Friday, March 16, 2012

Cabbage Patched

I got four days in. Four glorious days of skiing in the Alps. I have no photos of us actually skiing but I have plenty of us "resting"!

 But I promise.... I've been on the hills. And having an absolute blast!

Things seem to be slowing down a little, however.

Wednesday, Thomas, the husband of my friend Vreni, took a digger. This guy is an excellent skier and fast....really fast. So when he fell, he fell hard. But he's also a relaxed skier so his injuries were minimal;  a big, fat bruise on his upper thigh and the same behind his knee. 

Later the same day I was following Roland (a friend of Thomas's) down a hill. One minute I was behind him, the next minute he was gone. Poof! Just like that. He was there and then he wasn't.  I skied to where I last saw him, peered down over the edge of the hill, and there he was... far below. Luckily not skewered on a rock, but struggling in a pile of snow nonetheless. As soon as I knew he was alright the laughter began. But as the day went on, we realized he wasn't okay and it looks like he's done some ligament damage to his knee. One down.

That night, Vreni began her ministrations. She ran to the grocery store (not the pharmacy) and returned with two heads of cabbage. She rolled them out flat and began applying them to the injuries. Yep, a cabbage patch. I'm watching all this, laughing, and looking up cabbage cures on the internet. Sure enough, cabbage is purported to have medicinal qualities that aid in the healing of swelling and bruising. I don't know if it works but  it's an excellent way to get men to remove their pants. 

Applying cabbage to a knee injury is a straight up process.

 Getting cabbage to adhere to a rear end is a little more problematic.

I was laughing too hard to get a clear photo of this last shot.

I shouldn't have laughed (when am I going to learn this?). Because yesterday after a LONG day of skiing, and getting battered by a couple of hills of hard snow, I returned home to nurse a nasty boot bruise and eventually a knee that has progressively stiffened and swelled. My knees suck...they always have... and I don't think I actually injured it. I think I just wore it out.

So last night I found myself rolling out cabbage and applying it to my bum knee and my bruised ankle. I woke up in the middle of the night in a bit of a sweat (because of the damned wool socks I had to wear to hold the cabbage), and I smelled like the first whiffs of vegetable soup. This morning I peeled the limp, green leaves from my various body parts, and voila, the ankle seemed as good as new. Not so for the knee however. Two down.

So now Roland and I are hanging around the house for the day. It's not bad. We've got a terrace with a couple of lounge chairs situated in full sun. We've got our books.  I have my computer. I've got this to look at.

And hopefully another cabbage patch tonight will allow me to get back on the slopes tomorrow. 


Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Pants

I leave for Switzerland tomorrow for my yearly brush with death. As I was watching television report about the avalanche that annihilated a ski station in the alps last weekend, did I worry about the possibility of this happening in at my final destination? Did I think that perhaps I should be going a little earlier in the season so as to avoid all that heavy, spring snow?

Absolutely not.  All I kept thinking was, "oh my god, I wonder if my ski pants will fit?". Yep, not worried about dyin'...just worried about looking good when I do!

Every year I go to visit my friend Swiss friend, Vreni, at her house in the breathtaking, eastern Swiss Alp ski station, Arosa. We laugh, talk in a bizarre mixture of 2 languages, eat, drink, and kick a little ass on the slopes. Okay, she kicks, I nudge. And each year, I have to borrow or rent all my gear. Not just boots and skis but clothing as well.  I've gotten by, but I feel a little bad each year as I don her son's pants, her husbands socks and her gloves and goggles.  I've now collected my very own jacket, long underwear and socks so I'm getting there. But last year, I happened to be there at the end of the season season was going on, and I bought a pair of ski pants.

Now I must tell you the price for these pants. I have to tell you because it's shameful. Shameful that a stupid pair of pants should cost as much as my car! They were 589 Swiss francs. Which translates to $645. Did you throw up a little in your mouth? Of course,  I didn't pay that. I got them for 75% off. But, this is still double what I would normally things better fit! And if they don't, I'm not going! The Pants have been sitting in the corner for two weeks, labels still attached,  staring at me with their accusing, expensive, slim fitting eyes. And I've been afraid to try them on. Yes, I'm afraid of a pair of pants. Not an avalanche....A PAIR OF PANTS!

Tuesday I took the plunge with 3 days left to cancel my trip if The Pants and I didn't agree with each other. For 2 weeks we had danced around each other, looking each other up and down. And finally, it was I that backed down and with a prodigious, pessimistic sigh, I stepped out of my skirt for the battle.

Zip, clip, score! SCORE!

So just as the almond trees blossoms are busting out in all their springtime glory, I'm off to avalanche country. Me and my very best friend...The Pants.



Monday, March 5, 2012

Aix for the Maladroit

When I was 4 years old, I started taking ballet lessons. I think I was willing to do the endless relevés and pliés all year just because I was rewarded with a cute skirt and a pillbox hat for the year-end recital. After I graduated to crowns and tutus, I was permanently hooked. Or maybe I really loved ballet....I can't remember. During all those years of lessons and training, my mother always made sure to point out how graceful I was. She made me feel like a delicate flower. When I reached age 13 and had to continue my training in the big city, my mom drove the hour and a half to and from, every week. But only for a year.

Because during that year I realized she had been lying to me all that time! Maybe I should just call it positive reinforcement. Not only was I too tall, too big and too well-fed to be a ballerina, I was most definitely NOT graceful. Standing at that barre in the cavernous, ancient, technique room, trying to digest the ballet master's orders over the sounds of the pianist, and regarding my big-oaf self in the ever-present mirror, I realized this was never going to happen. I was not only the elephant in the room, I was the bull in the china shop.

The word for clumsy is maladroit in French, though the word is used in English as well. I'm one of those people who sprouts mysterious bruises, never even knowing where they came from. I trip on everything, drop, break shatter something daily; the kitchen is a disaster when I cook and I have a tendancy to run into doors (normally straight on the edge). It could be that I'm just trying to do several things at once....but the fact is, I shouldn't.

Now, I live in a city/country that is unkind to people of my kind. There are obstacles at every turn: deep, dark pits of danger in every quarter. I want to walk while looking up so I can find all the architectural lovelies that one can only see with their eyes toward the sky. I want to. But I shouldn't.

A normal street here, with its cobblestones and ancient oddities is tough enough.  There's that trough that runs down the middle which carries water to wherever it belongs. Step in this wrong, and there goes the ankle.

Every day after the market, the square is cleaned. What were these people thinking wall-to-walling the square with those slick stones? They did not have people like me in mind. Getting across this takes every bit of concentration I have. No reading and walking here.

This is the street that I take to the market each day. Rue Mignet is under construction but it is not closed off to pedestrians. It simply can't be. But it is not like a construction site in the United States with lawsuits lurking under every obstacle. It just is what it is....

 a minefield for the maladroit.

 And this is the corner I have to night.

The street will be beautiful when it's finished this spring. Aside from the major renovations happening underground, the surface is being painstakingly paved by hand. The masons use a string to keep their work level and even. I'm just telling you that I've come to know it as a tripwire.

I am continually wrenching my already car accident-injured back by stepping in holes and trying to catch myself before taking a digger. Recently however, all had been going well. Until last week.  I was leaving the perfectly safe, modern pharmacy. While reading my prescription that had just been filled, I came to the clear, sliding glass door that opens automatically. Except it didn't. And I didn't see it. I would say I was like a bird crashing into the living room window, except that description is too delicate. I was much more like the elephant...or the bull.  And I felt like the Roadrunner after he runs head-on into a rock, my body re...ver...ber...a...ting from the crash.  And to make it worse, there were plenty of witnesses. The impact was so loud, everybody on my side of the square caught a glimpse of large-animal-gone-mad. 

Today I'm making another appointment at the kiné, the man who has now become my savior. He should offer me a membership or a coupon know, buy 10 sessions get 2 free.  But I keep thinking that perhaps if I just sport a tutu and a crown EVERYDAY, I'll believe, (like I used to) in my grace enough to save myself the pain...and the euros.

Have a great week, everyone!

dancer image courtesy of GraphicsFairy

Friday, March 2, 2012

To Die in Potato Salad

When writing about my near-disastrous dinner party last week, I promised I would post the To-Die-For Potato Salad recipe.  My friend Eileen used that exact title when she sent me a copy of the recipe, scanned straight out of the cookbook. I'm sure it's a salad by another name but that just got changed! 

So here it is, folks. With, of course, my comments and photos  from this morning's market. By the way, this is not a French recipe. The French have potato salad but it's not made with a mayonnaise base. That is definitely American!

To-Die-For Potato Salad

1/2 lb. bacon, cut into 1/2 inch pieces (I used lardons since bacon is hard to come by here)
3 lbs. new potatoes
3 tsp. salt
6 hard-boiled eggs, sliced
1/2 chopped, green onions
1/2 C chopped dill pickles (for those of you in France, I've discovered that Cornichons Russe are pretty close)
1 1/2 tsp. celery seed (this I have never been able to find in France so I went without)
1/4 tsp. fresh ground pepper
1 tsp. garlic salt (I never use this. I used 2 cloves of fresh, minced garlic)
1 C. mayonnaise
1/4 C white wine vinegar (I only had red wine vinegar)
1/4 C. hot water
3 T. sugar (sucre poudre in France)
2 T. Dijon mustard

In a medium skillet, cook the bacon over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until crisp. Remove to paper towels; reserve 1/2 C. drippings and set aside. (I had probably not even half that and it was still great)

Scrub potatoes and place in a large saucepan. Cover with water, add 2 tsp. salt, and bring to a a boil. Lower heat and boil gently until tender when pierced with a fork, about 25 minutes, depending on the size. Drain, peel (I never peel potatoes mostly because the skins are so tender but also because this seems to freak the French out. They love to peel stuff), and cut into 1/2 inch cubes. Place in a large bowl;  add eggs, green onions, pickles, celery seed, 1 tsp. salt, pepper, garlic salt, bacon, and mayonnaise. Toss gently until combined. This can be refrigerated, covered, overnight.

In a small saucepan, heat reserved 1/2 C bacon drippings, vinegar, hot water, sugar and mustard. Bring to a boil, whisking constantly, and boil for 2 minutes. Pour over salad; toss gently. Serve warm or at room temperature. If serving at room temperature, the salad may be refrigerated overnight. Bring to room temperature 1 hour before serving.

Garnish with eggs cut into slices or wedges, bacon and parsley, if desired.

Serves 8

So the big question is, why can't I find celery seed in France?  Especially with these spice markets to choose from everyday!

My translation would be graine de céleri but perhaps that's not correct. And supposedly they're grown in France. Anybody know the answer to this conundrum?

Bon Appétit and Bon Week-end!


Recipe from The Year Round Holiday Cookbook by Marlene Sorosky. The book is out of print.