12 September 2007

More Little Points of Note

As in, (5, Θ/2) of F#.
(Sorry for that.)

Choosing classes is rough. I'm not even done yet, which is ridiculous since I had my first class today. Who knows if I'll be able to continue taking it (there are still classes to be added to my schedule and if they're Wednesday morning too, I'll have to decide what's more important). The course is called "Introduction à l'Anthropologie," and if you need a translation I'm worried. There are five main branches of anthropology, and this one is social and cultural anthropology. In a nutshell, it's the study of cultures, and how environments affect cultures, and how people study cultures. Under normal circumstances it would be interesting, but taking it in France, in another culture... wow. The professor seems very nice but somewhat distracted and tangential, which means that you take a lot of notes in the margins as well as the notes on his actual, intended lecture. He says the French equivalent of "um," "heu," a lot, and sometimes backtracks to add things he'd forgotten to mention, which is awesome for me since it makes taking notes a lot easier. And, he uses the ne explétif, which is exciting. I enjoyed the class, even though it was three hours long (with a break in the middle) and it's on a weird schedule. He didn't assign homework, it doesn't seem like there will often be homework or even assigned reading, and the next class is in two weeks. I sat next to a girl named Marion who turns out to be as shy as I am: during break we walked downstairs together in the middle of the crowd that was the rest of the class, and managed to have about a minute's silent conversation before another girl came over and got us to talk. After class Marion and I went to lunch in centertown, and we talked significantly more, though very little :) She's from a little town about 40 minutes from Angers, she has two sisters, and her family has animals like pigs and sheep. She's only been to Paris once, when she was too young to remember much.

Going Out
Bars in France are nothing like bars in America. It would cost you a fortune to get drunk (drinks are expensive and small) so when I went out with a large group of exchange students I was pleased to see that most, like me, got pop. We sat around for two hours and chatted about a million things in a million languages (well, three: French, mostly, plus some English and German since it was a group of mostly Americans and Germans). The purpose of our "meeting," for lack of a better word, was to make plans for two day trips around the Loire Valley! There's a special deal going on with the trains, which I'll explain more in detail tomorrow once I get back from Orléans and Blois :)
Exchange students are a nice bunch, and I'm glad that in this country it's possible to go out at night with a bunch of people of an age to drink and not have anyone get drunk.

Student ID
My student ID is... ridiculous. You'd think that if you were using a digital machine to do IDs you would say something like, "OK, I'm going to take the picture... 1, 2... 3." Or perhaps you might verify on the computer screen that the photo looked normal. But, in the case of the UCO ID office, what you do is remain completely silent and not even look at the student, then give the student her completed ID. A lot of people ended up with funny looking pictures, but mine's the most amusing. At the point when she took the picture, I was obviously staring off into space to my left. I look pensive and bored, and I'm not even facing forward. And that's how I will be seen by everyone who gives me a discount anywhere. Woohoo.

Shoe Shopping
It's the end of the season, so I shouldn't gripe too much, but NO ONE HAS MY SHOE SIZE!!!! WHY?!?!? I've seen people here who have normal (i.e., size 10) sized feet. And I've been to almost every shoe store in town, skipping only the ones that have nothing but three-digit prices in their windows. I found one pair of shoes that is absolutely wonderful: comfortable, classy looking, fashionable, practical in every sense of the word except that they're off-white. I just don't normally have any reason to wear white shoes. They were out of brown and black in my size. But I love them, even though the color's not great... I welcome comments persuading me of the usefulness of white shoes.

The Library
I went to the library! They're only open Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday afternoons plus Wednesday and Saturday mornings. Third time's the charm when getting there when it's open, I suppose. There are ten branches, and one of them is about 5 blocks away from my apartment. It's one of the small branches, the bigger ones are in or nearer to the center of town. After looking around for a couple minutes, I had pulled together the nerve and the vocabulary to ask how to sign up. I got the deluxe membership, which is 20 Euros for a year, and lets me check out CDs and DVDs as well as books. The books-only membership is 6 Euros. But I wouldn't mind checking out some French music, and I don't mind supporting libraries at all. I checked out a few books on my new library card: a fantasy book on the "new" shelf, a cook book with French tapas recipes (tapas are appetizer sized small dishes, each of which is just about the right size for a meal for one person), a Diana Wynne Jones book I haven't read in years, and a book on the history of math. Did you know that there are illuminations of numbers? Illuminated letters are those fancy large letters decorated and gilded and such, and the book has some pictures of illuminated numerals. And it has information on different counting systems, and so on. Fun book. I'm a geek.

More cooking
After the library I went to the grocery store, because I had decided to buy fish. I am trying to be extremely adventuresome in the kitchen, and so far succeeding. Yes, I've been eating ramen, but only about twice a week. I've gotten pretty good at cooking a steak, I've perfected my rice pudding recipe, and now I've cooked fish. Cooking is somewhat of a challenge because I don't have an oven, just two very powerful gas burners (low heat? Doesn't exist) and a microwave.
So the recipes are:

1) Steak: Buy a thin, inexpensive steak. Take the plastic off and sprinkle on a fairly liberal amount of all the spices you have. I use a mixture of herbs (thyme, oregano, and whatever's in the herb mixture I got), pepper, salt, cayenne, and garlic. Heat a non-stick pan and then put in a little bit of oil. Dump the steak in, spices down. Sprinkle spices on the naked side of the meat, then flip the steak over. Get out a plate, knife and fork. Now it's done! Hurry, take it off the heat-- don't even bother to turn off the burner yet, get the meat out of that pan! Sorry I can't give you more specific cooking times than "however long it takes to sprinkle on more spices" and "however long it takes to get out a plate and silverware." [If you don't like rare meat, you might want to triple or quadruple the cooking time]

2) Fish: Get some boneless salmon, and take out the few bones that are in there. If you choose, like I did, to use your tweezers, make sure you wash them well afterwards. Slice the salmon into relatively thin slices, and dip them in flour. Heat a non-stick pan and put in a little bit of oil. Start at 9 o'clock and place the salmon slices in the pan, clockwise. When you finish the circle, go around again and flip the pieces. Once you've flipped them, go around the circle and take the fish out of the pan. If you do this at a slow, even pace it gets cooked very nicely. If I had a clock in my kitchen I could give more details.

3) Rice Pudding:
Get a fairly large non-stick pot (if you don't use non-stick you will regret it later). Pour in a quart (or a liter, it's close enough) of milk, half a cup of water, a third cup of rice (you're supposed to wash it, but I've never remembered and it turns out fine), a pinch of salt, and half a cup of sugar. That makes it pretty sweet, so you may want to reduce the amount of sugar.
Bring that mixture to a boil over medium heat, then reduce to low heat and simmer it for half an hour, stirring rather frequently. [If your stove, like mine, has no temperature lower than high, then twenty minutes should do. When it's about to boil over, since a simmer is impossible, just take it off the heat for a moment.]
Here's the weird part. Put in a piece of lemon peel cut from a fresh lemon. Then let the whole mixture simmer for about another half hour, or until it's thick enough to stick to the spoon a little bit. This is kind of tricky to judge. If you use a black plastic spoon, at the beginning of the process the milk will just run off the spoon when you take it out. At this point, enough will stick that you can tell it's there, though it's not going to be opaque or anything. Turn off the heat, and remove the lemon peel.
Beat an egg in a bowl, and add a spoonful of the milk mixture. Beat that a little bit, then add another spoonful. Do this a couple times, then add the egg mixture back into the pot and stir it in well. Put it back on the heat for a few minutes, then turn off the heat and add a dash of vanilla. Spoon the pudding either into a large dish, or into individual serving dishes, and sprinkle it with cinnamon and ginger (which are both optional, but highly recommended). It is chilled enough to eat after just a couple hours, but is best if you let it get really cool by leaving it overnight.

The problem with the rice pudding recipe is that I had to buy an egg. I got a half dozen, which is means I had five eggs and nothing to do with them. Eggs make me somewhat nauseous. However, two nights ago when I got home I was very very hungry, so I decided to go with the "hunger is the best sauce" philosophy and cook an egg. I had to google "how to fry an egg," which is pathetic since I can make things like rice pudding and cream of mushroom soup from memory, but it wasn't bad. [Note: I had my first fried egg at Truman, when my Lenten penance was trying things that I didn't like but hadn't given a fair chance since I was really little.] With sufficient salt and pepper I can even say that it was somewhat good. Four eggs to go.

- FIN -

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