Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Pre-Departure Post: May the Posts Continue... Eventually

Well, I can’t believe my bags are nearly packed (finally); I’ll soon be on my way northeastward for leadership training in Vermont before heading to Paris with nine high school students for our photography adventure. But before I board the plane, I did want to catch up the blogging world with the latest happenings in my summer transition out of Ohio.


Last Thursday marked the start of an internationalconference on French author André Gide. Organised by Profs Christine Armstrong (Denison) and Jocelyn Van Tuyl (New College of Florida), the conference brought Gidean scholars from—among other nationsCanada, France, Luxembourg, and the UK. In addition, Claude (a conference participant from Switzerland) arrived in Granville with an additional interest in doing some research for a high school religion class he teaches back home. As translator for a pair of interviews I set up for him in Millersburg (including a buggy ride) and Berlin, I brought Claude to Ohio’s Amish country, home of the largest Amish population in the world. Generally speaking, we focused on daily life in this particular section of Amish country; more specifically, our attention was on religious beliefs among the Amish and Mennonites. It was an enjoyable experience not only getting to know Claude in the short amount of time we had or even to exercise my brain and French skills prior to the upcoming trip, but to also visit communities that I have lived relatively close to these past two-ish years. There’s indeed a simplicity to the livelihoods of the people of the particular county we visited, and while many generalisations can be made across the different populations of Amish and Mennonite folks, it’s important to note how distinctive this particular community is when compared to others (in Michigan and Pennsylvania, for example). Without going into too much detail, this is especially the case when considering the close intermixing of the Amish and Mennonites, as well as the non-Amish and non-Mennonites—a cross-cultural relationship that has (while maintaining a certain distance) become much more open and intrigued to the “outside” world than what one might expect. Furthermore, another lesson worth noting is that, at least in this area, there’s no intent on “converting” anyone, but rather challenging those who are interested in Amish/Mennonite beliefs, culture, and tradition to take a pause and reexamine one’s life, to find those small areas where one might find the room to simply simplify. At the conclusion of our visit to the heritage center, I tried and purchased locally made (a consistent theme among those of Amish country, and one made more easily possible by this rooted closer to nature approach to life) lavender syrup: less viscous than maple syrup, and with the unquestionable fragrance of lavender. A unique item all on its own, I think (hope) it’ll make for a good homestay family gift.

Later that evening, as I leafed through a book I bought at the center, Whatever Happened toDinner?, it hit me just how much a transition to Slow Food and an overall fresher approach to food is halted by convenience. Concurrently, though, I see it as an added challenge to take something of convenience and put some effort into reinventing (or at least adding to) it. To the boxed, frozen pepperoni pizza and regular vanilla frozen custard, I added respectively shredded cheddarcheese and dried Italian herbs, and chopped cherries and dark orange chocolatewith almond slivers. I think the end products made up for the start, no?

The next day, I finished up the last bit of my work for ResEd and got to organising my house and packing for my departure from Granville. Naturally I waited until the last possible minute to leave and returned home to Southfield for the days leading up to my continued departure. From travelling to Michigan to travelling throughout Michigan, I was able to see one of my godfamilies and family friends in White Lake before meeting up with Lauren and Grace in Novi and wrapping up the night at a salsa bar in Royal Oak.

On Sunday, my parents and I went to Logan’s Roadhouse (a bbq resto) for Father’s Day lunch and then went to Gibraltar Trade Center in search for a non-automatic film camera for the upcoming trip. Thankfully I found one (literally, just one that fit the description; ironically, I still need to take a photo of the camera) and soon realised just how much education I’ll need in terms of making the most of this purchase. Without question, the yearbooking skills will come in handy.

These past two days then I’ve spent the majority of my time in Detroit working for my alma matter, a seasonal tradition that always seems to elicit a look somewhere between “welcome back home,” “it’s so good to see you,” and “you haven’t graduated yet?” As I seem to be more recently focused on the theme of time, it’s rather baffling for me to think I’m working on my 10th yearbook for my high school. And equally familiar is the senior composite and archiving work that I’ve also taken on seasonally the past few years. It was equally great to hear the stories of everyone who’s taken a look at all the frames lining a few of our hallways, an archival history that doesn’t seem to be departing any time soon. (If you’re reading this and are/have an alum, check it out if you haven’t already!)

Earlier today, my supervisors for the yearbook (Mrs Michèle Mooney) and archives (Mrs Ann Steele), took me out to lunch at La DolceVita and it would make absolutely no sense to not include this lunch here. Located in Detroit (though the feel and sentiment is completely European, and specifically Italian), and without a doubt one of Detroit's best kept secrets, La Dolce Vita is truly a word of mouth kind of establishment. The dining experience, additionally highlighted by the fact our waiter was born near Piedmont, the region where my potential Fulbright location lies, is especially marked by fresh ingredients and what I would call a non-intimidating authenticity. 

For an appetizer, we began with a fire roasted red bell pepper bruschetta topped off with garlic, fresh basil, extra virgin olive oil, and grated Parmesan.

As I browsed the relatively small lunch menu, we all seemed to have a difficult time choosing what to orders because everything read to be delicious. My eyes were first caught by eggplant parmesan, especially after watching an Iron Chef comfort food countdown last night; soon after I thought I made my choice, my ears were caught by our waiter’s description of a veal dish entrée special with a marsala straight from Sicily and finished with a splash of cream. However, when I looked back at the menu, the word “Amalfitana” caught my attention (for those who have read some of previous posts, you should quickly understand why I chose this; as a reminder though, click here) and I ordered the perch which I first  pronounced as “PER-seKo” and learned to pronounce it as “pirsico”. 

Michèle went with the mussels and clams dish with a sweet sauce that not included the flavour of fresh tomato but the mussel and clam juices, as well. Meanwhile, Ann got the salmon which had a great sear and honey-bbq-ish type sauce to accompany an amazing texture. Speaking of sauces, I could literally eat nothing but the lemon Chardonnay sauce upon which my perch perched.

But this was nothing compared to the light, delicate, and rich homemade tiramisu that Michèle and I each had, and for which I somehow made room. Having already tried the tiramisu, Ann ordered a delicious mocha cheesecake with a dark chocolate cookie crust. Seriously, how can any of these combinations go wrong?

And with my dinner of chicken adobo and rice (among the ultimate comfort foods in my book, this version prepared by one of my godmother’s mom), and a quick flourish of text, I must get some sleep so I can finish up my last-minute packing and preparations before heading out the door in the morning. Pleasant dreams and until the next time I write (which, by the way, will be uncertain for the next month), M.A. For additional pre-departure photos, click here.

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