Saturday, December 12, 2009

Je ne veux pas attender....

Ok, well yes I do.  I don't know if anyone will even get the joke, because of how dated it is.  You remember how when we were kids, we always got told about how European kids don't watch nearly as much television as Americans and they played outside or read, or whatever it is your parents wanted to you do instead?  I now know the reason why.

So we'll start with a brief explanation of French TV, as I understand it.  There are really only about 5 television channels in the country with regional affiliates based in the larger towns in each region.  Television shows also only last about 20 minutes, but unlike the US as well, they have a 10 minute commercial break at the end of the show.  There are no breaks in the show for ads, unless the show is long.  Then they will occasionally have breaks.

Now, as we were all taught in our French classes, there was one other option, one additional channel you could buy, called Canal +.  It's basically a one channel version of our cable systems in the US.  It works exactly the same as network television, except it's one channel.  Now, of course, that was a while ago.  Now they have CanalSAT, which is basically the French equivalent of satellite television.  They have something like 100 channels including programming in German, English, even some Eastern European, and most shocking to an American Al Jazeera.  Of course, they have the English version, but well, the Arabic version is way more fun to watch.

French shows are generally lost on me, as I am still even figuring out the way humor works in this country.  It goes without saying that American humor is greatly different from the French, but well, that's just a given.  They have a lot of panel shows.  They sit down, and talk about current events.  It's actually quite similar to the sort of stuff that Bill Maher did with Politically Incorrect.  It's not that I am not interested (and every now and again, something clicks) but it's just not something I entirely understand.

American television has caused me to be used to a system of sensationalism, and of big season premieres.  They hype up months in advance and talk about how great shows are, and we get all excited.  Of course, three-quarters of the show are crap, and will be canceled in a week. So in that way I have to say that it's refreshing to not have various forms of "must see TV." 

One of the interesting things that should be noted in France is that you actually pay a charge of 120 euros a year for a television tax.  However, all the money goes to public television.  Their public television shows movies, and other things that we would find questionable in the US.  (I have seen more boobs on French television than I have seen in real life.)  However, there are also no pledge drives, and they never had Julia or Jacques.  Whom I grew up with and love, madly. 

One of the things that's notable in France is the shear numbers of American television series that make it over here.  Of course there's Desperate Housewives, Lost, Gray's Anatomy, but these are network shows, and are wildly popular.  Even if I don't like them, I can see how people would enjoy them. I also do have to admit, I was incredibly excited when I saw that there was a station here that was showing Leverage, which I love, and sincerely hope that I will get to see over here.

More bizarre is the French love of old shows.  Of course, not being French, I consider, like most Americans, they either have no programming budget or they just have no ideas on what to run, so they show old stuff.  So there are a lot of old series that used to be popular in the US that are still on French television.  I have seen episodes of Charlie's Angels, Knot's Landing, etc.  So there's some stuff that when I see it, I just don't understand.

But this tendency is not limited to live action series.  I have seen Saint Seiya, Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors, lots of Dragonball Z, and other shows of that caliber.  It's not to say it's not nice to have a bit of a flashback.  In reality, some nostalgia is a good thing.  Of course, this is French nostalgia, not American, so I'm a bit lost. 

My biggest issue has been with this station, June.  Basically it's a channel for young women.  So it's going to run love series, and crap like that.  What really makes me laugh is Dawson's Creek.  Yes, you heard me, Dawson's Creek.  I mean, seriously.  It was crap when it came on in the US, and it's crap now.  It doesn't age well, and when I point this out to the people watching it, they are unappreciative. 

I should also mention that I have been exposed to  far more of these shows than I care to remember, as my partner is a huge fan of such series as One Tree Hill, Dawson's Creek, of course, and the bane of my existence, Charmed.  So I had to sit through that back in the US. Woo hoo.....

 I should put a disclaimer on this by saying that this is my opinion.  I hate these shows, and that is my choice.  There are shows that I watch that my partner can't stand, mainly because I watched them ad nauseum.  I love Rachel Maddow, and he doesn't mind it.  Except that I could watch like 6 episodes in a row.  The same thing goes for Ina Garten and anything with Giada De Laurentiis.

Now after that, I need to take a lie down.  I've worked myself up, and I am sore from yesterday's trip to the swimming pool.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Popes in a Volkswagen!

Sorry for the random title, but I never know what to put there.  Better to get a laugh and be misunderstood than to just write something crappy up top.

So well, as I said, we went to Tours this weekend to do some Christmas shopping.  Tours is a beautiful city, and it has this amazing walking area, it's actually a part of the city where cars aren't allowed.  It's called a centre pitéon.  It just means pedestrian zone.  We really don't have them in a lot of places in the US, ok we didn't have them where I lived in the US, but I love them here.  There's all kinds of shops and restaurants.  I like it, a lot. 

Now of course, the lights were beautiful.  As it's getting close to Christmas they had their lights up.  So there were these really cool flashing lights that look just like all the other normal ones.  I was insanely amused by them.  So well, that's me.  Call me whatever you want.  It was a really fun trip, and we got quite a few things crossed off our shopping lists.  That makes life easier, after all. 

Well then, we come to the real purpose behind this email.  I'll be the first to admit that where I grew up was not really cosmopolitan, and in some cases it was barely even civilized, but the one thing we had in spades, was space.  I used to be able to walk for miles, and I would maybe see one person if that.  It was wonderful. 

I moved to Columbus for college, and yes, on campus it was a bit crowded, but I never had problems getting from point A to B.  It was a giant campus, so there was plenty of space.  The oval was never at capactiy or anything like that, so there was always space enough.  The only time there were ever crowds were at Gallery Hop.  It was fun, so you never paid attention to how many people there were.  I mean, yeah, the occasional crowded restaurant/bar or a football weekend against Michigan, no big deal though.  Those problems all but disappeared when I moved towards Polaris in fact.

Nothing, and I mean nothing, could prepare me for the experience that is French crowds.  It's not that people aren't polite or anything, but well, there's just so many people....everywhere.  We were walking for blocks, and they never let up.  It probably didn't help that I was carrying something that I was deathly afraid of having someone steal which only exacerbated my estimate of the size of the crowd, and my own paranoia.  I just am not used to it.  I am sure at some point, this will be commonplace.

Another thing is the parking.  Columbus was a city of 1 million people, metro area included, but I never even had a first thought, let alone second about finding parking somewhere.  There were the occasional holidays where yes there were difficulties.  (Funny enough, there were usually more problems in regards to cars when I was leaving the city or coming back into it than actually parking in it.)  It never took more than maybe 2 minutes to find a parking space.

Tours has a population of about 310,000 including metro area.  That's like Fort Wayne.  Could you even imagine the idea of not being able to find a parking space in Fort Wayne.  To me, it's ridiculous.   Then again, as I said, I was raised in the wide open spaces.  It took us like 15 minutes to find a garage that was open, and we had to park on the third level.  So I was a bit amused by that. 

Maybe this should also be about driving in France, which is an experience in itself.  Seriously, even with the best driver in the world, it's an experience.  All the roads are about 5 inches wide.  You seriously have to wait and let cars pass, and this isn't odd to people. 

Now, I must say a bit about walking in France.  It's a joy.  There are a lot of beautiful things to look at, the weather is incredible, and it's just great to see everything.  You'll randomly be walking and there's a building from the 13th century.  Sorry, but that doesn't happen in the US.  So far, while I have been here, the weather has not dropped below 45 degrees farenheit.  I am from the land where you stand outside for more than 5 minutes and your nose falls off, so this is a refreshing change.  It does rain a lot though.  For me though, I love that grayish overcast looking sky.  Yes, I am a freak, but that's pretty much France all winter.  So I am thrilled!

So tomorrow we're going to the pool, which may be an experience in itself.  Among other things, I have to buy a pair of shortys for the pool.  It's more I'll explain later.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Disaster averted...kinda....

So I decided that I would help around the house with some cooking.  Back when it was just my partner and I, I handled the cooking responsibilities.  It was not that he couldn't cook, but he had cooked his entire life in France, so of course there were bound to be differences there.  We'll also mention the fact that his days sometimes began at 5am and didn't end until midnight.  I also loved to cook/bake and would have no problem being a stay at home dad. 

But anyway, I figured out why it is that it's important to realize that cooking in a foreign culture is just an adventure.  I made Macaroni and Cheese.  All was well that ended well, so I can't sit here and act like it was a disaster.  Well, at first, yes, yes it was.  I can't in all honesty say that it was some sort of horrible nightmare world from which there is no waking or anything, but well....suffice it to say, I will only use the cheeses I know work with it, and make sure I have a buttload of them.

The pasta was different, but of course, it's pasta.  We're not talking about a real difference other than the shape.  All that really effects is just the cooking time really.  I don't think there was any sort of difference  really.  However, there was the fun of asking my partner how much I should make.  He said, "Well, there's six of us, so I would say three-quarters, to a whole bag.  Just to give you an idea, we're talking about a kilogram of pasta.  For those of you with the conversions at home, we're talking a little over 2 pounds of pasta.... Yeah, 2 pounds....  So well, I went with it. It was a lot in the pot, and I was terrified of it boiling over, just because of how much pasta it was.  I did take out insurance on it though.  I put in salt to flavor, of course, and added a little oil so it wouldn't boil over.  That may have been a mitigating factor in my later work.

Now, after the pasta was ready, I decided that I would start on the cheese sauce, because I didn't think I had enough cheese to make the sauce first.  I had about a half bag of emmenthaler, a quarter bag of comté, and a half bag that was a mixture of mozzarella, mazdam, and, yeah more emmenthaler.  So I used almost the whole of all three just on the sauce.  I held some back though.  Now, I had thought that maybe I should make a béchamel sauce, as well, it's a standard for a good sauce and I would just well, go from there. 

I came to the disheartening realization, before I started of course, that I had no idea how to make a  béchamel sauce and I didn't want to risk burning milk in the bottom of a pan...harumph.  So oh well, I guess I move along.  Then I remembered, whenever I made it before, I never made the sauce on the stove.  I always made it in the microwave before so I would never have to worry about scorching the milk.  So I switch to the microwave.  It finally starts to come together.  Of course, I think I microwave it for too long or something, so well, the uh, whey is separating from the curd of the cheese.  Goddamn!  What the hell am I going to do?

So I say fuck it, I pour it over the pasta, and cover it with cheese!  Then I cover that with seasoned breadcrumbs.  And everything's fine.  I am nervous as hell, because I think it's going to taste like shit.  Luckily in the stove, I must have just had too much milk in it, and not enough cheese.  It all came together in the oven, and turned out great! 

It was not exactly the same, well, that's not a surprise though.  I didn't use any cheddar or colby cheese, but it turned out decent.  Everyone liked it, and there's plenty left over for tomorrow.  I am satisfied. 

That was my night though.  I think we're going to Tours this weekend.  So that's going to kick ass.