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O Fim duma Viagem

Mondays, Mondays

FRANCE | Thursday, 17 September 2015 | Views [284]

Since I’d designed my schedule to not have classes on Monday, I didn’t have anything I needed to do when I woke up in my own apartment the next morning. So I decided to finally get around to something I’d been meaning to do for a while: cook myself a real meal. I had been eating, including a decent number of meals in my own apartment, but I hadn’t yet gotten around to taking raw ingredients and combining them together into a meal. Even simple meals are much more effort when they’re the first thing you’re truly cooking. Up to this point, all I’d made was heat-and-serve meals from Picard, sandwiches, and fried egg.* Well, one fried egg, then I realized that I needed salt to make fried eggs taste anything near reasonable, and added that to “list of things I want to magically appear in the apartment” and went back to sandwiches.

Well, now it was the start of a new week, and I had nothing I needed to do. And, coming from a weekend where other people had cooked for me, I was eager to prove that I could do the same. So I found a recipe and went off to a grocery store to pick up the ingredients I needed.

For me, the definition of a well-stocked kitchen is one where, when you’re reading through the ingredients of a new recipe, you never need to wonder “do I have that spice?” Because you know that, even if you don’t have the specific spice the recipe calls for, you have enough spices that you can choose a substitute that will make the meal taste at least as good. So, for me, there was something incredibly satisfying about putting my newly-purchased spices away and knowing that I was that much closer to a well-stocked kitchen. (Plus, I bought salt and pepper, so I could now make tasty fried eggs instead of merely fried eggs.)

This satisfaction was diminished a fair amount when I went to start preparing my lunch and realized that I could not cut the vegetables I needed. This was not a complete mistake because, when we’d been doing inventory, the inclusion of “one sharp knife” had been enough to take notice of the fact that all of the other knives I had were for butter, and there were no cutting boards. I’d kind of forgotten about that in the intervening weeks. I pulled out the “sharp” knife again to look at it. It was the same size as a butter knife, and only slightly sharper. It looked like it used to be a steak knife, but I wouldn’t want to use it to cut a piece of steak that I’m eating, let alone one that I’m preparing.

So the kitchen has no microwave, meaning it’s not that easy to heat up ready-made meals. (It’s not that hard either, it just takes more time.) It also has no knives, so it’s not that easy to cook. I’m genuinely confused about what the previous renters have done, or what has happened to the knives they used.

Anyway, the best laid plans of mice and men and all that. I bought myself a baguette from the patisserie and used a butter knife to cut some brie to add to that. Who needs a self-cooked meal anyway?

I wanted to stop by the Brown in Paris office and the university. The university because, after three e-mails, it had turned out my student ID was available to be picked up. (“Your student ID is ready.” “Disregard the previous e-mail; it went out to too many people. We’ll tell you in the afternoon if it’s ready.” “Your student ID is ready!”) Brown in Paris because I had money to pay, tickets to pick up, and a form to print, partially fill out, and scan again. (Japan fun. Stay tuned (for like, another three months) for more details.)

I was walking along, cheerfully enough. About halfway there, I noticed that the sky looked a little threatening. And I hadn’t brought my umbrella with me. I should really start remembering to bring it if I was carrying a purse and not my backpack. (My backpack always had one, so I’d gotten out of the habit of needing to remember it.) Two blocks later, it started pouring. I debated whether I could speed up and continue until I reached the office. No. OK… I clung to the wall of the nearest building and decided that I should go into the first shop I saw and hang out there until it lightened up. Across the street was an open store. Perfect. The brief dash across the street confirmed the wisdom of that decision.

I got fairly lucky in that the nearest store turned out to be for embroidery. Although not as nice as a yarn or book store, (I could have gone into one of those and not even noticed when it stopped raining) I find the items for sale interesting enough to look at. If I’d been slightly farther and needed to duck into a motorcycle store, it probably would have been a much less enjoyable experience. And, although I think the salespeople could tell I was only in there to avoid the rain, they were nice about it.

I had a slightly hard time deciphering the prices. Like, when they had items for sale, were they talking about the actual embroidered (technically, most of the pieces were cross stitch) items, or the patterns and materials to make them? Were they just waiting for the lucky parents who walked in with their newborn David? Or did they expect the parents to do a lot more work?

Regardless of whether there were samples or just the design, there were some cool patterns. Including four different charts for Paris in each season and several complete and very fancy alphabets. (including one that had a woman in Paris, so each letter had her in a different dress, usually standing by the Eiffel tower, though occasionally you’d get a different landmark). And then there were the studies. Study of roses, study of lillies, study of daffodils… yep, this entire bin was of flowers. And the next bin started with “study of green peppers,” so that didn’t look terribly promis- what if that bin was full of studies of vegetables? Sure enough, two designs in I found the artichokes.

I was in the middle of debating with myself (“What would you even do with it?” “Cross stitch it. And then display it somewhere so it can make me happy every time I look at it.” “And how well has that theory worked with any of the other cross stitch kits you’ve gotten?” “None of them have been artichokes. This is like, 20 times cooler than any of the others.” “You won’t have the patience to finish it.” “But it’s so pretty! And French! It will be a souvenir of my semester here.” “Yes, because nothing screams ‘Paris’ like a cross stitch of a labelled artichoke.” “Exactly!”) when it stopped raining, so I was saved from making an impulse purchase. This doesn’t prevent me from going back, but at least if I show up in Chicago with a partially completed cross stitch of an artichoke, it will have been a premeditated decision.

I made it to the Brown office to have Erin tell me that she’d just sent an e-mail asking me to come in. For bank insurance purposes, I needed to change my address, and after some work on getting the bank to cooperate, Erin had said that if I called them, I could get it straightened out right away. If by “straightened out right away” you mean “spend 20 minutes on hold only to be told to come to the bank to sign things,” sure. Fun times.

Between the rain and the phone call, I ended up getting to the university after it closed. So no student ID for me. Oh well, I could pick it up the next day when I had class. And back to my apartment I went. My plan was to sit down, have a glass of water, find a cheap store that would sell knives and cutting boards, grab my umbrella, and head back out. But, as if by magic, a kitchen supply store suddenly appeared on my walk back. The umbrella and water would need to wait.

I left with knives, cutting boards, spatulas, a large spoon, washcloths, (that was another thing I only had one of) potholders, (previous count: 0) and the surety of knowing where I should go the next time I realized my kitchen was not well-suited for cooking. And now it was time to go back and make myself dinner.

I was about two blocks away when I realized that the sky looked threatening. Really threatening. I’d just turned on my street when it started raining. Not pouring quite yet, but huge drops that looked like they could increase quantity any second. I hurried back, and managed not to get stuck in another downpour.

I’d just chopped up the vegetables (I hope it doesn’t take me that long in the future. 6 hours is way too long to spend on any meal, especially one that claims it should be ready in 10 minutes.) when I realized something else that was missing: measuring spoons. Those would probably be useful someday, but for now, rough approximations would serve me fine.

Recipe & cooked meal

And it did. I was making a noodle stir fry, and, the noodles I’d decided to use were precooked ramen. (Saved me a step.) They also came with a package of “caramel soy” which, when combined with the other spices, made for a good-interesting flavor. Plus, by the time I finally got around to eating it, I was rather hungry, and it was the first true meal I’d ever made just for myself. All of which combined to make the food taste very good. Hopefully I can work up the motivation to make another real meal later this week, because it makes me feel better about the semester. More like I know what I’m doing, and less like I’m still a high school student trying to impersonate a real adult.


* And artichokes. But even I need to admit artichokes by themselves aren't a real meal.

Tags: artichokes, cooking, food, kitchen, shopping

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