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Learning to Love (Things You Don't)
After 10 months in France, some of the things that are important to me have changed plus a recipe 🥄 for a classic Quebecois maple cake
Things are progressing well out here, unlike the weather. I’m excited to be continuing my projects with renewed motivation and starting to build a small community of my own here in Finistère. But first, here's some good news: I have received my residence permit! Due to my work contract, my residence permit was only supposed to be valid for 6 months, but a few minutes after I received it, I saw it is valid for a whole year! This realisation has made me unbelievably happy and relieved - I have time to make decisions and navigate the French administration.
It’s been just a few days more than 10 months since my arrival in France and 4 months since my arrival in Bretagne. I’ve definitely gotten used to the French lifestyle and its never-ending administrative headaches, though I can’t seem to get used to Bretagne. It’s probably because I live in such a small village and the nearest city I frequent isn’t as big as I hoped. But this hasn’t stopped me from creating my own small community. There’s a handful of cafes and restaurants that I frequent in Brest. This has allowed me to get to know the owners and have meaningful interactions with them. One (of the few) thing(s) that I like about Brest is the number of like-minded people around me.
The owner of one of the cafes I frequent, Kafe Kanggui, has become a good friend. Lien is from Manipur, India and created Kafe Kanggui to bring flavours from his home to Brest while also being a community hub for events and gatherings. His cafe has a large following of regulars, and it feels like he knows each and every one of them. I aspire for my future cafe to be like this, with quality handmade pastries and bread. Lien is also the creator and head of a non-profit based in England, Kanggui HOPE. This is also something I’d like to do in the future, a non-profit (possibly a charity) to benefit at-risk and underrepresented youth in east African countries to access quality education. One day 🤞
I’ve been working on completing the case study I’ve been working on with my professor from Algonquin College for some time now. We are almost at the editing stage, just trying to find some last details about the local tourism sector and how it has been positively impacted by the First Nation we are writing about. I’ve also been making some headway on my secret project - a special newsletter will be coming on that subject soon!
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My birthday is coming up in two months, and I can’t wait, because I booked a short trip to Lyon. Lyon holds a special place n my heart because it was the first large city in France I lived close to. It’s far superior to Brest for so many reasons. The only thing Brest can beat Lyon at is the number of vegetarian restaurants. I often equate Lyon with the Montreal of France, mystical architecture, amazing food, lots of young people, and the ability to find anything you need, including all-beef cured sausages - I am so excited! Due to Brest’s remoteness, I will have to fly to Lyon, but that won’t stop me from getting straight to the city centre upon my arrival. I’ve started planning out what boulangeries I want to visit and what friends I’m going to see - I’m counting down the days, even though there are still two whole months left.
Work has been going well, and we are starting to get into the summer season, so things are picking up. We’ve had quite a few weddings the past month and complete hotel privatisation for a global conference this week. The restaurant menu also changed last week, so I’ve been learning all the parts of the new menu - well, I’ve already learned it, just trying my hardest to remember to put the extra small little shreds of apricot seeds on the plate. I am absolutely loving the new dessert menu with the mini popsicle, apricot dessert, and the baba au bourbon. I’ve also had the opportunity to make a few of my own desserts. My ‘American-style’ cookies have become a favourite among the staff. I also made a weekly dessert a couple of weeks ago. It was a small version of this tart, which I made on repeat last summer. I used poached rhubarb that I poached with cardamom and oranges. I served this with some leftover strawberry rhubarb sorbet from Mother’s Day (which was in June in France).
While I’m really enjoying my time here and super happy to get my residency permit, one thing has really been taking me aback recently. That is the peoples’ ideas of Indigenous people. June being National Indigenous History Month, and June 21 being National Indigenous Peoples Day just amplifies these feelings for me. The French speak about colonisation as a source of pride, which they are proud of today. They seem to be disconnected from the negative effects of colonisation. I’m not sure if they don’t know or if they don’t understand how the Catholic Church and the French Kingdom/Empire/State/Republic massively contributed to the mass murder and assimilation of the Indigenous people not only in Canada but all over the world. I’m seeing this still today, people being racist, and using derogatory words for Indigenous people in everything from conversations to restaurant menus. I encourage all to seek out education to learn about Indigenous people and the impacts colocalization has had on them.
Yesterday, I was supposed to go to a staff BBQ and bring a classic Quebecois maple cake with me, but I slept through the entire day and all the possible rides to the BBQ. I decided at 13h (1:00 pm for all you using the 12 hour clock) to take a nap and set an alarm for 14h30 to head to the store to buy some ingredients for the cake. I slept all the way through until the alarm and into the evening. I only woke up when the sous chef called me asking where I was and if I was ok - that’s when I realised my mistake… Then I proceeded to stay awake until 5h because I couldn’t fall asleep that night. I was so disappointed in myself, but also thankful I didn’t spend a lot of my precious maple syrup I had. Since I didn’t get a chance to even make the cake, I thought I would share the recipe with you so you can at least make it and enjoy it on my behalf. So while that’s it for the updates, I hope you enjoy this recipe for something so wildly Canadian!
Makes 1 9x9” cake pan
I’m not quite sure where I got this recipe from, but I’ve changed a few things and the proportion, as pouding chômeur is characteristically very sweet and so I lowered the amount of sugar making it a bit more tolerable to the teeth
240 g pure maple syrup
150 g brown sugar
180 g heavy cream
60 g butter
1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
Combine all the ingredients in a saucepan. Bring to a boil and then remove from heat, set aside.
120 g butter
150 g sugar
2 large eggs
180 g buttermilk
1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
190 g all-purpose flour
30 g cornstarch
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
In the bowl of a stand mixer, or in a bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, adding the next after the previous one has been fully incorporated. In another bowl or vessel, mix together the buttermilk and vanilla. In another bowl, combine the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, and salt. Add 1/3 of the flour mix and 1/3 of the buttermilk mix to the butter mix. Mix to combine and then add 1/2 of the remaining of each to the butter mix. Mix to combine before combining the rest. Mix until just combined. Pour the cake batter into a well-greased 9x9” baking pan. Using a large spoon, carefully spoon the maple sauce on top of the cake batter, making sure to not mix the two. Place the pan on the middle rack of an oven preheated to 325ºF/160ºC convection or 350ºF/180ºC without fan. Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out with a few crumbs. Allow to slightly cool and serve warm with vanilla ice cream.