I came back from a rainy walk around the nearby villages one day and bumped into my now good friend Lucien- a French man of a distinguished age who told me one day that he was going to chainsaw some lumber later that afternoon and another day that he was painting a house. yup.
Him, his German friend and the Australians from the Chateau had just finished a heart stopping, grueling match of tennis and were about to celebrate over a bottle of champagne. I got pulled into the mix and we were soon sitting around a table which about halfway into the bottle of champagne turned into Lucien and his friend telling a myriad of different tales- the ones where you just wait for the ridiculous twist at the end. Somehow we decided that this was going to be a French lesson so my job became translating the stories to English or retelling them again in French. Unfortunately my translations would always fall short at the endings leading to mass confusion, hilarity, or just blank stares and desperate explanations. :-D
Here’s one of my favorites:
There were two brothers. When one brother got something, the other brother had to have it as well. For example, they both had homes and each had a blond wife. One day one of the brothers decided he was going to buy a horse so of course the other brother decided he would too. So two horses were bought. As they were bringing them home they started discussing how they would tell them apart. One brother suggested cutting off an ear. No no the other brother said – we should cut off one of the horse’s tails. After much thinking one of the brothers said- how about you take the white one and I’ll take the black one.
hardy har har! groan.
I won’t recount the others because they were just as bad or worse than then one above, like the one about a gorilla at a zoo.
Lucien and I at the village market.
The beginning of the Nectarine tart story has to start with a quick lay of the land. Currently I’m helping at Chateau de Gudanes which is situated in a tiny 344 person town. They know the exact number of people and that it might increase to 346 soon. Monday in little bitty towns in France are much like Sunday, except it’s kind of a tease. Where as you know that everything on Sunday is closed, well on Monday everything is open as normal except the one place you have to go- the grocery store.
This might have lead to me becoming the subject of discussion for an hour around town when I walked down the mighty hill into the town square in a rather cute sundress in the height of lunch hour; subsequently standing there gapping because not only the grocery store was closed, but also my second choice the Tabac (small gas station like store), and my third, the boulangerie. My thought was for the boulangerie I could walk in and say you’re croissants are the best in town (har har) … I’m in a bit of trouble, trying to make a tart as refreshments for an interview, and I need something n’importe quoi! that could top it! Then my hope was that he would completely understand being a fellow baker and sell me a little cream or something.
But I’m not yet on little town French time and everything was on the normal two hour lunch break and not set to open for another 30 minutes and I was on a time limit- the interview started right now. I slowly started back towards the hill resigned to the fact that the tart would just be a plain tart, and then slowly stopping as I passed the one and only restaurant in town that was bustling. hmm! I walked inside to where I was then ushered back outside by a rather suspicious waitress. Not having time to prepare my French, the exchange went something like this “I made a tart for an interview for a magazine (but I could have said store because the words are so similar)(but I couldn’t think of the word for newspaper!). Do you have some creme fraiche?” That’s all I could muster which garnered lots more suspicious glances and debating with another waitress then much going back and forth between the kitchen and the dining area. It was quite the scene. hehe
I did leave though with a glass from the restaurant full of cream from the region that had been carefully wrapped in plastic. But it doesn’t stop there, of course I ran into someone I knew, an older French gentleman, who asked me in French “Are you going up to the Chateau now? With just that?” Why yes…why yes I am!! I’m quite scandalous. ;-)
The nectarine tart in question was fairly simple because I was running super low on ingredients. Simple sweet pastry crust par-baked, a bit of plum jam made at the Chateau last summer brushed on the bottom, then nectarine slices arranged on top, skin side down, and coated with browned butter. Popped in the oven for 30-35 minutes until the nectarines were soft but not broken down, and the tips were just starting to brown.
ps- after all that they didn’t end up using the cream, but the newspaper writer did want to mention the cooking classes we will hold at the end of July.
pss- I made another tart to take down to the restaurant as a thank you the next day- a little tart legere au citron. The Chateau is now worried that the restaurant might steal me.
I found this post in my drafts from when I was living in Paris two years ago and had to share. :-)
- I do laundry constantly. In our washing machine you can fit a grand total of 4 shirts, 2 pairs of pants, and some underwear. Here’s the kicker- everything has to air dry and it takes upwards of three full days!
- I’ve found myself walking down the street thinking…. that’s one limp baguette and then giggling into my scarf.
- Dog poop becomes an obstacle course when walking to class.
- Deodorant, though sold in the stores, is not that commonly used. Avoid the metro in extremely hot weather!!
- The yogurt selection is massive.
- The only words you need to know when visiting is “Bonjour!” Say it to absolutely everyone. No not everyone. Store owners, yes. Random people on the street? Noo.
- I get whiplash every time I hear English and find myself looking for the person.
- It’s very common to get asked for directions by French and tourists alike.
- The best way to see Paris is to head out and walk!
- Carbs compose of 50% of your diet. The other 50%? Cheese & pastries.
When I packed for summer weather because it was 80 in Texas and it ended up being 60 and rainy in Paris.
I stayed at a cute little apartment in Republique area that was ironically above a restaurant called American Cafe and across from a hospital designated as a UNESCO heritage site.
Ate cream puffs at Odette with Pia before she dashed off to attend a dance where the stage was covered in carnations- I want to be one of those dancers trampling flowers! (Check out her articles at GlobeDancer.com)
Pique-nique – is one of the best French words! We went tartan themed with our blankets.
Celebrated Jenni’s birthday at a piano lounge the day I got in and convinced one Tina Beana to extend her trip. Everything was black and white. They also put us downstairs in the furthest room from everyone, not that we were loud or anything. ;-)
Restaurant site visiting.
When what looks like a possible oven turns out to be a microwave and you’re in charge of dessert:
There was a lot of cheese. A lot of stinky cheese :-)
I tried all the different kinds of chocolate covered marshmallow bears. The store brand doesn’t compare to the original.
And if there wasn’t enough food I helped cater a wedding reception at the 7eme Marais for the deputy mayor of the arrondissement with Treize- an amazing cafe run by a gal from South Carolina serving true southern food. 1800 canapés + outdoor staging area + nifty do-rags.
Paris National Archive searching for ancestors for the parentals! This was record after record from the 1800s.
Inspecting the new bubble machine at La Fabrique à Gâteaux with my dude!! And scarfing down a Wetka – caramel, peanuts, chocolate ganache tart…
These are homes for insects? Seen at the garden show at Chateau Chantilly. I was just as confused as you probably are.
Fancy pants plates chez Jenni for dinner – cheese course!
Tried out my turtle look. Succeeded on all counts. :-D
And of course ate tons of pastries. Because- when in France! These are from Sebastian – Gerard on rue Martyrs.
It was incredible being back in Paris and catching up with everyone. It felt like I’d never left! And with my French being a step up from the last time- seriously makes all the difference! Woo!
A main reason I started my blog was personal – I have an absolutely horrible memory. So bad that my friends will tell stories and I don’t realize I was there even when I’m mentioned in the story. A huge benefit of this though is that you can tell me the same joke multiple times and get the same reaction each time. With my blog, I can look back and relive those memories whether it was Peanut experiencing his first snow storm, a dove that made it’s nest on my balcony, or one of the multiple flights I’ve missed. Oops! So when it’s been awhile since my last post, I always feel like a recap is in order. So here goes- it’s been a couple months, I’ve written about some of this but not all of it. I’ll try to keep it sort of brief. 😁
I have a little suspicion. I think once you make one crazy decision you kinda get hooked and keep making them. Maybe it’s the rush you get from a new adventure or the drive to continue to learn more and experience as much as possible. Thus leads to a little secret I’ve been keeping from my blog, my decision to head back to France to.. Help open a Mexican restaurant ?! And volunteer at a Chateau in the Pyrennes. I will settle down and have kids at some point mom (promise!).
After graduating from Le Cordon Bleu in Paris and my stage at a little bitty awesome bakery called La Fabrique a Gateaux (it’s in Republique area in Paris and definitely worth stopping by), I returned to Texas just 3 days before my visa expired.
Back home in Dallas I jumped into things. I got my tonsils out, then worked at two different bakeries and a fromagerie all while keeping my part-time online marketing job. There was just one little bug in my ear, this little itch that wouldn’t go away. I think it was red, white, and bleu and talking in ze French accent or maybe it was a rumbling in my belly for French cheese. harharhar
That was me on macaron duty at Bisous Bisous Patisserie- the first French pastry shop in Dallas. Another awesome place you have to go to- they have cruffins!! It was also while working here that I met Rose Levy Beranbaum of the Baking Bible and was mentioned in her blog!
But back to my random story- There were these two French guys I met through an old marketing coworker while I was in Paris that were opening a Mexican restaurant (One of them really liked burritos-a lot). We’d been talking for almost a year working on getting things up and running but things were going slow. I was hoping to use it as a way to return to France but the longer it went on the more depressed I got. Three months turned into six which turned into ten with no set opening date in mind- but such is starting any sort of business.
On a lark I reached out to Karina at Chateau de Gudanes. She and her husband had purchased what one would call a mega fixer upper.. there might have been a large hole in the center from the ceiling caving in and water coming through for several years. I’d read a blog post about her opening a little cafe and it stuck with me for several months until I finally said screw it one night and drafted up an email to her saying I would help with anything, complete with a picture of me and a cow. Four days later, sitting in traffic in my hour long drive to my marketing job, I checked my email- a response from Karina saying they were keen to talk with me further.
Then the Mexican restaurant decided it would open. After much debate, I managed to work it out that I would help at the restaurant for a month in May then go to the Chateau in June and July to help with cooking meals for a restoration workshop.
Which leads me to where I am now-
I quit both of my jobs in Dallas effectively losing any safety net that I had and took a leap. A gigantic scary hairy beasty leap.
Maybe I’m just a bit rebellious. :-)
All that to say- I’m back! More posts more posts!! Soon I say!