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  • Writer's pictureAine Dougherty

Week Thirty-Nine in France: Lewerklepfne and Bolognese pizza

Updated: Jun 30, 2020

The world can be so ugly and yet so beautiful sometimes.

13/06/2020: A masked walk in Mulhouse led us to Les Saveurs de Liban, one of the best Lebanese restaurants in town. We devoured a table laden with hummus, fresh pita, crispy falafels and parcels of puff pastry filled with meat, spinach, and my favorite – goat cheese and mint. As we left, deliciously satiated despite having ordered just a few mezze, we vowed to return soon. Restaurants have now re-opened in France, complete with social distancing measures and required masks. It feels good to be back in a dining room, but there's still a nagging worry, especially when I read the news from the States. The siren song of McDonald's called out to us this evening, and J. and I couldn't help ourselves. (I've been theorizing that the French love fast food just as much as – if not more than – Americans.) I was shocked and proud when I saw that this random McDo in my small French town had erected a giant painting of George Floyd in their window. I've said it before, and I've said it again – this is a movement whose impact is being seen and felt all around the world, perhaps for the first (and certainly the most powerful) time. But we still have work to do! The burgers, chicken nuggets and fries (finally!) hit the spot before an intimate yet wild, techno-fueled gathering with some of J.'s friends that lasted almost until sun-up. Again, some cognitive dissonance, but honestly? I'm guessing all the alcohol killed off any germs.

14/06/2020: Falling-off-the-bone lamb acted as the star centerpiece of this week's Sunday lunch, alongside fingerling potatoes that we peeled in a frenzy of thumbs and knives as we talked, spilling gravy all over the nice tablecloth. C.'s famous amandier cake, even more outstanding this time thanks to super finely ground almond powder, hogged the dessert table with a chocolate chip loaf cake from the Alsatian dame next door. (Side note: the word for chocolate chips, pépites, is one of the cutest words in the French language).

15/06/2020: We had burgers last week, but rather than deterring me from eating burgers this week, it just strengthened my craving. So when's J.'s brother F. offered to cook up a few, I couldn't say no. I couldn't say no to cheese, bacon, tomato and a fried egg on top, either. As you may have noticed, my foray into weightlifting has hit a bit of a dead end as confinement fades away in the rearview mirror, but today I jumped back in, relishing in the sweat and how powerful lifting a 2 kilogram weight makes me feel.

16/06/2020: As we sink deeper and deeper into summer, my anxieties about next year's plans continue to drag me down. In between impatiently waiting for my TAPIF renewal (to continue teaching in high schools) and frantically navigating the application procedure for a local Masters, I've been contemplating how frightening it is to push forward into the unknown. Luckily, I'm surrounded by faithful supporters. And Lewerknepfle. And späetzle! What is Lewerknepfle, you ask? I also asked, because it doesn't necessarily sound edible. The family explained that they were quenelles de foie, and I happily chowed down on the savory little dumplings for a solid 10 minutes until my brain neurons finally fired and I realized that I was eating liver. I have nothing against liver, but it's not exactly something I eat everyday. Thanks to this dish, though, I think I could learn to love it. I certainly loved the washed rind St. Nectaire to finish.

17/06/2020: After an indulgent lunch of pesto pasta and Snickers ice cream bar (hands-down a top contender for best frozen treat in existence) with C. for lunch, the time came to celebrate T.'s birthday. During our joyous evening, we shared beef Wellington, a classic family favorite, plus fondants aux chocolat with white chocolate centers for dessert. And we can't forget the crème brûlée ice cream to wash it all down. In the meantime (I mean, in between eating), I listened to the White Fragility audiobook. I learned a lot, and yet I tried to stay conscious of the hypocrisy of a white woman profiting off her anti-racism work, and resisted the urge to fall into the trap of reading this book and thinking I was "done."

18/06/2020: Total 180 from yesterday's extravagance – the ever health-conscious J. cooked up a delicious and wholesome chicken and chickpea curry over chewy rice noodles. I never would have believed that it was his first time making this dish – the chicken was tender, the coconut milk made the sauce smooth and silky, and the sprinkle of fresh cilantro on top brought the whole thing home. Then, an outing. The main square (Place de la Réunion) in Mulhouse is much more inviting and exciting with the outdoor terrasses set up, which is where we met some friends for a drink (including A., who left in March and has just now returned, to our delight). I sipped on one of my favorite French café drinks, a Monaco, featuring a Panaché (lemonade and beer) spiked with grenadine syrup. I'd been wracking my brain and Google for years for that "bright red beer-ish drink" cool French teenagers were always sipping on, and now that I've figured it out, I'm never going back.

19/06/2020: As a Fulbrighter, I've had certain responsibilities within my appointed high school – one of those happens to be creating the yearbook. It's not quite as daunting as an American high school yearbook, but it has been intimidating enough to lead me to procrastinate for months. Once I started designing the book on Canva, though, I started to relish the work that I had so loved doing with North by Northwestern magazine for so many years. Today, several hours of staring at my computer screen with my prof référent, C. was rewarded with a slice of lovely raspberry tart. Then, a Queer Eye: Philadelphia marathon with begrudging fan J., and the best pizza I've ever tasted. Topped with plenty of cheese, dollops of flavorful bolognese sauce and a generous sprinkle of oregano, but resisting sogginess, the unique pie was absolutely revelatory.

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