As suspected, the Thanksgiving holiday has temporarily upset my newfound equilibrium. As is so often the case, this was manifested first and foremost by a my sleep patterns being disrupted — I have slept like a baby for the past week and a half, but last night I had problems both falling and staying asleep. Ah well. I’ll make it up eventually.

Funnily enough, with all we did yesterday, I’d expected to be completely tired out at the end of the day. We went to the gym to lift weights again in the morning, where I was aided by “my” trainer, who was on floor patrol. I had just been telling Gabe how much I liked this guy’s lack of pushiness, but he disappointed me by offering to set up a free personal training session, just to see if I’d be interested in having regular (expensive) sessions. Ah well, he’s gotta make a living somehow.

After our workout and a quick change at home, we headed back out into the drizzly gray day to have lunch with the head of the local Princeton alumni association. She turned out to be a lovely, funny Canadian expat who has been living here for 20 years, after getting her undergrad degree from Princeton and her Master’s from LSE. So we were off to a good start right away, and enjoyed a lively lunch surrounded by achingly hip young things at a trendy cafe very near our flat.

We were delighted to find a different menu from what we’ve gotten used to seeing at restaurants here — i.e. it had things on it that I could actually eat, other than soup and salad. So I scarfed up my cous cous and grilled veggie platter, and Gabe his jacket potato topped with tuna. When it comes to food here, our stamp of approval is no longer a judgment on its quality, but rather, “Well, it’s something different!” In other words, anything that varies from the fish, meat, and overcooked veggies formula is a wonderful culinary feat.

Case in point: when Gabe’s potato arrived, both he and our new friend exclaimed at the presence of chives on top of it. She said she has never been able to find such a thing in her 20 years here, so we actually asked the waitress where they’d gotten them. She in turn had to ask the chef, who said you can get them at the supermarket.

When we disputed that fact, the waitress came back yet again and handed our friend a slip of paper with a name and number on it. She said, “This is the person the chef buys them from.” So there you go — we now have the secret chive connection. And no, in case you were wondering, we are not living in Soviet Russia.

This led to a general discussion of the lack of variety here, which has of course been a constant source of both frustration and wonder for us since our arrival. Our friend told us of an American woman she knows, who has been here since before the Revolution in 1974. This woman told her, “Girl, you have no idea how good you have it now.” If something as mundane as chives require an inside connection now, then no, I have no idea, and really don’t want to imagine, what it was like 40 years ago.

After our successful — and chive-full — lunch, we parted ways with our new Princetonian friend, promising to reconvene soon. We then hopped onto the metro to the nearest supermercado in hopes of discovering a greater variety of foodstuffs for our Faux-giving dinner on Friday — without having to use any secret connections.

Once there, we were richly rewarded by all kinds of treasures, including not only chives (ha!) but also — drumroll please — cranberry sauce! In a jar! We’d just about given up on having any such sweet sauce to accompany our roast chicken, but no, there it was, gathering dust at the very bottom of the jam/jellies shelf. I really never thought I’d be that excited to see canned cranberry sauce. It felt like a huge triumph.

We stocked up on all kinds of other fun and relatively exotic things (I even treated myself to a box of Cheerios for breakfast! woohoo!), and made our wet way home through the rain. Luckily the supermercado we’d picked was inside a shopping mall with direct access to the metro, so we only had to do one leg of the return trip outside. But since you can’t possibly get everything you need in just one stop here, or even two, Gabe soon had to head back out yet again into what was by then a total downpour in order to buy fresh fruits and veggies from the fruiteria.

He returned, bags and clothing soaked through, and proceeded to cook up a storm for the rest of the evening. We made potato-leek soup for the starter, poached pears for dessert, and attempted to supplement our treasured cranberry sauce by making a red-currant version of the real thing. I think we boiled it for too long though, because it kind of solidified into a brittle-like candy substance. We will try rehydrating it later to see if it makes any difference — or perhaps we’ll just pass it off as a traditional holiday candy for dessert! That’ll show ‘em.

Today, there is much more shopping and cooking still to come, although I’m not quite sure where we’ll put it all. Our tiny fridge and single cabinet are already packed full, the potatoes are perched in a bag on top of the fridge, and the fruit has overflowed to a second bowl on the dining table. And all this for only five people. I suspect we’ll be eating leftovers at least until we come home in 3 weeks’ time.

As for today though, we’ll be thinking of everyone at home (and hopefully talking to you too), wishing we were there but thankful for you all nonetheless. Enjoy your turkey and your cranberry sauce for us, and maybe even sprinkle some chives on something — just because you can!

Advertisements