Chris was supposed to write this blog post. Tonight, at dinner Chris rhetorically posed with incredulosity (his word), “What am I supposed to write about…feelings?” Please tell me if that was not funny. That was so funny!
For our morning walk, we went farther than normal, to what we thought was St. Eitienne. We were excited to find a new town, perhaps a new bakery, a better wine selection… After a 40 minute walk uphill, we got to Langlade, or something. I pulled out the tourist map of the region, and could not find it listed. This town is not even on the map, which follows nicely into my next observation; it was devoid of all signs of habitation, save one man, who looked like he was tailgating at the trailhead, and his barking black dog.
So, we didn’t find exactly what we wanted, but it was a beautiful day, and we spent much of it outside. With opened windows, I washed much of the living area, which last night, like the evening mentioned a few posts ago, was windy enough to gust down the three story chimney, spew smoke through the closed iron lid, filling the room with thick smoke, and shooting flames a foot out into the room through the closed vents. Needless to say, we were concerned. My father’s advice for keeping the fire going late into the night was apparently not meant for such windy evenings, because the heavy stocking we had done made the flames grow a foot above the opening when we opened the lid to attempt to subdue the beast. First we tried to cover the flames with ashes, and after Chris went to bed, and I became fed up with my fire nanny position, I remembered water. I had been nervous that it would damage the stove somehow, but it squelched the flame, and the large logs had burned down to ashes by morning despite my interference. Most importantly, we, the house, and the dog, survived to tell the tale.
It was such a nice day today, that we didn’t even re-light the fire in the morning. Once it got dark though, Chris made a log cabin out of tinder and kindling, which made for the fasted stove-lighting yet. Soon the fire was roaring, and our home became quite toasty. The stove is shaped like a cylinder (a surprisingly hard word to spell), with a small door in the front that acts as a vent, and swings up to open just big enough to start the fire, and a round lid, like that of a pot, at the very top for stoking. The lid gets quite hot (sometimes we set the baguette on top to get it the crust nice and crunchy), and so we use a long metal rod that is shaped somewhat like a bobby pin with a closed end as a hook to slip under the knob, and lift it so that we can fill the space vertically, with logs. Sometimes we forget how hot the stove is, and Chris and I both have scabbed over burns on the inside of our arms from accidentally touching the inner lip of the tube while moving logs around.
This evening, just as it was getting dark outside, Chris opened the lid to stoke the fire. In an instant (how else do accidents occur?), the lid slipped, and fell behind the stove, melting, and severing an electrical cord, leaving us suddenly in the dark. Chris uttered a foul word, and in what my self-defense teacher, Judi Anibas, calls the “blackout” state of panic, we scurried around, trying to figure out what happened, and what to do next. Generally, we are in a state of ease here, but there have been a few times that my mind wanders and I wonder what we would do in this foreign country, in the case of emergency, without easy contact with others. Tonight, it became close to real. I unplugged the cord (probably a stupid thing to do with bare hands), and we scurried around, realizing that the single cord was the sole supply of energy to our house. We wondered if we had shorted a fuse, if we were totally Fricked, if we had irreversably damaged something, among other thoughts.
In the following minutes, we went to the attached workshop, found an extra long extension cord on a spool and a few power strips, and relieved, lit the room with a few table lamps in the living room, and a work lamp, the water boiler (our most-used kitchen item), the refrigerator, and the toaster. We sat back, and finally let out the breath we had been holding. We finally felt safe, and that the situation was manageable. Chris felt responsible, and exhausted, so I took over dinner. While working, I remembered something I had found while cleaning earlier in the day. As I was sweeping out the dirtiest corner of our living room, the one that houses the stove, I found a weird antique-looking tombstone shaped wooden object with a giant screw and bold on the back. I took it outside, with the rest of the moveable objects so that I could sweep and mop. Directly outside our front door are stacks of split and unsplit wood, and the tools we use to split them. The one thing that I missed while bringing things in at the end of the afternoon, was that one strange object, which, while cutting onions, I realized had been in the corner to protect the electrical cord.
The night ended wonderfully though, and is all due to our dinner. Living in a strange place with new foods every day makes me think back to Festival Foods. It is such a huge store, but people usually buy the same normal things they buy every week. I had this great idea for a food challenge, and I pose it to you. Anyone who completes this challenge, sends a description, and picture to my email address (firstname.lastname@example.org), will win a meal of their choosing, cooked by me, upon my return to the U.S.
Contest: Go to the grocery store you frequent, and buy only items that you have never cooked with before. You must use at least three new ingredients, and they must comprise at least 50% of the final meal. Eat, record with written word, and photograph, submit to Emilie by February 6, 2013.
In contrast to strange or new foods, tonight I made the most hearty, comfort food of all. It is why the night ended so wonderfully, and it is why this post is dedicated to my father, David Arnold Carlson. My love for food has been fostered by many people and experiences over the years. One of the main reasons the love was possible, however, is because my father loves cooking, trying new recipes, and eating new foods. He taught me that with basic knowledge, you can experiment with food, and create a variety of wonderful things. He also encourages me to blog, is my most regular blog post commenter, and writes an entertaining blog all about food- recipes, (sometimes scathing) reviews, and links. It is accessible to anyone, but especially informative for the Eau Claire audience (remember those scathing reviews, they are the most fun).
One of those basic techniques that he taught me is the roux. To the base of the roux, I added caramelized onions, salt, pepper, rosemary, and thyme. I then added about four cloves of minced garlic (another important lesson from dad, there is no such thing as too much garlic), and finally milk, and a sprinkling of freshly grated nutmeg. I poured this sauce over perfectly el dente noodles, then shredded cheese (of an unknown variety, though semi-hard, and smelling similar to parmesan), over the top. We paired this with a local Merlot, and for desert, had rice pudding that Chris made out of leftover rice, leftover pumpkin puree, chopped dates, milk, and sugar.
It was a good thing that the rice pudding was waiting for us after dinner, because the pasta was so delicious, that I literally whined like a small child when I had the misfortune of only having one bite left on my plate.
We talked on Skype with my dear brother and sister-in-law, and Chris had second-dessert of baguette and Nutella, warmed atop the wood stove, of course.