My life revolves around food

Big milestones over here: successfully found both decent peanut butter and a neighborhood bar to watch soccer games. Doesn’t hurt that my local team happens to have several of the World Cup champion team stars on it! Oh, also made my first tarte tatin and confirmed that I will be making it again as soon as possible.

The actual big event of last week was SIAL, an enormous food show that took up 8 halls in a conference center. Eight. Halls. It’s a completely overwhelming but amazing experience, and it means that you spend the whole day just wandering around, talking to people about food, and eating. In other words, all of my favorite activities. This show was particularly cool because it had companies from all over the world and you could see products and trends from everywhere. When you’re a sucker for samples like I am, you end up eating some pretty amazing things (margarita ice pop, sheep cheese, all of the chocolate), but also some really questionable products. It’s always a gamble.

I also did a cooking competition! This was the classic move where I signed up when I saw the email and then completely forgot about it until the day before. The theme was eggs and my team was two other students from AgroParisTech, and two of us were very disappointed that the dish had to be savory. Our dish was way out of my comfort zone, but it came out great! Watercress foam, toasts with teriyaki-glazed eel and fish roe, black radish and egg white mayo, and a poached egg. It was so fun!
This weekend was one of those where you get to the end of the day and try to figure out if you ever left your room. We had a massive statistics project due Sunday night, so the last few days are a blur of excel spreadsheets. In the interest of trying to get out of the dorm, a few friends and I went to brunch on Sunday. We weren’t totally sure what was happening (definitely never saw a menu), but things kept appearing on the table and we were definitely not mad about it. The best moment was when we thought we were done and the server came out with dessert plates for each of us. I think we audibly gasped, and we could not get over how happy we were about it.
The temperature here dropped about 30 degrees overnight and I’m predictably sniffly–off to bed before this gets any worse.

Making progress

Tuesday marks 2 months since I left the US, and it feels both like it’s been a week and a year. And we only have 12 weeks of Paris left before heading to Dublin! I am taking that as a sign to increase my pastry and cheese intake, and I feel very confident about my abilities in those areas. I’m trying to get out exploring as much as possible, at least taking my runs through new areas, but there’s still so much to do. (For example: restaurants to try, neighborhoods to wander, museums to visit. The hard work that I do.)

We had our first final this week, a presentation on sustainability strategies in our countries. This is one of the ways that the internationality of the program really strengthens it: hearing about the problems and strategies from all over the world was amazing. One down, six to go…

Thanks for the photo, Nala!
There’s an incredible show at Notre Dame right now, a light show projected on the facade of the church. Think the Disney fireworks show minus the fireworks plus 13th-century Gothic architecture. It was stunning and very well done, and also they made the king statues dance. As proof that I haven’t changed, after the show I pulled nutella out of my coat pocket and a banana cake out of my purse for a little snack to eat by the Seine. My friends were shocked, but they’ll learn.
On the schedule for this week: a cooking competition, a visit to Europe’s major food product show, and a Democrats Abroad debate before the midterms. Should be a good time!

School & cookies

I was finishing up cooking dinner last week when I looked down at my plate of mac and cheese next to the bowl of chocolate chip cookie dough and realized, huh. I think I’m a little bit homesick. I know I’m not allowed to complain about food in the land of the croissant, but I can’t remember the last time I went this long without peanut butter or Mexican food. The switch from my very own gadget-crowded kitchen to sharing a hot plate with 40 people isn’t helping much either. Today I went on a search for black beans and pumpkin puree and came up empty-handed on both counts. Luckily sugar, butter, and chocolate are staples here too and I reverted to childhood with chocolate chip cookies straight from the oven. Warm cookies make everything better.

Photo from Luana, who is now hired as my food photographer.

Even better than the cookies, I got the all-clear from my physical therapist to start running again! I’ve re-started my morning run routine and it feels so good. My roommate isn’t so thrilled about the 5:45 am alarm clock and I’m not near enough to anything interesting for good views, but I can smell all of the bakeries from a block away and it’s totally worth it.

School has really gotten serious in the last few weeks, which is very inconvenient for my plans to explore Paris. We have a group project working with an industrial partner to solve a current research problem, which is super cool, and mine involves reading everything I can find about the protein and starch structure of wheat. (I’m a little bit too excited about it.) We met with our clients last week and have our first final presentation for a different class this week, so needless to say I’ve been just a little bit busy. I’m not used to having homework again! Most of the time, though, it’s kind of surreal to be able to study and understand products I’ve used for years. I’m weirdly excited about starch functionality and designing milk heating systems. Doesn’t it sound so fun?!?
Luckily we still manage to get out sometimes and when all else fails, my study breaks consist of an eclair and a walk in the Paris sunshine. Theme of this post: baked goods solve all of my problems. Unsurprising.

Weekend in Rennes

Some friends from my program and I decided to take off for a weekend and, based on a combination of ticket prices and desire to see the ocean, ended up in Rennes. It’s only 2 hours west of Paris by TGV but about 5 if you’re a student trying to save money by going for the cheapest bus option. The city was super cute and seemed to have a lot going on–we encountered both a brass band parade and a treasure hunt in one afternoon. We also had to eat the regional specialty and had an epic crêpe brunch on Sunday.

But mostly, Rennes was a jumping-off point for the real destination: Mont-St-Michel. A sometimes-island that’s cut off from the mainland at extreme high tides, it’s a spectacular sight. There has been an abbey on the site since the 10th century, which at this point is a maze of different time periods, styles, and functions. The bus from Rennes drops you off a few kilometers away, and the walk to the island took about twice as long as it needed to because we had to stop and take pictures every few steps. The view of gothic spires against shocking blue sky and uninterrupted ocean never got old. I also loved wandering the abbey itself, from the vast dining hall to the massive wheel that once brought supplies to the abbey during its brief stint as a prison. We also watched wave after wave of parachutes land directly in front of the city. It was awesome!
I think it’s a mark of student life that one of the highlights of the trip was staying in a real house. Sitting on a couch, going to the bathroom without taking a key, having your refrigerator in the actual kitchen… it feels like the height of luxury at this point. We took advantage of the swanky digs and made a feast Saturday night–grilled (!!) steak and zucchini, green beans, epic garlic bread, and grilled peaches. It was so nice to live like a grown-up for a weekend!