This morning I went downstairs and into the kitchen to find some breakfast. There, sitting on the table, bathed in a pool of sunlight, was a jar of peanut butter. It's unusual enough to find this American staple in a French household, but this was not just any jar of peanut butter. This was a forty-ounce jar of creamy Jif, my variety of choice in a larger quantity than any that's ever set foot in my house in Maryland. It was at least two-thirds empty. I laughed and set about making myself a tartine. It wasn't the best French breakfast, but I was surprised at how comforting peanut butter could be.
Having no classes Tuesday mornings, I've gotten into the habit of using this time to buy my groceries for the week. My first stop is Intermarché, the little supermarket between my house and the American center, and then I hit up the real market. No matter how many times I go, I remain overwhelmed by the vast quantities of deliciousness just piled up around me. I want to buy everything, and I don't know where to start, and when I've finally decided what I'm looking for, I do a little price comparison. I'm never disappointed.
Actually, it's almost impossible to be disappointed with food here (aside from the rare story of l'oreille qui coule, and no, I'm not going to explain that). My host family eats wonderfully; my lunches, while lacking in variety, are tasty and healthy; I have no objections to dropping a couple euro for a panini...and then there are the cafés and restaurants.
Countless times over the past week and a half, I've had food placed in front of me that inspired two thoughts: I wish this were endless, and I wish I could photograph it. After we returned from our tourism of the Luberon, several friends and I descended into a passage under a busy street, where, by some magic, there is a crêperie. I've managed to resist going back so far, but when the day comes that I have a desperate need for bananas and nutella wrapped in a hot, doughy blanket, I know exactly where to find it.
By pure chance, the next night, my host brother announced to me that we were going to have an evening of crêpes. Crêpes with ham and eggs, with the yolk just perfectly runny. Crêpes with lemon juice and sugar, just perfectly caramelized. Crêpes with, of course, nutella, just perfectly...nutella. Perfectly messy, perfectly delicious.
Several nights later, after a delicious dinner that I've since forgotten, the fridge and the Thermomix magically brought forth a giant île flottante. As I savored the last of my portion, my host father asked, "Anne, t'en reveux?" You want some more? Literally, you want some again? You re-want some? So, of course, my bowl filled up again. One of two wishes isn't bad.
Coming from a household where dessert was always rather regimented--cookies and chocolate are not snacks, you have them after the meal, you get one cookie, and you don't take more unless your grandmother is visiting--I'm always a little surprised when taking seconds on dessert is totally normal, even expected. My host family makes desserts for a specific night, and doesn't expect any to be left for the next day. I guess an île flottante probably doesn't keep too well, but the goal was the same for the other night's plum-apple crumble: it had better get eaten. Needless to say, I did my part for the cause.
Now, if only restaurants could grant that wish for endless food. It's not that I ever go hungry, but there's just something about the process of eating something incredible. It's the experience that I wish could last forever. This past Saturday, a couple of friends and I visited Marseille, which is half an hour by bus and a world away from Aix-en-Provence. Aix had fooled me into thinking I was comfortable living in a city, but Marseille reminded me what a real city is like. It's huge, overwhelming, beautiful. The minute we left the train station where the bus had deposited us, I whipped out my camera:
[insert photo here]
...only to find that I'd left the newly-charged battery at home on my desk. Mince. But the visit had to go on. Things I saw but of which I can't show you photos include giant streets, a market, the oldest section of Marseille, some churches, and of course the Vieux Port. At one end of the port, we climbed the stairs of an old fort, expecting a fabulous view. We got the view, and with it came some of the strongest wind I've ever felt. Hugging our bags and scarves close, we headed downhill towards the Cathédrale de la Major. This building was quite a sight (and, incidentally, got relocated to Bethesda in my dream the following night), but we were more interested in the wedding full of uniformed firemen and police taking place across the street.
While I'm happy to have seen a bit of Marseille, the one part of the visit that keeps coming to mind is lunch. We spent a good two hours or more at an outdoor table at a restaurant where, for fourteen euro (plus three for wine) we were served giant pots of mussels accompanied by frites and followed by dessert. For me, this meant a slice of chocolate-pear tart (read: heaven). I'd happily have spent all day there, repeating the experience of that meal over and over.
As I finish writing this post that I began hours ago, I am recently returned from an evening en ville. Last Tuesday, I joined several friends after class for a pression pêche, which is just whatever beer is on tap plus peach syrup. My beer aficionado father may be reading this in horror, but this girly concoction is actually one of the tastiest things in existence. We repeated this tonight, and I hope it will continue to be repeated--a Tuesday tradition, perhaps.
Yeah, j'en reveux.