Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Photos of fall

A few weeks ago, Nerd's Eye View sent me to a super recipe for plum dumplings over at Mausi. When my plum supply was replenished (it is the year of the plum, I'm told) we ate many many many until C was sick of the sight of them. When I came home from work one day, I found a plum dumpling surprise awaiting us, thanks to a long nap and a very kind babysitter! C had no problem eating these. We rolled them in breadcrumbs and powdered sugar and they were very good. But I still want to try the German recipe for comparison.

Our courtyard - the new Vermont for seasonal foilage tours?
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Sunday, October 22, 2006

Who is the Emily Postova of Prague?

Because I need to meet her, or at least read her book. I mean, I thought I knew a few things about Czech manners. I knew to always take off my shoes when I walk into someone’s house, even if they tell me not to. I knew to always offer someone something to drink when they first arrive in the office. I knew to eat with both hands showing above the table at all times and to keep my fork in my left hand instead of switching it back to the right. I knew how to use forks and knives as signals to my waiter that no I’m still eating (fork and knife at 8 and 4 o‘clock on my plate), or yes I’m done (fork and knife neatly aligned at 3 o’clock). I sort of thought I had my protocol down.

But then.

Just a few days ago, I was out with a good friend of mine, eating Chinese in the middle of nowhere. It was very bad Chinese food, and we were the only people in the restaurant, but it was also the only restaurant within a kilometer of where we were working. So there we dined. And suddenly, my friend said:

F: Julia, why are eating your food that way? Where’s your knife?
J: A knife? For all the giant pieces of identifiable meat that are not on my plate right now? What are you talking about?
F: Because it is bad manners to only eat with a fork.
J: Next time I’ll ask for chop sticks. We’re eating Chinese you know.
F: I mean, generally. You’ve got to always eat with your knife and your fork, like this. Didn’t you realize? (He demonstrates.)
J: Aha! Now I see!! (The light breaks and years of wondering why Czech people needed a pusher to get food on their fork are suddenly clarified.)
F: And if you want to be very polite, you keep your arms tucked by your side. No elbow flapping.
J: (Considering my elbows) I really hope everyone knows I’m an American when I eat out or they’d think I had horrible manners.
F: Don’t worry, they do.

And with that, we changed the subject.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Are you asleep yet?

Caroline’s favorite song of the moment, as she has decided it should go:

Bruder Jakob,
Bruder Jakob,
Morning bells are ringing,
Morning bells are ringing,
Ding dong ding. Ding dong ding.

The Czech version her babysitters sing:

Bratře Kubo,
Bratře Kubo,
Ještě spíš?
Ještě spíš?
Venku slunce září,
Ty jsi na polštáři,
Vstávej již,
Vstávej již.

Imagine the two versions in a round. That's our house right before nap time.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Plum days

Seven years after moving to Prague, I’m wearing my first pair of Czech bought jeans today. Okay, so they were about double the price I would have spent in the U.S. for a pair of jeans. And one day post purchase, the decorative rivets have started to decorate our floors. But these jeans did come from a shop a mere block from our flat, were hemmed to just the right length and as a finishing touch, came with a beaded key chain, courtesy of the shop owner’s sister.

Most importantly, however, these jeans fit. They fit! After twelve weeks of counting the numbers in the food I eat, I have counted myself down to the size I was before I moved to Prague. This is mostly a good thing, but it means that I no longer fit into any of the clothes that hang in my closet, and I shuffle around walking like a rumpled penguin. Having to hitch up my trousers every five minutes almost made me revert back to eating cookies in the afternoon. Thus, the rivetless jeans.

The hardest part about all of this counting wasn’t telling myself I didn’t want to eat something but telling other people. You try explaining to your daughter’s grandmotherly baby sitter that, no you still think several slices of homemade gingerbread aren’t on the menu for you today, even if you stand up to eat them.

I seem to have finally persuaded her. Today, to celebrate the new pair of jeans, our sitter arrived carrying a giant paper bucket from KFC.

It was full of plums. Does anyone know a good recipe for plum jam? Or maybe a compote recipe would do. We've got about a hundred and fifty here ready to cook, at last count.