Annie Bananie en Europe

A blog about travel, life, and everyday tidbits

Tag Archives: kitchen

The art and science of cooking, part 2

As promised earlier, here is part 2 to the food series, being posted slightly later than I had intended, but better late than never! I’ll skip the introduction since it has already been presented in part 1, so without further ado, let’s get to the goodies.

Did someone say sushi? Yes indeed! I made sushi for my friend Cindy’s birthday party last month and mmmmmm, it was worth every bit of effort. Certainly, sushi is one of those things that takes a lot of preparatory work but is also a lot of fun to make in the process. I had five main ingredients as the fillings: raw salmon, shrimp (with mayonnaise), cucumber, avocado, and crab sticks. For each maki roll (I tried to make nigiri sushi but failed miserably) I mixed and matched random ingredients and out came our delicious Japanese favourite!

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The art and science of cooking, part 1

Cooking is one of my passions. Well, it started out with baking. Ever since the first time I baked a cake five years ago, I’ve been addicted to the art of baking and subsequently, cooking. Yes, I consider it an art. It is also a science, as it is the exact same thing as doing experiments in a lab. You mix things together, whisper a spell, and wait for something to happen. You usually follow a recipe or a protocol, but when those don’t exist, you just throw in whatever you have available and hope for the best. Isn’t that how it works for both cooking and lab work?

As I only developed this passion late into university, I started to expand my kitchenware collection in fourth year, a bit too late as I only had one year left to take advantage of my relatively well-equipped kitchens in Waterloo and in Toronto. By the end of the school year I had accumulated a set of baking utensils that would in no way be able to accompany me to France. Oh boo.

After coming to France, I didn’t bake as much, mainly due to the lack of a large oven, but instead I picked up cooking. As long as I had a wok (which was thankfully given to me by a friend), a pot, some basic Chinese sauces, and rice, I was ready to experiment, even with a small kitchen. (Of course, that is not to say that’s all I have, but that’s the bare minimum, anywhere.) Unlike baking, I rarely follow a recipe when I cook; instead of precise measurements and proportions, I go with past experiences – sometimes I rely on instinct – and whatever inspires me at the moment, which makes things a lot more interesting…and fun!

Many friends ask me, “Annie, what do you eat in France?” I think some people expect me to say things like cheese and baguette and things with fancy French names, like foie gras and escargots, but sorry to disappoint you. Although I do occasionally eat out and enjoy authentic French cuisine, my daily life revolves mostly around Chinese cooking. I’ve lived all my life with the Chinese way of dining and although I would probably survive without it, it wouldn’t make me very happy 😦

In this post I share with you some of the culinary experiments undertaken within the past year and a half. Unless otherwise stated, I made the dish myself. Of course, not everything is cooked the Chinese way, but most are. There will be a second entry after this one with more goodies. I don’t want you to get TOO hungry… 😉

Let’s start off with some good ol’ pancakes served with butter and the Canadian favourite, maple syrup! Yes they are typically eaten at breakfast, but who says you can’t eat breakfast food at any other time of the day? 😉 Pancakes are so simple to make as well, just mix the seven magical ingredients at the right proportions – flour, egg, milk, butter, baking powder, sugar, and salt. Then pour some batter on a frying pan, flip until both sides are golden brown, and tada! Fast, easy, and delicious. I actually had some last week but without the maple syrup, and while plain pancakes already taste pretty awesome with butter alone, I just felt that there was something missing without my sweet Canadian goodness. Time to restock.

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Belgium, day 0.5

Okay, I admit the previous post was somewhat half-assed. I was way too tired to write detailed captions for my photos, and really, how much could you write about lab equipment?

So now, I am in Belgium, Louvain-la-Neuve, to be precise. That was fast, huh? After approximately 6 hours of travelling, I entered the mysterious land of the Belgians. The course of the journey was as follows: Bordeaux to Lyon by plane, Lyon to Brussels by plane, Brussels to Louvain-la-Neuve by train with one transfer. Lots of moving around, so I am sufficiently exhausted. I arrived at 19:30, so it was already dark and I hadn’t had the chance to explore yet. That will have to wait till tomorrow morning.

Well, first impression? Of Belgium in general (which only consists of Brussels and Louvain-la-Neuve at the moment), it’s more “modern” than Bordeaux. The reason I put the word in quotations is because it may very well be a false impression, either because I haven’t seen enough of Belgium yet, or modern Bordeaux eludes me.

The Brussels airport was pretty huge and I liked it. One thing I noticed was that while people in France dress as if they’re all in a fashion show, the people in Belgium – at least the ones at the airport – tend to dress on the professional side. I felt that I was in the midst of a gigantic conference where everyone was in suits or something formal. It makes sense, because Brussels is a location with quite big of an international influence, being the headquarters of EU and all, and I liked that.

One new thing I have to get used to is everything being in Dutch as well as French. In fact, announcements come in Dutch first, then French. I even got redirected to Dutch Google. Great. Still, I’m glad I’m in the French region of Belgium. I’m not sure if I’m ready to tackle a new language.

As for Louvain-la-Neuve, boy, is it lively! The students are quite the enthusiastic bunch and even if the place is small, it doesn’t seem like it lacks activity, being a student town. Exploring this place will be fun, and I’ll have to find all the nice places to eat and shop, though everything is so close together that I can probably see the whole city in an hour.

In terms of accommodation, I’m living “chez habitant”, which is something close to a host family. My room consists of an upper level with a bed and a desk, and a lower level with a dining table and a small kitchen. Very nice and well-equipped – I’m impressed! The best part is not having to pay for it…score 😀 Seems like this is gonna be a joyful little hut for the next few months. Let’s see what we have.

Top-down view of the “living room”. Where I’m standing, the desk is to my right, the bed is behind me, and the stairs are to my left. My luggage is a mess now so I’ll have to unpack, unless I want to rummage through my luggage every day for the next while.

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J’ai déménagé!

Yes, after weeks and weeks of delay, I have finally moved into my own little apartment. Now, instead of saying “going back to the residence”, I can comfortably say “going home”. Instead of walking 15 minutes to the bus stop every morning, I can simply hop onto a tram (which remains my favourite mode of transportation in Bordeaux) right downstairs. I’m also within 5 minutes walking distance to Auchan, which is equivalent to a giant-mega-super-Walmart. Of course, it is located within Meriadeck, a shopping mall very much like a bigger Scarborough Town Centre. Yup, I’m pretty happy.

On Friday, my supervisor and colleague took me to IKEA where I bought some furniture for the apartment, since it came unfurnished. My two biggest worries were already taken care of – a colleague offered to give me a single bed, and the landlord already installed a very nice table attached to the wall. It’s quite true what my pastor said the other day: you don’t really have to worry about furniture, they just come along.

So, the only thing I really needed was a dresser of some sort to put clothes and pretty much everything else, and I went to IKEA with that precise goal. IKEA in France is exactly the same as in Canada. However, while prices are rather high (in my opinion) in Canadian IKEAs, they are considered low here in France. I was a little hesitant when my supervisor suggested going to IKEA, telling her that I didn’t want to spend a fortune on furniture, but she assured me, “No, no! Things are cheap at IKEA! We always find nice, inexpensive furniture there.”

And she was right. The price of individual items are definitely cheaper than in Canada, though of course in Euros. However, when you take into consideration that I am also earning a salary in Euros, it doesn’t make sense to convert everything back to Canadian dollars every time I want to purchase something.

I picked up a bunch of random items for the apartment – a dresser, which was my main priority, a coat rack, hangers, bed sheets, a pillow and cover, a blanket and cover, pots and pans, a white chair, a black chair, a broom, and a dustpan. I love house-shopping. I could spend a day in IKEA, or in Auchan, picking out neat little things for my cozy home that look nifty but that I probably don’t need. I would be wasting a lot of money…but it’s so much fun. Anyway, here’s a look at the final settlement.

They tell me that this place is approximately 30 m2, but I think it is slightly smaller than that. However, it is plenty of room for one person to live, and it feels rather cozy. I am satisfied with the outcome though, especially because I didn’t have to go through the process of looking for accommodation myself. As far as I know, house-hunting in Bordeaux is very, very painful…

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