French use of Pumpkins
Pumpkin Pie or Jack-o-lanterns? Nope! For the French, the pumpkin is a vegetable, a squash, and a very banal one at that. There is nothing extraordinary or exciting about it, except for its ability to arouse distaste by children, who have a general dislike for all squash. The French make pumpkin soup and stews in the fall, and that's about where their pumpkinness ends. Except when there is an American girl at school who tells them fantastical stories about carving funny faces into them or painting them, which the kids laugh at, or about making sweet tartes out of them, which the kids really cannot fathom. But basically all they can connect it to is the soup, so they imagine putting that detested vegetable soup into a tarte pan and baking it... YUK!
Think… fondue upside-down. Or, cooking a hot-dog over a campfire but with cheese. MMmm, it's delicious, warm, and CHEEZY. Cheezy in the way North Americans think of cheezy: yummy melted cheese on top. Which is quite different from the normal French cheeses, cut and eaten on a baguette.
Raclette is a 'conversation meal' which is held at an almost folkloric level in the minds of the people. A bit like HotPots are for the Chinese, or chocolate fondue for North Americans. Raclette is actually a rather heavy meal. There is usually a platter of various meats, a platter of various cheeses, cut in slices, and pot of cooked potatoes. There is the Raclette machine in the middle of the table and each person gets his own little device that looks like the little shovels kids use at the beach. You put your cheese on the shovel, put it on the hotplate and wait for it to get deliciously-bubbly hot and melty. Then you spread it across your pick of a meat slice and a potato and Voila! This is repeated again and again, at a slow no-rush pace with lots of lively conversation in between savoring bites.
Pizza: a safe meal? Think Again.
My pizza catastrophes, as recorded after the temple trip and my second experience with pizza in Europe:
“Last time I ordered pizza I ended up with a mountain of shredded carrots on top, so I was looking for something very safe—like pepperoni or cheese pizza. The menu was in German (of which I understand nothing), so when the girl said ‘four cheese’ I jumped for that one. It was familiar and sounded simple and safe.
Think Again! When my pizza arrived, nice and hot from the oven, it smelled pretty strongly and there was green dried-moldy looking stuff on top that I could only wish was spinach. Nope, it was from the crazy European cheeses that I usually avoid and now were all on top of MY pizza. :/! Ugh. ” I got through about half of it, but avoided the green stuff with a 49 and a half inch pole...