Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Christmas Adventures Part Deux: In which I finally get to eat Chipotle.

Right, so where did I leave off? Ah yes, in Chicago, on the bus with Erica, on my way to Chipotle. Thankfully there happens to be a Chipotle outpost right across the street from Erica's bus stop. So I made her hold all my luggage while I went in. Such were my need and excitement for this pseudo-Mexican delight that I couldn't even be bothered to pass go or collect $200 (or pee, which I also needed to do pretty badly), before indulging. I was so thrilled, I was even blabbering to the cashier about it. She probably thought I was off my rocker. And maybe I was, a little bit... it had been a long day. I took a picture of it when I got it home:

Nom nom nom...
But why this burrito obsession, you might ask. Well actually, it has less to do with the burrito (although I do enjoy a good burrito) and more to do with the spice factor. As I may or may not have explained before (I really can't be asked to remember what I've written in previous posts), French food is great and all, but French cuisine has no concept whatsoever of spiciness. Take, for example, fry sauce. When you order fries here, you typically have your choice of 5-10 dipping sauces for them, and your options are generally the same in every fry shop. "Samourai" sauce is supposed to be the spiciest, and frequently, if you order it, the person at the counter will say "Are you sure? It's reallllllly spicy. Do you want to try it first? Are you SURE?" making you wonder what you could potentially be getting yourself into. But then when you taste it, you must immediately assume that all the questioning is some cruel form of French mockery, because in fact it is about as spicy as your average "mild" wing sauce or taco sauce in the US. And Samourai sauce truly is about the spiciest condiment you can find in France. It is extremely difficult even to find jalapenos or chilis here, to make your own spicy sauces. And the thing is, I wouldn't ever claim to be a spicy food fanatic, or even a spicy food lover. In general (with the exception of Thai food), I prefer my plates to be on the milder side. But what I have come to realize about the differences between French and American cuisines is that in America, spiciness is a huge component of flavor, whereas in France they focus more on different aspects of flavor like the sharpness of a cheese or the saltiness of butter. Maybe their palettes are more refined. Maybe they are just pansies. But regardless, I had an immediate need for Chipotle in my life.

So, primal needs sated, I commenced catching up with my bestie. Erica is in her first year of a PsyD program (that's a clinical practice-based doctorate in psychology... the girl is smart and will be a helluva therapist someday) in Chicago at Argosy University. Apparently the program is kicking her @$$ but she is doing well and enjoying her studies. I told her about my life in France thus far, and we shared some of my favorite French cookies and my favorite bottle of French wine. It was really wonderful to see and catch up with her, and I felt like we didn't have nearly enough time together before I left for Indy on the Megabus the next day. But who knows? Maybe I, too, will end up in Chicago for grad school.

The journey from Chicago to Indy on the Megabus was... trying. Those of you who have driven or otherwise traveled between these two lovely cities know that there is always some kind of major traffic jam or other issue on I-65, usually affecting traffic in the direction you are (or want to be) traveling (Murphy's law at work, folks). And of course my journey was no different. There was a jack-knifed semi just North of Rensselaer (barely out of Chicago!) that had us stuck in traffic for nearly 2 hours, during which time we traveled less than 5 miles. At this point I was prepared to walk to Indianapolis if I had to. I truly could not have been more frustrated with the situation. I was exhausted, it was hot and stinky on the bus, we were still at least two hours from Indy even after we got out of traffic, and I just wanted to get hoooooooooome! But eventually we got through the bottleneck and the driver made up a little bit of our lost time, and I got to Indy only about an hour and a half later than I'd planned. My sister, Allison, picked me up at the bus stop, and I was elated to see her smiling (well, more like smirking... she is 18 after all) face. We are very close, and it has been very difficult to be away from her, because we both have quite busy schedules and find it hard to find time when we can talk on the phone or Skype while I am here. From the bus stop she took me to Chateau de Ville, the Indy apartment complex otherwise known as friend central. Five or six of my very close friends live there, and it is also where my dog Stewie has been residing since I left, so it was the obvious next stop.

After that things start to blur together a little bit. I spent about half of my time in New Castle with my family, and about half of it in Indy with friends. Drinks were consumed, shows attended, trees decorated, carols sung. And Christmas with my family is always a really special and enjoyable time. We are a pretty hilarious crew by nature, but add wine and a deck of cards to that, and all bets are off. I think our favorite family pastime may be busting each others chops. That or seeing who can out-cheat whom at euchre or Scrabble (my aunt, Kate, is the both the biggest cheater and the biggest chop buster). And even though church isn't really my thing these days, I also always enjoy the candlelight Christmas Eve service at my parents' church. Something about candlelight and Christmas carols always gives me that warm-fuzzy holiday feeling. I didn't have many presents under the tree, as my plane ticket home was my real present, but just getting to be home with everyone during such a family-oriented time of year was really special and wonderful, and I couldn't have been happier to be there.

I had planned to leave the states and fly back to France on the 26th, with Kate-the-cheater-and-chop-buster in tow. We had grand plans to celebrate the New Year in Norway (where she had her own study abroad adventure when she was about my age), and to explore Paris and Germany, but with all the snow on the East coast of the US and in Northern Europe, our flights were canceled. Kate is a professor at Butler University and had a finite amount of vacation time before having to return to class, so she got a refund for her plane ticket and may come in the Spring before I leave, or we may return together over the summer. I obviously had to come back, and was able to reschedule my flight for the 29th. I was really sad that my plans with Kate were foiled for the time being, but I was also really happy to have an extra three days at home. I hadn't quite been ready to say goodbye to my friends in Indy on the 23rd before heading back to New Castle to spend Christmas with the fam, so getting to spend a couple more days with them was perfect. Even if all we did was sit on the couch and play Wii. But that's one of the things I really appreciate about my group of friends... I can be gone for three months and when I come back we pick up right where we left off... sitting on the couch, playing Wii.

And that's about all I have to say about that. I'll leave you with a cute picture of Lily (one of my parents' dogs) and my sister. Next up: my harrowing journey back to France and New Year's Eve in Brussels.



  1. Hey!!! Having the biggest vocabulary in the family is not cheating at Scrabble!!!

    Katie-The NOT Cheater

  2. Allison will hate me for saying this, but in that picture she looks exactly like your mom, right down to the look on her face.

  3. Two things:
    1) You don't actually have the biggest vocabulary in the family if half of the words are of your own creation.

    2) She does look exactly like Mom in that picture... I didn't even notice until you pointed it out. I see blackmail and exploitation in our future.

  4. You know, you mom is making Allison a graduation scrapbook. We need to make our own...