The other morning, I learned that I was having extra people for lunch on a day I was cooking myself. I went to the one bakery in town that makes little rolls (also the only place to get whole wheat bread) but they were either out or didn’t make them that day. You have to get there early if you want whole wheat bread, in big round loaves that you can slice and use for toast, or grilled cheese sandwiches. It’s always a mystery to me why they don’t make more. Surely, I think, they can see that they’ve got a market—I’ve stood in a line of people asking for “pain complet.” But no. You snooze; you lose. If you don’t get there by 9 or so for the rounds or the little rolls or even the baguettes complet, you will just have to have white baguettes like everybody else in the entire town!

I had planned roast chicken and this great salad I had this summer at a friend’s, where you roast potatoes, blanche green beans till they’re crisp-tender, mix in red onion and kalamata olives with a rosemary vinaigrette—it’s yummy. But would it be enough with extra people? I decided to make another salad.

You can’t always find trustworthy lettuce here. Lettuce can have problems that can’t necessarily be solved by a little judicious bleaching to kill bugs, both visible and non-visible. Because it’s water-based, the leaf itself can hold germs from the water used in its formative state. Sometimes local lettuce is watered with sewer water, which makes driving by the gardens a real olfactory treat. Even bleaching this lettuce will not help—you will still get sick. Donn is especially cautious about lettuce, being more sensitive in his tummy than I am. Sometimes, when its available, we buy imported-from-Europe lettuce for a change, but usually we just make other kinds of salads.

So I chopped tomatoes, green pepper, cucumber, opened tins of corn (added starch! Filling!) and beetroot, and mix it all together. Usually with this sort of salad, I would put on a vinaigerette. But I was already putting a vinaigrette on the potato salad. Hmm…

So I mixed mayonnaise and a little milk, then added celery salt and one of those spice mix things that has garlic and black pepper and who knows what else in it (no msg though. They are very clear about that). And it was really good, simple and easy. I was ridiculously proud of the fact that I figured this out all by myself.

This is an advantage of life overseas. You learn to make all sorts of things you never made back home. I make my own salsa, I’ve tried tortillas and given up and use Arabic bread (pita bread) instead, I make hummus, I make salad dressing, I make taco-spice seasoning. I never used mixes much even in the States, but now I never do—except for falafel, which you can buy in a box here.

 

In other news, Michelle has found an apartment! She was taken to this apartment building (with about 8 units) several times by different realtors, but no one ever had the keys so she couldn’t see inside. Finally they found someone with the keys last week, and she signed the contract next day. That was on a Thursday afternoon though, and Friday people only work in the morning. She visited the electric company on Friday morning, and was told to come back Monday at 9:00. Accordingly, Monday at 9:00 found her at the office required. They told her to come back at 2:00. She went back at 2:00, and was told—you got it!—to come back at 4:30. At 4:30, they said tomorrow. Tuesday morning they said, “Be at the apartment between 4 and 6; if we don’t come then, be there from 9 to 1 tomorrow morning.”

But she knew how to beat them. She went prepared—with her laptop, a book, water bottle, snacks, and her cell phone. Sure enough, they showed up at 4:05. This has actually gone quite smoothly. Everyone knows it will take at least 5 visits to get your electricity and water turned on; it often takes more.

Today she is there with an electrician and a plumber, fixing a broken pipe, various outlets, etc. All minor things. Tomorrow she’ll clean, and then she’ll move in. She’s very excited—she’s been with me 6 weeks now. Time to be in her own place, unpack her own stuff. She’s not going to be far away though—still close enough for a phone call. “Michelle? Are you going out early in the morning? Would you mind picking me up some of those round loaves?

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