stop and smell the rosés

My mother used to make the best icing. Like many of her tried and true recipes, it came from the Joy of Cooking (to this day my first and only cooking bible), and called for confectioner’s sugar, butter, vanilla and cream (and of course food colouring). There were two things that made it so special; the first was that it was only ever made to top birthday cakes (there are 8 in my family, so many opportunities in a year). The second was it was hard icing, unlike the soft butter cream icings that everyone else seemed to prefer. It was the hours-long (!) wait in the fridge between the time the cake got iced and the time it got served, which made it harden. And then when you ate it, the first bite or two of cake was framed with a stiff sugary crust, but then the third bite (assuming you could slow down and make the slice last more than 30 seconds) was when the icing would start to soften and even melt in your mouth if you let it linger on your tongue. That’s what made it sublime.

Vanilla beans, vanilla extract, vanilla flavoured icing. I come by this memory honestly!

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back to school (reprise)

The return to Bordeaux has been a complete change of pace from the harvest in Alsace. A relaxed schedule has given me time to work on my internship report and presentation, not to mention time to rediscover my old stomping grounds.

Refamiliarizing myself with the territory: fog on the walk to school; the Cité du Vin is a new attraction. Rue Ste Catherine is empty on the holiday - you can actually see the obelisk at Place de la Victoire at the other end! Cleanup in Place de la Bourse and an evening view of the Pont Jacques Chaban Delmas.

Refamiliarizing myself with the territory: fog on the walk to school; the Cité du Vin is a new attraction. Rue Ste Catherine is devoid of shopping hordes on the holiday – you can actually see the obelisk at Place de la Victoire at the other end! Cleanup in Place de la Bourse and an evening view of the Pont Jacques Chaban Delmas.

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all the world’s a stage

Talk about an awkward ele-vader encounter.

Talk about an awkward ele-vader encounter.

Although I like to tell myself that I am the soul of wit and easy repartee in English (constantly…validation is so comforting!), it’s becoming painfully obvious that I’m nowhere close in French. Generously, I’m about the level of awkward elevator dialogue: my conversational one-two punch is 1) the weather and 2) how’s it going..? – with the hope that the answer is a simple ‘fine’, or ‘ça va’ as, with nothing left in my verbal arsenal, my follow up usually reverts back to 1) the weather. Fortunately, I am somewhat less terrible at hearing and understanding French, more so in person than, for example, over the phone. I’ve made much more progress here, but I need to focus very hard to pick up on facial and vocal cues to understand the words and context. Were I to be less forgiving, I might admit that it probably looks suspiciously like staring. So: awkward elevator encounter with someone who says next to nothing and stares, probably stands too close, and that’s French me in a nutshell. (I’m a hoot. We should totally hang out some time.) …This is why I prefer to communicate via email. Read More

c’est pas graves

…except when it is. The region, that is. I’m about a week behind on posting, so I have TWO weeks to tell you about, plus a teaser about where I am for my week of vacation.

Science, like the internet, is always right.

Science, like the internet, is always right.

Last week brought a whole different kind of school – one focused around the journal club that we’re starting; a class structure that allows each of us to research our own topics and bring our own scientific articles to educate and engage each other in discussion on viticultural issues. Remember that scientific mumbo-jumbo from a few posts back? Yeah, reading articles is tougher than it looks. We start by learning HOW to read articles. The first thing we learn is: don’t believe everything you read.  Sort of. Read More