piece of cheesecake was stolen right out from under my nose, so I was overjoyed to get the chance to taste it this time. Then, a quaint green storefront caught my eye, and I decided to stop for what turned out to be quite the surprise – a vegan lunch at Le 3V in town. After a nice butternut squash soup entrée, I thought to myself, like an idiot, "Oh, a tartare, that sounds tasty. I love raw steak!" Naturally, it was a vegan tartare made of carrots, golden raisins, red onions and a mixture of herbs. While I was a bit disappointed, I still enjoyed it, as well as the potato and vegetable patties studded with pumpkin seeds that came alongside it. I'm truly the picture of health.

A good lunch at the cantine.

30/01/2020: My fellow language assistants and I met up for lunch at the cantine together for the first time in a while today, and we shared something very close to our Spanish assistant M.'s heart – paella! Although, obviously this school cafeteria paella couldn't hold a candle to the big steaming pots in Spain, we still enjoyed our meal and our conversation. The good company continued after school, when I met up with a few of my other coworkers (some of the younger teachers at the high school) for happy hour. I practiced my French; we laughed, shared stories and discovered new things about each other, and I accidentally drank a mojito instead of a Monaco (the beer & grenadine syrup cocktail I've mentioned before). Oh well, I'll just need to keep working on my accent. I hurried home in the rain, ecstatic at all of my social interaction today. After all, if I'm going to stay in Mulhouse, I need to have French friends! I hope we do this again soon.

31/01/2020: J. messaged me with good news today – his job gave him his restaurant tickets today, and he was officially hired after a month-long trial period! So, I started searching for a good spot to celebrate tonight. I settled on Le Maharaja, and we sat down at 8:00 PM to a delicious Indian dinner, my first in too long. My apéritif, with mango juice, rose syrup and rum, was absolutely killer, and so were our entrées: crispy, cinnamon-scented beef samosas for J. and crunchy fried pakora with dark burgundy tamarind sauce (my favorite) for me. After as much butter chicken, rice and naan as I could fit into my stomach, we headed home full and happy, swearing to come back soon.

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