(artwork: Madison, 8th grade girlie)
My “real” job involves spending five days a week with middle schoolers. Trying to guide them. Giving them opportunities to help others. Helping them learn how to study. Setting goals and working towards achieving those goals. Showing them ways to be kind. General nagging. Showing them the beauty of speaking another language. Sometimes it feels a bit like beating them over the head with vocabulary and verbs, but for the most part the 11, 12, and 13-year olds who walk through the door of room 405 cooperate. I teach in an amazing place, plain and simple. My colleagues are always here for me, to inspire me, to help out when I need it, to push me to be a better teacher and person, to cry and laugh with. The parents are heavily invested in their kids’ education. Financially and emotionally. (I am actually stealing a few minutes in between parent conferences to write this.) But I do this job for the kiddos. They are why I still wake up excited in the morning to go to school. I don’t think of it as going to work. Even after 38 years. No, I am not going to retire soon. I may have a head of gray hair (the French call it cheveux blancs – white hair -which I prefer!) but I can still keep up with middle schoolers pretty well. No, I don’t follow them on social media nor do they follow me. (A few read this blog, I think, though.) I have a handy little holder where they deposit their cell phones at the beginning of each day after silencing them.
In my advisory, the word of choice so far this year to describe anything that is cool is “lit.” I have four boys this year and if I had a euro for every time they have used lit so far this year, I could buy a ticket to Paris for Christmas. It’s actually pretty funny. I couldn’t resist describing something that way yesterday. I can’t even remember what, but they laughed. Well, a few of them did anyway.
So, what is lit in my world these days, you ask?
Philippe the French Dude from above is pretty lit. He was created last year by one of my then 7th grade-now 8th grade girlies. He gets erased sometimes but then she draws him back. He usually shows up on her tests and quizzes as well.
My Ray Ban glasses are lit. I usually wear contacts but had some problems earlier in the week so I switched over to my glasses. “Chic” was actually the word used by a 7th grade girlie. It was enough to make me keep wearing them. (They kind of hide some of the wrinkles and bags under my eyes, too.)
This Eiffel Tower, painted by one of my new 6th grade girlies, is très lit.
Fall leaves on the sidewalk are lit. Little colorful gems.
The school garden that I helped create and help weed every day 6 during our club period is lit. No idea who added the scarecrows, but they are, well in a word, lit.
How about coming home to find an envelope on the porch from a friend who recently when to Belgium? Pretty lit, n’est-ce pas, especially when there is chocolat involved. And a magnet of The Death of Marat by Jacques-Louis David. Oh! And 5 euros that mistakenly found their way into the envelope. Very lit. I will spend them wisely in March.
Opening up Facebook this morning to see what my peeps are up to and finding a photo of Pierre Hermé macarons posted by Desserted in Paris. Lit? Heck, yeah. PH is my secret boyfriend. Well, not so secret anymore. If anyone knows him, I will be in Paris in March. See what you can do. How lit would that be? “Oh, by all means, Pierre, choose a macaron for moi. Chocolat et foie gras? Lit!”
Of course I have to (re)post my LIT autographed photo of Pierre. Oui, my name written by his hand. Yep, seriously lit.
Chef Érick popped up on Facebook as well this morning. He is the reason that the Sabbatical Chef even exists. For the readers not up on my 8-month stint (2 months in 2007 and 6 in 2008 during my sabbatical from teaching) in Arles working with Érick as l’assistante américaine, it was, you got it, lit. Way lit. Here he is in the most lit kitchen ever. Looks like someone was making ratatouille…
And last, but by no means least, is my darling granddaughter. This photo, taken by her da-da on their walk home from daycare, is so lit. It lights up my life. That’s how lit it is.
This is an Érick recipe. Maybe not a ratatouille recipe you have seen or used before, but definitely my favorite. This dish, one of Chef Érick’s specialties, uses basically the same ingredients as ratatouille, but has a different taste since the vegetables are cooked separately. If there are leftovers, however, and they are refrigerated, the flavors will mix and become more ratatouille-like.
A tian is a red clay baking dish of Provence. They are perfect for baking in the oven. I own one, a gift from the kitchen in Arles. I brought it home from my sabbatical in my carry-on bag. I was taking no chances on breaking it. Lit.
Le Tian Provençal de Légumes d’Été — Mixed Summer Vegetables Provençal
2 fat eggplant
1 bell pepper (color of choice)
2 garlic cloves
3 bay leaves
Coarse sea salt
Thyme or herbes de Provence
1/2 c. olive oil
2 Tbsp. grated cheese (Swiss, Emmental, or Gruyère)
Cut the eggplant in rounds and salt liberally. Set aside to sweat for an hour. Cut the zucchini in rounds, the tomatoes likewise, set aside. Mince the onions and chop the bell pepper in small pieces, set aside.
Pour olive oil in a large frying pan, heat and lightly fry the minced onions and bell peppers, simply melting them down, reducing them, to a smooth caramelized mixture. Remove with a slotted spoon and layer on the bottom of an oven-proof dish (tian). Next fry the zucchini rounds, a minute per side, in the oil. Drain on paper towels.
Rinse the eggplant rounds of their excess salt, tap them dry with a paper towel, and then fry them a minute on each side and drain on paper towels.
Crush and chop the garlic.
To assemble the tian: Place the onion and pepper mixture on the bottom, make a layer of eggplant, then tomato slices, some of the chopped garlic, crumbled bay leaf, a little salt and thyme and then a layer of zucchini. Continue layering until you’ve used all the vegetables and the tian is full. Sprinkle the top with cheese and place in the oven for 30 minutes at 375F/180C. Be sure there is enough liquid in the dish to prevent drying in the oven. Add a little water, if necessary.
If you want other ratatouille recipes, check out these past Sabbatical Chef blogposts:
Bon appétit, mes potes! Take a minute today to think about what is lit in your life. Make a little list. Try to take a break from “first world problems” and focus on what brings you joy. Even if it is rainy and chilly outside, you can warm your heart. I hope the day brings you much lit joy! Thank you for reading!
PS: Saw this is Sunday, Nov. 11’s newspaper and had to include it!