About a week and a half ago, after the first camp, I moved out of Philippe’s home and now am staying with our club’s president, Fanou, and her family – her husband, Christian, her two sons, Guillame and Roman, and their 2 dogs and 3 cats. I’ll be staying here in St. Oren’s, further out from the city and closer to the different gyms that I play and coach in until my apartment is ready, which is even closer in proximity to two of the gyms. They have a beautiful country home and have been extremely generous hosts thus far. Before I get into my stay here so far, let me first mention something that I have noticed about living in the south of France. The sky here is beautiful. Almost every single evening there is an amazing sunset and it’s definitely one of my favorite things about living here. One night last week I went for a walk and took a photo. I can take photos like this every evening and probably will do so. I really appreciate the beauty here.
Ok so, now onto how awesome my hosts have been. The food. Forget about it. Every meal is literally like a gourmet meal. Zero exaggeration. I have been eating like a king. I have never had so many consecutive amazing meals in my life (no offense Mom and Dad!). Now listen, Momma Coyne and Poppa Coyne are no slouches when it comes to the kitchen or the grill. But this really has been something else. Both Fanou and Christian are exceptional cooks. Except for about 2 times where I tried some “traditional” French or Southwest French dish, they were amazing. The pig guts and Rockfour cheese weren’t my favorites. Anyway, not only are they great cooks, but Christian’s parents, who own a farm nearby are excellent cooks who make all of their own food, as well as provide us with various types of meat. Furthermore, their son Guillame, who I will be working with at Regis’ restaurant each week is an outstanding chef. He went to culinary school and actually won the award for the best apprentice in the Midi-Pyrenee Region. He then went on to a competition with other young chefs all over France and finished 17th. So not only do we have two amazing cooks in the parents, but Guillame, a year or two ago, was literally the 17th best chef apprentice in France, a country renowned for the culinary arts. So, like I said, I’ve been eating well. Here are some examples:
-French bread, wine, and cheese. It’s as good as the stereotypes make it out to be
–Homemade pumpkin soup. Now, my family knows I love pumpkin stuff. Every year at Thanksgiving or Christmas, my cousin Rosie, also in culinary school, makes 2 pumpkin pies. One for everyone and one for me. I also love Pumpkin Spiced coffee. So when I came down the other day and saw a pumpkin sitting on the counter, I thought, “No way!” Sure enough, homemade pumpkin soup. It was awesome.
-What does this look like? Most would think, grilled cheese, an American delicacy. Speaking of which, check out my sister Maggie’s post about her making grilled cheese for her Korean family HERE. This, however, was not grilled cheese. I watched Guillame prepare this amazing concotion in awe. It was like grilled banana and cream with sugar and cinnamon on the outside of the bread. It was unreal.
So those are just a few examples of the awesome food I’ve had here, and I haven’t even delved into the amazing entrees. Mainly because I usually had no idea what I was eating. Nor did I care.
Then last Saturday morning, Fanou’s parents came to the house. I awoke to a bunch of commotion downstairs. Also, with my head still a little bit spinning because the previous night, Christian (who speaks no English mind you), and is president of a local rugby club, took me to a soiree at the club. I thought it was just a little get together for the rugby players because it was holidays or whatnot. What I walked into I was completely unprepared for.
It was a rugby Halloween party. And they were well on their way into the party when we arrived. When I’ve showed up to places before this I would usually be with Philippe or a teammate who spoke English. This time I was with Christian and we had little communication other than facial expressions and laughter. I was on my own and there were about 30 drunk off their face rugby players bouncing around yelling and singing in French. One 6’4 monster of a guy, dressed up as a woman, began trying to dance on me and continued to wink at me for the next hour or so. To say I was terrified would be a tremendous understatement. However, as the part got going (for me at least) more and more players kept insisting on giving me drinks and a good few of them actually spoke pretty good English, all the while helping me to practice my French. It actually ended up being a really fun night. Towards the end of the night I was talking to a few players as well as a few girls who were at the party. After Christian saw me talking to the girls he looked at me with a smirk and called me “Coquine.” I did my little translate using an app I have in my phone. I started dying laughing when I saw that he was calling me some version of “cheeky” or “rascal”. It was pretty funny.
So, the next morning I was overwhelmed when I came down I saw little tortilla looking things all over the dinner table and a lot of excitement in the kitchen and rapid French being spoken everywhere. After brief introductions to her parents and niece in broken French and English, they pointed to the table and I was put right to work helping prepare food for lunch. Homemade spring rolls and I did a great job if I do say so myself.
Now, in between rolls I was taking big gulps of water, replenishing from the night before at which point Christian introduced me to another term “Guele de bois” which means hangover. Again I was dying laughing. And for the rest of the day Fanou’s niece kept singing in English the song “I got a hangover!!” Trop rigolo = too funny.
Saturday night was a night to take a break from the booze. Christian also introduced me to Ricard, a liquor that is drank by a lot of rugby players apparently. It’s kind of like Anisette and pretty good. He also told me it’s not something that was drank every day, yet every day I had been living with him until that point we’d drank it! And I may or may not have had one after the spring rolls. Anyway, I went into the city that night with a couple other coaches and we took the U13 girls team that I help coach to a women’s basketball game between Toulouse and Arras. These teams play in the highest women’s level in France – their equivalent of the WNBA.
There were actually a few women in this game who had played a little bit in the WNBA before coming to France, including a few Americans. There were other incredible players here too as well as some HUGE girls representing countries such as Serbia, Lithuania, and Mali. I was thoroughly impressed by the level of basketball and appreciated that such a level was being played in a small, dark gym in a random part of Toulouse. It definitely was another part adding to my experience here and expanding my horizons as far as basketball is concerned, realizing just how many people in the world play ball and how good some of them are.
So fast forward to this past Sunday and it was my turn to cook dinner for the family. What did they get?
Yup! You guessed it. Cheeseburgers! You’ll also notice that there are only 4 burgers there on the plate, but I was cooking for 5, including myself. That’s because mine was still cooking. I was informed by Roman and Guillame that it was sacrilegious to cook meat through. They like it rarer than rare. The expression in the states that we use is “Still mooing” and that doesn’t even do it justice. So suffice it to say, I let mine cook a little bit longer. And you can imagine the pressure I had on me as Guillame, the master chef, was observing with an extremely watchful eye. It was funny, however, because they were asking me about how they should eat it, what the should put on it, should they toast the buns, when, for how long, etc. Another great cross cultural experience.
All in all I’m thoroughly enjoying my new place and am certainly learning French at an extremely accelerated pace!