My colleague Bruno kindly took me to lunch at the university cafeteria (fennel salad, green salad with ham, roasted chicken, rice, and a custard-chocolate tart -- cafeteria food, but not bad). Later in the afternoon, my friendly officemate, Osman, announced that it was time for <<gouter>> and offered several snacks. I tried to demur, saying I didn't normally eat at that time, but he explained quite clearly that I was in France now and I should do as the French do. (Now I understand why they are able to eat dinner so late, at the "civilized" hour of 9 or so -- gouter carries them through!) I had a tasty chocolate biscuit that was nominally breakfast food but was deemed acceptable for gouter nonetheless.
At the end of the day, I repaired to my pied-a-terre to make dinner. Now the adventure began. Necessite est la mere de l'invention. The kitchen was completely unstocked, so I had only what I bought at the Monoprix the day before: chicken breast, radishes, haricots verts, mushrooms, ginger, soy sauce, olive oil, confiture des mirabelles de Lorraine (which turns out to be yellow plum jam), and fines herbes, plus mini salt and pepper shakers that I had filched from the plane. I had also bought a half whole grain baguette at the boulanger across the street just before dinner, and an eclair chocolat.
There are precisely two skillets, the aforementioned knife, and of course no cutting board. I managed to cut up the vegetables and ginger on a dinner plate and set them aside. Luckily I had bought the chicken in a deboned, filleted form, because butchering is definitely out of the question!
There are two electric burners but the labels on the knobs have been rubbed away. I could just make out a "4" and "5" on one of the knobs, so I turned both knobs in that direction, past the "5." After a minute, the burners were lukewarm. After a few more minutes, they were quite warm but not what you would call hot. I gave it five minutes or so, and then thought, well, I'll have to try to cook this food, and if not, hopefully the microwave will work. I added olive oil, seasoned the chicken, waited some more time, sprinkled a few drops of water in the vain hopes of seeing it spatter (no such luck), hoped for the best, and put the chicken in. It... sat. The very bottom gradually turned white, but that was about it. Clearly it was not going to cook. I tried the vegetables in the other burner, and nothing. So then I started experimenting. I though, well, maybe turning the knob all the way past "5" isn't a good idea -- maybe there's a super-low setting there, or something. And maybe the back burner knob turns in the opposite direction of the partially labeled front burner. So I turned the front burner to around where "6" would be, and the back burner to where "2" would be -- et voila! Finally, sizzling!
After the chicken cooked, I deglazed the pan with a bit of the rose I had bought (luckily there was a corkscrew, so at least you know it is, in fact, a French kitchen), reduced it, and stirred in some plum jam to make a simple glaze. The vegetables got a splash of soy sauce; I poured a bit of olive oil into a teacup for dipping the bread in; and finally I had an actual homecooked meal! The chicken was a bit tough in parts (not sure if it was the chicken itself or because it sat in the pan for so long) but really tasty -- I wish I had had more of the sauce! It was actually super-easy to make and I would definitely make it again -- but maybe not in this kitchen...
(Oh, and another thing that I forgot to mention -- there is no dishwashing soap and no sponge. I thought I would have time to run to the store yesterday afternoon, but ended up working too late. So I cleaned everything with very hot water and paper towels, but I think the skillets need a second pass when I manage to pick up some proper cleaning supplies...)
This morning, I continued my virtuous trend of work, healthy eating, and healthy living by going for a jog:
Luxembourg Gardens really is such a lovely and typical Parisian park -- manicured grassy lawns, perfectly groomed flower beds, sculpted trees, wide packed dirt/gravel paths and open areas, and of course tons of chairs and benches scattered everywhere. I hadn't seen one single jogger or person doing any sort of exercise on the street going to the park, but the park itself was full of joggers, runners, walkers, and tennis players. Very pleasant, and a perfect day for a jog -- it's cool (60F) and a bit overcast (but is supposed to warm up again later). In fact, I think after I shower, I'll stroll the few blocks to the Seine and sit down there doing some work before it starts to heat up.
Bonne journee a tous!