Sunday, January 29, 2012

The legendary.... escargots!!!

So, as we all know here, I'm getting pretty paressseux with the keeping-up of my blog so I owe it to my French grandparents to post a note about the amazing meal we had with them a little while ago. For Laurence's birthday, we went to their house, and all the cousins too, and had a day-long feast. I'll write out the menu for you because it was... breathtaking!
1st: a little cup of guacamole, gespaccio and lime sorbet. 
2nd: a celery purée with banana chips. 
3rd: boudin noir sausages, with a coquille Saint-Jacques (a special scallop) and Granny Smith apples. 
Escargots de Bourgogne (in the east, famous for their escargots)
Coq au vin with potatoes and a wine from Margaux
(Note: at this point, I was given lessons on how to drink fine French wines from Xavier- who would have thought there's a process to drinking wine??)
Cheese Plate:
Conté, Chèvre, Roquefort et Brie Munster. 
And after all that, there were, of course, two Buschs (the Christmas cake)! All in all, I can easily say it was one of the best meals I've ever had. 

 The amazing escargots, before being cooked. From what I understood, Guy (Laurence's father), who's the family specialist of escargots, prepares them with a sauce of parsley, garlic and lots of butter and olive oil. En plus, he prepared them in their shells, which is a lot harder, just for me- I'm so lucky to have host-grandparents like these!!! Only thing is, the pictures didn't come out so well....

Avant: moi, avec mes escargots.

 Pendant: un escargot, juste avant ma bouche!

 Après: évidemment, je les ai aimés bien! And then, cleaning up the plate a little with baguette for all that yummy sauce... They were so good, those escargots, not at all what one might think of when you think of eating snails, haha!

So now, just general catching up- 
Winter here: it's weird. There absolutely no snow, as you can see below. The closest it comes to winters in Maine, is that's it gets really freaking cold here too, but you don't have the excuse to wear snow pants when walking around. We get a little ice crustiness from time to time, but really, it just feels like early spring most of the time. For me, this is totally a new experience because coming from Maine, where we get a minimum of 2 meters every year (and a maximum of maybe 3x times that!), where school days are scheduled beforehand because of the Nor'easters that blow in, yep that's good old Maine... The other day, I got a notice from my high school there, that school had been cancelled due to snow, of course. I went to lycée and told people and they were shocked. But apparently here, if there is snow, they close school, even if it's just 5 or 6 centimeters because no one here is accustomed to driving in the snow and it's dangerous. Haha, if only they could see what we Mainers drive through on a daily basis between December and April!

Something else interesting is the Bac Blanc. Well not exactly interesting, like eating escargots-interesting, but worth noting. So, the Bac, for those of you who don't know, is like the SAT's but way more intense. The Bac is the giant standardized test at the end of Première and Terminale of lycée but it's something you're being prepared to do since collége (elementary, I know it get's confusing!). In all your classes, you're learning how to study for the Bac, all the leçons are centered around the content of the Bac, everything is working up to that. The test itself, is not like our wimpy SAT's: in the Bac, there's many many sections: sometimes you do dissertations, sometimes you're doing analysis, sometimes it's proving science theories and then of course, the dreaded Oral- a veritable discussion between the test-taker and the judges, where everything you say is counted and graded and it's all super intense! So that's what I'll be taking at the end of the year in Français and Histoire-Géographie. Tranquille, non? Anyway, recently we took the Bac blanc, which is just a short section of the actual Bac but for practice (like the PSAT's)- 4 hours, 4 different texts, 1 question de corpus over all the material and then a much longer, in-depth writing piece: either a dissertation, a commentaire or a "écriture d'invention", where you do your own thing, but within limits. All of this, without breaks, in complete silence, in a room with 30 other students for 4 hours. It was scary as hell! I did the écriture invention because the dissertation was too complicated (describe the relationship of the control and distribution of power in-between the characters of the four pieces, then do comparisons and contrasts and write a dissert about it- no thanks, not for me!) and the commentaire was over the one piece that I didn't completely understand and I couldn't find the axes of the argument. Oh yeah, did I mention, the four texts were all extracts from different French theatre pieces from the late 1800's and 1900's- and that was easy because on the real Bac they're all from Plato and Baudelaire and Corneille and Racine and all those old French classiques that I don't know. I got pretty lucky for the Blanc here though because I understood all the textes perfectly, with the exception of the last one where I didn't get some of the dialogue. So that was the Bac Blanc, just the preparatory Bac. And, unfortunately, I got my grade back: I scored a whopping 2.75 out of 20! Now we all know that the French grading system isn't like 10/20 equals 50%, it doesn't work like that but still, 2.75 is pretty damn low. Now let me explain myself: in France, all these different exam writing pieces; commentaires, dissertation, corpuses; they all have very very specific structure where every time you do certain things in each section otherwise you're not writing a real dissert or commentaire. For me, I'm used to doing your basic 5- or 7- (or more) paragraph essays and sure they've got a structure too but it's nothing like their French counterparts. So of course, I absolutely killed the structure for my question corpus and I guess I just didn't fo too well on that over all. Then for the écriture d'invention, which are notoriously noted the hardest and lowest out of the three options, I didn't notice that it said do a monologue, so I did a dialogue. It was kind of a piece of crap anyway, but I think I more or less lost all my points because it was a dialogue. Also, we didn't mark our names on the Bac Blancs, just our birthdays to identify after, and when I got mine it was covered in notes about "problems with basic French grammar" and giant questions marks in red pen. Maybe the grader didn't realize it was an American who wrote, therefore giving me a 2.75 but I guess it's good practice because at the real Bac, the graders aren't from your school so they're completely un-biased in terms of noting the work. Anyways, so that was my first experience with the Bac, definitely not looking forward to taking it at the end of the year but I hope I'll be able to grab a little more than a 3 the next time. 
Salut pour maintenant, à bientôt jusqu'à après les vacances février, quand j'irai pleines des photos et des histoires de vous raconter de la voyage aux Pyrénées pour faire du ski! 

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