La rentrée, Au revoir Rennes and Peanut Butter Cookies

Here in France, the summer has officially ended, even if the weather isn’t acting accordingly: it was over 80 degrees here today. But despite the sun’s protests, les petits are back in school, everyone has gone back to work, I’m faced with a barrage of bureaucratic paperwork to swim through and life has generally resumed its normal pace. After a beautiful and blissful summer,  la rentrée (the end of summer vacation) is finally here.

I returned to France 3 weeks ago after my brilliant 2 months in the US, during which time I managed to procured a visa, much to my surprise. I think I have hinted about visa drama in past posts, but never elaborated. To make a long and depressing story short: I was going to do a culinary program which is really meant for French people put I pushed my way in: I was accepted to the school, found a restaurant to work with…tout était bouclé! After months of research and back in forth with varying governmental agencies (my favorite aspect of France), I was ultimately told that I can’t do the program because it is an internship, and as a foreigner I need to have had a student visa the last year in order to procure an internship visa. Boo! French bureaucracy and it’s finest and most supremely inane. So, I’ve come back to France on a student visa instead. Luckily, I had applied to a Master’s program as a backup and when the culinary program fell through I was able to use that to get a visa. Even though it was all discomfortingly last minute, it miraculously came together, my visa arrived safely and I was able to board my flight to Paris.

I spent the first two weeks catching up with my 3 main men: my boyfriend and the two pups. We had a few lazy days hanging out at the lake, paddling around the canals in our epic canoe, walking in the fields and forests and just enjoying being still and tranquil. I also ate as many crêpes and galettes as I could get my greedy hands on and wasted a lot of time trying to repair the damage 2 months of neglect had wreaked on my poor garden.

          I spent my third week back in Larmor Plage, staying with my adopted French family. They are the epitomy of gourmand, so I was spoiled rotten with delicious food and wine. I also got to run on the beach every morning, diving into the cold Atlantic afterwards. Not many people get to swim in the Pacific and the Atlantic during the same summer, and I count myself really, really lucky to have done so. It was an amazing week on the Breton coast, and an even more amazing summer over all.       But all of this carefree splendor had to come to an end eventually, and to my surprise I found that I was anxiously awaiting the stability and structure of the routine that inevitably comes from summer’s end. I was not however anxious to move out of my apartment in Rennes. While I am excited to now be living in the countryside with my boyfriend and to start a new chapter, I was dreading the process of moving and was also sad to leave Rennes. I will miss my tiny attic apartment, with all of its frustrating quirks. I will miss the absurdly slanted roof that I used to bang my head on. I will even miss the shoebox kitchen (okay…maybe not).  I will miss the Saturday market and hanging out the window, ogling the gorgeous view, being serenaded by the bells of the nearby cathedral.

The view to the left with the Parc Thabor in the distanceThe view to the right, of the Parliament building

But really, what I will miss most of all is the life I had here with my friends. It could never be like that again as everyone has dispersed to pursue their different paths. There is a time and a place for everything, and we were lucky to enjoy that place together for two years. Now, I’m ready to start my next adventure! And I’m very lucky and happy to be near Rennes, and I know I will be going back to visit often (as in next week…).

My stomping grounds

Despite my positive outlook and the sunny weather, I find I’ve needed cheering up the last few days. That’s where the peanut butter cookies come into this story…

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies

1 1/4 cups (140 grams) all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt (if your butter and peanut butter are salted, skip the salt)                      1/2 cup (115 grams) butter, softened or at room temperature
1 cup peanut butter at room temperature, oil mixed in (I prefer chunky, but smooth works too!)
3/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons honey
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups oats

Preheat oven to 350 degrees (180 degrees Celsius). In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients (flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt) Set aside.

In a large bowl, beat the butter and the peanut butter together until smooth and light. Add the sugar beat until smooth. Add the honey and mix well. Add the egg and mix well. Add the vanilla extract. Add the flour mixture slowly, beating thoroughly as you go along. Stir in the oats. Place sprinkling sugar — the remaining tablespoon — on a plate. Drop a rounded teaspoonful onto ungreased cookie sheets, leaving several inches between each cookie, as they will grow in the oven. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes. Do not over bake – dry peanut butter cookies are the worst! Cookies may appear to be underdone, but they are not.

More sinful version: Add 1 cup of chocolate chips or ½ cup chocolate chips and ½ peanut butter chips

Slightly healthier version: Add 1 cup of your favorite dried fruit and seeds and nuts

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