According to Merriam-Webster’s Learners Dictionary:
Simple Definition of paradox
: something (such as a situation) that is made up of two opposite things and that seems impossible but is actually true or possible
: someone who does two things that seem to be opposite to each other or who has qualities that are opposite
: a statement that seems to say two opposite things but that may be true
After what I consider a great deal of thought (but what probably amounts to some deep thinking in the shower), I have come to the conclusion that I am a paradox. And oui, this comes on the heels of the post “What am I?” Today in French 8, as we are learning and discussing words for professions, I said “Mon père était plombier.” My dad was a plumber.
I did not go any further than that. EXCEPT to say, in French, when your toilet doesn’t work or you do not have water, you need a plumber, don’t you? I am so over trying to be something I am not. And if that is not quite what people expect, so be it. I am who I am. I am my family. My roots. And, you know what, I am proud of it. So there. Tommy was a plumbing and heating kind of guy. He remodeled kitchens and bathrooms, too. He built houses, added on rooms, and built furniture without a plan. Without directions. It was all in his head somehow someway. (So, why do I not get geometry? Seriously. Or distances? Or angles?) I remember sitting with him when he was adding a room on to our little house on Bell Street. I swear it was all in his head. He scribbled stuff down with one of those funny flat pencils. And he had levels and those really cool measuring stick kind of things.
Quite honestly, I am surprised we did not get more beatings for breaking his stuff. But how could little kids keep their hands off of do-dads like these? Remember, this is before video games. And Netflix. And HBO.
Back to the paradox. How does a little mountain girl whose parents did not graduate from high school and who is a proud product of public school education (Mama Mildred did get her GED– she is also incredibly smart and well-read), become a French nerd and France fanatic and build a career teaching in an independent school? Not one single French relative that I know of. No long lost French cousins. Granted, I have not had my DNA tested to find out for sure. (I am dying to do that, though.) A French businessman I met once said my Frenchiness is due to my Scottish roots. “The Scots love the French. They always have.” That is all the explanation he needed. I accept that. I have no better explanation.
I think that I have a wandering soul. At an early age, I fell in love with Pepe le Pew. Oui, c’est vrai. We did have three TV channels and Looney Tunes was an option.
The lovable Looney Tunes / Merry Melodies French skunk trying to seduce the black cat who had the misfortune to end up with a stripe of white paint down her back. And to be obnoxiously pursued by an idiotic smelly mammal. Une mouffette en français. Please, Fanny, Olivier, Ghislaine, Érick et Betty– tell me that there are no skunks in France. S’il vous plaît. I want to believe that they only exist in the state of Virginia. I think that the skunk is the official mascot of that state to the north of North Carolina. Every time I drive through there on the way to Washington, DC, I smell them.
Mme Christiane Roze Buchanan, my high school French teacher, struck a chord with me my sophomore year in high school. How I loved her. She believed in me. She was a WWII war bride who married her soldier and moved to the mountains of North Carolina. And influenced my life beyond belief. I fell in love with her country. Sight unseen. I was looking for the exotic, I think. Something different. I was not trying to be better than my siblings or cousins. I was not ashamed of my upbringing. But for some reason, I needed / wanted something different. And I found it. Is there something / someone in a former life that has drawn me to this culture and language? I have no answers. Just lots and lots of questions.
You know what? I think that I am going to take the DNA test and find out… I promise to share the results in a future blogpost.
I am not sure why this recipe came to mind. Maybe because it takes a rather complicated dish and simplifies it. Brings it down to the basic level. Maybe because it is the first day of fall and I am longing for cool temperatures and the comfort food of soups and stews. Not important.
Easy Crockpot Cassoulet
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
4 boneless skinless chicken thighs, coarsely chopped
1/4 lb. cooked smoked sausage, such as kielbasa or spicier andouille, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. dried thyme leaves
1/2 tsp. black pepper
4 Tbsp. tomato paste
2 Tbsp. water
3 cans (15 oz each) great northern beans, rinsed and drained
3 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
Heat olive oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add onion to hot oil and cook, stirring, until onion is tender, about 4 minutes. Stir in chicken, sausage, garlic, thyme and pepper. Cook 5-8 minutes, or until chicken and sausage are browned. Stir in tomato paste and water. Transfer to slow cooker. Stir beans into the chicken mixture. Cover and cook on LOW heat for 4-6 hours. Before serving, sprinkle the chopped parsley over cassoulet. (You could put it under the broiler for a few minutes before serving- without the parsley- to get a crust on the top- the way it was served in Carcassonne.)
When I am Chez Fanny, she serves me cassoulet. And, of course, in France you can find seriously good duck cassoulet in a can from Castelnaudary, a lovely spot in Languedoc known as the world capital for this specialty.
Bon appétit to those who dare to be different.