Driving in a foreign country can be a puzzling challenge when you’re visiting.
As a resident, one may come to expect some of the strange behavior…. but one may still be a long way from actually understanding it.
Take the cacahuète, for example.
The peanut…. The nickname for a tiny little caricature of a car, but a car, nonetheless.
The first time one sees a cacahuète on the road one thinks they’re cute.
Then one gets behind one on a narrow, country road, driven (usually) by a little old man at a snail’s pace and one gets frustrated.
Can’t he go any faster?!?!?!?
Then one gets behind a cacahuète on a major road driven by a young man…. at the same snail’s pace….
You see…..the cacahuète is the car for people who aren’t legally allowed to drive car.
One doesn’t actually need a license to drive a cacahuète.
They’re not allowed on the motorways and they can’t go faster than about 50kph (30mph).
They’re meant for people who either never got a driver’s license or lost the one they had due to, oh, speeding or drunk driving or whatever, but still need a car for transportation.
One sees them most often in very rural, remote areas. I saw them in the Vendée but rarely here where there is more public transportation available.
They cost as much as a proper car, so it’s not an option that is entertained lightly.
Just remember to pay attention to the cute little cacahuète…. It’s not what it seems.
Then there is the fact that Europeans like to be close. One sees it in conversations: Europeans stand much closer than Americans.
It’s the only reason I can think of for the fact that there will be 3 cars on a country road and they will be so close together that, at first glance, one is certain they’re connected.
The scenario typically goes like this:
I pull out onto an empty road. Within seconds there is another car so close to my, er, rear bumper, that I can tell the woman dies her hair and had spinach quiche for lunch – or what brand of cigarette the man is smoking – this is a gender-neutral phenomenon.
She or he maintains the position for as long as I can stand it.
I finally slow down a bit, mistakenly thinking she wants to pass because she’s in a hurry.
She then pulls out (just as we reach a blind curve) and races past. She immediately pulls in, right in front of me and slows down to exactly the speed we were both going 5 minutes earlier.
I am now so close to her rear bumper she can lip-read the words I’m muttering to myself.
I have no explanation for this.
It just is.
We continue down the road… together.
We like to be close.
This is a reprint of an older recipe that I’ve updated just a wee bit.
With all the party food and sweets that cross our paths this time of year I think a bit of spice is a good antidote.
So is quick – this takes about 10 minutes!
Red Sauced Shrimp
The ginger, garlic and red pepper flakes add the heat but you could also add other hot sauce to taste.
12oz (350gr) cleaned shrimp
1 1/2 tbs minced ginger
3 cloves garlic, minced
6 green onions (scallions), sliced
2 tbs sherry
2 tbs soy sauce
2 tbs ketchup
1 tbs olive oil
1 tbs sesame or walnut oil
1 tbs cornstarch (maizena) dissolved in 2 tbs chicken stock
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
Heat oils in large nonstick skillet or wok over medium-high heat. When very hot add ginger, garlic, onion and red pepper flakes. Stir-fry for 1 minute. Add shrimp and stir-fry for 1 – 2 minutes longer, until shrimp turn opaque and start to curl. Add sherry, ketchup and soy sauce. Stir to combine. Stir cornstarch mixture to recombine, then add it to the shrimp, stirring constantly. Sauce will quickly thicken and coat shrimp. Remove and serve immediately.
In addition to this, for the week of December 17 we have Egg Drop Soup, Fried Rice. Braised Lamb with Red Peppers, White Chili, Meatballs in Red Wine….
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