Rose Meringues (On Perseverance)

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Pot after pot after pot yielded little more than one more frustrated sigh than the last. Pan after pan held lackluster, pale shells that were dry at best and at worst, extremely doughy. Slowly defeat overcame me, and I accepted that the glorious speculoos éclairs I had envisioned hours earlier were not going to be realized today.

Looking at the egg whites I had amassed from several recipes, including the many batches of failed éclairs, I settled on making meringues the following weekend. But I couldn’t help but appreciate the fiasco, as frustrating as it was.

Baking teaches you a lot of things.

To be organized, to mise en place.

To manage your time, for beautiful bread.

To set goals, to learn.

To see the big picture and small details.

To appreciate the work, so you can have beauty.

Baking teaches perseverance, and it’s a very cheap lesson. For a few cups of flour and sticks of butter, I learned to try again. I learned to look at what went wrong; to observe the details; to adapt. I learned to focus on the result I wanted, and not give up because the first try was a failure.

Life is kind of like baking. You’ll want to be organized and have a goal in mind. But when the bread falls flat or the éclairs are too doughy, you don’t want to give up. You want to learn from your errors, adjust the strategy. You want to see what the final product could be. And you have to commit to trying again. And again, and again.

Whatever you’re working on right now—if it’s going great, that is fantastic. But if you’re struggling, don’t give up! This bread is flat, but your next one can rise. You only need to choose to get up. Be encouraged!


For the meringues

I based mine on a recipe in Pâtisserie Made Simple (Edd Kimber) and added rose water for flavoring. Floral notes always win me over with their delicate, heady punch. One to two teaspoons of rose water should do it, otherwise it’s like eating soap.

Lavender Lemon Pots de Crème

The spice shelves were dismal. The bulk spice section had been terminated. And no other grocery store seemed to stock it.

Time was ticking, and I still had no lavender. And, my rational self was screaming, “who does not keep lavender in stock!?!?!?!?!?!!?” Everyone, apparently.

Hedging a bet, I hoped into the Dragonfly (our lil’ red electric car) and zipped over to my favorite French bakery in the Tri-Valley, Sugarie. Faintly remembering they sold lavender-flavored goodies, I was now banking on being able to buy straight-up lavender from them.

A buttery scent greeted me, along with a case of pastries, as a scurried in. A mother was leaving with her toddler, who exuberantly hugged “Mr. Russ” (one of the owners) goodbye.

“Do I know you?” Mr. Russ asked. He squinted his eyes.

“I went to France last year,” I said. “You may not recognize me. I just cut my hair.”

“Oh, it’s you!” he exclaimed, and Natalie, his wife and co-owner, looked up. Their faces lit up with recognition.

“I’ve come to ask you guys a favor,” I said. “Will you sell me some lavender? I can’t find it anywhere else.”

“Honey,” Mr. Russ exclaimed. “Did you hear this? This girl just gets back from France and now she’s asking for favors!” he said, jokingly.

We laugh as Natalie scoops a couple tablespoons into a white paper pastry bag and seals it with a sticker. They won’t let me pay for it, but I leave money anyway.

And that, my friends, is how this post came alive today.


Hi friends.

After bumbling through my first actual week back here in the Bay, I’ve decided to implement my spring-semester epiphany.

In an effort to live out my francophile-ness (even more), this blog is doing a lil’ pivot to be my soap box for all things French. But don’t worry! I’ll still be talking about all the other stuff…but French recipes, novels, cookbooks, events, finds, fashions-anything French- is coming at ya. I hope you stick around.

So in the spirit of summer and my love of all things floral, my dear friend Haley and I made lavender-white chocolate pots de crème (literally “pots of cream”) from Baking Chez Moi by one of my fav authors, Dorie Greenspan!!

Haley and I have an unofficial cooking show (you can find it on Instagram stories- @mllemarissa) where we try out new recipes. Always- or very usually- dessert. And I got to choose (again), so I decided to conquer my fear of custards. Because water baths sounded scary and I am lazy, indeed.

Dorie Greenspan Pots de Creme

Here are les notes (the notes…) if you, like me, are planning to tackle your fear of custards.

  • 8oz ramekins are fine
  • A 9×13 pan is sufficient. Forget the roasting pan.
  • The white chocolate…is not very prominent. I think it plays the role of extra sweetening agent and extra richness.
  • Don’t walk away from the cream mixture. It will explode. Or at least overflow.  (Speaking from experience.)
  • Caramelizing sugar on top adds nice textural contrast, and slightly burned sugar adds a sharp bitterness to cut the creamy, floral custard.
  • Don’t caramelize the sugar with a lighter. You actually need a blow torch. I am speaking again from recent experience. (Let’s just say, 20 minutes to torch half the sugar, a dead lighter, and tired arms.)

Here’s Dorie’s recipe for caramel pots de crème, which is not too different from what’s in the book. Just melt 4 oz of white chocolate with 1/2 cup of the cream and add when you temper the eggs.

A Year On

The incense sticks are nibbled down by orange embers, and the smoke is thick in my throat. Smoke dissipates up toward the mantle, where the ashes are, between two candlesticks. The left one is burning more quickly. Tears are on the verge of cascading down my face, but I hate crying in front of people.

A year on. I can pretend nothing’s changed during the week, but the silence on Skype every weekend is overwhelming. A few weeks ago, I stumbled upon the last messages he sent. Nothing super special, but they were his words. The messages are old though, and the damn Internet has probably deleted them.

Now I understand why people still call just to listen to their loved one’s voicemail. Why they scroll through their social media feeds, why they keep the emails. Even the clothes.

We cleaned out the closet, Nye Nye and me, and hauled a trunkful of clothes to Salvation Army. Driving away, I felt like I was leaving a small piece of him behind in the blazers and shirts I had placed in the bin, left to warm in the blazing, muggy heat of summer.

The candles are extinguished, but the haziness of the incense remains, lingering, a memory. We embark on year two without you, but that doesn’t get easier. The world still turns like nothing has changed, but I think of you every day.

Junior (*gulp*) Year Reflections

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Me oh my, what a year.

As is often the case around here, it’s been a while, friends. I’ll make my excuses, but it’s up to you to decide whether or not they’re good.

After returning from France (and currently plotting my way back!!), I jumped into the deep end with intro classes for journalism. I filled out the paperwork in France and enrolled in a poorly-orchestrated schedule of my own design. Lesson: it’s okay to take things slow. That was a lesson gleaned in hindsight, because as they say, hindsight is 20/20. Although, I’d still question mine, because my regular eyesight is horrendous and I’d wager I’m legally blind without my glasses.

All classes except one required a good deal of reporting, so I spent most of the semester running around both Boston and Cambridge doing research, interviewing sources, gathering photos, and then plunking down on my bed for hours to organize, draft, edit, and do more research. I was a grumpy cat this semester.

Despite my grumpy cat status, it was a transformative semester, academically speaking. I learned a lot. I had the pleasure of making acquaintances I otherwise would have passed by. I finally understood what it meant to love something because I love writing. As much as the workload was stressful, I never felt obliged nor burdened. Starting assignments was difficult at times, but always immensely satisfying in a way other fields (except French) have never been.

That being said, I don’t know if I want to go into journalism as a full-time career, but I’ve picked up techniques, sharpened my writing skills, and learned so much. I’m grateful for that, and though I hate uncertainty and volatility, the biggest lesson of this year has been that God is faithful.

Faithful as in, He may not follow your plans, but He never ceases to walk along side you. Many times this semester I thought I would have a meltdown. Not a tantrum, but a committed-to-an-institution meltdown. There were too many things out of my control (and that are still out of my control) this past year, and while God has not provided answers, he has provided, graciously, peace beyond understanding.

I freely admit I detest- no, abhor- the lack of answers. Often I find myself enraged. But I have also received His peace, a soft whisper to my heart, telling me not to worry. Against my mind’s better judgement, my heart listened.

The second thing I’ve learned is that you have something to say. I’ve never believed that I have anything to say. I don’t like trouble. I’ll take things as they come. But this semester I’ve had to deal with confrontation and contribution as I’ve bumbled my way through membership on the Navigators’ student leadership team. That itself was surprising because I almost quit on two occasions. But it was probably one of the better decisions I made this semester.

My last takeaway (although there are many more), is not profound. Only this: it’s never too late to start.

I’ve been telling myself since freshman year that I would write for the school newspaper, but never mustered up the courage to join. Well, this semester, I did, and wrote for the features section. It’s not a huge accomplishment by any means, but I’m proud of myself for following through with a small goal.

Also, I lied. There’s one more thing- let life surprise you. It’s part of the adventure.

[Changes are coming to this little site of mine. Hope you’ll stick around. xxx]

 

Paris is Always a Good Idea

Contrary to what the silence on the blog may have led you to believe, much has happened since Montpellier. Lots of exams! But, after exams came 10 glorious days of vacation, one of which I spent in my favorite city.

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I can’t explain it, but Paris possesses a simply magical quality. The grand boulevards, Haussmann architecture, all the monuments, the pastry shops (of course!), the history, and the light- soft and sweet- together, all these elements give the city a romantic and nostalgic quality- as soon as you taste it, you’ll fall in love, too, and you’ll never want to leave.

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It’s been four years since I last saw Paris, so while on the train this time around, I was worried. I knew it had been a while…so what if Paris disappointed me? I had an elaborate, idealized dream of what she should be- what if she failed to live up to everything?

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But, no- like an dear friend, Paris welcomed me with open arms and once again, I was captivate by her beauty. In Paris, one has permission to dream a little bit. That is, I believe, the reason that so many fall in love with her. In Paris, it seems that anything is possible…and nothing is impossible.

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I spent the entire day walking throughout the city…and still didn’t cover everything on my list. Paris is not a city to be seen in a day. No, to do her justice you could spend a lifetime there. I ended up not taking many photos- Paris, in my unsolicited opinion, is best seen in the early morning, without the fellow tourists. But I also wanted to soak it all in- Paris has a certain feeling of je ne sais quoi, and it’s an enchanting one that begs to be imprinted on your memory for you, and only you. It was the most beautiful dream of my life and the one I will never forget.

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Montpellier

It’s a quintessential town in southern France, with plenty of light, warmth, and buildings that sparkle in the sun. There are people milling about, looking to be delighted; fountains trickle gently and statues stand, ever watchful.

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The fun part about having (almost) no agenda and traveling alone is stumbling across small quirks. On this particular day, an organization was campaigning for breast cancer awareness. One of the streets was covered in jolly pink umbrellas, giving it a rosy hue.

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Of course, I also live for the small pleasures of brilliant, classical architecture and fresh, vibrant flowers, of which both were plentiful. The flowers were awfully expensive, though. I’ll stick with my local florist in Grenoble.

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I really had no agenda coming to Montpellier, aside from a few “touristy” places that I wanted to see in person. This included the Promenade du Peyrou, which was part of a re-beautification project in the 1700’s (?). It’s an elegant little space complete with a majestic pavilion and two romantic tree-lined walkways. The light’s really brilliant.

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Making my way back toward the center of town, I took a few detours through side streets and was happily surprised to find little bursts of color. The French have excellent taste in doors, each unique and more charming than the one before.

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Montpellier didn’t woo me like the other cities have, and I don’t think I would revisit. That’s to say, I’m not at all disappointed with my trip and I’m happy to have experienced it and all it had to offer- including several lovely Marches des Livres (book flea markets)- but I have no real desire to return. But, if you have a desire to explore it, Montpellier is rightly charming and you’re sure to have a grand adventure!

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Arles & Saintes Maries de la mer

The sky was overcast and promised rain. We teetered across the uneven cobblestone, wove our way through fellow tourists and vendors, and allowed ourselves to be delighted at every turn. The little bistros called to us, the charm of the south sang, and I tried very hard to keep up with the group. I was nearly lost a few times, but window shutters, thrown open to rain and sun alike, begged to be admired. In the afternoon, despite the gloomy drizzle, I marched on, alone, stopping as often as I pleased, wondering what else Arles had up its sleeve. A brightly colored door, a forgotten cobbled street, a moped waiting for its rider; the surprises were varied and always lovely.

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We tumbled out of the bus at Saintes Maries de la mer, the salty, cool breeze carrying a faint smell of fish. The Mediterranean sat calmly, and boats bobbed in the harbor, fishing gear spelling onto the docks. It was quiet, with only the rustling of the wind; the town was barely awake but for some Arlésiennes dancing by the shore.  Some of us went off to mass, but I lost them in the crowd because I stopped, captivated by a diminutive inn covered in flowers. I gave up trying to find them, and instead ambled about, stopping often for all the extraordinary little scenes in an ordinary little town.

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Sur le Pont d’Avignon…

Sur le pont d’Avignon,
On y danse, on y danse,
Sur le pont d’Avignon
On y danse tous en rond.

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Le samedi dernier, moi, Molly, et Zoe sommes allées à Avignon, une jolie ville provençal. J’ai eu envie de voir Le Palais des Papes, le trône de l’église catholique au XIIIème siècle pendant lequel il y avait beaucoup de bouleversement politique en Europe et dans l’église soi-même. Cette monstruosité gothique ne m’a pas déçu.

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On peut monter au sommet du palais ou on peut trouver une vue panoramique d’Avignon, qui est très jolie. Les toits sont toujours charmant.

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Après avoir vu le palais, nous avons fait une promenade dans Avignon, et j’ai profité bien de l’architecture et le jardinage. Nous avons eu un peu du temps supplémentaire avant notre depart, donc nous avons vu le Basilica de Saint Pierre, lequel avait l’architecture gothique comme le palais, et était aussi impressionné.

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Avignon, vous m’avez complètement charmé !

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Un jour à Annecy !

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What I love about French cities and villages is their charm. All of them! So charming. The rooftops are always so quaint and the architecture stunning. The other thing? It’s pretty consistent here- there’s no random pockets of modernity. I hate that.

Two Sundays ago we travelled to Annecy, a city a bit north of Grenoble. There are farmers markets on Sunday mornings, where you can find the most exquisite produce. The colors are the most vibrant I’ve ever seen; it’s like a drawing. A good Vermeer still-life. There’s also local honey, candies, and anything you can imagine. It’s really magnificent. Unfortunately, I didn’t buy anything because I had no change. They seem to be particular about exact change here, and I didn’t think they would fancy me paying for a small 5€ of strawberries with a 50€ bill. Oh well. But, I won’t be forgetting the strawberries any time soon- they are vividly ingrained in my mind.

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We ate lunch at a restaurant called Le Freti and it was magnifique! The restaurant specializes in something called raclette, in which half a cheese wheel is melted by a large heating lamp. It’s poured on potatoes and is incredibly divine.

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After lunch we took a boat ride around Annecy Lake. It was very picturesque, and I saw two châteaux. One of them had been in the same family for…27 generations or something crazy like that.

We ended the day with…guess…yep, a stop at a pâtisserie. A pâtisserie that has, apparently, won the world championship of pastry?! It’s called Roses de Neige and is quite pink. I, personally, was tickled pink by all the pink.

Our next trip is to Arles and Camargue, two villages in southern France.

A bientôt!


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Ce que j’adore des villes française, c’est qu’elles sont très très charmantes. Toutes ! Les tuiles sont toujours jolies et l’architecture est vraiment belle et surtout consistante. Moi, je déteste les villes aux Etats-Unis où l’architecture n’est pas consistante. A mon avis, c’est moche.

La dimanche dernière nous sommes allés à Annecy, une ville au nord de Grenoble. Les dimanches matins, il y a un marché fermier ou on peut acheter les beaux produits frais et vif, la charcuterie, le miel, les bonbons, tout ce qu’on peut imaginer. C’est vraiment magnifique ! Malheureusement, je n’ai rien acheté parce que je n’ai pas du tout de la monnaie- et en France, on aime beaucoup la monnaie exact, de laquelle que je n’ai pas. Tant pis. Mais je ne vais jamais oublier les fraises que j’ai vues- elles étaient rouges vives- incroyable.

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Nous avons déjeuné au restaurant s’appelle Le Freti qui se spécialise en la raclette. J’adore la raclette; ça c’était la première fois que j’en ai eu et c’était délicieux. On a fondu une extrêmement grande demie-roulette du fromage et on l’a mangé avec des pommes de terre et de la charcuterie. Miam !

Après avoir déjeuné, nous avons pris un bateau sur le Lac Annecy. C’était incroyable- les grandes montagnes, l’eau turquoise, pas beaucoup des nuages… wow. Sur une des montagnes, il y a un grand château qui est très joli. Je crois que la même famille l’a gardé pour 27 générations !

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Nous avons terminé le voyage avec un arrêt à… devinez… bien sûr, une pâtisserie s’appelle Rose des Neiges. Vraiment jolie, très rose, sur une petite rue.

Et voilà. Annecy était merveilleuse, et j’ai hâte de voir plus de la France !

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Bonjour de Grenoble !

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Bonjour tout le monde !

Je suis à Grenoble où je m’inscrit à l’Université de Grenoble-Alpes CUEF. Si tu veux recevoir des mises à jours, inscrivez-vous ici:

tinyletter.com/memoriesbymarissa

Je continuerai à écrire sur le blog, mais pas assez souvent.


Hi everyone!

I am in Grenoble studying at the University of Grenoble-Aples CUEF. If you want little updates, click the link above.

I’ll still write on the blog, but not as often.