Monday, November 28, 2011

Lowering Expectations at the Sorbonne...

“In America,” she said, “they think that English is the only language.”  I so visibly rolled my eyes in disgust that the professor looked at me, the only American in the class, and said, “But I’m not counting you.”

Thanks, but it was too late to matter.

It was another day at the Sorbonne Nouvelle.  We were discussing our research projects and the topic of language and translations came up, a favorite weekly topic.  Apparently everyone was immediately an expert in American culture and they started criticizing the way Americans watch only English films or else foreign films dubbed in English. 

That’s when professor, a fiery-eyed French woman in her 50s or 60s, dropped the stereotype bomb.  Not only was it misplaced in a class with quite a few foreign students but it was followed with the clear-as-mud reasoning that is emblematic of these kinds of situations.  “The numbers speak,” she said.  “Only 10% of Americans have passports.”  Suddenly not traveling translates to being ignorant of other languages.  Is there a hint of truth?  Maybe.  Is it fair reasoning in a masters-level program at the Sorbonne?  Probably not… 

Monday, November 21, 2011

Ode to an Oven...

This is my ode...
When people look at you, my friend, they call you names.  “Toaster oven.” “E-Z Bake knock-off.”  It pains me.  I know what you really are.  Despite your diminutive appearance, you are, honestly, and truly, an oven.

You are the most valuable asset in my pint-sized kitchen, a true force to be reckoned with.  It is you who roasts my chicken and vegetables.  It is you who bakes dozens of cupcakes and cookies for hours on end without complaining or shorting the circuit.  It is you who cooks and heats an entire Thanksgiving feast for five without one cold bite of stuffing or raw Brussels sprout.

I know this, yet so rarely do I tell you how much I appreciate you.  Such treatment is unworthy of an appliance so great that I’d sooner call you an industrial marvel, a stroke of pure engineering genius.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Time Off at the Sorbonne...

Clearly occupied in class...
One month into my second year of the masters program at the Sorbonne Nouvelle and we’ve already had one week of vacation and two long holiday weekends.  Still, professors haven’t hesitated from taking much needed time away from the grueling pace of French education.  Can we chalk this up to a cultural difference?

Thursday my three classmates and I were sitting patiently in room 449 waiting for our linguistics professor who had already cancelled one class the week before in addition to failing to attend the second class – with no warning.  Class was to start at 3PM.  The four of us discussed our thesis projects and talked about our iPhones while fiddling with text messages and emails.

Ten minutes passed and the professor was still not there.

We continued waiting, while we talked about our various backgrounds.  One French girl moving to Turkey next year.  One Chinese girl who’s been around the world.  One half French half Italian student who dresses like every day is a Marc Jacobs show.

Twenty minutes passed.  No professor.

Monday, November 7, 2011

We May Be Rushing Things...Parsnips and Other Fun

There are certain things that make a man happy.  Beer.  Hunting.  Football.  Ladies that dance provocatively and make a kick-ass risotto.  Right?

This week, I discovered three more things that have made me giddy with glee.  Out of context, like, they are not funny.  Situated in front of an expat in Paris, they are things that exude excitement, moving a certain little American boy to near tears of joy.  Or maybe it’s just me…

Root veggies galore...
1. American Christmas radio: I know, “It’s too early.”  You can all say that.  You are all wrong.  When I discovered that my childhood radio station out of Philadelphia, B101.1, was already playing nonstop Christmas tunes and that I could listen to it online, I lost it.  The final straw was when the station played the Muppet’s rendition of the “12 Days of Christmas.” 

All of the excitement of a younger me waking up Christmas morning with my footie pajamas, racing to the tree to tear open presents as I shrieked with excitement – well, it was just good to feel 19 again.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Paris Pastry Goes Live!

After months of researching and updating and – oh boy – tasting the many chocolate, pastry, and ice cream shops in Paris, the iPhone application is finished.  David and Heather’s mastermind project, Paris Pastry, is now available on iTunes.

The app is a handy little tool to find what are arguably (but really not arguably) the best pastry places in town among a modest list of 300 shops, with descriptions written by pastry chef and blogger David Lebovitz.  After visiting most of them, I must say the experience has made me more of a sweets aficionado than I ever thought I’d be.

During the photographing process, I joined David and Heather on a whirlwind tour of the city meeting all sorts of sweet-obsessed Parisians and sampling a trove of diabetes-inducing products.  I popped Lactaid pills like crazy as a gauntlet of gelato, cream-stuffed √©clairs, and milky hot chocolate filled our days.  David had his camera, Heather had her notebook and the fast cash for emergency pastries.

And where did Bryan fit in?  Well if you’ve ever been to Ladur√©e, you know how hard it is take a photo of even the simplest macaron.  So my job was to charm the vendors and bakers into letting us take photos of their goods without always buying one – unless I was hungry, of course.  After a few jokes and explanations of what were doing, I usually gave David the green light to snap a few photos – if he hadn’t sneakily done so already as I distracted the vendors.  It was good teamwork.