Saturday, February 9, 2013

Future Perfect Tense

The future perfect tense is called futur antérieur in French. A looking back, if you will, in the present to the past as seen from the future. Here's an example: Au moment où j'ai cinquante ans, j'aurai compris ce que je vais faire quand je serai grande. ("By the time I'm 50 years old, I will have figured out what I'm going to be when I grow up.") It's a temporal twist I remember going through back in 2006, after editing a workbook for my first client. I've probably told you about this before, the method of envisioning yourself ten years in the future, in your perfect job/life situation, and then taking the mental steps backwards from the desired goal to see how you actually got there. It's a very useful exercise when you're stuck in the present and can't figure out what to do next. Which is pretty much where I am now. Back in 2006 I also had no idea what I wanted to do, but knew it didn't involve sitting inside in front of a computer. Eventually I got the idea that I wanted to run a B&B in England, which led me to apprenticing myself to Pat to learn how to make goat cheese. A random Craigslist encounter turned into a housesitting job in England in the same town where my cousin was running a small B&B, and I eventually learned that the last thing in the world I wanted to do was run a B&B in England. But I also had the opportunity while I was in Devon to work with a very good local cheesemaker there (Ticklemore Cheese), and discovered that I love making cheese. I also worked with Mandy on her egg farm (Laydilay Organics), and found that I enjoy active agricultural work too (though I still don't like weeding one bit). But what I found most of all is that I really, really wanted to live in Europe. That led to getting the degree in French, and the search for a long-stay visa reason led to this whole cheese program thing, but now that I am here living in Europe (mission accomplished!) and wrestling with the dairy-free issue, the future is not as perfect as I had hoped. In fact, I am often rather tense.

While waiting for a sudden flash of inspiration and a new vision of myself ten years out, I'm going to have to think hard about where I'm going and what comes next. As I go through the cheese course, I'm able to check things off on my "like/dislike" list. For example, our homework for this last week was to learn all 47 appellation d'origine contrôlée (AOC) cheeses, or at least be familiar with them. I did the work, but found myself kind of bored with it. I need to think about whether that was because it was "homework" or because it was more of a theoretical exercise about cheeses that I can't get to know as I should without tasting them. Well, I can still taste them, I suppose - I've been using my probiotic and allergy pills every week in class - but the longer I go without eating cheese, the less interesting a career in it seems to be. So I'm also thinking about homework and research and cheese and my "saint" cheeses book project, which I still haven't done anything on, and which I seem to be rather less than motivated to even start. And if I'm not all that into homework and research, do I really want to even apply for the Masters program here, which would be two years of homework and research? It would mean two more years in France (and elsewhere), but I am not sure at this point that I have the money to finance that project, and there are a lot of other places to visit in the world I still want to see. But my French language skills would definitely benefit. But what good would that particular piece of paper do for me, really, in the end? What would I do with a Masters in food history? I can't think of anything. So that's where I am right now.

Another thing I learned from the cheese class this week was that while academic research wasn't appealing at that point, I was really stimulated and excited by the cheese plate exercise. Not only did I have fun, but I got a lot of positive feedback, and it sparked my interest in cooking and flavors and recipes again (not that this particular fire takes a lot of sparking, as it's always at least a glowing banked coal in my mind). I'll put up some pictures of the cheese plates soon, and of the first two classes; I need to write them up anyway, as we are required to hand in a mémoire at the end of the course with our notes on the studies.

Speaking of recipes, though I haven't been doing much in the way of complicated cooking - tuna salad on toast for dinner last night, in fact - I did make a nice quinoa salad a few weeks ago. The natural foods store sells a curried quinoa salad in small plastic clamshells and it's very good, but expensive. I decided to try to duplicate it, and I think mine's pretty good as well.
Curried Quinoa Salad
2 Tbs olive oil
1 small onion, minced
1 tsp salt1 heaping Tbs curry powder (not hot curry, but somewhat spicy is good)
2 cups quinoa
4 cups water
2/3 cup each diced unsulfured dried apricots, raw sunflower seeds, and roasted pumpkin seeds
1 cup chopped roasted chestnuts (optional)
1/2 cup lemon juice (extra to taste)
1 bunch parsley, rinsed and chopped

In a medium covered saucepan heat the olive oil over medium-high heat and sauté the onion until golden, about 5 minutes. Add the salt and the curry powder and cook, stirring constantly, for a minute or two, and then add the quinoa and stir well to coat. Add the 2 cups water and bring to a boil, then cover the saucepan and reduce to a simmer. Cook for 12-15 minutes covered until the water is absorbed and the quinoa is cooked.

In a large bowl, combine the dried fruits and seeds with the chestnuts. When the quinoa is done, add it to the bowl along with the 1/2 cup lemon juice, and mix thoroughly. Taste for salt and lemon, and add more as needed. If the curry flavor has faded too much, you might add another dash or two of that as well. When you're satisfied with the flavor, add the chopped parsley and serve warm. The salad gets better as it sits, though you'll probably continue to adjust the flavoring as it's absorbed by the quinoa and chestnuts.

I have really gotten into roasted chestnuts here. They're always for sale in big glass jars in all the stores, and they're a great snack - low in calories (especially compared to other nuts), cholesterol-free, and an excellent source of vitamin C as well as B vitamins and potassium. I like to take the jar, dump in some herbed salt, and shake it gently to coat the chestnuts. If you're in the States you're probably not going to be able to find roasted chestnuts cheaply, or at any time of the year other than the winter holidays, but I think cubed cooked sweet potatoes would make an interesting and tasty substitute in this salad.

I also tried David Lebovitz's pickled radish recipe, but I wasn't entirely happy with the flavor - it might have been the bay leaves, or perhaps the halved shallots, or maybe it was the vinegar I used. Or that I left them in the refrigerator for too long. I did end up eating all of them, but there was a strange aftertaste; I really think it might have been the bay leaves.

I'm still working on my photography skills, but for some reason I can't remember that there is a "manual focus" mode, so my closeups aren't as well-composed as I like. Especially when there's a dog tugging at the leash and distracting me. My photographs aren't nearly as good as Kate's, and I was happy to receive a packet of photocards for my Christmas present from her, for which I haven't thanked her yet, so thanks, Kate! I will enjoy sending those cards out. They're lovely.

She also sent me a new grocery tote, in my favorite theme. It's nice to be able to carry chickens around, and a practical use for an impractical collection; I'm not buying any chicken-themed art any more, which Mom and John are probably grateful for as there's no more room in the Bend house for it ...

Speaking of chickens, old Buck has finally flown on to his next incarnation. After having survived a short career as a fighting cock (this was before Larry and I found him for Mom and John, many years ago), a raccoon attack, a feisty rival, and long years of rain and sun and snow and more rain protecting his hens on Carpenterville road, this friendly, gentle, cheese-loving rooster is no more. From what I can remember, he was probably at least five or possibility even eight years old back in 2006, so he could have been 15 years old or more when he died. It was probably all the cheese that kept him going.

And Angus is gone, too. I knew when I saw him last June that I wouldn't be seeing him again; he'd gotten infected teeth, I think, and probably some related systemic infection, and his coat had gone a strange coppery color. But he still purred, and my heart still yearned after him, though I was once again heading overseas and leaving him with Elizabeth 2.0, who took such good care of him and gave him so much love. He was getting on in years as well, as I'd gotten him as a stray kitten back in 1998, I think it was? Maybe 1997. That was the post-stem-cell-transplant recovery year. Au revoir, mon chat bien-aimé.
And now I know three things I want to have in my perfect future: cats, chickens, and cooking.

It's a start.

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