Archive for July, 2012

Hands Off My Croquembouche

Tuesday, July 24th, 2012

I have always thought my brother is a bit of a genius and have often had little sister jealousy over his ability to be brilliant at EVERYTHING he tries. At school he was always the smart one – he won all of the awards, he was good at maths AND art, and he was loved by all the teachers and students. He has studied various degrees (and been good at ALL of them) and has now moved to England where he is studying artisan baking – the ultimate mix of mathematical precision and artistic flair. He is, of course, doing very well at it.

And while part of me is jealous that once again he has found something he’s freakishly good at, this skill I have been able to benefit from in the form of delicious, delicious baked goods. Mmm… food. Ben met me at Dubai airport on our way home to Perth with a large bag of crumbs which, a few hours earlier, had been chocolate biscuits. I can tell you that there is nothing more satisfying than standing in the middle of Dubai airport at 2 o’clock in the morning stuffing your face with chocolate crumbs. We may have looked like drug addicts eating weird powdery goods from a plastic bag, but it was worth getting arrested over.

And that was just the start – the real treat came for Grandma’s birthday when Ben decided he would attempt the impossible by making a croquembouche (a profiterole tower) in a kitchen he had never been to, in a hotel chalet at the Bunker Bay resort. INSANITY.

Ben baking

I don’t think this kitchen had ever been used for any sort of real cooking up until now.

I volunteered myself as sous-chef and was given the task of finding a round object about the size of a 20 cent coin to then trace circles on baking paper for Ben to pipe regular sized choux pastry balls. Luckily, I have a collection of oversized red rings, one of which was the perfect shape. I was fulfilling my role as sous-chef well so far. A much harder task was to sit for 35 minutes watching a chocolate cake bake in my cousin’s chalet, inhaling wafts of delicious 70% dark chocolate smells as the cake rose and my mouth filled with saliva. That was just cruel.

Ben had never built a croquembouche before and so there was an element of “Is this going to work”? for a majority of the morning. However, as I carefully selected each profiterole based on size and shape, handed them to Ben and he then dipped them in molten sugar and stuck them all together, the miracle of Grandma’s-90th-Birthday came to be. The sugar hardened, the profiteroles stuck together and the tower of goodness came to be.

Croquembouche

Adding the final sugary touch

Standing back and watching Ben create this tower was really exciting. Not only was it amazing that the tower didn’t fall over, but the skill and precision Ben used to create the croquembouche meant that the end result was beautiful and looked professionally crafted. So this time, I wasn’t so much jealous of Ben’s skills but proud of the fact that it was MY BROTHER who had made such a wonderful birthday cake for his 90-year old Grandmother. And that I was going to get to eat it.

Birthday cake

Oh cake. I love you.

Ben is almost at the end of his baking course and is currently planning on establishing a bakery with a fellow student in Sheffield. Looks like I’ll be making many trips to England for free baked goods.

My Little Garden in Paris

Monday, July 23rd, 2012

It’s amazing what can happen in three weeks. I have returned to discover that Becky and my little vegie patch in the middle of Paris has come alive and is producing like crazy. Clearly the Parisian half sunny/half rainy weather has made our garden very happy because everything has tripled in size and look what delicious goods I found:

Chillies

Chillies!

Eggplant

Eggplant!

Tomatoes

Tomatoes!

Tomatoes

The first pick from the crop.

I am going to eat the tomatoes for my lunch. I am expecting amazing things.

Lots of Lycra

Monday, July 23rd, 2012

My presence on the Champs Élysées for the end of the Tour de France has become an annual occurrence – yesterday my friend Brandon and I joined the crowds of British tourists to watch the boys in lycra roll into Paris. It amazes me how easy it is to actually do this – I always imagined pushing and shoving and hordes of people lining the grand rue for the final day. Instead, Brandon and I met 50 minutes before the riders’ expected arrival and managed to find a spot right near the finish line without any problems.

Tour de France

Le Tour

Paris finally brought out the sunshine and it was a glorious day. The atmosphere amongst the crowd was very positive and it is such an exciting experience to watch the bikes zooming past. They go a LOT faster in real life than they do on television. Absolutely amazing.

Tour de France

Allez!

I was particularly thrilled to see Jens Voigt, the craziest and awesomest German bike rider EVER, heading the group for most of the way. He was clearly telling those legs to “shut up and do as I tell you”. Amazing.

Jens Voigt

GO JENS!

There were a few amusing moments, too. Last year I complained about Tina Arena singing the Australian national anthem when Cadel Evans was standing on the podium – this year was even WORSE. Perhaps it was my proximity to one of the speakers, but the opera singing who screeched out God Save the Queen burst a few ear drums amongst the crowd. It made me screw up my face in horror, this then resulting in a girl standing near me laughing. It was truly awful. So I say “Go Tina!”

Then there was Wiggins’ speech, which he made in English and that wasn’t exactly the most inspirational thing I had ever seen. But there was then a French translation for all of the non-english-speakers in the crowd. I’m not sure if this translation was shown on the television but it was absolutely terrible! Firstly, the translator was a girl. This just seemed strange. Secondly, she then ‘beautified’ the rather crude things that Wiggins’ had said, and said that his father’s dream of seeing his son winning the Tour de France had come true, rather than his mother’s dream as Wiggins had stated. Wiggins had also asked the crowd not to get too drunk, which was not translated at all and somehow turned into him thanking the crowd with all of his heart. Good work, translator.

The third amusing element was the overly dramatic music that was pumped through the speakers before the presentation of each of the jerseys. It was all violins and rolling drums. It certainly ‘added’ to the atmosphere. Amazing stuff.

So another year of the Tour is over and next year will be the 100th! Looks like I will have to stay in Paris in order to participate in the festivities.

Family Times

Saturday, July 21st, 2012

The past few months have been a bit of an emotional roller coaster for me. I have discovered that ending a long-term relationship really is as painful as it seems in those romantic comedy movies, and that working out what you want to do with your life is extraordinarily difficult. However, amongst all of that turbulence I have also experienced a phenomenal stability that I think people sometimes take for granted. Through attending my third-cousin’s wedding in Paris and returning home to Perth for my Grandma’s 90th birthday, I have realised the joy that is family.

At first my return to Perth felt a bit like a roadblock – I was pushing hard to move onwards and upwards with my life and going to Australia seemed like a step backwards. As it turned out, what I really needed were some hugs from my mum and dad and to spend time with my extended family. With 22 of us heading down to Bunker Bay, staying in rather luxurious accommodation, eating great food and spending so much time together, it made me realise that no matter what happens in my life and how down or lost I feel, my family is always going to support me and give me hugs when I need them. And seeing my Grandma smiling and laughing with her half-brother from Holland and all of her 13 children, grandchildren and great grandchildren around her, it was so wonderful to realise the important things in life.

Bunker Bay sunrise

We woke up with the sun and an early morning swim in the ocean at Bunker Bay

So now I am back in Paris, revitalised from my 2-degree dips in the Indian ocean and inhaling fresh Australian air, ready to take on whatever new paths lie ahead of me. I am hoping these all involve a lot of food, good friends and exciting adventures. Allez-y, France! Je vous attend.

Crêpe and Sacre Coeur

Return-to-Paris ritual completed.

I Come From the Land Down Under

Monday, July 9th, 2012

Greetings to one and all from the most isolated city on the earth. Or is it? Some people say there’s somewhere in Hawaii that beats us but I am willing to bet there is more to do in Hawaii than there is in Perth. Well, at least you won’t have to sell you left arm in order to do it.

Perth. I do love this city and every time I come home I realise how nice it is. But then I try and do something or buy something or eat something and I realise that something is fundamentally wrong. I have complained about the prices of food in Perth previously but I am going to do it again. IT IS RIDICULOUS. I can’t afford to live here. Ever. So it looks like France will have to accept me and let me stay in Paris forever. Good plan.

My time in Perth so far has involved various ‘catching up’s with friends and family, helping my Dad build a shed at the Wanneroo Museum, and digging holes in the backyard in order to find a leaking pipe. Even the unsuccessful hole digging has brought an element of happiness to my life. The shed installation involved me, a pair of electric shears and some corrugated iron which is the recipe for GOOD TIMES.

Shed at the Wanneroo Museum

Nice shed.

I do enjoy coming back to Perth and seeing what power tool my Dad give me to try out. We’re going to be making a printing press for me to take back to France as well, so who knows what electric saws/drills/sanders I’ll get to use. I should have been a boy.

I am also remembering how glorious the Australian landscape is with its wide open spaces and clean, clean air. I haven’t smelt the horrible stench of urine for over a week! BLISS!

Perth sky

Look at that blue.

On Wednesday, Thursday and Friday mornings of last week, I dragged myself out of bed at 7am when the temperature was hovering around 10 degrees, put on my bathers, and went to the beach. Am I insane? Most probably. Did I feel good jumping into the ridiculously cold waters of the Indian Ocean the day after there was a shark sighting? Not particularly. Will I do it again this week? It is likely. The thing is, after you have gone through the pain of getting so cold that it hurts to walk and you finally go home and step into the warm shower, get dressed and have a cup of tea and some breakfast, and then life is good and you want to do it all again! It is a drug – a very healthy, sinus cleansing drug, and as long as my toes don’t fall off then I think I will continue to do it for as long as I can.