Thursday, January 31, 2008

What's Wrong With France?

As you know, I am having technical difficulties, but I can still read and Google just fine. I just got done reading and celebrating the newly famous (but with-me-from-the-beginning) My Inner French Girl's latest post. She has been happily outed by New York Times!

It got me wondering how one would find out that their blog was mentioned in the media. Well, I decided to Google "cassoulet cafe blog" to see if anyone besides my blogging buddies have ever heard of my blog. The only thing that came up was my blog and one other mention. It is a button on the side bar of La French Page website. That in itself is not interesting. What is interesting is the description of my blog. It goes like this:
Cassoulet Cafe Blog: An American's View of What is Wrong With France.

While I appreciate the link, I'm sort of shocked with the description. To set the record straight, I think that I show what's wrong and right with France.

Now after reading the NYTimes article on freebies thrown at beauty bloggers, should I expect some free cassoulet thrown my way? All in the name of reviewing, bien sur! Or better yet, maybe a cassoulet meal at a renowned cassoulet restaurant in Toulouse or Castlenaudary during our stay?

Something tells me the people at Spanghero or La Cave au Cassoulet don't read Cassoulet Café Blog. ;) I'm glad you do!

Friday, January 25, 2008


Because it's snowing outside, I've been thinking about hot comfort foods. No, not the batch of warm, gooey oatmeal chocolate chip cookies I made this afternoon...wait, I guess I am still thinking of those. They are calling me from the kitchen! But I'm also thinking about what I'll be eating when we get to Toulouse. March and April will probably be a mixed bag of weather, as last time we were there. We had sun, snow and rain. Though I prefer Toulouse in the summer when I can sit outside and breathe in La France in the midst of sunflower fields, cold weather has it's benefits as well.

Namely, cassoulet and raclette. We've already discussed cassoulet, and you know I'll be consuming more than my fair share of it! But we haven't discussed raclette. Let me show you a picture of our last raclette meal:

So what is raclette, you ask. The cheese or the meal? According to Wikipedia (and I confirm) Raclette is both a type of cheese and, informally, a dish featuring the cheese.

So, Raclette The Dish is a meal originating from Switzerland (but common in France) where you place a nifty little apparatus center stage on the table, and cold, hungry people sit around as if it were a campfire, and melt their raclette cheese on personal-size pans under a broiler. When the cheese is good and bubbly, you pour it on assorted foods you've chosen from the buffet of offerings. Typically you have boiled potatoes, charcuterie, cornichons, and vegetables.

My favorite combo is the raclette over potatoes. I'm not a fan of cheese on pickles, but the meat and starches do me just fine.

Our friends tell us they often bring the raclette grill on skiing trips and have raclette for lunch in the ski lodge. What a wonderful idea! I can't imagine the looks we'd get if we brought one to, say, Mt. Bachelor. Who cares?! It would be fun, if we could find an outlet.

So the other night on Skype, our wonderful friends have confirmed that they will be giving us another raclette soiree to feast upon. Laughing, they reminded us of our very first raclette meal..... in the middle of August.

I'm glad we're going in Spring.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Preview of Toulouse--Doorways and Courtyards

Hôtel d'Assézat was built in the second half of the XVIth century for Pierre Assézat, a prosperous merchant in the pastel trade that flourished at the time.

When you walk in the courtyard door, this is what you see:

When you turn to leave, walking back out of the door, this is your view. I thought La Belette Rouge would especially love my timing of this photo op! Can you guess why?

Here is a photo of a courtyard and building that I unknowingly stole:

We entered the courtyard, snapped photos, and then the police yelled at us to leave. I can't remember what exactly this government building is. Maybe someone can help me remember?

I love the Toulouse style! Here are some good examples of the famous Toulouse brickwork in Place de la Trinite and St. Etienne.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Preview of Toulouse--Pont des Catalans (or Our Bridge)

I'm going to give you a tour of Toulouse each day before we go back to Toulouse (in about 7 weeks). The first place I want to take you is over the Pont des Catalans (Catalans Bridge). This is our bridge, because when we lived in Toulouse, this was the bridge we crossed on foot about a million times. I love this bridge because it took us to our dear friends' home, past the ever-present men playing petanque, just next to the Canal de Brienne. I love this bridge because it led us once a week to our laundry mat, where the owners, a couple, faithfully worked hard each day, ironing other people's pants and manning the quirky machines in the un-airconditioned, cramped quarters. Since we didn't have a car, we loaded our dirty laundry for the week into our suitcases...and pulled. I knew every pothole, every bump, even each dog-pile (until it disintegrated and a new one replaced it), because we made the trip so many times.

The bridge goes over the beloved Garonne River, my son's middle name-sake. When I was in labor and they told me to focus on something, it was our bridge that I walked back and forth on in my mind, trying to make myself go to a Happy Place. It worked.

The bridge was the low-tech "GPS" for finding our neighborhood. We could find home easily, in those first confusing weeks of being in a new city, using the bridge as our reference point.

Walking across the bridge on warm summer mornings, looking to the right and seeing the silhouette of Les Jacobins is etched in my brain forever. Watching sunsets from the bridge is something I never got tired of. Seeing it lit up at night gave me a great feeling; knowing I lived just beyond The Bridge, Our Bridge.

Stay tuned for more Toulouse photos, A Preview of our upcoming trip in March/April 2008

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Dangerous Liaisons

I need some help out there from some French speakers in France. Yesterday in my mom's car she was playing her new Pimsleur French CD's, preparing for our trip. As the man was speaking, I noticed he was not making the liaisons. At first, I thought it was a mistake. Then he continued on and on. For example, for we went, phonetically it was this: noo-sohm-allay. For I am here it was zhu-swee ee-see. No "z" sounds linking the words together. Completely contrary to what I have been taught.

Then in English he explained it. He said that more and more people in France are dropping the liaisons and so they are now teaching it that way. Well, I asked my relative in France about it today, and he said he had no clue what I was talking about.

Question #1: Is it true that liaisons are being dropped more and more?

Question #2: Is this just the equivalent of teaching "I dunno" and "D'ya wanna?"

Moi, chais pas.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Pizza Cap

"What is a Pizza Cap?" you ask. Well, I'll give you a hint. It's not a hat. It's just a silly name for a pizza joint that we used quite often in Toulouse, as we lived nearby and it was cheap! It was also very good.

And it was also very weird. The toppings can be bizarre, and good ol' American pepperoni n'existe pas. Would you have ever thought to have honey drizzled on your pizza, over the creme fraiche? We actually ordered that one more than once, The Daisy Age.

The prices are great, the pizza is good and the name is the best! Have a look yourself!

Monday, January 14, 2008

The Countdown Begins/ List #1

Two months from today we will arrive in France! The serious preparations need now begin. Where shall I start? And will you help me???

Let's start off with what I have done already:

  1. Bought airline tickets

  2. Reserved and paid for gite

  3. Told all family and friends of our arrival/departure dates

  4. Freaked out about the flight (hate flying...well I love flying, hate idea of crashing)

  5. Freaked out about the rising Euro and falling Dollar

  6. Repeated 4 and 5 about 200 times.

  7. Plan to repeat 4 and 5 about 200 more times.

  8. Reserved a minivan (9 passenger) for an astronomical amount of moolah.

  9. Cried about number 8

  10. Bought Red Coat

What I need to do:

  1. Keep trying to find cheaper transportation (must have van to accommodate all travelers in party)

  2. Buy more clothes (a great pair of jeans and more nice tops, more shoes. Jean shopping was affreux today. Wahh wahh.)

  3. Buy some shades since my Gucci's purchased in France last trip were stepped on and crushed (par moi), and besides, I think Gucci shades are passé now, non? ;)

  4. Find a way to make the dollar get stronger

  5. Get a great hair cut at the exact right time before trip (nothing new, just a great trim)

  6. J'ai besoin de pratiquer le francais..... :(

  7. More French lessons for Hubby as well

  8. Make a packing list

  9. Make more lists of things that need to get done

This is the first of many lists to be, as I realize how many things I just left out. I am such a procrastinator about packing, I prefer to have a thorough list made out, and start packing the night before we leave.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Advanced French Lesson Numero Une...or is it Un?

So, did anyone catch my mistake yesterday? I believe I should have said "un" when I said "une".

This leads up to my next topic: Mistakes in French. Fellow Francofiles, we all have them, right? Please tell me I'm not the only one who has told the entire table during a dinner party that I was drunk, when I in fact meant "I'm full"!
I've also repeatedly said I was "aroused" when I meant excited,as in, "I'm excited to go shopping today! Are you excited for your wedding next month?" Another faux pas was several times of the usage of a word I thought to mean "breast" when I was discussing breastfeeding. What I said was actually a vulgar word that a woman would never use when discussing her own.
Nothing compares to the mistakes that Hubby made, though. My dear, sweet husband said such a vulgar word in church that no one would translate. When he was trying to say dog in French, it came out all wrong. (Can anyone guess what word came out?) Or howabout the time he used "con" instead of "quand"...wait, did I say time? I meant timesssss (plural). He still struggles with this one.
It's not hard to say conard instead of canard, and who can tell if baisser has one "s" or two? No American I know!

I remember my uncle's stories about his first months in France. He was terrified to leave the apartment. But one day when he thought he finally had enough French down to venture out onto the streets of Toulouse and try some out, he got cocky. He thought he was past the old fashioned "bonjour"...he wanted to be cool and say "Salut!" (pronounced sal-ew) So as he walked down the rue he greeted all the shopkeepers with a super cool "Salop!" instead (sal-oh). This means bastard.
As I prepare for our upcoming trip, I might want to rethink my procrastination in brushing up on my French. I'm sure that I will have some real doozies to post about on Cassoulet Cafe. Let me serve as a warning to others.

Une Autre Point de Vue

Another point of view.

I just received an email from a dear friend of mine. She's French and grew up in the South of France, near Toulouse, but now lives in Paris.

She's lived there for nearly four years now, after marrying a native Parisien.

I think my friend fits in very well in Paris. She dresses like a true Parisienne, she lives like one, she appreciates the culture and everything Paris offers. She loved the idea of Paris....before she moved there. But an image in our mind is often much different than the one that comes to fruition later. As is the case with my dear friend.

No, she is not in a bad marriage. It's just that after a few months, the honeymoon phase of living in Paris wore off, and real life settled in quickly. Living in a minuscule apartment with sky-high rents in the suburbs of Paris was a start. Then the daily commute on public (often striking) transportation to an office job working too many hours under a chauvinist pig boss, making far too little money to indulge in a daily macaron and chocolat chaud at Laduree. Then the reality of having to make all new friends in a place where a "southern accent" is ridiculed, even though that seems to be where the sun hides itself from Paris. Enduring it all without family near by.

The Daily Grind can happen anywhere. Any place can become humdrum. This makes me think of the saying we all grew up with; the grass is always greener on the other side. Or the version I recently heard: the grass is always greener over the septic tank.

I'm not saying Paris should be compared with waste water treatment, but sometimes life gets in a rut as we go through the routine of work/sleep/play no matter where we live. Moving may help put some excitement into our lives and give us some much needed change, but at the end of the day, we still have to get the mundane things done and this is when the fantasy starts to fade.

*This was not intended to rain on any one's party, so to speak. I don't want to discourage any Paris dreams, I'm just reflecting on my friend's situation and trying to put myself in her shoes. It's also a moment for me to do a reality check and remember that picking up and moving my family far away didn't (and won't) make my life transform into a perfect fairy tale.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Quick In-N-Out Burger

On our vacation last week, we had to hit the In-N-Out Burger as many times as possible to get our fix. It's been 9 months since I had one. For the non-Californians out there, this is only the best burger! Never frozen meat, no gristle, fresh ingredients and only burgers, shakes and fries on the menu. There is even a secret menu that is no longer a secret, since it's now posted on their website. But if you don't know the not-so-secret lingo, you'll never be able to order a burger Animal Style, or a 4x4 burger or a have a Neopolitan. No matter, any burger you order will be delish and you'll be addicted like me and wonder why this wonderful chain hasn't spread into my neck of the woods yet.

Because I couldn't eat at In-N-Out for every meal, I made it my mission to view the drive-up line at every In-N-Out Burger we passed on our trip. Because I have never seen one that didn't have a line of cars out into the street. It's that good.

On the other side of the world, to where I will be going in a couple months, there is a place that looks similar to an In-N-Out, but is the worst burger! Quick. Or "qweek" as the Frenchies say. My experience at Quick has never been good, and the photos of the burgers on their website is proof that I speak truth.
What is up with their burger names? Xtralong Giant? I don't want to eat a burger that is described as Extra Long, because long should not EVEN be a consideration when ordering a burger. There is also a Long Fish, Long Bacon and Long Chicken. I prefer In-N-Out's description, burgers that are "stacked high on a freshly baked bun". Doesn't that sound nicer and more appetizing?

Though, as much as I love In-N-Out, I won't be trying the 100x100 burger. And you definitely won't be getting any blog posts from Quick on our upcoming trip to France. Unless I decide to do a shock and awe post. Nahhhh....

Wednesday, January 2, 2008


....the San Francisco Treat!" Funny, I've passed through it tons of times, going over the Golden Gate and Bay bridges, had layovers there more times than I want to count, but I had never actually spent any time down in the touristy Pier 39/Fisherman's Wharf. We had a great day with beautiful weather (as you can see) and had a nice little visit.
Boudin looked like it had great bread, but the name really put me off, since in France, boudin is blood sausage. Blech!
I didn't buy any crepes because they were spendy! And I have a great recipe from my French aunt and I have Nutella at home. But I loved the little creperie and had fun watching them make them.
The next time I'm in SF will be during a layover on our way to France!

"Where Am I?"

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Away from Home

Any guesses as to where I went to take this photo last Thursday? :)