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  • Writer's pictureAine Dougherty

Week Three in France: Tarte aux myrtilles and tartines de chèvre chaud

Updated: Oct 23, 2019

The view of the Grand Ballon from our perch at the ferme auberge.

09/10/2019: Alas, homesickness finally struck. I was pacing around my room, feeling a bit meh as my trusty contact list of family members and friends all told me they were too busy to chat. A bit nervous, not wanting to impose but not knowing what else to do, I tiptoed down the stairs to check in on what my housemates were up to. Lo and behold, I stumbled upon a family birthday party. Despite my initial awkwardness, once I sat down at the table, a fizzy glass of crémant d'Alsace and a tiny bite of a Paris Brest from a local patisserie had me feeling a bit more comfortable in my skin.

10/10/2019: After a charming tour around Mulhouse guided by some absolutely adorable French high school students (and a lively evening at the Gambrinus with 20 or so other teaching assistants in the area), I headed home and grabbed a saucepan and a skillet. Some 30 minutes later, I sat down alone to a simple but comforting meal of fluffy Camargue rice alongside a chicken breast and some ratatouille – which was from a jar, yes, but that didn't even bother me. I was just proud of the fact that I'd taken the time to cook a well-balanced meal all by myself. As a self-proclaimed "foodie," it doesn't seem like a lot, but after countless "home-cooked" dinners in college that were reduced to microwave meals because of my overwhelming busyness, stress and anxiety, this felt like a real win.

The infamous tarte aux myrtilles, posing graciously for my food porn photo.

11/10/2019: "Isn't it nice just to be alive?" I asked myself and my dining companion, J., as we sat on the sun-soaked terrasse of a ferme auberge, one of many homey and locally sourced restaurants dotting the rolling hills of Alsace's verdant mountain range. I gazed out at the magnificent Grand Ballon, the highest point in Les Vosges, closed my eyes for a moment and felt the wind in my hair before I reopened them, fork at the ready. This magical moment was about to become practically transcendent. I dug into a slice of the tarte aux myrtilles de la maison, made with fresh, local blueberries, and watched as the brilliant purple filling spilled out onto my plate. Every mouthful seemed to bolster the swell of peace and gratitude inside me as I tasted this special pie in this special place. I'm being dramatic, but I truly felt like I was on another plane of human existence.

12/10/2019: I decided to turn yet another tedious day of orientation-related tasks into an opportunity – in addition to a bit of work on lesson planning, we treated ourselves to a tour of Strasbourg's regal cathedral and Musée des Beaux Arts. And brunch, of course. Fresh juice, puffy pancakes, and a savory waffle topped with a fried egg and real bacon? Oh my goodness, were we ever in the right place. At Oh My Goodness Café, that is. Besides maybe brunch, nothing's better than realizing that someone is quickly becoming a good friend.

13/10/2019: The sun was setting on a very successful weekend, and I sat out on the terrace sipping rosé with T. and E.. Eventually, we meandered inside and helped whip up dinner downstairs. A few whirs of the immersion blender later, we ladled ourselves bowls of smooth butternut squash soup. But the real winner of the evening couldn't have been more unassuming. A small slice of baguette, topped with a round of chèvre and a dollop of crème fraîche, plus a sprinkle of chives and some freshly ground black pepper. I'm far from a goat cheese enthusiast myself, but after they'd spent a few minutes toasting in the oven, even I couldn't resist those salty, creamy and crunchy crostini. They'll be in the roster for next time. I'm a convert!

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