French Kebabs and pregnancy tests…

So this is a detour from my normal posting. BUT it is to inform you of Seb’s wonderful introduction to life in France.

After two years of visiting (equaling at over one year of being/living in France). I am now permanently in France. While sounding like a great ending to a fairytale life: Think love, distance, different nationalities and a visa. In truth it really is a different story.

I am with my husband: the love of my life. But the whole romanticism of it all??? Meh. That’ll never be Seb. He is not a romantic. He is more a surprise guy(which I truly do love and is romantic in its own way)… and for being French? He loves his great food. And he can actually tell you if the foie gras you are eating is decent or not.

But he is also such good friends with the workers at McDonalds that they sometimes give him dinner for free. This is not your normal serve either. A normal not manhungry meal consists of: A large Chicken Bacon meal deal (Inc a Large Coke and Potatoes). With another 2 large servings of potatoes(Wedges for my aussie mates), then he will finish that with another 2 double cheeseburgers. If he is hungry it get’s bigger and grosser.

So to bring you back to my point. I arrived to live here on the 24th of August. I brought with me milo, 2 blocks of cadburys and vegimite. The rest? Well my expectation was pretty normal, it’s France so it should be French cuisine.. My particular favourite is the poisson avec buerre blanc(fish in butter white sauce.).

Another favourite was on a visit to the Pays-Basque, we ate out and it was absolutely delicious local cuisine. Local poisson merlu, Home-made Foie Gras, Roasted duck to the point of it melting off the bone. Sadly I forgot to get pictures of these delights. I promise to do that from now on.

However what pictures I do have are ashamingly my extra diet of recent… Junk food and more junk food! McDonalds I will not even bother to photograph. It is universal. I refuse to eat it now. However their Kebabs are so different from ours that I was forced to photograph them. They stuff them with chips… It’s amazing. And sadly addictive.

The sadness compacts when you realise I am in France eating the normal bread, pain au chocolate,roule au chocolate and cheese. And not just aiding my weight gain but adding to it with junk food. The delicious kebabs are a sin. Seb loves them that much he normally eats two.

Which brings me to my second part. Pregnancy tests… I have had waves of sickness and they started before I discovered these wonderful kebabs. And not just little pains in the tummy but massive feelings of neausea so strong that Seb has on more than one occasion nearly pulled over the car because my face was so “yucky”.

We want kids but not now… and Seb panicking suggested that I take a pregnancy test. So being sure that I wasn’t pregnant I took the test. And as normal no extra line showed. I breathed a sigh of relief. The problem here is when Seb decides that a joke could be made: by drawing a line on the pregnancy test. And then just flashing me the test. While knowing 2 seconds after seeing it that it was a “Seb” line. I had those two intial seconds of Panic and Fear.

With this inital face Seb is chuckling and giggling his way around the house. And I am left wondering what prank next is going to arrive in my lap. Maybe I need some vengeance of my own but I have no idea where to start. And Seb is a strong believer in pay back. It makes me shy away from even starting this tally.

So instead I address the sickness. Healthy eating should at least help fix it: No Kebabs/McDonalds/Cheese Courses/extra chucks of bread cos its just fresh and hot/ no pain au chocolate for breakfast/ AND DEFINATELY NOT the roule au chocolate I was eating everyday at morning tea with Sebastien. Part of this shock is Australia has been such a salad eating – fresh lean meats – kind of place that this rich calorific food has left me on a cheese high!

This is going to be hard. But I will try to act the French woman. Healthy eating with things in consideration. Chocolate for the taste not for the Comfort. The problem? We are heading into winter and Christmas…I am crazy… but its better than encouraging my body which is already at its biggest ever size!

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Tartiflette and Tantrums

So in Australia I am really well-known as a cook by my mates and family. I actually don’t even have recipes. It just comes out of my head and onto the plate in correct flavours and form. Coming from a family of feeders my pride is watching people come together and enjoy food. I love the fact that my up-bringing was that food is something to be shared.

My sharing was varied from traditional roasts, to stir-fries, to pasta, dessert, salads, starters and tapas… I would literally just pop off to the grocery store and later that night have a feast for my people. I have a favourite memory of getting carried away with cooking and instead of cooking for four people I ended up inviting ten and we spent all night eating different types of tapas!

But alas… the problem:
I CANNOT COOK IN FRANCE!

In fact as I write this I am eating a stir fry that tastes something similar to a second-hand takeaway AND I cheated (Yes; Sauce, frozen veg and chopped up meat, Shameful that I can stuff up something so basic, especially when I hate to make it this way). Why am I eating this? I can hear people’s thoughts… Well I cooked it. And stubbornness is starting to set in.

I have been trying my best to settle into France. And to handle this stressful situation my genetic wiring is to cook (thanks parents and Nan!). But here I cook and it is always an experiment. With quite often spectacularly bizarre results. The best example of this is Tartiflette.

My first ever Tartiflette I couldn’t understand French… Zilch, Zip, Nuttin. The result ended in a dish of raw potato in a runny whitish discoloured liquid covered by not a crust but an actual LID of BURNT something.

My second Tartiflette I at least didn’t burn the ‘thing’. We will leave it at that. And with the third try panic set in as Sebastien had invited over the immediate family (another 3 people). The problem with this was Sebastien was starting to lose weight. My cooking had indeed become that bad.

In panic I contacted quite a few French friends of Sebastien’s about Tartiflette. And ended up googling the crap out of the recipe and creating my own hybrid. To coincide with this third try/experiment I also brought 2 ready-made Quiches. If I failed I would still be able to feed them, my confidence destroyed but my genetic instinct to feed still intact. I had actually concentrated so much on getting this dish ‘right’ that I went and brought a ready made dessert (against my grain but I didn’t want to push my luck).

As the night grew closer I grew anal-retentitive about following my ‘recipe’. To the point that when baking came to eating I was panicking as it landed on the table. Papou as I call my father-in-law is always the compliment when I try things (even eating beef that is so tough that you can’t cut it with a steak knife!). Mumu, my mother-in-law is a seafood-vegatarian so she would eat something different.

The true test would be my husband and brother-in-law. These two guys are permanent vacuum cleaners. As I scooped it out of the dish you could see the creamy cheese mixed with lardons(bacon) melted into the soft fluffly layers of potatoes. The steam rised from it like an advertisement! ENFIN!!(FINALLY!) A DISH! And they had seconds! Oh Mon DIEU! I had done it. I had finally cooked a meal in France that passed THE test! Then comes the crash landing…

My husband without realising how sensitive I am right now (about cooking in particular) does something really French. He critiques the meal.

“Eeet’z(It’s) good, but we will improve it. There still needs some things to be fixed.”

This goes against my Australian culture of “Giving it a Go” so strongly that it makes me intensly dislike him for a lot longer than a split second. More like I fume silently for 5 mins followed by a lot longer sulking. (I had actually tried this 3 times because he likes this dish so much!)

Being the Australian I am. I do not act French in response to this. I do not loudly discuss/nor do I tell him to stick it/and I don’t even try to huff about it. Instead I sit on the problem. And sit, and sit some more. Then a few days later I blow up. Like a very normal Australian.

When I do he wonders what my tantrum is even about…

“Nikki, this problem isn’t about the mistake on the orders for a bodyboard is it…??” He peters out hopefully wondering what the hell has happened to his normally cruisy good natured wife.



“Nikki?”



“Nikkiiiiiiiiieeeeeyyyyyyy”
-“No it’s the fact that I can’t cook. And Australian people don’t believe me and what’s worse french people believe that I can’t cook. And when I do finally get it right, it’s not good enough. NOT EVEN FOR YOU” It rushes out like I have unstoppered a cask of wine. My pride and my tears. Ending in such a fierce accusation that Seb is silent for a second. He starts to laugh, bubbling through his laughter he says this….

“I still eat it even when its crap, I love you. And I promise to eat your food. I eat McDonalds; I can eat your food!”(Just for those not in the know Seb is nearly addicted to McDonalds.)

Later on, after retelling this to a friend of mine she cackles at me…
“Nik that’s not a story, that’s tantrums and Tartiflette’s!”

Part 2: The process of Marriage to a French Citizen

Seb proposed to me on the 17th of January, I left France at the end of February and was married on the 27 of April.

After the nearly mind-boggling visit to the prefecture I decided to try my luck on home turf. STUPID STUPID WOMAN I was…. Thinking that I would have better luck.

You have to realise that the further french people are away from a French bottle of wine the more grumpy they get. (I think the Australian Reds and New Zealand Whites are perfectly fine thankyou, but being in Australia I often heard a french person wax lyrical about that Red Bordeaux). This grumpiness resulted in often spectacular results, quite often with me dreaming of murder on french soil in Australia.

With bags still full I commenced my first call to the local consulate about information to commence the paper process of marriage. After two minutes of speaking broken french the man bursts out in Englsih. “DO NOT call Brisbane. Marriage “thing” is for Sydney.”

Not to be deterred I immediatly googled and called the Sydney Consulate of France.
“Hi, I would like to speak to someone about marrying a French citizen in Australia?” I remember trailing off, hopeful that this person in Sydney would be more English speaking than the Brisbane consulate.
“Erggggg blah blah blah blah… blah blah blah blah…” Was the reply in that fast french.
“Erm Je ne comprends pas… slowly please”
“Get your boyfriend to call- BEEP BEEP BEEP!”

Yep she hung up on me after telling me to get Seb to call. So he would at midnight in France call Sydney,Australia. We quickly found out that they hang up before even speaking to you. Really you have to hope they are in a wonderful mood (If I could have I would have laced their water with anti-depressants).

After about 2 weeks of calling everyday we finally hit the jackpot. We had PAPERWORK. Which sounds like a nightmare. But was actually wonderful to have a direction. We had information for lodging a Banns in France which is like an intention of marriage for Australia.

Because we are two different nationalities we had to lodge both. For Australia, its a document stating that you are of an ability to marry and your passport or birth certificate as identification.

The banns requires all that stuff plus proof of address, proof of relationship, proof of no previous continuing relationship, and sometimes even toenail clippings(just joking for the last bit).

If it wasn’t an original they would send the whole thing back to you. It also all had to be within three months of issue. These people like shiny new things. Not some document that was 23 years old like my Australian Birth Certificate.

To compact that problem. The documents for a Banns changes from district to district. If you are going through this yourself. Call the local district of your partner to be. Some places are content with a passport. Others need your life story.

In the end we had two rejections for bad compilation of paperwork. And one delay with Sebs birth certificate needing to be reposted from France to Sydney. I was interviewed about our relationship and to stop them critising the relationship I submitted copies of my passport for visitation dates, every email we had written, phone texts and calls plus facebook documentation. From submitting those documents the “realness’ of our relationship was accepted.

We recieved the go ahead to marry A WEEK BEFORE THE MARRIAGE. I’ll continue next post about the documents needed post marriage. (Yes there is more.. You really had no idea, did you?)

Cocky as a four year old speaking french

I look at these little french four year olds. Their self confidence and content. AND THEIR ABILITY TO SPEAK AND ADAPT TO DIFFERENT LANGUAGES! Yes I am jealous of four year old children.

And no it’s not that whole cliched approach of THEY HAVE SO MUCH JOY. It’s more like I WOULD LIKE TO STEAL THE PLASTICITY OF THEIR BRAIN. They are at this most amazing age that if they went to another country they would learn to speak like a native while still preserving their original mother tongue.

Right now I can sit in a cafe and watch these little kids like a clucky wife and think… I HATE YOU! My ability to speak french had been an overinflated opinion in my beginners class. It says it there. I was the best in the beginners class. (How can you be the best at something when you are only beginning?)

The come down has been a total crash. And to add salt on a wound is these tiny little children who have a vocabulary larger than me. It’s that totally humbling sensation where I am a total Pro in English, but no-one else is!

It has knocked the stuffing out of me. I am like an empty teddy bear. Trying to stay positive in a place I don’t understand is really really hard. Yes for those out there thinking it; I am bitter and twisted. I am not asking to be a know it all. Just to communicate enough that I don’t feel like a continual mime artist.

I just hate being regarded as how I used to think of the Chinese in Australia. You know that we have these particular suburbs with the signs in chinese? EVEYTHING CHINESE? You go there and you can’t speak english cos they all speak chinese. They then go into the normal part of the city and kind of mumble their way through the english and you are frustrated at them.

But their little bilingual kid then goes with them and amazingly enough will switch between the two languages with ease. That’s like the little french kids here, who are now starting english so early that they are comfortable with both. Or their french is so polished that you wish for their FLA(First Language Acquisition) qualities to be betowed upon you by some random language fairy godmother.

Well I am trying and I still feel like a chinese in australia. But in fact I am an Australian in France. If I could steal that plasticity I would.
Wish me luck!
Mignonne

Chat Noir

So I am pretty convinced that I am THE BLACK CAT… Seb has passed on his bad luck to his usually good tempered wife.
In the space of a fortnight I have
# broken my favourite necklace
# burnt my leg on Sebastien’s motorbike exhaust
# paid an extra $700 to get to France
# Got a flat tyre on the four hour drive home from the aiport turning it into a 6 hour adventure after 29 hours of plane trips.
# paying a further 300 Euros to get a stamp to validated my visa.
# have catered for a friends birthday only for them to invite an extra 5 people for what was a 6 person dinner…

The necklace is fixed, and my leg is healing.

The car tyre was replaced along with the other front tyre. (Found out that here if you want to be covered by insurance you must replace both at the same time, nasty surprise)

I am seeking reimbursement for the airport problem.
I had arrived and my travel agency had not reissued my ticket for a date change. Emirates had me as having already flown on the 29th of July. Luckily they re-issued the ticket on the spot. (I paid $700 and am now seeking a refund for said money)

The dinner for our friend I felt a little like Jesus, turning what was supposed to be a few tomatoes for a chicken salad into some bruschetta, followed by roasted stuffed chicken breasts and then pan fried rosemary potatoes. I literally was pulling stuff out of nowhere with the aid of some bread and potatoes. (Gotta love carbs to fill someone up!)

And the extra 340 Euros is for my medical stamp. Which leaves me to fume silently considering that if I was a student it would be around 55-60 Euros and a worker pays about 100. Why is it that an unemployed housewife (at the moment, I am looking for work!) has to pay so much for a stamp considering that I will be in the french society a lot longer and plan to conribute to it rather than a student or worker who is here for studies or money? That goads me into those silent snarls.

Does anyone else have these bad runs? I am trying to stay positive but sometimes that smile is just pasted on a face that is hiding a snarl!

Mignonne
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