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  • Writer's pictureAine Dougherty

Week Two in France: Filet mignon and frozen pizza

Updated: Oct 23, 2019

The gorgeous living room in my upstairs flat.

03/10/2019: Firmly settled into my new home in the upscale suburb of Brunstatt, roommate(s) met, bags halfway unpacked, I went grocery shopping at the Super U down the street. And, like fate, I found exactly what I was looking for. Heudebert Biscottes. Why would I get so excited over dry, crunchy crackers shaped like mini toasts, you ask? Because with a swipe of salted butter and apricot-mango Bonne Maman jam, they become the perfect breakfast food, and I'd been searching for them ever since my host mom from Arles introduced me to them two years ago. With the addition of a steaming mug of Ricoré (a chicory and coffee blend – I like mine au lait), I felt the pull of nostalgia back to the south of France, where I spent the summer enjoying the same leisurely breakfast and forgetting all of my problems. Granted, the weather in Alsace isn't quite as warm, but if I close my eyes and bite into a sweet and savory Biscotte, it almost feels the same.

04/10/2019: Turns out living with college professors and other assorted members of academia pays off. My flatmate, S., a friend and I headed to a dinner party at a fellow professor's apartment in the center of Mulhouse. Wine was flowing, and each time a pizza disappeared from the table (split evenly in eight slices for each of the guests), a new one would biblically appear before us. Simple frozen pizzas were rendered outstanding by the ambiance and the company. Our host, a talented poet from the American Midwest, had no shortage of wild stories, leaving us roaring with laughter in between her highly intellectual references that I couldn't even pretend to get. The one contribution I made (about a French documentary filmmaker I'd studied at Northwestern) resulted in her perusing her bursting bookshelves to find a collection of essays about his work that she thought I'd like. Apparently the tarot cards came out after we left. Dommage!

05/10/2019: The next night was just as wine-soaked, a small dinner party downstairs with a few carefully selected family friends rounding out the guest list. The menu was French decadence personified (despite the Anglophone origins of T. and E., my British landlord and landlady): filet mignon en croûte with a layer of rich pâté tucked in between the meat and the pastry. So, I guess... beef Wellington. Anyway, I eventually went back upstairs to my room, stuffed and happy, but only after everyone had gathered in the living room with their guitars to sing some haunting Francis Cabrel songs.

07/10/2019: Did you forget that I'm in France to work? Me too. The other teachers at the high school are friendly and used to seeing an American assistant around, but that didn't stop me from feeling a bit out of place and uncomfortable as I picked at my chicken curry microwave meal in the staff lounge during my first Monday lunch hour. I told you not every bite would be as divine. Relief came when I realized that my first weeks at the Lycée Albert Schweitzer would mostly be introductions and observing – I didn't feel ready to teach a lesson yet.

08/10/2019: After a weekend spent mostly in Brunstatt, I decided to reach out to some of the other teaching assistants in Mulhouse. We met up at Gambrinus, the spot to be in town. After a pint or two, our lively group of American, Irish and French potes headed back to I.'s house to quell our grumbling stomachs. Wine glasses in hand, we chopped mushrooms and peppers, whisked eggs and dressed salad, and as the omelets came fresh out of the pan, each of us claimed one and sat down to eat until finally we'd all had our fill. It's a good feeling to know you have a friendly, fun, built-in community to eat, drink and laugh with as we all adjust to life in a new country together.

It's an even better feeling to know that I was too busy having fun this week to take photos!

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