Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The French Consulate Owes Me $300

According to le Président de l'université, as it says on a small piece of paper I was given yesterday, I am now officially a student. I registered as an "independent auditor" which means I can - with the teacher's and/or the program director's permission - sit in on any class offered on any campus. I just can't take the examinations, darn it ... oh, and I don't get credit or anything. But that's okay. I will be changing my status to something else next semester when the cheese diploma program starts, and I will get credit and official certification upon completing that. I'm not sure what classes I'll be going to this semester, because I'm waiting to hear back from the director of the professional license program about what classes are being offered in the dairy sciences area. I expect that will all get sorted out next week, and classes start on the 10th.

I have my student ID card, which allows me to get into any of the libraries, and will be able to start my cheese research now in earnest. I bought the passeport culturel étudiant for 7 euros, which allows me to go free to the museums around town, and get discounted tickets to plays and shows and concerts, and half-price admission to some of the chateaux in the area. I can get a season ticket to the symphony for 50 euros, and discounted opera tickets. While I was waiting to have my picture taken for my student ID (que c'est moche comme tout!), I noticed a poster for choral auditions on campus for a group doing the Rutter "Gloria" and the Brahms Requiem this semester, and I might check that out, just to get a little more music in my life. There's a music conservatory in town that has a Renaissance program and a recorder teacher, and I'll call him/her later next month to find out if there are any groups to play with. All depending on timing and time available, of course; my priorities are (1) school; (2) freelance and other work if I can find it; and (3) everything else.

Though given what I learned yesterday, items (2) and (1) may change places. Contrary to what I was told at the French consulate in San Francisco last June, I am not eligible for nor am I automatically covered by any type of student insurance merely by registering. If I were 20 years younger, yes, but that benefit stops after age 28. Perhaps my youthful appearance fooled the consulate worker - though he had my passport and was entering my vital statistics into the computer at the same time - but it did not fool the registrar's office here. Fortunately I did buy a year's worth of travel insurance, so I'm covered au cas où, but unfortunately I have already had several weeks of lymphatic treatment that I am now going to have to pay for myself, and which cannot continue on the schedule the physical therapist recommends. I'm going to have to go back to once every other week or so, and pay out of pocket. I'll just have to budget that in. I'll check my travel insurance but seriously doubt that ongoing palliative care is covered.

So there it is, and here I am, about to start another day of freelance work on a cool and cloudy morning. Last night Seb and I watched "Galaxy Quest" in French, while he ate pizza (he works for a frozen food delivery company and has a vast stockpile of packaged dinners) and I ate a very tasty casserole I'd made. Here, I'll give you the recipe:

Baked Eggplant With Meat Sauce

2 small eggplants, sliced into 1/3-inch rounds
3 Tbs olive oil
1 tsp Hildegarde of Bingen herb salt
1/4 tsp freshly-ground black pepper
2 small onions, diced
1/2 red pepper, diced
1 cup ground chicken sausage meat
1 cup tomato sauce

Heat the oven to 150°C (300°F). Brush a baking sheet with 1 Tbs of the olive oil and arrange the eggplant slices in a single layer. If you have to layer them slightly that's okay; they'll shrink as they cook. Brush 1 Tbs olive oil over the top of the eggplant and sprinkle with the herb salt and pepper. Bake for 20 minutes, then turn the slices over and bake for another 20 minutes. Don't worry if they look a little dried out. Keep the oven on.

While the eggplant is baking, saute the diced onions and pepper in the remaining 1 Tbs olive oil until soft, then add the chicken meat. Stir to break up any clumps of meat, and cook for another 5 minutes or so until the chicken is cooked through. Add the tomato sauce, stir well, and cook until the sauce starts to dry out a little bit (i.e. there is no excess liquid) - you might want to cover the pan with a screen to keep the tomato sauce from splashing about as it reduces.

In a one-quart round casserole dish, layer the eggplant slices with the tomato sauce, ending with a layer of sauce. Press the mixture down firmly into the casserole, cover with a lid or a sheet of aluminum foil, and put the casserole into the oven for half an hour to fuse everything together.

Note: When I was assembling this, I thought "this would be better with cheese" but I found I didn't miss the cheese at all. However, you could probably scatter some mozzarella on top of each layer of tomato sauce in the casserole dish and it wouldn't hurt.

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