Although I have had some stressful days since being here (one month and three days!), there’s one thing that remains constant and reliable: the quality and variety of French FOOD.
The past few Fridays, I’ve participated in the atelier de cuisine (cooking workshop). Two weeks ago we made Gâteau Nantais (Basically, Nantes’ cake mascot: rum + almonds). Coincidentally, my host mother bought a Gâteau Nantais the next day, and I have to say I enjoyed our version - not to mention the experience we had making it - a lot more! The cake is usually served cold, but I prefer it warm and cooled with the delicious crème fraîche that we also made. We of course paired it with a pear cider, which, coming from someone who is displeased with almost every alcohol I try (yeah, nice job choosing a country known for its wine, Laura), was actually very fruity, and I would give it a solid A-minus.
This past Friday we made soufflés au fromage (cheese soufflés). They turned out great! However I must admit I enjoyed the Gâteau Nantais a lot more. I was also disappointed to find out that the cooking course I had signed up for does not include any cooking. I will stick with the class because I do enjoy learning history about food, and we do get to try traditional Nantes food, spices, as well as attempt to guess the ingredients in the mysterious bottles wrapped in tin foil.
For dinner Fridays, friends and I usually go out and eat gallettes and crêpes, or, like this week, pizza. Although most shops in the center of Nantes are pretty damn expensive, it isn't actually too difficult to find relatively cheap delicious food.
Last week, after working for a bit on Saturday, my host mother, my exchange student “sister” and I went to an outdoor/indoor market on Sunday and bought mussels for that night, and then we went to Pornic and snoozed on the beach, got caught in water on our way back to La Fraiserie (a well-received ice creamery chain in Nantes, known for its fruit ice cream), and ate on Le Mur De La Lèche (direct translation: the wall of licking...get it?). I had been feeling pretty restless that week, so it was nice to get out for a bit.
Yesterday we ate huitres (oysters) with vinegar and shallots, as well as veal. As much as I look forward to eating oysters and mussels (almost every Sunday, it seems), it will be even more exciting to be able to fish for them ourselves, and then eat them – hopefully later this year!
I eat with my host family almost every night. Although the meal "plan" is 5 meals per week, my host parents have been very generous and always invite me to eat with them. Coming from a family with a dad who loves France and its food, most of what we've eaten is very familiar to me, but I have eaten some new food, including pâtisson (pattypan squash), which tastes a little like artichoke; potimarron (red kuri squash), which tastes a little like chestnut; and courgette (zucchini) dishes - which to my surprise, is pretty delicious. It helps that I am eating food in France: more of the food here is natural ('bio') - which oddly tastes better, wouldn’t ya know - and most of the vegetables/fruit we're eating is grown by my host father in his garden - we have many jars of his homemade peach jam stored away, and each time we (and by we, I mean I) finish one jar, it's replaced in less than a day. My host parents are also friends with some people who make some of the tastiest pasta I've ever eaten!
Being abroad certainly has its ups and downs. Sometimes everything feels so overwhelming that I don't know what I want to do. I want to make the most of being here, but sometimes I need to take some time for myself. When I'm not feeling crazy, I'm usually having the time of my life. I'm living out my dream of spending a chunk of time in a city in another country, and my French is getting better by the day - I even dreamed in French last week!
A piece of advice I would give someone who's thinking of going abroad: live in the moment, but also find time for yourself. Being abroad is about understanding yourself in a whole new environment. I feel very lucky to be living in a city where there are so many friendly people, and it's very easy to get around. Take advantage of that, too. And, of course, eat everything you can get your hands on!
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<p>Bonjour! I'm Laura Schneider, a junior at the cozy College of Wooster, majoring in vocal performance and minoring in French. Apart from immersing myself in these two fields, I enjoy baking - while occasionally tweaking recipes, riding my bike, reading (especially outside), and playing (and watching) tennis. I lived in Bath, England with my parents my sophomore year of high school, and am so thrilled to be abroad on my own this time! After college, I am hoping to further my studies in performance somewhere in Chicago!</p>