Today Posted on May 2nd, 2012 by

I started out this adventure with so many plans and goals.  As it continued, I only accumulated more.  The problem is that I  thought of new goals faster than I checked them off.  It’s now May, and I have less than two weeks left in my program.  This fact slapped me in the face recently when I realized something:  I may not have enough time left to do everything I have been putting off for later.  AAAHHHHH!

The French have a verb they like to use: profiter.  It is basically used like “benefit from,” or “take advantage of.”  Well, on May 1, I finally profited from a few things I have been meaning to do for a while.

Many of my host parents’ previous students have cooked something for them to try.  Wanting to share in this tradition, I decided quite a while ago to leave a legacy of my mother’s pecan pie.  As soon as I thought of making some for them, I was super excited…but not very speedy.

May 1st being Labor Day in France, no one had to labor, so it was a great opportunity to stay home and finally make the pie.  Everything went according to plan until it was time to put the dough, goop, and pecans in the oven to turn them into pie.  My host mother had told me, “turn the first dial to the second setting, and the temperature to 6.”  Being of an incomparable intellect, I turned the first dial two clicks counter-clockwise.  This was not the convection setting.  The convection setting was in the clock’s normalwise direction.  The setting I engaged happened to be the self-cleaning setting.

If you don’t know how self-cleaning ovens work, it’s very simple.  They don’t spray water around, or automatically scrub themselves.  There is no need: they simply incinerate everything inside that is making them not clean.  To anyone gifted with better reasoning skills than I demonstrated while using the oven, you will not be surprised to hear that my pie cooked very, very fast.

After about 10 minutes, I noticed it was smelling like pecan pie way too quickly.  Another minute of puzzling, and I realized that I had the oven on its wrongest possible setting.  The top was almost burnt, but the inside was still too moist.  I had made pecan flavored crème brûlée!

We killed the fire, and let the pie sit in the gentle warmth which was left, hoping it would help slowly cook the inside.  When I served my host parents their slices, I was terrified that they were about to taste the worst dish made by any of their host students.  I took up my own bite,  and brought it to my mouth.  I was stunned.  While it was a bit runnier than usual, it was pretty damn good considering I had accidentally tried to clean it out of existence.  So, the pie wasn’t the sad part of the story.  The sad part is that I didn’t learn how not to work the oven right away in the semester.  Now I haven’t left myself enough time to share more foods with my host parents, which was so much fun.

Here is my somehow successful pecan pie!

Something else I have been meaning to check out for quite a while is the Parc du Procé.  It is one of Nantes’ biggest, best parks, and one of the few where you are allowed to walk around on the grass.  There are trees, ponds, flowers, and a wonderful variety of spaces to relax, play, or hang out.  It’s also only about 5 minutes from my house.  Yet I had not yet checked it out before today.  Fortunately, I spent a large portion of my Labor Day afternoon there with fellow IES Abroad students Addie, Althea, and Charlene.

There is plenty of water, and families playing nearby at the park.


This is under a bridge that goes through the park. It's actually a real road on top. I guess the park is so big that they needed a spot for cars to get through it.

Here was our hang out spot where we sat for a while under a tree.

When I returned back home, my host mom was preparing the kitchen for one more thing I would get to check off my list that day:  making madeleines.  These are a type of small, buttery biscuit/cake traditional to France.  She showed me the recipe, and how easily they come together if you know what you’re doing.  So, the last part of the day was spent mixing together butter, flower, and other secret ingredients.  Not only was this fun to learn from her, but cooking is also a very good bonding experience.

Our madeleines!

I am always full of ideas, and plans for things I would love to do.  But somehow, I forgot that I didn’t have unlimited time here in France.  Once I got into the routine, I lost sight of the fact that the routine wasn’t permanent.  While you should “seize the day” all the time, I think it is especially important during study abroad.  If you are studying abroad, or preparing for it, remember this: do everything today.  Ok, not actually.  But don’t lose the sense of urgency and wonder that comes with being in a new place.  Learn to cook. Explore. Encounter people.  When you want to do something, find people, and pick a date.  And sometimes, do that instead of studying.

There is a boulangerie (bakery) I have been meaning to check out ever since my host mom told about it.  It isn’t far from our house, and yet I have managed to put it off for well over a month.  This morning, it was the first place I went after leaving the house.  I got a baguette, and a croissant.  And they were delicious.


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