Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Catherine's Kitchen

I arrived in Montpellier on Sunday without issue. Gare Lyon in Paris was crowded, but my train was on time, and the ride down to here was noisy, but uneventful. At the school, classes run 9:00-12:15pm for the standard course, which is the ‘warm up’ that I’ll be doing for 4 weeks here. Typically, classes run Monday to Friday. This Wednesday is the first of May though, which means it is a holiday in France. The best explanation I’ve gotten so far is that it’s kind of like a French Labour Day. So, no one went to work, or school, and the whole house slept in until noon. This is normal (er… so I’m told). The holiday definitely explains the sheer number of families and young children I encountered both in the station and around Montpellier though. 

Anyway, I woke up at 1:00pm or so, dazed and confused, because I was quite convinced that it was only 8 or 9 in the morning. It turns out that there are very large wooden shutters on my windows, which close and block out the daylight. No wonder it took me so long to wake up, there was no sun to wake me up, hahaha! The afternoon was pretty slow and leisurely following that. I had a relaxing round of yoga in the back garden, and a tricky conversation with Catherine about what exactly the rules were surrounding her kitchen.

Monday, we had spoken about how economic it is to take a packed lunch instead of buying one everyday. That’s when she told me that I could use the kitchen to make my lunches and bring them with me if I so chose. I was shocked. Catherine was going to let me use her kitchen? No, surely not. I asked in many different ways to assure myself that this was the case, and I hadn’t misunderstood. Hm, nope, it appeared the unthinkable was about to happen, I was allowed to use the kitchen. After the yoga, I casually went into the little fridge in my room to pick up the pasta, meat and tomato sauce I bought Tuesday to prepare for lunch. Now, you have to understand how very pleased with myself I was about this whole thing. I was going to cook myself a batch of something resembling rotini with tomato meat sauce, and I was going to get four lunches out of it. Much cheaper and decidedly tastier than buying lunch every day in the vielle-ville where the school is located. When I entered the kitchen though, Catherine looked at me, aghast.

“What is that for, Kendra?”
“… for lunch, Catherine. I thought it was alright for me to cook lunch?”

Ah, the truth comes out. No, I am allowed to use the microwave, and to boil water. Once it involves more than the pot needed to boil water, or the microwave, it is referred to as ‘grande cuisine’ in France, and that’s not anything someone other than Catherine is to be doing in her kitchen. Oh… ok… but now I have raw beef, and pasta, and tomato sauce. None of that is edible plain. After much more discussion – in which there was a lot of me repeating things to make sure that I understood them – I now know how to use the stove, which is only for boiling water, and the microwave. Catherine cooked the lunch that I was going to cook, and has told me that I can finish preparing and eating what I have this weekend. Then we made a budget.
Truly, there is a chalkboard on the door in her kitchen, and she walked me through how much more economic it is to buy the individual, microwaveable lunches than to buy just the raw ingredients. This took a great deal of convincing, because that’s not how it works where I’m from. Insta-food that comes out of the microwave is not only more expensive, but tastes pretty terrible too. Not here. Their insta-food packages are a negligible cost, as in 1.50 euros, and home-making a salad (which is permitted in Catherine’s Kitchen) is also outrageously cheap. I have been given very explicit instructions that lunches at home in the future are to be an insta-food package, and a homemade salad.
This will be a most interesting experiment, as I am still very skeptical that this will be appetizing, but I volunteered to learn how things work in a different culture, so I better give it a try. Both Michel and Alexandre do exactly the same thing, so at the very least I should try it without complaint.
I will be sure to keep you posted on this new adventure in lunches, and any indigestion (or pleasant surprises in taste) that follow.

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