Question: How long must one live in Europe before being able to adopt the same trusting attitude as the native-born?
Answer: More than 12 years.
That's how long I've been here and I still can't do it.
Many years ago (I seem to be living in the past lately) mon mari needed a watch repaired.
He inherited a very expensive gold watch from his father and it wasn't working. We couldn't find anyone to repair it in the US so we took it with us on a trip to Europe.
We took it back home to Switzerland.
We found the 'factory' in Geneva and walked in with the watch.
A gentleman came out of the back room, inspected the watch and assured us he could fix it, but it would take a few weeks; could he have our address and he would mail it to us when it was repaired.
We gave him our address.
He took it, dropped the watch in his pocket, nodded good bye and walked away.
He had the watch and our address (Pfft!).
We had nothing.
We didn't have a receipt; we didn't know his name.
We had nothing.
We left, hoping for the best; doubting we'd ever see the watch again.
Four months later it arrived in the post, working perfectly, with an invoice enclosed.
We should have had faith.
Last week, I stopped at one of the small post offices that dot the road between Vlad's House and our house, to mail my package for Season's Eatings.
It was the first time I'd been in this one.
Inside the door, to the left is a young woman sitting behind a counter. On top of the counter are a few magazines; under it is a large basket of baguettes. Sitting on the floor is a little boy playing with trucks.
To the right is another counter with the official cards and signs of the French Post office.
Behind the two counters is a living room and through a door one can glimpse a kitchen.
When my turn came, the young woman got up from the 'baguette' counter, walked around a post and sat at the 'post office' counter. She looked at me, smiled and asked to help.
I noticed that she was wearing bedroom slippers.
I gave her the package and watched while she weighed it, than searched, at length, on her computer to figure out the postage. She'd glance up every few minutes to reconfirm that it was, indeed, going to the U.S.
Finally, she told me the price and I handed over the money.
She smiled and said "Merci".
I said "Is that it?"
No forms to fill out? No custom declaration? Value form? Insurance? Identifying paperwork? Location of first born son?
She smiled. Oui!
I know it will never get there.
I've sent stuff before. It was never this easy.
It will never get there.
I couldn't hardly ask for it back, could I?
Now what do I do…..
Hope, I guess… Have faith, and all that…
Or. snap out of it and make something comforting.
Like Scalloped Potatoes.
I have come to the conclusion, after many nanoseconds of exhaustive research, that Scalloped Potatoes are simply the Midwestern version of Cheesy Au Gratins, made with less cheese and more milk.
To put it in Lake Woebegone terms: a Norwegian Lutheran Thrifty version.
Whatever, they're good. My mother always put Spam in hers.
Yes, I said Spam.
I would have, but, funny thing, they don't sell it here. I'll have to move to Hawaii….
4 medium potatoes
1 cup milk
3oz (90gr) Gruyère
1 tbs butter
pinch of nutmeg
Cut onion in half, then in half again, (so you have onion quarters) and slice as thinly as possible. Slice potatoes as thinly as possible with a sharp knife.
Melt butter in a large skillet. Add onions and sauté until soft. Remove onto a plate and set aside. Add potatoes, 1/2 cup milk and heat to just below boiling. Remove skillet from heat.
To assemble: Put 1/2 of the potatoes in the bottom of deep baking dish, spreading out with a spoon or spatula. Spread the onions evenly on top of the potatoes. Layer the cheese on the onions. Top with the rest of the potatoes. Pour the remaining 1/2 cup milk over all, cover and bake (325F, 160C) for 60 – 75 minutes. Uncover for last 15 minutes of baking time. Remove and serve.
Note: Whenever I am baking potatoes with a liquid: gratin, scalloped, Savoyard, etc. I always put the baking dish/dishes on a baking sheet covered in foil. They almost always bubble over and this saves on oven clean up. Just wrap up the mess and toss!
Sorry, Mom…. I didn't put any Lipton Onion soup in either. Same reason as the Spam.
And, yes I know I didn't peel the potatoes!!!! (I rarely do – waste of the best part)