In October 2008 I untacked a post-it note advertisement from the dirty gray wall at The University of Burgundy and tucked it into my purse on my way to class.
“Looking for a student to babysit and speak English with three French boys.”
Easy way to earn some extra spending cash, I thought. Funny how things work out…
Two years after I first started “working” with Jules, Emile, and Lucien, I’ve resumed my roles as board game-referee, vocabulary reinforcer, pronunciation perfector, and captive (or captivated!) audience to three genuine comedians.
I count these three — along with their awesome mom and dad — among my greatest blessings here in France.
On Friday we tried something a little out of the ordinary of our normal board game routine. We baked cookies. It wasn’t even my idea — it was Jules, 16 and the oldest, who suggested that it would help their English to learn cooking vocabulary. (Yes, you can take this as an indicator of how awesome these boys are). A sixteen year old who wants to cook…and speak English while doing it? I wasn’t going to argue with that.
I bought the ingredients to make Mom’s chocolate chip oatmeal cookies — a rare treat in France, and an easy start to our cooking adventures. (In addition to the supermarche, I stopped by the pharmacy to buy baking soda, which apparently is only used to clean teeth in this country.) Walking to their house, I did a mental inventory of all I had bought and reassured myself that if there were anything else we needed we could find it chez eux.
…And then I learned what Mom always meant about 1.) the necessity of a sifter and 2.) the fact that you can’t replace the sifter with any other tool, including, but not limited to, a potato masher, a colander, or a strainer — no matter how small the holes are.
Besides adding a few blue sugar crystals a la Emile, we did everything according to the recipe…except that we didn’t have a sifter (like I said, cookies aren’t too popular in France) and so, after eyeballing a potato-masher (?) and a colander, we used a strainer to “evenly distribute” the flour, baking soda, and baking powder.
It didn’t work.
Whatever. The cookies were delicious. Between the laughs and the “ah, well, we’ll do better next time”s, I delighted in sharing with my little French brothers something that tasted like home — even if Mom’s always look one hundred times better.