Lindsay, Bordeaux, France
I donʼt know about the rest of you, but once Thanksgiving rolls around, I say goodbye to any semblance of moderation. A third helping of leftover sweet potato casserole? Donʼt mind if I do. Playing every Christmas song (and their multiple re-made versions) on repeat at a ludicrous volume? Done. Binge-watching Love Actually? Yes. Mulled wine after mulled wine after mulled wine… well, you get the picture.
So when I started thinking about what I wanted to make for my loved ones this year as a holiday treat (because my lack of limits also extends to my gift-giving tendencies), I thought to myself, “So long to the practical, the sensible, and the predictable!” I wanted something sumptuous and scrumptious that would bring a smile to peopleʼs faces, but also something that you donʼt see everyday. Donʼt get me wrong, Iʼm all for the nostalgic classics of Christmas sugar cookies, gingerbread houses, fudge, etc. But this year, I wanted to do something different.
In France, especially in the south of France, duck is very popular. In any typical French restaurant, you will find duck breast or duck confit on the menu, usually accompanied by a heaping pile of fries (or chunky potatoes cooked in duck fat, which is by far my personal favorite). You can find duck liver pâté, duck broth, and a whole duck leg is an integral player in a bowl of cassoulet. But these are all salty things, so you maybe be asking yourself, “What does duck have to do with Christmas goodies?? This lady is on some crazy tangent!” Think again, my friends.
I stumbled upon this recipe and had a coup de cœur just from the title: salted duck fat caramels. Thatʼs right, you read correctly. Kiss your sticks of butter goodbye and grab yourself a jar of duck fat, ʻcause these little babies are succulent morsels of delight. I made some on Friday for a test-run, and as I write this on Sunday, there are no more to be found. The recipe makes about 50. There are only two of us in this apartment. You do the math.
I found the recipe here: http://tideandthyme.com/salted-duck-fat-caramels/. If you want softer, chewy caramels, only cook it to 242 degrees F (116.5 C). Thatʼs how I like them.
I hope some of you try them out and enjoy them as much as I did! À la prochaine!
Mika, Washington, D.C.
Ella, Llangefni, Wales
So the theme for this week is Goodbye. It’s a difficult subject to talk about, not just because of the obvious fact that goodbyes more often than not suck. But if we diverge a little from the usual heart wrenching side, there are so many positive goodbyes one can make, saying goodbye for now as you leave on an incredible adventure, or a big fat buh-bye to a toxic presence in your life.
Going back to goodbyes possibly leading to an adventure, or at least to something good, I feel this is a good time to mention the Welsh way of saying goodbye is “Hwyl Fawr” which literally translated means “big fun.” Not only is that cute, but I also think it sums up the amount of good potential so many goodbyes have within them, even if we don’t see it right away. I found it when I changed my degree program and had 5 days’ notice to pack my bags and move to France for a year, having thought that I’d be returning to Cardiff. Were it not for having to say all those (albeit temporary) goodbyes to my friends, I would never have had one of the best years of my life, nor would I have met some of the greatest friends I could ever have asked for (which incidentally is how I came to be writing on this blog).
I guess what I’m trying to say through all this rambling is that there can be a lot of good in a goodbye, even if it takes a long time to realise that.
I can’t say I’ve had to part ways with anyone or anything lately, at least not in a significant way. Unless saying goodbye to having a non-tattooed foot counts? No? Didn’t think so. And it hasn’t even been tattoo-less for 5 years. Anyway I want to take this moment to show off my new ink. Subtle, I know. I’ll be getting some colour added in the new year, but for now I love how cute it is. Also I have named it Cupid, because of the bow and arrow, and the fact that I got it done at a tattoo convention called Cariad (love) ink. I went along to this convention last year and it was so much fun even without getting anything done, there’s just something so cool about being able to walk round a room and getting to see all these amazing artists at work, even if having a bunch of total strangers watching you getting stabbed several times a second is really weird. You may have guessed that the other larger foot in the photo is not mine, it belongs to my better half and his tattoo is of the soot sprites from Totoro and Spirited Away, coincidentally both tattoos were done by the same artist too!
Clare, Paris, France
‘Au revoir’ and the bakery’s bell above the door rings. It’s so much more positive than the English ‘good bye’. Even if we take it in its full form, ‘God be with you’, the French is just so much more optimistic in terms of human relations – literally ‘until the re-seeing’. And that’s the thing, in this crazily populated world, we do see each other again.
Certainly, social media has revolutionised this (though there’s no excitement quite like receiving post and reading a good letter). But even the pre-Internet era saw the theory of ‘six degrees of separation’ and the world is a crazily small place and you never know who you might bump into.
Walking through Victoria Coach Station in London a couple of years ago I saw a girl looking up at the arrivals screen, piercingly, as though this would turn arrivals into departures. I thought: ‘hmmm, she looks familiar… but it can’t be her, she lives in Italy. But? No, be reasonable, she lives in Italy.’ My initial urge was to go and poke her, not very socially acceptable, especially if it were the wrong person. Yet after those hesitant glances we realised it was the other and within a couple of seconds it was as if no time had passed at all.
Then there are longer coincidences. I live on the same road as my old flatmate in Paris by sheer chance and affordable rent. Likewise, in London, we rent a flat in the building next to one of my other old school friends who comes from the same town as me in the middle of nowhere. We discovered we were neighbours randomly through Facebook. He now runs a brewery within walking distance that makes amazing beer in London – http://www.hopstuffbrewery.com.
I will happily carry some Hop Stuff bottles to tonight’s gatherings in Paris where I will be reunited with friends from university who live and work on both sides of the channel. At the same time we’ll all make new acquaintances and whoever knows where that will lead. And if the inevitable punch is a bit too strong I might even end up eating the Lucky Charms that are meant to be on their way to Italy. Better hide them….
So au revoir mes chers amis, and until then I send you some seemingly festive Jeff Koon’s love from the Centre Pompidou. À la prochaine!
Caroline, Hamburg, Germany
I have to begin this post with an apology – we are meant to write about one specific day but my day in the office was rather uneventful. Of course, with the right attitude, I could find something worthy of your time but I’d much rather reflect on ‘goodbyes’ in a more general manner. There are so many types of goodbyes – there is the simple “I know I’ll see you soon” but then there are also goodbyes that feel much more final.
Three months ago I was faced with the latter type – yet again I had to bid farewell to a place, people and life I loved. I realized that saying goodbye is one of the few things that does not get easier with practice. In the weeks to come I felt ever so slightly lost, frustrated and had troubles moving on. Reverse culture shock might have been an issue as well, but that’s a different story.
Three weeks ago I went back to St Andrews and did not want to leave; this week I was back again and graduated. And then something in my brain clicked: You cannot move on if you don’t have some kind of closure. You write your life story chapter by chapter and sometimes you find yourself unwilling to finish a sentence and turn the page. This limbo between the past and the present prohibits you from starting a new chapter and from moving on. Graduation in this case completed one chapter of my life and now I simply have to face it: no more student discount. Please do excuse this painful attempt to lighten up the mood. My perspective has now altered and I can look back at the incredible memories from a distance, able to embrace my current chapter: Hamburg.
Saying goodbye is bittersweet – without goodbyes there are no “hellos”, no “it’s so good to see you again” and no “I’ve missed you”. And without goodbyes there are no new beginnings or second chances. During our lives we will often find ourselves at some kind of crossroad, having to decide whether to take a turn or continue ahead. I believe that no matter what path we decide to take, no matter if we lose sight of some people, paths may always cross again. One chapter of you life might be over, people will come in and out of your life but some are there to stay – reappearing chapter after chapter. Maybe the goodbyes that might feel final are just a “I’ll see you soon” after all. You might have guessed it already: I’ve already booked flights to visit St Andrews.
Kirsten, Hawzein, Tigray, Ethiopia
“Ciao!” is what I say nowadays to bid farewell. Not in Italy, but in Ethiopia.
You may know that the Italians occupied (or colonized if you ask Mika’s Italian dad) Ethiopia for about five years. You may also argue that some of Italian culture seeped into everyday Ethiopian life. First, there are macchiatos, which are really more like sickly sweet Starbucks lattes (1/3 coffee, 1/3 milk, and 1/3 sugar, all in an espresso sized cup). Then there is the beautiful, strong, and fruity-toned coffee that is also served in espresso sized cups. Whenever I get the chance I try to take mine without sugar so I can enjoy the bitter, aromatic and natural flavors of the coffee. Man, Ethiopians know how to do coffee right!
First of all, there is Wi-Fi Internet and oh how I love the Internet. I wish that I could say that I love the Internet because it is the gateway to enriching brain food such as BBC News and scintillating articles. But I’d have to say my instant gratification comes from mindless activities such as being able to watch the latest trailer for the sequel to an American movie about an all-girl A cappella group. Second of all, it’s a Western-style fairyland oasis. Not only does it have amenities like a Western toilet, but also there are soft couches that aren’t like the local stool-like chairs that are only six inches off the ground.
Whenever I come into contact with (typically European) tourists at the lodge I often (in a self-righteous manner) think that I am “tougher” than they are. For two years I will sacrifice Western amenities by taking cold showers and using squat toilets, while those sissys “rough it” with their two-week long vacation in places (like the lodge) with hot showers, porcelain thrones and northern Italian dry red wine.
But then I consider myself in comparison to the local Ethiopians who will never own a computer, never go out of the country, and (gasp) maybe never use a Western toilet.
Nearly all locals here will never say ciao to this place. The unfair and stark reality is that I have the privilege to bid farewell and return back into a world of comfort at a moment’s notice.
Nearly every summer since the year of my birth, my family has embarked upon camping endeavors whose salient presence in my life is difficult to qualify. I come from one of those families, you know, those families who seem to revolve around their own planet where outsiders are graciously permitted entry, and for those who succeed in learning the language, may be gloriously sucked into the Brady ether. And much of this unique, familial identity is interwoven in the annual camping narrative.
I’ll give you an example : I, perhaps more than the any other member of my family save my mother, have an unshakeable habit of losing the ability to speak when something strikes me as really and truly hilarious. One summer between my high school years, the fam was enjoying an intoxicatingly pleasant evening dinner at our campsite when my eldest brother mistakenly picked up a romaine lettuce leaf in lieu of a napkin. He proceeded to dab at his mouth like any well-mannered man, refolded his leafy assistant and carry on with his meal as per usual – employing his green cloth as often as needed. While the comedy value might be lost on anyone reading such an account, I can assure you that on that particular night, I have never cried more from laughter. That event now lives on in Brady lore.
So on Friday, when I found myself packing for a weekend camping adventure with friends, all these tales and experiences were inevitably bounding through my mind. And when the three of us were finally settled at our site, plastic cups of wine in hand before a hodgepodge feast, I realized why it is so very important to me to periodically say goodbye to the trappings of the quotidian life: your most genuine self can only come out when you are not concerned about the inescapable ugly laugh/cry face.
Most days, we – and I would say women especially – are wrapped up in the game of “keeping up appearances.” We try to find the appropriate middle ground of expression, interaction and presentation. But when you drop the show, all you are left with is you. Sometimes you might want to cry, or laugh, or cry with laughter, and those are all parts of you. We bid adieu in order to rediscover some essential elements of ourselves. And while it is so divinely good to be you, it is also unspeakably reassuring to notice that, across the picnic table, there is someone there, handing you a handkerchief, or a leaf of Romaine.