Friday, November 27, 2009


Obviously, Thanksgiving was yesterday in the US, and of course, French people don't celebrate it.  However, we did have a bit of a Thanksgiving Dinner if you will.  It was a lot of work, and it really makes me appreciate all the work that my family went through to get it on the table.  So this will be an overview of the fun that resulted.

First and foremost, the turkey.  It didn't happen.  We would have to do a dinner, as it's not a day off in France, so that meant that we would have to pick up the turkey at a boucherie, as it was not only a more specialty item, but boucheries have better meat anyway.  It's just hella expensive.  So most meat is bought in supermarkets.  We decide we will go to the supermarket first and the boucherie last to buy the turkey.  Of course, by the time we got back from the supermarket, the boucherie was closed for the midday.  That meant it wouldn't be open until 3-ish.  There is no way that would be enough time to cook a turkey completely, unless we planned on eating at 9.  That just wasn't going to happen.  So we had a chicken instead.  It was damn good.

Next, in the words of Gir, I made mashed potatoes.  Well, I shouldn't say I made mashed potatoes.  My partner actually was the one who did all the work.  He peeled them all, added the water, and put it on the stove.  I just mashed and seasoned them..  As they were boiling, I didn't think it looked quite the same as when it was made in the US, but then I realized......we hadn't cut the potatoes into smaller pieces.  So yeah, I thought it was going to be horrible.  Turned out it was great.  There was more starch, and it made it really thick.  It was almost like there was cheese in it.  I made whipped potatoes of course, as that's how American mashed potatoes are made.

I also made dressing.  This one is always a nail biter for me, because I, like my mother, believe my dressing can never live up to its predecessors.  Also, for those who are confused, dressing is the word my family and a lot of people back home, use for stuffing.  As I always understood it, stuffing is when it's in the bird, dressing is when you make it separately.  We didn't go shopping the day before, so that meant no drying the bread overnight.  Instead, we dried it out on the first setting on the oven.  Thank God it was a convection oven.  Overally, the seasoning wasn't bad, but I had to be conservative with the garlic, as I am a fiend for the stuff.   I was pretty satisfied though.

The last thing I made was dessert.  Yes, Yes, I know what you're all thinking; how did you make pumpkin pie in France?  To tell the truth, I didn't.  I know, how can you have Thanksgiving without pumpkin pie?  Well, I made cinnamon rolls, from scratch, instead.  In my opinion, they turned out better in France than any I made in the US.  I got baker's yeast, which worked out pretty damn well, and I had to use complete cane sugar, because you can't find brown sugar in France.  I wasn't even about to try and look for molasses.  Call me crazy, but I was just betting that would be an adventure and a half.

Overall, the meal was a hit.  It was enough for 6 people with some left over.  The potatoes were the biggest success.  I am glad people liked them, but well, mashed potatoes are about the most innocuous thing in the world.  I have never met someone who didn't like mashed potatoes, French or otherwise.  The dressing, was successful with everyone, except for my niece.  I think it was the celery and the onions that she didn't like.  Maybe, the sage, who knows.  But she's a kid, so it's not unexpected.  The cinnamon rolls, not so much.  Everyone liked the pastry itself, but it was the cinnamon that killed it.  It seems that French people aren't huge fans of cinnamon.  So overall, the night was great!

Now, to the real part of Thanksgiving.  I have to devote a special section to my partner, without whom none of this would have been possible.  He's a sweetheart of darkness, and has always been there for me.  He accepts me for all of my numerous faults, and puts up with me when I am being a bitch, or tired, or just ready to pass out.  He also did quite a bit of the work, and put up with my whining.  I do owe him a huge debt, that's for sure.

I know, ironic that it's at the end and will probably be the shortest part, non?  I am thankful for being here in France and all the support I have received on both sides of the ocean.  Not only that, but for my family that helped me get here, and the family that has opened their homes to help me here.  The support of friends is not to be forgotten either.  Thank you to all the friends who have kept me going while I was here and been a constant source of good times and an ear when I needed it.

More info later.  Tonight is Mansfield.TYA in Orléans!  There's an opening act, so maybe something else to talk about.

Monday, November 23, 2009

BD Boum

This may be a surprise for some, and a redundancy for others, but well, I am a geek.  I never really got into a full lot of my geekiness until I hit college.  Before that, I did not have the resources to be a true geek.  There are some that say it comes from within, but well, I feel I am now at a state of geek maturity.  That title may have been mine, and probably my partner's when we were so depressed at the thought of losing our consoles that we actually took them in our carry ons across the ocean out of fear that they may be damaged too much if mailed.

So we forget about all that, I think/I hope, and we come back to a comic expo here in France.  There was a lot of different artists and styles.  the BD tradition here is a lot more organized, and you can still see remnants from earlier styles.  So of course, you see a lot of older American heroes like Batman or the X-Men.  However, the true kings of French BD are Asterix and Obelix seen here: and someone that I didn't know about, but my Dad did, Tin-Tin seen here: 

There were two rooms available for entry, which was free, and that was nice.  The first we entered was where you could interact directly with the artists themselves.  You could talk shop with them, fanboy for a bit, and even purchase and have the book dedicated.  That was our initial plan, but there were so many people that it was really difficult to get around, and to the people we wanted.  So we thought we would go to the dealer's room while we waited for the other room to clear out.

It was just about as packed, and maybe a bit more than the other room, but there was stuff everywhere.  It was great.  My sister in law picked up Un Crayon Dans La Coeur, written by the incomparable Laurel.  I was hoping to see her there, but well, I had no idea of the schedule or any of that, so well, nuts to that.  She may or may not have been there.  Another guess.  But we picked up the book.  If you want to see some of her work, check out her site here: .  I think she's incredible, but it's my personal taste.  Salt grains, here we come. 

Myself, I decided to buy a couple of manga and pick up something for my partner.  Of course, everything I wanted to buy was a lot.  I had put myself on a strict limit of no more than 20 euros.  I had in the past spent way more than was not only proper, but also necessary at expos and sundry conventions.  I had my limit, and by god I was going to stick to it.  And.....I did.  I got my partner a small figurine from Saint Seiya (Les Chevaliers du Zodiaque) of Gemini (Gémeaux) because that's his favorite.  So he was set.  And for me, well.  I got the first two manga of Kenshin for 9 euros together.  I was very satisfied, and I have something new to read.  So yay!

It's good to know that geekiness is alive and well here in France.  If I could find a group for Dungeons and Dragons here, I would be set.  Yes, I am one of those.  I warned you.

On a side note, it did make me think of one event we had in Columbus when I was a Freshman in college.  I had to walk down to the fairgrounds, but it was totally worth it.  I went to SPACE back in 2003, which was really a lot of fun.  It's a lot of stuff I would never normally get to see.  It's a small press expo and it's pretty good really.  So if you are in Ohio and are interested, you may consider going.  Here's the address with more information. .  I don't know if it's really much help now that it's over, but here is also the address of BD Boum in Blois.  It was a great event and I really have to say thanks to all the organizers, the vendors who came out, and everyone who came to see it.

And now, to Kenshin.....

Saturday, November 21, 2009


Earlier in the week, my sister in law mentioned that we'd be going to play cards in a few nights at a friend's house.  I had said that it sounded great and was interested in seeing exactly what it was about.  She then asked me if I knew how to play bulotte.  I naturally responded, I have no idea what that is.  So the hunt for more information on bulotte began.

I checked online a little to see if any of it made sense.  From what my sister in law explained, it seemed quite similar to euchre in the US.  Now I had played euchre, but not since I was about 14 at my junior high where I proved my complete inability to play cards.  So I still didn't have any real answers as to what bulotte was (thanks for the help there Wikipedia) but I digress  I did however find out that euchre is similar to a french card game called ecarté.  But moving along.

So first I guess I should discuss how the French deck differs from the American deck.  The suits are all the same, but they have different names of course.  Clubs are called trefles, which is the word that used for clover or shamrock.  Hearts is pretty straightforward, coeurs.  Diamonds is a word I really didn't understand at first, carreau.  It has a lot of meanings, but is most commonly used for "a tile."  With the shape of a tile it makes sense, so there's that one.  Spades also works pretty well too.  They are called "pique."  (For those who don't know, spade comes from a Latin root, spatha, which is a flat type of blade.  We also get the word "spatula" in English, meaning "little flat blade" from the same root.  Thank you, Alton Brown.)

Secondly, the numbers are, of course all the same.  However, the Jack in English is known as le valet.  Obviously this comes from medieval and renaissance courtiers, and I only know of it from going to see The Marriage of Figaro back in high school.  The queen is not simply Reine as I thought it would be.  Instead, the card was marked with a "D."  This is another thing I would not know, but for a different reason.  Built in to all computers is a game we in the US call "Hearts."  In French apparently, the name is "Dame de Pique," which translates as "Queen of Spades."  Had I not been digging through stuff on my partner's computer, I would never know this.  The last is the king, le roi, not complicated.  (Although there is no suicide king in France, which itself was odd to me, but what can you do?

The basic setup is with two teams and each person has 6 cards.  Once again, this is a departure from euchre as far as I know.  However, I don't remember much as it was 12 years ago last time I played.  Also, like in euchre, before dealing, a member from the opposing team has an opportunity to cut the deck.

So to start the game you have to bet how many points you can win.  You have to say what will be trump, and how many points you can get.  Points are achieved by adding up the total number of the cards that you have in each hand.  For example, if each person were to discard, let's say there was a 9, 10, K, A thrown.  You would get 39 points for that hand.  So you can rack up points pretty quick really.  So instead of calling your tricks, you call how many points you can win.

Now, after you have bet, whoever bets the highest starts.  You go round-robin with the four until you have someone who says they can get the most.  The minimum bid is 80, but you can go up into something like 120 or 130.  It's unbelievable.  But once you have a highest bid, then that person lays the first card.  I should have also mentioned this earlier, but in addition to using the 9, 10, K, Q, and A, you also use the 7, and 8 cards.  The 7 and 8 have no real value other than for points, and are the lowest, but the highest value is, like in euchre, the Jack.  After that, the order is 0, 10, A, K, Q. 

If you can pull off how much you said you could win by, you get your points.  However, you only get the number of points you said you could pull.  So if you said you could win 100 with hearts a trump, then you will only get 100 points.  Even if you did have 130 points.  However, if you are unable to take the hands and come up short, your points are awarded to the opposing team.

So the game looks fun, but I am still not sure if I completely understand it.  I will have to watch it a couple more times to make sure that I get what's going on completely.  The last thing I need to do is screw over a partner in the game.

Also, as a side note.....We had raclette for dinner last night.  Quel ironie! :-)

Thursday, November 19, 2009


As it is impossible to accurately explain even the smallest amount of french cooking with any sort of accuracy, I feel I should talk about one of the best dishes in French culture: Raclette. It's not anything terribly fussy involving any sort of elaborate saucing ritual or anything else like that. It's actually a very simple dish that only requires the purchase of one device to make. However, in a pinch you don't even need the machine. It's really less about the food, and more about the company as well, which makes it more than welcome to me after all the horrible thoughts I had about being out somewhere and embarrassing people I was with...horribly.

Raclette is actually the name of a type of cow's milk cheese. It's very soft and has a distinctive flavor. If you have ever had a cheese called reblochon which is often used in a recipe called a tartiflette. I recommend it as well should you need a suggestion for some simple French meals.

For the actual things that go with it, it's really just about anything. It's traditionally served on a bed of boiled potatoes. French people usually peel them, but no one thought it was strange that I ate them with the skin on. Then again, they may have just been polite. Often it is served with cornichons, tiny French pickles in a very strong vinegar brine. To let you know as well, cornichons are nothing like American pickles. There's also a lot of what French people call charcuterie. Charcuteries are also the names of the places that sell the product. It's usually quite a few different types of dried sausages. If you're familiar with Andouille, that's where I am going with this. It's a whole variety of different types of meat, and I must say, it's damn good.

The special device to make it is just called a raclette machine, or a raclette grill. It's really just a heating element in a circular casing with wedge shaped personal pans that fit inside the machine. You lay the cheese on the wedge, and the heating element melts it. While it's getting ready, you cut up your potatoes, put some meat on top, and if you want cornichons, put a few on.

It's something that I had never even heard mentioned where I lived in the US, and when I first had it, I was quite impressed. It's something that you can commonly have in France, but it's a bit expensive getting the supplies around for it. Most people order the cheese and meats in advance and pick them up the next day as well. However, what you don't eat can make some wonderful sandwiches in a baguette the next day.

French Supermarkets

Now, yes, you may find this incredibly stupid, but I love going to the supermarket in France, because it is fascinating to watch the differences between American and French supermarkets. For me growing up, there was Kroger, and that was about it. We had a local supermarket but it was about three times the cost. There was also Spartans and Food Town, but those both are out of business now, and for Spartans, it meant driving about 20 minutes. So anyway, I digress. As I got older, we had a Super K-Mart move in, a Wal-Mart move into the next town, and then we had Meijer. So it moved pretty quickly. Now, it's amazing but it's nothing like what I have seen in French supermarkets.

The two I have been in are Super U and E.Leclerc. Both function about the same as a Meijer. Then again I don't want to compare anything to Wal-Mart, and all I have ever bought there myself is video games, so that's me. Anyway, they are similar in some respects but very different in others. One of the coolest things is how meat is sold in France. They cut it off, and seal it in this wax paper stuff with this heat bond machine. I was impressed, but then again, it doesn't take all that much to impress me. Both also have in-house fish markets. You can seriously buy anything you like from the sea. We're talking swordfish, scallops, clams, mussels, all that kind of stuff available in a normal grocery store.

Groceries are also much cheaper in France than in the US. I never realized how much more expensive it was until I came to France and saw first hand. French people often buy leeks, turnips, zucchini, etc. right in the grocery store. Fresh bread is also dirt cheap here. The other day at a boulangerie, my partner bought 4 baguettes for under 4 dollars.

Starting with Super U, they are very clean and very well done. I saw one in my partner's hometown that was pretty damn incredible. They just got finished enlarging the store, and now they have to start again. It's pretty incredible looking at how new everything is. The store was very stylish, and has the U-Scans like in the US.

E.Leclerc is cool because they have an additional feature called Scan Achat. Basically, you take a hand held device around the store with you and scan items as you take them. So you run around the store, scanning things, and at the end of your shopping, you go to the register, and they take the information from the hand held scanner, verify it, and then hand you the receipt. Of course, you can only be off by so much, and if you are off by a certain amount a certain number of times, your card's functionality is deactivated, so it's a motivator to keep you honest.

Both stores are really interesting to me, just for the differences in products you can buy. There are a lot more ready made items in France than in America. They have Croque Monsieurs ready made that you just reheat. There's also a huge market for pre-cut bacon, which is not the same thing as in the US. It's definitely an experience, and one you should try at one point in your life.

French Music

Since I have been in France, I have been exposed to a fair amount of French music. Of course, it by no means makes me any sort of expert. There are three groups/bands that I have found that in my opinion stand out above the others. So I will go through and explain a little bit about what I thought of their music and try and provide a little bit of background, and a link to their websites, should they have one.

The first full week here in France, I got to hear a variety of French rock music at the Rockomotives Rock Festival here in Vendôme. For those interested, here's the official Rockomotives website. All the bands that played had talent, no question and I had a great time listening. So the first thing to do would be to thank all the great performers who came here for it, the organizers of the event, and the countless volunteers who made the event possible.

The second night of the festival, I was fortunate enough to be there for Mansfield.TYA who was amazing! They played a variety of instruments, and had a really great sound. The style and instrumentation was somewhat reminiscent of That Dog with the use of Violin and some keyboard work. There are only two members to the band, but their style is just incredible. Songs like “Je ne Rêve Plus” make you want to cry at the beauty of the song. Should you get a chance, check out the live show. It's not to be missed! Here's a link to their site.

Some people may already know about him, but for those who don't I give you Dominique A. The style of his music is amazing. The rhythm of the songs is what really gets me. I am also amazed by his voice. He has this ability that I cannot describe. I have no idea how to describe it. It can't really be described as a lilt, but it's beautiful. Everything about the music he sings is just, well, I can't describe it. I also hear he's a really nice guy too. It also doesn't hurt that he's kinda cute! For more from Dominique A, you can visit his site

I will attach another video that I saw on TV the other day that was cute, but I really don't have as much of to say about the last singer, Coeur de Pirate. I have only seen the video, as I said and heard the song. The video was very cute, and I really enjoyed the idea. So without further ado, here's the link to her music video. It's really fun, I think.

There will be other updates as I find more music I like. I would like to conclude by saying that this is only my opinion and I am by no means a professional. All the links are property of the copyright holders. I am merely providing links and am in no way taking credit for the work of others.

Ireland v. France last night

Last night on TV, I watched my first ever soccer match the whole way through. France has officially qualified for the World Cup this summer in South Africa beating Ireland by one goal. This makes my life easier, as in France they take soccer as seriously to possibly more so than Americans take football. That means that had France not qualified, today would be a National Day of Mourning.

The first game had been played in Ireland, where France won 1-0. The only goal in the game, scored by Nicolas Anelka, was scored as a deflection.

Ireland's Robbie Keene scored a goal against France first, and for most of the first and second halves, it looked as if it would have to go to a shootout. During the second half though, France scored a fairly controversial goal as in the television version it was fairly clear that one of the French players tipped the ball with his hand towards William Gallas who headed the goal in.

So we'll be seeing France along with the United States at World Cup 2010.

More information and video on the Henry Handball situation.