Friday, November 23, 2012

Dinde Entier

Last year, we skipped Thanksgiving.  No turkey, no stuffing, no pumpkin pie.  We had only been in France a few months, and it was just another Thursday.  This year, however, we decided to give it the good ol' American effort.  First task - acquire a turkey.

If you're American or live in the US, you probably have not spent a lot of time considering that there is only one time of year when whole turkeys are widely available, and widely consumed.  Consider a country where Thanksgiving doesn't exist - like, say, France - and you suddenly realize there is no time of year in which one can presume to find a turkey by just walking into a store. 

I assigned Mr. Oil the role of Head Turkey Hunter, since it would involve calling the butcher and I still have not quite gotten over my reluctance (read: total avoidance) of speaking in French on the phone.  In the first phone call, the butcher said that he would work on getting a turkey and get back to us.  When we hadn't heard anything a few days later, we placed the second call.  We were then told that he had acquired a 12 kilo turkey (that's 26 pounds), and he knew that would be too big for our needs.  Which, while presumptuous, was in fact true. 

When Mr. Oil called the third time, the woman who works at the cash register (it's the same woman every time we've ever been to the butcher) answered and then, placing her hand over the receiver, shouted, "C'est Monsieur Oil, le dinde entier!" (It's Mr. Oil, the whole turkey!)  We were pretty sure our message had been received.

I went to pick up our turkey on Thanksgiving Day (we are having belated Thanksgiving dinner this weekend).  When it came to my turn at the counter, I explained that my husband - though I did not give our name - had called about a whole turkey.  The butcher helping me (there are 3-5 men who work behind the counter) nodded in recognition. "Monsieur Oil," he said, "le dinde entier." 

Right, that's us, the nagging Americans who want a whole turkey for some reason that is likely still unclear to our kosher butcher shop.  In the end, though, I shoved an eleven-pound turkey underneath the stroller while Baby Oil helpfully said, "Boggle boggle."  This is Baby Oil's version of "Gobble gobble" - either that, or he knows he is destined to be a mastermind at the word game Boggle just like his mom.  "Boggle boggle" wasn't terribly explanatory to the butcher, but I just gave my best, "Hey, we're crazy stupid Americans!" smile, and we took that turkey home. 

And if you're wondering - we brought back pureed pumpkin and cranberry sauce from the US last week.  Boggle boggle to all - happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 19, 2012


Whether or not I can say that I've been to Iceland is up in the air.  Technically, I have now spent approximately 2.5 hours in the Reykjavik airport.  Both Baby Oil and I have Icelandic stamps in our passports.  Thanks to the ubiquitous and, in my opinion, successful pro-Icelandic tourism advertising campaign that makes us quite a bit of the Iceland Air experience, I can tell you any number of fascinating facts about the island nation in the North Atlantic.

For instance, did you know that while more than 30 percent of Icelandic people have a college degree, over 50 percent of the country believes in the elves?  That the national dish of Iceland is cured shark?  That the most popular restaurant in Iceland is a hot dog stand?  Both times we landed and took off in Iceland, it was dark so I can't personally vouch for the glaciers, mountains, and gorgeous countryside that fills the IcelandAir in-seat entertainment screens.  

The background to all of this Iceland stuff is that Baby Oil and I flew to the US on Iceland Air to attend a wonderful wedding in Ohio (the soon-to-be-Mr-and-Mrs are now officially Mr and Mrs!).  Iceland Air offers significantly cheaper flights from North America to Europe (and vice-versa) than the standard airlines, but naturally the trip includes a requisite layover in Reykjavik.  This was our first trip purchasing a seat for Baby Oil - yes, he's still under 2 so we weren't legally required to do so, but 10 hours with a 28-pound toddler on my almost-7-month-pregnant lap sounded like a really bad idea. 

On the way to the US, all I could think about was that I really want to actually visit Iceland.  After the trip back, I'm not sure I ever want to step foot in Iceland again.  This is not because of Iceland Air, whose service far surpasses that of the American carriers we've flown overseas.  This is because of the scarring, traumatic experience in which I finally became that parent -  you know, the parent with the out-of-control screaming kid that everyone else on the plane and in the airport really, really hopes is not on their plane.

Look how deceiving Baby Oil can be, dressed as a happy kid ready for bed in the Dulles airport:

Just kidding!  Instead, Baby Oil thought that not sleeping on the 6 hours from Dulles to Reykjavik was a much better plan.  Also that every 30 minutes or so, he should start screaming for popcorn.  Not goldfish crackers, grapes, pretzels, or cookies, all of which I had on me.  No, no, I believe he purposefully picked popcorn, knowing there was no possible way I could provide microwave popcorn on a 757. 

The conspiracy to make my night miserable went much further than popcorn - it included a sleeping guy in the aisle seat who never got up one time during the flight, a shooting pain in my hip/lower back courtesy of the baby bump, spilled milk that dripped behind Baby Oil's seat onto the belongings of the woman sitting behind us, and Baby Oil's minor tantrum that I dared poured his milk out of the cardboard-box-with-straw into his sippy cup and ensuing refusal to drink milk in the apparently tainted sippy cup.

Arriving in Reykjavik, the situation further deteriorated.  Pretty soon, that adorable baby from the Dulles airport looked like this:

Wait, that's just a red blob.  To protect your senses and your sanity, this is the closest I can come to displaying evidence of the thrashing, shrieking mess of a child that haunted the Reykjavik airport.  I'm still curious about the elves, the hot springs, and the fact that every Icelandic person can trace their family's lineage back to the first settlers.  I'm just not sure Iceland would want us back. 

The postscript is, by the way, that Baby Oil did sleep for the 3 hours from Iceland to Paris, and seems to have made a decent recovery.  It's my psyche that we should remained concerned about. 

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Wall to Wall Chocolate

Imagine, if you will, a large expo center filled with wall-to-wall chocolate vendors from France, Switzerland, and Belgium; chocolate and cacao importers and vendors from Brazil, Madagascar, Gabon, and other African nations; chocolate art displays, chocolate cooking demonstrations, and even a chocolate fashion show.  Yes, you have arrived at the Salon du Chocolat and it does not disappoint.

While each stand markets and sells its products - despite the entry fee - there are samples galore.  Nibbles of single-origin chocolates, broken truffles, milk chocolate, dark chocolate, flavored chocolate.  I was forced to make one purchase at Chapon's Bar a Mousse au Chocolat - but how can you pass up a chocolate mousse bar?!  They offered four different chocolate mousse options, each based on a chocolate from a different origin (Cuba, Sao Tome, etc).  The descriptive listings associated with each mousse resembled a gourmet wine description - long in the mouth, smoky, subtle, fruity, bright in the mouth, etc.  I went with the Cuba (the smoky one) because the Sao Tome (fruity and long in the mouth) was sold out.  And man was that some amazing chocolate mousse. 

Even pregnant, there's only so much chocolate I can consume before approaching saturation (read: turn slightly green and run for something salty).  Fortunately, the Salon du Chocolat provided ongoing entertainment, including a chocolate fashion show:

And a performance by a musical/dance group from Madagascar.  Baby Oil in particular was enamored with the Madagascaran dancing and tried at times to emulate their movements. 
Mr. Oil and I also were able to participate in the French cultural experience of yelling at children that do not belong to us.  In classic French fashion, there were any number of 8-13 year old children gathered around the stage with nary a parent in site.  The oldest few were having a good time, if that's what you can call shouting, jumping, pulling hair, and generally creating a ruckus while the rest of us were trying to enjoy the Madagascarian moment.   Several other adults in the audience, including Mr. Oil and me, took turns shouting "Arret!" to those trouble-making kids.  It's kinda fun to yell at some stranger's kid who is behaving badly in public, and it is totally acceptable here.  Though I would still prefer if an actual parent or supervisory figure would do the dirty work. 

In other blog-related news, this blog has been nominated for an Expat Blog award by the friendly folks over at Expats Blog. One of the judging criteria is related to comments left on the listing for the blog (available here), so please, regular readers, visit and share how delightfully entertaining you find me.  Or whatever (but something preferably nice).