I had been discussing the other day the ways that living in Europe has changed me. Initially, I pretty much thought, not at all. I didn’t think I live any differently than I used to. But on reflection, there are some little things I think I’ve started to do, little ways I’ve changed my life, that reflect a more European lifestyle. And actually they are things that I’m not sure I could go back from. At the very least, I’d try really hard to maintain these elements no matter where I go – bringing Europe with me.
Fresh bakery bread
It used to seem like such a decadent thing, to get a loaf at the bakers. If we weren’t going to eat the entire loaf immediately, I wouldn’t buy one. Instead I’d always get the plastic-wrapped, pre-sliced loaves from god knows where, full of all kinds of awesome preservatives. And I’d keep it in the freezer, toasting the slices if I wanted bread that was remotely warm. I thought this was just fine.
But here, there’s no such thing as plastic-wrapped, pre-sliced bread. Well, there is, but it’s in the funky nobody goes to area at the back of the store, surrounded by mysterious Weight Watchers products that are rightfully ignored by most of the population here. All the loaves I buy are made that day, and they taste it. We slice em up ourselves when we crave a bit of bread, and are all the happier for it. I thought it would be inconvenient – turns out it just adds so much to our life.
This is something you can’t have everywhere you live. If I continued to live in Calgary, there is no way I could depend on public transit to get me anywhere I want to go. It’s too cold, too unreliable, doesn’t go very many places and since the buses are front loading I have no earthly idea how you would get a stroller on there, not to mention the giant double seater montrosity I take with me everywhere. But here, public transit is bliss. The buses come like clockwork, you never have to wait more than 15 minutes and it goes literally everywhere. I adore the bus/train system here. I never want to be without it. We use our car on weekends, to take longer trips, usually into France, and that’s it. The day to day stuff is done on foot and on bus – I’m in better shape for it and so is the environment.
Okay, this is just one of those stupid indulgences, but it’s everywhere here. And it’s delicious. After two pregnancies and a party life that doesn’t exist anymore, I drink way less than I use to. So when I do drink, I want it to be the best stuff out there. And French champagne really is the best stuff.
Which brings me to my Valentine’s dinner I made Z this year. I included a treat for myself, the aforementioned French champagne. This is how a Saturday night (with children) should be enjoyed.
I made a light supper, which started with these gorgeously delicious appetizers, pea and mint crostinis with whipped feta. I found the recipe at Life is a Strawberry. I just adore the pop of bright green in the beans. It makes me start to think of spring and I love spring. There needs to be more green in our diet over the next little bit.
Green though they are, they are also really tasty and rich, thanks to the yummy whipped feta. They are also easy to put together:
Crostinis: slice a baguette and place on an oven sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, then bake at 375 for 5 mins.
Peas: Mix one cup of peas with 2 tbsp fresh chopped mint, 1 tsp of olive oil and 1/2 tsp lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper. Let rest for a bit for the flavours to mingle. Can use frozen peas, just make sure they’ve thawed by the time you’re using.
Feta: Combine 8 oz of feta with 2 oz ricotta. (This would obviously best be done in a food processor. I don’t have one so I have to make do with my poor overworked blender – I added some olive oil to the cheese until it became blendy. I also used ricotta instead of the called-for cream cheese, which worked for me). Next add two small cloves of garlic and salt and pepper and blend until smooth.
Take all the components and build them up together. Yummy. Delicious. Romantic? Sure, why not.