I’m writing during a time of relative peace and calm. Not that there was a war or turmoil before. Just nothing as exciting. Just, you know, sitting around drinking wine, pining for leather jackets, and visiting giraffes. The uze. (Like, usual. But uze. How else am I supposed to spell it? I have no idea.)
Let me give you the low-down of what’s happened in the past few weeks, when I haven’t been traveling.
I got a faux-leather jacket after having dreamt about a beautiful leather jacket from Zara. I bought a mini-oven and then silicone muffin molds and baking sheet. I’ve had fondue. Twice. I officially moved out of my old apartment into a residence/dorm. I’ve come to love my new friends and city. And Speculoos.
My new room is small, with just enough room for a desk, bed, sink, and closet. But it’s also about $320 cheaper every month than my old (well it was a new building) room. The internet here is horrendous, though. I can’t load photos, and generally can’t stream. They’ve also blocked downloading, though the internet is too slow to even consider it. The communal kitchen is both nice (when cooking with friends) and bad (when waiting for the only two stovetops to free up). The communal bathroom is…well, something to get used to. Especially when you have to bring your own toilet seat cover. It’s weird, I know. Oh, and did I mention I don’t have a fridge? There goes healthy eating.
On the bright side, I’m living really close to a nice group of friends who cook amazing Chinese food (they made their own dumplings, skin and filling!), lend me use of their fridges, and knock on my door when I’m running late in the morning. I’m also only a ten minute walk from school, as opposed to the thirty minute subway ride before. So I guess it’s about even.
Even in this tiny place though, there’s always place for an oven. One of my neighbors and I bought a secondhand minioven together. It was listed for 30 Euros, we asked for a discount, and then basically hassled the girl into giving it to us for 23. I felt bad for the girl, but 11,50 Euros for a perfectly functional mini-oven? Score!
I love living with these girls from China. It makes me feel so special. You see, in America, if I bake something, it’s received. Sometimes happily, sometimes warily, but for the most part, it’s fairly neutral. “Oh, you made muffins? Cool, good for you” “Cookies? Again? Hm.” But these Chinese girls, I love them so much for their naivete with the oven. Some of them have never used an oven before, not to mention bake. So when I present them with a cupcake, their eyes light up and they cherish it like a little present, and exclaim over how great it tastes. Their enthusiasm for baking and delight over how the little oven can make the muffins rise makes me enjoy it more; baking together has never been more fun. Even when I give them something I consider not-quite-right, they happily accept it, like taking someone not-quite-the-same into their fold. I have a feeling there’ll be several somewhat off baked goods here, though. I can only do so much without any measuring utensils or baking utensils. It can be a little nerve-wracking at times. A pot as a mixing bowl, a fork as a whisk, and a yogurt cup as a measuring cup.
One of the things I made recently was this Chocolate Speculoos Tart for Friday Dinner.
We pieced together a store-bought tart dough into small muffin molds, used a small pot as a mixing bowl, and hand-crushed speculoos cookies into the batter. My fingers felt tender (and slightly numb) after all that cookie-crushing. With all the utensil and measuring adjustments and approximations, I’m not surprised that the mini-tarts came out with too-thick tart dough, and with centers more muffin-like than tart. But they were still proclaimed a success, and happily gobbled down at Friday Dinner.
I’ve gotten close to two girls from Vancouver, BC and one girl from Korea. We politely asked each other over for dinner one Friday, and then also the next. When it happened again, we decided to establish it as a weekly thing. As of yet, we’ve had curry, fried rice and bulgogi, crepes, fondue, and most recently, pizza and speculoos. We’re also considering having beer and poutine and fried chicken, and Thanksgiving dinner, and a Lyonnais dinner. It’s so much fun to cook and eat with these girls. I love’em. (Pretty much all my traveling is with some or all of them.)
It’s also become established that we’ll have wine with our dinners. Except for maybe on beer night. It started with Jiseon bringing some wine, or asking about it. (The girl has a wall lined with empty bottles!) Then it became expected that she would bring wine every week. At two or three euros a bottle, I don’t feel bad. But with the constant presence of wine, I’ve started to learn it! We’ve had roses and blancs, reds being a bit much still.
Jiseon and her wine isn’t the only pairing in the group. My Canadian friend Raissa has introduced us all to Speculoos, the Belgium cookie.
Speculoos is an addicting little demure-looking brown gingery and cinnamony cookie. Called Biscoff elsewhere, if you’ve flown Southwest, you’ve probably had it. In France, though, we’ve discovered Speculoos spread. The cookies turned into a cookie butter. Don’t hate on how unhealthy it sounds. It’s absolutely amazing. Put it on ANYTHING and your food will taste better. In the US, something similar is sold at Trader Joe’s as Cookie Butter. Don’t judge a spread by its name (and calorie count). Try it. We did, and we decided to have a Friday dinner revolving around it! I made the chocolate speculoos tarts, we had jars of Speculoos and other spreads (did you know that Ovaltine has a crunchy chocolate-y spread?), cookies and crepes, knives and spoons, and had a deliciously sinful dessert.
I’m bringin’ Speculoos back! (And all them other kids don’t know how to act~) If only that you can try it and also make this beautiful-looking tart properly.
Chocolate Speculoos Tart from Lemonpi.net