Eating Well


While my life has hardly been dull recently, I had a difficult time choosing a topic to write about this week. True, I went to church for the first time since I’ve been in Europe (that is, an actual church service; I’ve spent plenty of time in churches, but I went to an Anglican service with a Scottish priest, and it was excellent), as well as popped in and out of museums and landmarks. I finished Sense and Sensibility. I actually prayed the rosary. But those are experiences that still feel too open-ended, too underprocessed.

So instead, I’ll tell you about something close to my heart and fully digested: food. My host dad is a farmer, vintner, and the cook of the house, so between the magnificent meals we have for lunch and the few meals I’ve treated myself to on the weekends, my diet has been a thing of beauty. Here are a few highlights from the last week.

  1. Cheese. I’m already sad, thinking about returning to America and pasteurization and whatnot. Could some of this cheese kind of punch you in the face? Maybe, but only when you first try it. Once you’re used to it—wow. There’s one cheese, whose name I forget (though I think it’s a cow cheese), and it’s my absolute favorite. It has a lovely herbed rind, so the actual cheese is creamy and strong but with a lovely, infused rosemary flavor. And with a little bread or oil? Life-changing.
  2. Pâté. Pâté, which is an uncooked meat patty, is, in fact, amazing. I tend towards fish pâté myself, because 1) I love fish, 2) I’m very used to eating raw fish (love you, late-night sushi runs!), and 3) the idea of eating other kinds of raw meats still feels a little odd. Of course, by other kinds of raw meats, I really only mean beef, but still! I had an especially lovely salmon pâté on Sunday at this adorable restaurant called Brasserie Lipp. It was a place kind of hidden—you had to go up a hill in Geneva and then down this staircase to find it—but I sat at a white-linened table under the cream white umbrellas, tout seul, and enjoyed rather fancier meal than I usually have. (There were multiple garnishes!) A summer storm threatened overhead, and I was delighted to watch the family across from me and the young couple kitty-corner and maybe read a few pages of Sense and Sensibility
    1. I should note that beef pâté is, in fact, very good. I tried a bit when my host dad ordered it, and while eating an entire serving of beef pâté, as it is usually served, would be a little overwhelming, the dish is very pleasant.
  3. Mussels! I’d never had them before, but my host dad made them for lunch (the largest meal of the day here) and I was very excited, if for no other reason that I could eat them with my hands in polite company. (I’ve yet to recover from the amused shock of watching a hamburger be eaten with a fork and knife.) My excitement was well-founded, though: he cooked them in white-wine and cream and scallions and they were absolutely delicious. Of course, I love seafood in general, but these were a delight unto themselves. Even the girls, who can be difficult eaters sometimes, were happy to dig in. And these is something very satisfying about slurping little bits of meat from their shells and then mixing the leftover sauce with pasta.

And these were only a few of my favorite things I’ve eaten recently—note that they’re all things I’d almost certainly not get at home. Honorable mentions include some amazing sets of ribs (my host dad could give Texas a run for its money, actually), lamb shank, and a custard-y apricot cake.

So, on that note: santé and bon appetit!

Eight-and-a-Half Days

into my world, Uncategorized

That’s how long I’ve been in Switzerland now. Molly told me before I ;eft that she thought it would be about two weeks before I fully realized that I’m in Europe and not at home. Thus far, her prediction seems to be correct. This part of Europe, both in climate and general topography, looks very much like home, besides the French everything and old, old, old homes. And perhaps I just… haven’t thought about the fact that I’m not at home very much. Not thought about it emotionally, that is.

In an attempt to both stimulate this realization in myself and provide some snapshots from my first eight-and-a-half days in Switzerland (and France, for half a day!), I have–surprise, surprise–compiled a list. These snapshots are in no particular order, but all blow my mind, to some extent.

1. I have eaten more apricots in the past week than I have in my entire life. This is not something that I am complaining about–I’m just not certain I’d ever had a non-dried, non-jam apricot before. They taste like sunshine.

2. I watched my host dad eat a burger with a fork and knife instead of using his hands as God intended. I did not realize this was happening until I was halfway through my own (beautifully prepared) meal. By then, it was too late. There was nothing to do but watch in horror.

3. The restaurant where the burger was consumed had outdoor seating about twenty yards from a church that had been there since about 1100. Said restaurant also had a view of France–France being just on the other side of the roundabout, as the town was half in France and half in Switzerland.

4. Going from country to country is like going from state to state in America. This is common knowledge, but experiencing it is bizarre.

5. Police are almost disturbingly helpful. We were coming back from visiting my host mom’s parents in France (casually) and our car broke down. In the middle of an off-ramp on what is effectively one of their main highways (although the largest I’ve seen any highway is three small lanes across, and that was only for a few kilometers). With traffic already backed up two kilometers on said highway thanks to the added traffic of a music festival. And what happened? Quickly, a (very attractive) police officer arrived on a motorbike, figured out what was wrong, and directed traffic around us while calling for backup. And what was the backup? Two more police officers with a vehicle to tow our car back to our home (which was only a kilometer or two away, but still!). It was wild.

6. The food is very, very, very good. I am living my best foodie life and will not go into details (because this post would get very long, very quickly), but rest assured that I am very happy indeed. I mean, the cheese alone–

7. French is hard. My brain is very tired. And I’m not even forced to speak that much, as my family does speak English, but I’m already daydreaming about popping by England, if only for the delight of seeing all the signs in a language I can read without thinking. Also, I really need to brush up on my verbs.

There’s much more I could say–about my family and the girls I’m watching, our escapades, the music festival and the DJ who taught said girls to beatbox using the phrase “biscuit, petite biscuit”–but I won’t. Just know that all is well and pray for patience. Because the girls I’m watching are cute–but oh! am I tested. Lord have mercy (and all is and will be well).

A bientot!

week two: me versus cows


Summer on a ranch usually has a surprisingly small amount of interactions with cattle. It’s one of my favorite ironies. This past week, however, I was able to take many breaks from driving in circles (or, more precisely, disking the fields) to working with the contrary animals. The job ended with me covered in dust, dung, and deadlifting a four-wheeler out of a ditch. I only managed to wash all of the dirt from my hair this evening. Needless to say, I love working with cattle. 



I very much enjoy blogging. There’s a certain rhythm to posting weekly, and the audience interacts in the blogosphere far more than they do with an art form like books. The problem is that I don’t do much. I have another blog that I use while traveling, and that’s easier. I know what to talk about there: the world and my opinion of it as a first-time visitor. As a student, I’m not so sure. Is my latest choir concert an interesting subject? Does my audience want to hear about how little sleep I’ve been getting? (I know my mother doesn’t.) So while blogging is a good outlet for the words that occasionally well up in the recesses of my mind, my struggle is against… a form of writer’s block.

See, some days the issue is that I don’t know what to write. And some days the problem is that I don’t know how much to write. There’s a fine line between journal entry and authenticity, and I don’t want to be the blog equivalent of the drunk Facebook aunt. The challenge, like almost every other issue in my life, is about balance. Can I share enough to be relevant without completely dumping my emotional garbage at the readership’s feet?


I would like to continue blogging. I value stories but sometimes discredit my own. Blogging is an exercise, not only in the discipline of writing and publishing two pieces twice a week but in looking within myself to find something to share. Every week I am forced to step back from the chaos that I live in and inspect myself.

I’m not going to continue this blog, but I may start a new blog in the weeks to come–one that doesn’t have the phrase “WordPress” in the title…



There is an SNL sketch from last year called “A Thanksgiving Miracle”. In it, a family meets around the table for Thanksgiving and immediately begins talking about politics. Chaos ensues. Words are spoken. Yet every time it almost comes to blows, the little girl of the family turns on Adele’s “Hello”. The screen turns sepia. The wind begins to blow. Everyone sings along. The spell of her song is cast. By the end of the sketch, the song ends, and the family sits down to a meal in which they, miraculously, all get along.

This is one of my all-time favorite SNL sketches of all time; it’s just the right amount of cringe to be both entertaining while still being relatable. And, though it was posted a year ago, it reflects the current political climate disturbingly well.

I was thinking about that sketch as I walked to my uncle’s for Thanksgiving. I usually enjoy political discussions–I am minoring in politics–but with the current polarized political climate, even I cringe. (If politics came up, I planned to steer the debate towards philosophy. Insisting on one black-and-white answer practically goes against the point of philosophy, so I figured it should be safe.)

Yet it was a non-issue. For one, I ended sitting with my siblings instead of the adults, so the largest problem we faced was whether or not to get more cranberries or more stuffing. (Or both. We went with both.) And then, later, we played card games as a family. And we laughed. And it was fun. By the end of the evening, I had come to a simple conclusion:

This Thanksgiving, I am thankful for King and Scum.

waking up


There’s a moment right after I finish a novel that feels a little like waking up–drowsily disoriented but suddenly reminded of just how real the world is. For a while after that moment, the words keep coming, even though the book is closed. But it’s my story in those words, and in those first few minutes, I see my world through the eyes of the author. I hear the narration of my own movements, the turns of phrase, the descriptions of those around me: a boy, mousy but sharp, a girl with long hair and tired eyes, a woman whose smile ends at the point of her nose.