Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Rabbits in the House

So, I know I promised you an entry with wonderful photos of Montpellier. That will have to wait until Friday though, as I forgot that today was a holiday, and transit has basically shut down, so I can't really get into the vielle-ville to get the rest of the pictures for you. Yes, the second one in two weeks. I was starting to wonder if the French actually worked a full week during the summers, so I checked the school calendar. It turns out that yes, they absolutely do. I just arrived immediately before the longest set of summer holidays. Technically, tomorrow is a holiday too, but the school is still running classes.
Anyway, that means I can tie up some loose ends in this post, mostly loose ends which involve food. Well… ok, food, funny busses, and more rabbits.

SO! Food. As you know, Catherine has made it clear that microwave lunches are about the only acceptable ‘cooking’ in her kitchen. I was very wary of these initially, and I can’t say I’m truly sold on the idea even now, but she was definitely right on some major points. Today for lunch I had my first package of French insta-food. Let the world know that French insta-food is infinitely better than just about every other insta-food I’ve had the misfortune of eating in North America. Lunch was a chicken leg, a cup of couscous and a merguez sausage. It didn’t come out dancing or glowing, or anything else dramatic like that; but had it been served to me on a proper plate, neatly, I don’t know that I actually would have identified it as a microwavable meal. The sausage was eerily straight and perfect looking, so that may have tipped me off, but everything tasted acceptably good, and was the right texture. That everything was the correct texture is impressive when you note that typically, chicken does funny things if it’s being reheated in the microwave. Well… ok that might be more of a symptom of my ghetto microwave at home than of microwaves in general, but that’s been my experience. This Sunday I’ll repeat the experiment for posterity, with the above, involving potatoes and ground meat. It’s kind of like a shepherd’s pie, and we had something similar for dinner earlier this week. I’m hoping this will make for a decent standard of comparison.
Other loose ends to tie up in this post consist of entertaining photos, like the one below.

This, as you can see, is a picture of a bus. The bus itself is not very exciting, nor is it a bus I take. It is just a bus that happens to stop at the same tram station I depart from in the mornings. What is exciting is where the bus is going. Throughout my childhood, and well into my adulthood, life with my mother has meant an endless quest for the perfect morning latte. I distinctly remember travelling as a kid and stopping at coffee shops in the strangest, most cosmopolitan and most rural places in order to establish whether or not the shop really knew how to create an excellent beverage. Now my mom grinds her own beans, with carefully selected coffee grinder settings that allow for minimal error and maximum coffee bean awesome to be released when the coffee is brewed. The maximum-awesome coffee bean brew is then combined with a precise amount of milk that has been steamed to a pre-determined temperature, and appropriate amounts of fluffy foam are added carefully to the top in her favourite mug. Basically, my mom is very fond of her lattes.
What makes this bus awesome is that it’s going to Lattes-Palavas (or Lattes Centre).
Palavas is the somewhat swanky resort town all the Parisians have beach homes at, 10 minutes down the highway from Montpellier at the beachfront. Inevitably, I saw the bus and thought ‘Hey, I bet they’ve got lattes at Lattes-Palavas!’
That’s right, this picture was taken entirely for the purpose of making my mother smile. That’s what good daughters do when they’re far away from home J
The last funny story I have for you covers French family etiquette. When you greet someone you know in France, you give them a set amount of kisses/cheek bumps as a part of your ‘hello!’ routine. My understanding of this social norm is that it’s kind of like hugging someone when you see them, like you would a sister or a close friend. Catherine and the Forquins did explain this to me the first day I arrived. In the south where we are, it’s 3 kisses; left, right, left. Now… kissing someone, even on the cheek, is definitely pretty intimate in Canada, not to mention less than common. So when I ran into Alexandre in the grocery store and he went to kiss my cheeks, my knee-jerk reaction was to pull back and look at him in alarm. Of course, as soon as I realized what I’d done I felt terrible. That’s really, really rude here. He laughed it off when I apologized profusely, because now everyone was staring at Alexandre like he was about to infect them with some terrible disease or shoot locusts out of his ears. It sounds like I’m not the first student they’ve had who has done something like this when they first arrived though. (Thank you, timid Japanese student from 2012!) Over dinner that night, the Forquins and I talked about it. They asked what we did in Canada when greeting a close friend, and then were scandalized that we did something so intimate as hug.
“Hugs?” Exclaimed Michel, “Hugs are for lovers and family!”
“Ah, yes, we hug them too.”
Anyway, in France if you don’t greet people with kisses, and you greet them with something as distant as a handshake you’re seen as very cold, impersonal, and rude. When someone in a family is seen as not participating in the ‘hello’ kisses, or there is a house guest that is distant and no one really likes them, you say you have a rabbit in the house.

I was so confused. A rabbit? As is evidenced by my post with the bunny bread, I think rabbits are adorable. They’re all fluffy and lovable, and generally not seen as bad creatures in my experience. I mean, there are all sorts of jokes about how quickly they reproduce, but that seemed wildly inapplicable in this context. Turns out what they mean is: when there is an unwanted house guest (or someone who is cold spending time in the house) it’s kind of like having a pet rabbit. It’s there, it’s physically present, it’s involved in family life, but in the end it’s in a hutch in the backyard and it’s not really a true member of the family, it’s at arms length.
Huh, how about that.

1 comment:

  1. Important thing first: that bunny picture is adorable!

    With respect to the kisses/cheek bumps is it supposed to be your left or their left first? Rather predictably the mathematician in me is struggling with the ambiguity.

    You said this order in which the sides are kissed/bumped was specific to the south, is there any particular reason that your host family is aware of that led to that order, or the differences between regions?

    I only spent a little time in France, but the cheek bumping where I was didn't seem to be as big a deal... I'm not sure if that was because of how much time my host family had spent with North-Americans, of if it was a regional thing. How disparate is France in this regard?

    I have no idea what I plan on doing with this information... but knowledge is power...

    Glad you're having fun! These updates are awesome!