And I Can Cook, Too

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

October 14, 2006

Ridin’ That Train, High on Ham Sandwich

The plan was simple: Kim would get in at 7:30 a.m., retrieve her luggage, meet me at the hotel, grab a quick bite, and we’d be off to catch our 10:15 train to Provence. In yet another demonstration of brilliant thinking, we had decided that it would best for me to 1) carry both our train tickets, 2) not know where the train station was, and 3) have absolutely no way of contacting Kim. What could possibly go wrong? At 8:30, I drew Kim a hot bath, ordered her some coffee, and went downstairs to remind the front desk staff that I had a friend arriving and that they should give her my room number. At 9:00 I confirmed with the front desk that we would need to catch the 9:45 shuttle to catch our train. At 9:15 I popped back to ask if I had any messages. From 9:15 to 9:30 I paced the lobby. At 9:36 I returned to the lobby with my luggage. From 9:36 until 9:42, I fielded off well-intended bellboys trying to take my luggage. At 9:44, I breathed a sigh of relief as Kim jumped off what was about to become the 9:45 shuttle to the train station. At 9:46 the Hilton staff breathed a sigh of relief as I finally got out of their hotel.

Safely ensconced on the train, Kim and I settled in for our 3-½ hour trip to Aix en Provence. After spending and hour or so engrossed in our crossword puzzle books, I determined that I would make my way to the dining car and see what was cooking. On the way, I encountered a man in a funny hat carrying an electronic version of a hole puncher. “Adffjk?” he said to me. “Je m’excuse, je ne parle pas Francais”, I responded. “Adffjk?” he repeated, “ticket?” I handed him my ticket and hoped to high heaven that there was nothing wrong with it. “Passport?” he then requested, and I handed it over. He glanced over my passport and said “Jalkdjf;oyhghkajff?? Fjiadktha! Jalkdht?” Again, I responded, “Je m’excuse, je ne parle pas francais.” Again, he said “ahdfli;ud;gh? Ahdipsonswjd! Adjklfajhh?” Feeling smaller by second, I repeated that I don’t speak French. Smiley broadly, he said, “Parle franciase en Provence.” At last I understood. Blushing, I said, “Mon ami parle Francais.” He grinned, handed back my passport, and with a quick “au revoir” was on his way. I had survived the ticket taker.

My second challenge was the snack bar. The attendant spoke as much English as I did French. Which, if you consider that we were actually in France, reflected poorly on me. Fortunately for me, there was a menu. With pictures. “Deux jambon” I said, pointing at a picture of a sandwich. “Deux Beaujolais”, and pointed at a picture of a wine bottle. I then asked for two waters. He handed me two cans of bubbly, sparkling water. Thus our language breakdown began. I handed him back the fizzy water and pointed to the next picture of water on the menu. When he handed me two cans of another brand of fizzy water, I handed them back and pointed at the next picture of water on the menu. This went on a few moments more, until at last I had two bottles of plain old regular non-fizzy water. Apologizing profusely, I took my purchase and went back to my seat, where Kim and I enjoyed my second meal in France: a slightly above par snack bar ham sandwich, plain old boring flat water, and of course, a delightful Beaujolais.
June 19, 2006

When in Wisconsin…

After the wedding we were back to Milwaukee, and the much-needed mob-free zone of my sister and brother in law. It was a beautiful day in Milwaukee, and we decided that the best way to spend it was in the yard, playing games and grilling brats. As our four year old nephew Ezra squeaked into the lead at croquette, (he was allowed extra shots which I thought was completely unfair but I digress), Tracy simmered the brats in a beer and onion broth. By the time Ezra had secured his win the brats were cooked and ready for the grill. The aroma of the brats woke up everyone’s taste buds, and soon we were happily munching away.

Bratwurst and Onions

1 package Johnsonville Brats
1 six-pack Miller Beer
1 large onion, sliced
1 package hoagie buns
Mustard of your choice

Place the brats in a stockpot and cover with the onions. Add enough beer to cover. Drink the rest of the beer. Bring the brats to a simmer, and simmer until they are cooked through, about 20 minutes. Do not boil the brats, or their skins will split. The result will resemble something I do not care to discuss in this blog. Remove the brats from the beer and place on a hot grill. Grill until the skins are crispy. Meanwhile, turn up the heat under the beer and reduce the beer until it is almost completely gone. It will create a slight sauce for the onions. Place a cooked brat in a bun, top with onions and mustard, and enjoy.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Kim has been trying to convince me that I should give up on the past and update my blog with the more current events that include her. After she spent hours beating me about he head and shoulders with a violet scented Provencal marshmallow, I finally agreed to a compromise. I will post more recent information, but also keep updating the past. So please do scroll down, as there might be more than one tasty morsel waiting for you.
October 13, 2006


After 24 hours of travel, almost as many Zanax, a few cocktails and much gnashing of teeth, I arrived at St. Charles de Gaulle airport. As I deplaned, I silently congratulated myself on having traveled ½ way around the world all by my lonesome and actually making it without a breakdown. Given that I don’t speak a word of French, the plan, complete with Paris Hilton innuendo, was for me to spend the night at the airport Hilton and wait for Kim’s arrival the next day. We would then travel to Provence together. Although I was staggering, I managed to collect my luggage, exchange my cash, and make my way to the shuttle pick up point for my hotel. The shuttle arrived, I made it to the hotel, checked in, got to my room and realized 1) I was in France, and 2) I was starving. I quickly grabbed the room service menu hopeful that it would be filled with French delights. My first hope in France was flung through my 9th floor window and smashed onto the parking lot below as I scanned a menu of Caesar Salad, Ravioli with Pesto Cream Sauce, and Hot Wings. Sighing what I can only imagine to be the sigh of the room service weary business traveler, I picked up the phone and ordered. Twenty minutes later I was enjoying my first meal in France: A cheeseburger, french fries, a pickle, and of course, a delightful Cote-du-Rhone. Bon Appetit.
June 16, 2006

A Proposal You Can’t Refuse

The next stop on our trip (via Chicago-O’Hare) was scenic Detroit, Michigan. My husband’s best childhood friend was getting married, and the gang from elementary school gathered to celebrate. The wedding was held in the lobby of an Embassy Suites. Four flower coated pedestals marked the footprint of the marital area, inside of which chairs were arranged to create an aisle. The chairs faced the doorway to the pool and area, and the gazebo placed in front did not completely cover the bathing suit clad hotel guests coming and going. As the guests gathered, I couldn’t help but notice the differing fashion sense among the female guests that seemed to be segregated by bride or grooms side. Guests of the groom were mostly dressed in semi formal, tea length cocktail dresses with tidy hair dos’ and a little bit of makeup. Guests of the bride were mostly dressed in floor length, neckline plunging ball gowns with hairpiece assisted fabulous updo’s and lots of false eyelashes. In addition to the oddity of the women’s dress code, there was also a discrepancy amongst the male guests. The groom’s guests mostly wore suits with not much more than a wedding ring or a watch. The brides guests also wore suits, but kicked up the accessories by adding a second human being in the form of large, beefy men who stood off the shoulders of the actual guests, declined all cocktail offers, spoke to no one, and kept their eyes on the doors.

My husband signaled the start of the ceremony by walking his friend’s mother down the aisle. The bridesmaids (in tight, floor length, plunging neckline dresses, hairpieces and false eyelashes) took their place, and the bridal march began. We turned to see the bride, and no one was there. Just as we thought she wasn’t coming, someone pointed to the ceiling. There was the bride, standing in the lobby’s glass elevator and facing her guests in full bridal glory. As the elevator slowly made it’s way to the lobby, I had the following thoughts: 1) She’s never going to make it before the music runs out, 2) Some kid in a wet swimsuit has pushed the button and is going to get in there with her, and, 3) Why is her father wearing a fedora?

After the ceremony we were treated to a cocktail reception in a different section of the lobby. The guests mingled and chatted the typical wedding “she looks beautiful” chatter and I found myself standing next to the father of the bride, who, in addition to the fedora, was now completely accessorized with the big beefy man standing just behind his shoulder. “Congratulations,” I said, “It was a beautiful ceremony. He reached over, patted the top of my hand, and said “Mahmahmah”. I smiled and walked away, not completely sure if I’d been cursed or blessed.

Turns out, several of the brides brothers were not invited to the wedding. The bride didn’t want anybody getting shot.