Sunday, August 9, 2009

Modest Accomplishments

Here follows a list of the things I dreamed about doing while in France, which I have now accomplished upon returning home:

#1 Eat real Mexican food

I arranged to be consuming Mexican food as soon as I walked off the plane, more or less. My family met my mother and I at El Aguila Real about an hour and a half after my plane landed. Oh the enchilada goodness...

#2 Eat a reuben sandwich from The General Store

My favorite reuben sandwich in the history of all sandwiches is made by the lovely folks at The General Store Eatery in Valley Junction. Since I could never find corned beef in Poitiers, I couldn't even begin to make a substitute for this. I had been jonesing for quite some time. It's steamed instead of grilled, as well. Also difficult to imitate. Amazing! This goal was accomplished on Day 2.

#3 Get a pedicure

I went 9 months without a pedicure, and while some people might be saying "Who gives a shit?", for those who usually have a pedicure once every month (or every other month, even), 9 months is a LONG TIME. My feet were looking more like hooves by the time I got home. So, on Day 2, immediately after reuben consumption, it was off to the nail salon.

#4 Eat a Maid-Rite

If you're not from Iowa, you've likely never heard of this tasty treat. It's also called a "loose meat sandwich", which does not sound at all appealing. Basically, it's very finely ground beef on a bun, topped with mustard, onion, and pickle. Ketchup is blasphemous (but I get it anyway). You can get cheese, too, but that's gross. Maid-Rite started in Iowa, but you can find them in a couple different states now, too. Soft and delicately flavored, they are divine.

#5 Bake something--ANYTHING

I didn't have a real oven while in France, so I was desperate to make a baked good of some variety. Baking is a true love of mine, so being without an oven was a special kind of torture for me. I had also been obsessing over a blueberry pie recipe that I saw on the Cook's Illustrated website. In fact, I would conservatively estimate that I watched the video for making that pie about 20 times. Since I arrived in the US just before the 4th of July, I was able to finally make it about a week after returning home. Sweet success!

#6 Get my hair cut

Oh my hair was a wild mane by the time I returned home. In fact, I didn't get it cut once in the 9 months I was gone. Why? Who the hells knows...I mean, I was in France, not Korea. At any rate, I was very pleased to have some of it shorn off on Day 3.

#7 Hang out with my friends

Derek hosted a Welcome Home Shannon Bulgogi BBQ, and it was a cozy good time. Just the way I like it. I really missed hanging out with people who know me of old.

#8 Eat my grandma's spaghetti and meatballs

The smell of my grandma's spaghetti and meatballs cooking is the scent that permeates more of my childhood memories than any other. I can make it on my own, but it's never quite the same as hers. I tried to make it in France once, but the meatballs refused to stick together and became more of a "meatball crumble". Not exactly the effect I was hoping to achieve.

#9 Road trip to eat at Farmer's Kitchen and to get the best cream horns in the world

I read about Farmer's Kitchen while in France, as this supposedly amazing hole-in-the-wall place where the food is all made from scratch with local ingredients. This is somewhat hard to come by in Iowa (with a few notable exceptions in Des Moines). Also, I was dying to have a cream horn pastry from this tiny shop in a little nothing town, known only for its antique shopping (which is how I found the bakery in the first place).

So, my mother and I drove about an hour and half to get to these towns (right next to each other, as luck would have it). The Farmer's Kitchen was just as amazing as promised. I had their famous hot beef sandwich with a cup of their award-winning chili to start and a slab of chocolate peanut butter pie to finish. Not that I actually finished the pie. It weighed about 3 pounds and contained more sugar than 4 humans should consume in one day. I took home more than half of it, and never even finished it in the end. What a was so good.

The cream horns were amazing, as ever. Good thing we pre-ordered some because they were all sold out by the time we got there. Another pure sugar treat, but this time light as air. Yum.

#10 Go to the farmer's market

The farmer's market in Poitiers was pretty beast, but I love the markets here. For starters, we have a farmer's market somewhere in the metro area on almost every day of the week, and several of those are in the evening. This is perfect for working folks and lazy people--like me--who don't fancy getting up with the roosters in order to buy tomatoes. I haven't yet been to the enormous downtown market on Saturday morning, but I have been to the Thursday evening market in Valley Junction. It's just as nice, but less chaotic. Also, it has my favorite random market treat, a vegetable cutlet from the Indian lady's booth. It's always my first stop.