Monday, 19 November 2012

the great tart robbery

I had another exam and a truckload of essays coming up and since my last tea-shop revision session was so successful, I decided to try it again. Since I seem to be living at "Book in Bar" these days, this time I paid a visit to my friend on her anthropology research placement. Being a total foodie, she chose a lovely cafe in the small town of Lambesc which is about a 45 minute bus ride from Aix. After dragging myself out of bed at about 6am to get there on time, I warmed myself up on kashmir tchai tea which was served on a slate! Fancy that. The atmosphere was really relaxed apart from the screaming children, the owner has a play room for kids making it really handy for mums to come an have a chat, not so much for people cramming on ancient Greek history. So instead I had tea. Definitely one of my better ideas.
 For lunch I treated myself to a pumpkin, carrot and Jerusalem artichoke tart. Zoe's professor walked in just as we were ordering, I wasn't sure whether to choose this tart or not (I had never had Jerusalem artichoke before and was intrigued but slightly nervous about finally finding a food I didn't like) but when it turned out there was only one left and he seemed pretty keen on it, did I graciously offer it to him? No. I was sneaky and snapped it up as quick as I could. MWAHAHAHAHAHA. I know I should have been generous but when it comes to stuff like this (i.e. food) all my generosity goes out the window. And anyway, the tart was totally worth stealing, I don't get many chances to have pumpkin in England, and whenever I read American food blogs all the raving about something called canned pumpkin makes me curious and jealous. So there you go, I couldn't just leave it could I?
 I was too full for dessert unfortunately but check out the beautiful lemon and poppy seed cake Zoe made! My favorite tea was the genmaicha which tasted like popcorn. It is the only flavor which has come close to ones I have had in Japan and I felt so cozy drinking it that I could have easily had another 10 cups. If only Kusmi tea wasn't so pricey. I love going into the shop and just smelling all the boxes of tea like a total weirdo but I'm sure they're pretty used to that now.

Monday, 12 November 2012

crepes and the creepiest of Christmas decorations.

Well it's been a long day and that can mean only one thing...CREPES! I had one of my first exams today which was stressful enough and after being too lazy to walk the five minutes it takes to get to the supermarket, I'm afraid my fridge is pretty pathetic, so crepes seemed to be the way to go. 
Now, crazy as this may seem after being here for well over two months, this was the first crepe I've had since I've been here. I know, I know, *the shame* but I was waiting for the perfect moment to savour this most holy of French food experiences and believe me, the wait was totally worth it. I was practically hanging over the counter while the crepe lady was spreading out the mixture and every so coolly flipping it over. Everyone tells me that they are so much cheaper when you make them yourself, but I think there is definitely something magical about watching them being made and handed to you all hot and gooey with absolutely no effort on my part. Apart from the difficult business of choosing what flavour to have. Hello ratatouille
(Yes I've already taken a bite out of it, but I did warn about all the half eaten food photos.)

Zoe and I live the same corridor meaning we sort of take it for granted that we can annoy each other whenever we want without actually planning to have a proper chat, we decided to have a proper girly movie night. So she knocked on my door and surprised me with this...

This creepiest of chocolate horses was in the "Christmas" section of the supermarket amongst all the chocolate Santas and reindeer and I ask you this. WHAT WAS IT DOING THERE? Is there some kind of secret link horses have with Christmas that I'm unaware of?! Stand-ins when the reindeer feel like they need a break?  *shudder* Anyway, I'm still confused as to why she saw this and immediately thought about me but I have a feeling the look of horror on my face when she presented it to me is probably the explanation. At least he tasted delicious. For the movie, she brought along these purple crisps (no added colour or preservatives! Hurray!). French movie nights certainly have more exciting snacks...

Sunday, 11 November 2012

tea + cake = productive?

Been a while since I posted anything because I've had lots of work but I still managed to link studying and food. Being stuck inside my room, I am always at my most unproductive and I really lack any kind of motivation.Yesterday, after finding myself looking at Korean dramas on Youtube, enough was enough and I asked a couple of the others if they wanted to go to "Book in a Bar," which is fast becoming my favorite hang-out in Aix, for a revision/tea session. Hello pecan pie and lemon cheesecake. These two cakes aren't mine I'm afraid but the other girls kindly let me take photos. You would think that the cheesecake, which is huge by the way, would have a pretty even biscuit:cream cheese filling ration but no, somehow they managed to make what was effectively a ball of cream cheese encased in a thin biscuit crust. And it was beautiful. The cream cheese was just the right texture, tangy without being too bitter. I was pretty darn happy when it got sent round the table for a taste. We had a bit of a giggle over the slab of lemon which is meant to act as a "garnish" though. Pecan pie was divine as always and it made a second appearance at our study session yesterday. B and I had cornflower tea while Zoe braved "Russian Tea" - vodka and grapefruit flavor! Smelled  pretty special.

Some photos from the inside, and some proof that we actually managed to do some work! The tables are so small that it was a bit cozy with all our hefty textbooks but we managed somehow. It was the best kind of study session, we buckled down and revised in a relaxed atmosphere where time seemed to fly by. What does everyone else need to motivate themselves to study? Tea and conversation seem to be very English study tools to me.

p.s. I forgot to mention the real reason I dragged us all out through torrential downpour to this cafe. I came here the day before after a swimming session with Niamh and when I got back to my flat I realized I had forgotten something...asking if someone had left a damp towel, soap and a bikini behind the day before was a bit embarrassing to say the least. Also, because I had puddles in my shoes from the rain, I'm ashamed to say I went up to the counter to place my order in my socks. The fact they were understanding says something about how lovely they are but I still feel as though I'm giving a very eccentric picture of English girls!

Sunday, 4 November 2012

the experimental pancake.

Today started off with pancakes. It is the first time I've made them myself and I'm not sure if it was a good idea. It was great when I was actually eating them, but there is definitely something ever so slightly depressing about cooking pancakes, alone, and in a darkened kitchen (don't ask why I didn't turn the light on, I've no idea.) Definitely going to be a communal thing next time! I kind of made it up as I went along (as usual) so I don't really think it should be called a recipe. This is more appropriate i think:
Random list of things I found in my cupboard and chucked in my pancakes hoping for the best
  • raisins
  • flax seeds
  • dessicated coconut
  • porridge oats
  • 1 egg
  • soy milk
  • cinnamon
  • fromage blanc
  • half a mashed banana
I managed to make two and loaded honey, dried fruit and nut, more fromage blanc, ground hazelnuts, a couple of flax seeds on top.

Saturday, 3 November 2012

A smoothie and speculoos?

Totally lazy day (apart from the morning run). I've decided that the best possible tip to get yourself up  and running is this: lay out all your clothes, water, everything the night before. When you get out of bed the first thing you do is fling all your jogging clothes on as quickly as possible. This means that before you realize what you are doing, you are standing in the middle of your room dressed head to toe in sports clothes and absolutely no way of getting out of going on a run without feeling stupid and taking them all off again. Works everytime. Except once when I even got half way down three flights of stairs, changed my mind, and went back to my room. Low point.

Moving on, today's lazy day consisted of procrastination on a heroic level, starting with my first ever experience of overnight oats. Totally converted, last night I mixed up fromage blanc, soy milk, compote, cinnamon, pinch of salt and in the morning topped it off with raisins, flax seeds, even more cinnamon and ground hazelnut. I even took it out of the fridge as motivation and staring at it and said "This loveliness is waiting for you when you get back." The sad thing is that it worked and I ran faster than I ever have before... forget fancy stopwatches. Foodivation is the way to go if you want to make that three minute mile!

Headed off to "Book in a Bar" for a post lunch tea break with my friends (despite my morning having been a perpetual tea break anyway...) "Book in a Bar" is one of my favorite places in Aix, it is a bookshop/coffeeshop anglaise where you can order just one tea and stay there for hours on end talking very loudly about politics, books, movies, anything you want, without anyone batting an eyelid. They serve scones and the most delicious pecan pies and just to prove its awesomeness, this is what greeted us on our table, felt just like home...
I don't know how many people in England actually have teapots with union jacks on them but it was so adorable. I ordered japanese green tea infused with cherry followed by a kiwi and apple smoothie which for some reason came with a speculoos biscuit. Don't french people know how incompatible speculoos biscuits and smoothies are? Smoothies are not for dunking! Madness. Or maybe this is just the strict tea regulations I'm used to in England talking. Needless to say, none of us approved.
Saying this, speculoos is another obsession over here which it is perfectly justified. I saw this spread in the supermarket about a month ago and took a photo for a speculoos crazy friend back in England who even gets thes stuff shipped over. That is how much people love it. I would say the speculoos popularity is about on a par with digestive biscuit love back home. They are everywhere, with supermarkets doing own brand speculoos. After discussing it with a friend however, (yes we do have 30 minute conversations about biscuits) we decided that nothing beats the hobnob dunking wise. Not even close. Didn't stop us from putting speculoos spread in hot chocolate though...

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Why did I buy two advent calendars?!

After a mad Lidl shop of spending around half an hour just in front of the Lebkuchen display, we ended up with this...
Exactly how early is too early for Christmas shopping? I guess being abroad I should be thinking about sending presents back home, but it still felt a bit wrong buying Christmas things in October. Looking back to previous years, my family has always resisted the ridiculously early Christmas spirit thing so that we had something to look forward to in December but that always meant that the advent calendars were always sold out by the time we started looking for them! This is my favourite Christmas buy yet:
I couldn't resist. It's so cute and I can keep it in my wardrobe waiting for next year. An investment for my Christmas future. *Ahem* Anyway, this morning I even found myself giving in  to my mum's demands and finally started drawing up a Christmas list so my family doesn't freak out when choosing presents for me. When doing this, I realized that I might actually be growing up...gone are the days when I would put the mp3 player all my friends had, the digital camera or even the dreaded furby *shudder*. I found myself putting "socks." That's it, I've crossed the boundary for asking things that I want, to doing the grown up thing of asking for realistic things that I need too. It made me think about what Christmas means to me. It isn't really the actual day that matters, but the excitement of counting down each day- which of course justified me buying two calendars... doesn't it? Last Christmas Eve was a bit of a shock for me when instead of staying awake from the excitement of Santa coming with all the presents, all I could think about was Christmas dinner and mince pies. Ok, forget about the whole "I'm growing up and asking for useful things" rubbish. I've made amendments to the list:
  • Almond butter, peanut butter...just butter really
  • gingerbread
  • Marmite (OF COURSE)
  • Good strong English tea
  • Biscuits that actually dunk in said tea- hobnobs all the way.
  • Mince pies
  • Crumpets/toasted teacakes
  • Soreen
Socks can wait.