Thursday, October 13, 2005

A little list on language

Language List #1: secondary tongues

1. The Bad news.
My German is much worse than I'd anticipated. I only studied it for a year and a half and never really had a chance to use it much. Thus most of it is gone.
2. The Good news.
My French is much better than I'd anticipated. I haven't had a reason to use it in 13 years, but after a few bumps it was up and running. The accent was still decent and yes, I was able to eavesdrop (one of the great pleasures of sitting at a cafe is eavesdropping)!

Language List #2: my native tongue
(really just a way to write a little about reading in the same post)

1. What I read:
Dawn on a Distant Shore by Sara Donati
Another thumping good read (sequel to Into the Wilderness) that happily occupied my moments of down-time while in Europe. A little willing-suspension-of-disbelief was necessary (how many times can Nathaniel be shot and recover easily?) but I was happy to do my part in the suspension. I was also pleased that my recent non-fiction reading of John Adams helped me recognize some of the political events mentioned, specifically the French-English-American conflicts at sea.
2. What I wanted to read:
Fallen by David Maine
I started this book the day before the flight home and I am loving it. It was my great misfortune to be seated next to a neurotic yacker on the plane otherwise I'd be much further along. But I didn't want to half-read it and the neurotic yacker kept interrupting me despite ample evidence that I WAS READING. (I don't think anyone in his life reads books so he probably wasn't aware of the social cues I was sending out like holding the book up to my face and mumbling "mmmmhmmm" in a distracted sort of fashion while he yacked on about the joys of free alcohol available in coach class and what would happen when he went through US customs...)

Language List #3: What I missed

1. Good book talk (and the food that accompanied it):
My book group met while I was gone so I didn't get to eat the fabulous looking Mexican meal that accompanied All the Pretty Horses or take part in the discussion.
2. Making a choice:
I also didn't get to hear the selection process for what our group will read next, though I'm perfectly content with the book chosen (I often think that what people anticipate and want out of a book before reading it is just as interesting as what they think of it afterwards) . We'll be reading Pope Joan by Donna Cross. My only knowledge of Pope Joan comes from Caryl Churchill's 1982 play Top Girls in which Pope Joan is one of five historical female characters at a dinner party in a London restaurant. The other 4 are Isabella Bird--a Victorian explorer; Lady Nijo a 13th C. courtesan who becomes a Buddhist nun and travels across Japan; Dull Gret, a character from a Breugel painting who leads a charge through hell; and Patient Griselda, a loyal and obedient wife from the Clerk's Tale in Chaucer's Cantebury Tales. Top Girls is great play (though the form of feminism in the voice of the contemporary woman who invited all the characters to the party reads today as a little heavy handed, very 1982) and I remember the character of Pope Joan the best of all, particularly the point in the play where she talks about being pregnant and having the baby while in a papal procession thus giving away the fact that she is female. Anyway, I am looking forward to reading Cross' novel about the character.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

I've got a little list...

Rather than launching into an exhaustive (and exhausting) narrative of the trip to Germany and France, I thought I'd make a few lists since

1. I like reading lists on other people's blogs.
2. I'm still pretty whacked out on what time it is; my thoughts are certainly not coming in coherent bursts. Lists will hopefully keep the digressions from taking over.
3. I must be able to stop this at any moment and lavish love all over my two critters who I missed so much I really did have trouble breathing at times.
4. I left the camera with Brian (who is still in Germany) so he could take lots of pictures of the Porsches in the adjacent garage at the Nuerburgring for Ian (aka Porsche fiend). Thus I won't have access to my photos of nice foods, yarns, places, etc. until he returns on Saturday.

(Sorry, I can't get accents or umlauts to work in Blogger.)

Food List # 1--what I loved:
1. The German's fondness for fresh dill. Just a touch in many salad dressings, chopped up with scallions as a garnish, etc.
2. Muesli and fresh fruit and thick yogurt for breakfast. If I had a house-elf, one of its main tasks would be to make sure there was fresh fruit salad in the fridge at all times.
3. Really lovely ham at breakfast. Cold, thin sliced and not at all slimy (the way bad ham can be).
4. The best apple I have tasted in years. I took an apple out of the fruit bowl of the lovely inn we were staying in near Nuerberg and it was perfect--incredibly crisp, sharp, not too sweet (which is one of my objections about many American apples). 'Tis the season for terrific apples in Michigan, but I'm pretty familiar with most of the varieties available at local orchards and the farmer's market and none of them have this apple's pure perfection. And no, I don't know the variety. If I had to guess I'd say there was some pippen in there, but it was bigger than the British Cox's Orange Pippen (which I also love).
5. Sorbet. Even the most mundane ice cream stall in France has better sorbet than you can buy here. Mind you they weren't as fabulous as the sorbets sold on Ile St Louis in Paris, made by Berthillon (I did find a site with some recipes to make sorbets like Berthillon's--first up in my house--Poire) which just blow your mind (I still vividly remember a double cone of apricot and chocolate sorbet that shot the pleasure center of my brain for a week or so). But even the most basic sorbets in France are damn good.
6. Les salades compose. Pretty much any cafe in France has an amazing assortment of the most fabulous salads--simple grated vegetable salads (like celery remoulade next to some lightly dressed beets mounded on leaves of butter lettuce), gorgeous big salads with toasts topped with warmed goat cheese, salade nicoise (even very far away from Provence), salads with slices of duck breast, or a perfect little dressed pile of sweet shrimp, you get the idea. For someone with a salad fetish such as I have, it would be a dream to have even one cafe in town where one could go and know that one's salad craving could be assuaged with no anxiety about gluey dressings, crappy lettuce or tired vegetables.
7. Reisling. I now have a white wine I love. Give me a dry reisling and I am a happy girl. I'm sure I'll still pick red for regular consumption, but now I know what white I'll keep in the house too.
8. Franziskaner Dunkel Hefeweisse. The best beer I had over there, and yes, you can get it here. I think Ashley's even has it on draft.
9. Poire William Eau de Vie, available just about everywhere as a digestif. I didn't have time to get a bottle, but I'll see if Brian can pick one up before he gets back (or else I just head over to Big 10).

FoodList #2--what I missed:
1. Whole wheat toast and multi-grain bread. Yes, even I have tired of the lovely little brotchen rolls at breakfast. France only does multigrain breads in segregated natural foods stores and in Germany the multigrain bread is of the brick-like rye variety (nice, but not what I crave).

Yup, that's about it in the missed food category! I'm heading off to Arbor Farms today to restock my supply of Ed's Bread Multigrain (makes the best toast, in my opinion).

I think I hear the critters stirring upstairs, so more lists (or perhaps a coherent paragraph) coming in future posts.