Sunday, February 24, 2013

Food Blunders

Recently, we went to a French buffet restaurant--Flunch--with the missionaries. I'd never been to a buffet in France before, so I wasn't quite sure what to expect. Well, it was exactly what you might find at the nearest Chuck-a-Rama if it were given a distinctly French flair. For example, the drink section included a wine dispenser (as in a soda machine that dispenses wine), the dessert table had a selection of cheese plates, and the meat included some French specialties in addition to the familiar roast chicken and fries.

At any rate, after we all puttered around and gathered some food that looked moderately good, we found a table to sit and enjoy the spoils. Then, one of the elders sat down with a plate of this...

Regrettably, I didn't think to take a picture of his actual plate, but this version that I stole from Google images comes pretty close to what he had. For those of you who don't recognize it, it's known as andouillette--sounds fancy, right? Well...let's just say that even though it's served in some high-end restaurants, I wouldn't order it no matter who made it! (And to get it at a cheap buffet? I shudder at the thought...)

I think we all know what hot dogs and sausage are made out of, but I still find them delicious and appetizing, because they are sufficiently ground up so as to disguise any thought of them containing bits of offal. Besides, most of them don't really have offal, do they? Ahem...well, andouillette is not quite so discreet. It's a loosely-packed sausage that quite obviously contains chunks of...pig parts...and is clearly wrapped in an intestinal casing. Sounds yummy, right? Ha...yeah...I've never been gutsy enough (no pun intended) to try it for myself.

So when this bold elder sat down, I couldn't help but stare at him--in fact, my jaw probably dropped a bit.

"You got andouillette?!" I said.
"Weeelll," he responded, "I always like to try regional dishes and get a true French experience!"
"Me too, but I've never liked the idea of going that far. You know what it is, right?"
"Uh, yes."

I'm still not sure he did know. Because when he cut into the casing and all sorts of...indescribable bits of I-don't-know-what tumbled out, he looked a bit concerned. Not to be dissuaded, however, he plunged in and ate several bites while we all looked on in wonder. But as he was eating, I noticed something slightly odd; it looked like bristly animal hair was still attached to one of the pieces. I couldn't very well let him eat that, so...I pointed it out. Upon closer investigation, we discovered I was correct. And thus ended Elder Arnold's andouillette experience--however brief it proved to be. Lesson learned.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Porcelain Control

Although most of the stereotypes about French people are a bit untrue, the idea that French women are remarkably and almost universally thin is actually quite true. So what's their secret? Some say it's because they resist the impulse to snack, but from what I've seen of French restaurants, I think it all comes down to the old classic: portion control. Nearly every restaurant I've been to has a funny way of serving each little dish in its own special container--almost always of the white porcelain variety. By this point, I'm somewhat convinced that if someone was ever seized with the whim to go into making white porcelain dishes, they could make a small fortune by setting up shop in France. Ultimately, the idea is to present a well-ordered plate to a customer--but the everything-in-its-place mentality also means that there is a specific amount of each food item. Case in point, take a look at how my small skewer was delivered with its sides. (The salad was a bit larger than its container, but it's still spilling out quite artfully!)

Of course, portion control is not always the rule of the day. In fact, not long ago, I ordered what I assumed was a simple roast duck dish (yes, duck is considered commonplace in these parts) and was served with this lovely terra-cotta-bowl-enhanced mammoth. (Regardless, notice the white porcelain accents throughout the picture...)
Hearty medallions of roast duck swimming in a creamy blue cheese sauce with lentils, onions, and carrots. Wow...I had no idea that something so homey as lentils could taste quite so incredible! If only I could figure out how to reproduce the amazingness... As for the portion control, I have a feeling--judging by the waitress's face when I ordered--that French women typically shy away from something so...well...guaranteed to stuff you beyond your normal capacity.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

If Luxury Had a Lap

Cannes--what comes to mind for most people? Glitz? Glamor? Film festivals? For me, the name is now synonymous with sunshine, fair weather, and a welcome vacation. Kicking our all-to-brief break off with four hours of driving may not sound particularly appealing, but road tripping through France is actually not so bad--especially when you are going south and seeing an increasingly blue sky. But rather than bore you with free-way glimpses of quaint provençal villages or ancient castles teetering precariously on cliff edges, I'll skip straight to the part where I stepped back into my pretend life of luxury.

Although we got to our hotel a bit late, it was still early enough to appreciate its splendor. The Carlton is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year and has been known for just as long as one of the loveliest hotels on the French Riviera. Yes, I really stayed there. Yes, it was strange and yet fantastic.The lobby was fairly intimidating--packed with ridiculously expensive merchandise (diamond-studded heels, anyone?) locked behind glass windows (who knew hotels promoted interior window shopping?), framed with crystal chandeliers, and accented by marble pillars. I wasn't quite sure if I would like staying in an overly magnificent room. But you know what? I was pleasantly surprised--the rooms felt positively homey! That is, of course, if you're staying in a home tastefully decorated in a neo 19th Century look.

At any rate, the best part was being treated to an incredible sunrise the next morning; it was worth skipping my rare chance at sleeping in...

Of course, breakfast in the lovely hotel café was also nice--ever heard of rose petal jam? Yeah--me neither...but of course I tried it! It tasted like...perfumed sugar. I preferred the flaky pastries...
Owing to my desire to be surreptitious,
this photo is less-than-great...but you still
get the idea!

But enough of the hotel! Take a look at some of our other adventures!
Excuse me, my carriage awaits...

Jack Sparrow...?!
Can you tell which windows are real?
Million dollar yacht... Sure--
why not?!
Wave dodging--if only the water hadn't
been so cold!
Just some of that color
that I can't ever resist...
No post is complete
without it!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Home Again

I took a brief trip "home" last week. No, I didn't go back to the states--I just spent two days in Switzerland! We're on one of our grand mission tours again, and we started things off right with an adventure-packed field trip to the Château de Chillon. End result? The boys had a blast, we all had a change of scenery, and I have now taken the picture at the right in all seasons except fall. (I'm an old veteran to's sort-of my favorite...)

We started the day by taking the train from Lausanne (also one of my favorites!), and the boys were mystified at how smoothly the train moved. If you've never experienced a Swiss train, I highly recommend it--I may be a bit biased, but I still think they're magical! And with scores of terraced vineyards on one side and Lake Geneva on the other, this ride is absolutely incomparable. But--on to the ever-educational visit to one of the loveliest medieval castles! And for this, I leave the narrative to the pictures...
Fun and Games
Being the royal taster made me nervous...

And seeing as how I died, I suppose it was
with good reason! pic--need I say more?

Of course, London goes for the big guns...
And then Kelson expressed brotherly
affection for London by offering him
up on a stove altar.

Down in the Dungeon
The dungeon is possibly the most famous part of this medieval castle, owing to Lord Byron's poem which immortalized one of the dungeon's prisoners: François Bonivard. Bonivard was chained to a pillar for six years, largely owing to his support of the Protestant Reformation. And while the prison has been empty of prisoners for a very long time, a legacy still hangs about the walls...erm...pillars!

Pontificating about Lord Byron...can you
see his name?!
Not so bad...for a prison...

At least there were windows!

The last thing the condemned saw/heard
was the lake splashing against
the castle foundation.

Miscellaneous Loveliness
These other pictures don't fit into a specific narrative, so they will stand alone as individual examples of why I love Chillon! Of course, this time around, part of why I loved it is that the boys were just as thrilled to be there as I was. :)

I want a bedroom that looks like this!

And a kitchen like this...?

And this might be fun in my backyard...

Perfect for a little girl's room!