Callaghan, 0; Peanut Butter, 5.

I’ve always marveled at the borderline-comical dramatic reactions the French have to peanut butter. They range from mockery to disgust to hatred. I saw it for myself when I was living in France, I see it in my own home with my French husband, and I see it, from time to time, in pop culture. Epic is the humor that can be derived from the French disdain of peanut butter.

 

 

Peanut butter would almost always work as a French person repellent.

Not only are the French totally lacking whatever gene is needed to appreciate peanut butter, but they don’t understand it. The very concept of peanut butter confounds them.

This week, Callaghan demonstrated the extent to which they don’t understand it.

It happened early one morning as I was getting ready for work.

About half the time, if I’m running late in the morning, Callaghan will help me get out the door by getting my food ready for the day. It’s a low-maintenance affair. He knows which foods I cycle through, so any combination of things he throws into the cloth lunch bag (very low-maintenance over here) makes me happy.

My go-to lunch is a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on whole wheat bread. It’s a balance of plant-based proteins, healthy fat, fruit and complex carbohydrates that works really well for me… plus, I love it. I always go for natural, creamy peanut butter – the kind that needs to be slowly, patiently stirred when it’s new – and jam with no added sugar. The rest of the bag can be filled with any combination of fruits, veggies, hummus, nuts, popcorn, blue corn tortilla chips, etc. I also keep a stash of various protein and energy bars in one of my big desk drawers at work. I basically graze all day.

 

There's always a jar of peanut butter in the fridge.

There’s always a jar of peanut butter in the fridge.

 

Usually, Callaghan will ask me if I need help getting the food together, or I’ll ask him for help if I’m running late.

Not on Wednesday this week, though, because I wasn’t late for work that morning. In fact, I was earlier than usual, enjoying a chill morning, leisurely doing my make-up while drinking coffee. I reveled in knowing I could take my time getting ready, put my food together afterward, and still get to work early.

(Side-note: Callaghan’s been taking me to work. I haven’t walked in a while. The persistent humidity of monsoon season ended that… I’m a wimp in humidity.)

So it was Wednesday morning, I was making great time, and I was just finishing getting ready when I heard the vague background hum of activity in the kitchen increase in decibels and segue into a familiar stream of profanities in French.

I heard Callaghan clearly punctuate a string of muttered words with one of his favorite obscenities: “putain d’enculé.”  Those were the only two words I heard, but they were enough to signal that something had gone awry. “Putain d’enculé” is French slang along the lines of “motherfucker.” (Not literally. The words actually mean something more like “fucking fucker.”)

What happened now? I thought, rushing down the hall to find out.

I got to the kitchen and found Callaghan covered in peanut butter.

I wish to all that is holy that I’d had the presence of mind to run for my phone so I could take a picture for you guys, but alas. You’ll have to use your imaginations.

Callaghan was standing at the kitchen sink holding one of my hand mixer beaters. It was dripping with thin, oily peanut butter. There was a full, large jar of peanut butter on the counter, which was splashed with peanut butter. The jar, itself, was spilling over with peanut butter.

There was peanut butter on the walls.

There was peanut butter all over everything I could see. It was all over the floor; an oily, brown patch glared up from the middle of the kitchen, partially smeared where Callaghan had started his attempt at cleaning it up. It wasn’t going well. Oil and water don’t mix.

As I stood in the doorway taking it all in, I realized that suddenly, just-like-that, I wasn’t ahead of schedule anymore. From the look of things, I was now going to be late.

But I couldn’t be annoyed, because I was too preoccupied a). trying to hold in the peals of laughter that were roiling up from my gut, b).  reminding myself that Callaghan had only been trying to help (not knowing that I didn’t need help that morning – but he didn’t ask, and I didn’t ask him!) c). wondering what, exactly, had happened, and why.

I knew he was doing something with peanut butter for me because obviously, he doesn’t eat it. I deduced from the bread sitting out that he’d planned to make me a sandwich. I wasn’t sure what was happening with the peanut butter, though. It seemed like his colossal mishap occurred with a brand-new jar, but I knew there was an open jar in the refrigerator, so why would he open a new jar?

“What happened?” I asked, genuinely confused.

“I don’t know! I was trying to mix the peanut butter! I thought it would go faster if I used the electric hand mixer!! It blew up in my face!! Putain d’enculé!!”

I lost my battle and held my stomach as I bent over laughing. The image he’d painted was killing me.

As we cleaned up the kitchen, I shared my personal method.

“I slowly, carefully stir the new peanut butter with a butter knife, and I do it the night before I want to eat it,” I said, “So it can thicken in the refrigerator overnight. Otherwise, it’s too liquidy.” A new jar of natural peanut butter is a solid mass with an inch or two of oil sitting on top. It’s not easy to mix without spilling it, even when mixing it slowly and carefully. It requires a degree of patience. I couldn’t even imagine the peanut butter carnage when he’d inserted the hand mixer and switched it on.

When I asked him why he opened a new jar when there was an open one already, he said, “I wanted you to have fresh peanut butter. The other jar is all hard at the bottom.”

See? I couldn’t be annoyed. He was too sweet! I shared another insider trick: when the jar is almost empty, take it out of the refrigerator and keep it at room temperature so the peanut butter left at the bottom can soften.

I don’t remember being taught these things. The complexities of peanut butter handling and maintenance must be instinctual for Americans, while they’re utterly lost on the French. Peanut butter is a language they simply do not speak.

 

Callaghan's face as it must have appeared mid-peanut butter apocalypse.

Callaghan’s face as it must have appeared mid-peanut butter apocalypse.

 

Callaghan put all of his clothes in the wash that same morning, but the oil stains from the peanut butter didn’t come out of his shorts… not even with the use of a pre-wash stain remover gel. They were ruined.

I guess you could look at the incident either as Callaghan getting his ass kicked by the peanut butter, or as the peanut butter getting brutally violated by hand mixer-wielding Callaghan. Each one could have said, “You should see the other guy.”

But in my opinion, the peanut butter won, if for no other reason than it made me late for work that day.

What I’m Digging Right Now – March Favorites

Update: Ronnie James has been home since Sunday night! This week we’re helping him to recover from his surgery here at home, and we’re waiting for lab results to come back. We should know everything by Friday, so I’ll post a detailed update then, for anyone who’s interested!

Somehow, March dragged. March aspired to be the Texas of this (albeit still very young) year… it feels like we drove and drove, and it seemed to never end. Some of it was amazing. Some of it was depressing. Much of it was great fun, and a lot of it was eye-opening, too.

It’s interesting how March going on forever makes the year, itself, seem long, and to be honest, I have to say that time creeping along like this bewilders me a little. Our sense of time is supposed to accelerate the older we get, a phenomenon I was experiencing normally up until this year. It’s interesting how circumstances in our lives can alter this perception.

Now that we’ve finally arrived at April, it’s time to look back at that long month and pick out a few “little things” that stood out. I never go deep in these lists and talk about the people who bless our lives and make the world a better place for being in it. These lists are for talking about mostly superficial things, the cheap thrills, so to speak!

And the winners are… starting with food…

1). Blackberries from Target.

These blackberries. THESE.

These blackberries. THESE.

This is a weird one, I know. For whatever reason, the blackberries at the Target near us (Tempe Marketplace on Rio Salado) are the best. No other blackberries compare, and I don’t even want to know why. I’ll just enjoy them while we can!

2). Justin’s classic all-natural peanut butter.

Justin's classic all-natural peanut butter

Justin’s classic all-natural peanut butter

Callaghan brought this home for me one day, and I’m loving it. I’ve been a huge fan of Justin’s dark chocolate peanut-butter cups for a couple of years, but I’d never tried other Justin’s products before now!

3). Snyder’s of Hanover peanut butter pretzel sandwiches.

Snyder's of Hanover peanut butter pretzel sandwiches.

Snyder’s of Hanover peanut butter pretzel sandwiches.

You know how it is. Sometimes, you just have to run downstairs in the middle of the afternoon and get yourself something kind of dirty to munch on from the corner store. These peanut butter pretzel sandwiches were my processed food guilty pleasure in March. There’re not entirely terrible for you, either, as it turns out! I mean, they’re not as junky as junk food can be. If you appreciate peanut butter as much as I do, you might need these in your life.

Moving on to non-edible things…

4). Acure Night Cream.

Acure Night Cream

Acure Night Cream

I got this cream when I’d used up my old one, as I’d planned. It’s the night-time counterpart to the Acure day cream I’ve been using with respect to my New Year’s resolution to stop buying personal care products and cosmetics tested on animals. This is a good, hydrating night cream, and other than its strong herbal scent, which I don’t care for, I like it a lot. It has a nourishing feel to it, and my skin feels dewy (for lack of a better word) in the morning. However, because of that strong fragrance, I don’t think my search for the perfect, affordable cruelty-free night cream is over… my next one will be from another brand. I like this one enough to return to it if future selections don’t perform as well, and obviously I like it enough to include it here as a monthly favorite, but at the same time, I’ll be happy to find one that equals it without the clinging, almost medicinal herbal scent!

5). L’Université Nice Sophia Antipolis hat and mug.

Mug and hat from my friend in Nice who works at L’Université Nice Sophia Antipolis.

Mug and hat from my friend in Nice who works at L’Université Nice Sophia Antipolis.

When we went to France, a friend surprised me with a mug and a hat from the University in Nice where she works. Merci, Matita! L’Université Nice Sophia Antipolis, represent! I love stuff like this. I thought it would be fun to send her the same from Arizona State University. Now there’s an honorary Sun Devil working à l’UNS.

6). Body Combat in France.

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And thanks to our friend Chantal, there was that Body Combat class in Cannes we got to do while we were down south! I have to rave about it again, because I enjoyed it so much, and it’s at the top of my March favorites list. That was our only workout in about 10 days, and we didn’t waste it. We went full-on beast mode, as usual… or, to steal a phrase from our friend Sarah, beast à la mode!

7). Bag – K by Kookai (black satchel).

I don’t know what I like better, this bag or the story behind it. In the weeks before we went to France, Callaghan became obsessed with the idea that thieves in Paris were going to sneak up behind me with scissors and cut the strap of the bag I was using at the time. “You need to get a little backpack with a strong strap,” he insisted.

I had no idea where this notion came from. I’d been in Paris five times before, and all that ever happened to me was an ill-attempted “dropped jewelry” scam. (That one where someone comes up with a bracelet or something else shiny, quickly drops it in front of you when she thinks you’re not looking, and makes a big deal picking it up and bringing it to you to ask if it’s yours while her partner hustles up to rip you off during the “distraction.” The two who tried it on me weren’t good at it. They were laughable. I’d give their performance a 4 on a scale of 1-10. Needless to say, it didn’t work.)

But Callaghan thought that my cross-body bag strap would get cut, so I found a small backpack-style bag with a zipper that ran down the length of the straps so you could use it either single-strapped or doubled. I thought the quality was good. It was from Marshall’s. I think it was a Steve Madden, or something like that. Anyway, long story short, the whole bag fell apart three days after we got to France. I mean, the zipper broke and the straps came apart from the bag itself, so, being a backpack, it was rendered unwearable.

I trotted around the French Riviera with the bag in my arms, like a baby, then switched to the only other thing I had: a large and awkward purple and pink vinyl Kenzo perfume bag that one of Callaghan’s relatives in Paris had given us to transport the bottle of champagne she was sending down south with us to Callaghan’s Dad. It was annoying and uncomfortable. I wanted to avoid getting a new bag, but once we got back to Paris, I gave up on that idea and went looking for one.

Luckily, we were staying in Montmartre, where you can walk to any place you might need. Case in point: Callaghan and I were dreading going to the f*cking Champs-Élysées* just because I needed a bag, but lo! There was a La Halle aux chaussures et maroquinerie down the street from our hotel, and I didn’t have to look further. There were five bags I really liked, and it was hard to choose! I decided on this:

K by Kookai bag

K by Kookai bag

It’s just an unstructured satchel-type style with a long strap option, which I don’t use, but somehow, I like the bag a lot. Actually, I think it’s the red lining that I really like… and it was totally affordable. WIN.

*We like to jokingly call it “the f*cking Champs-Élysées,” but honestly? I wish they could move L’Arc de Triomphe out of there and set it somewhere less commercial and insane.

So after that long story, I’ll let the images speak for themselves in the rest of this post!

8). House of Cards, season three (T.V. series)

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Oh, the lies… the plays… the dares! Now we wait a year to see what happens next.

9). The Following, season three (T.V. series)

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WAIT – who’s doing the following, and who’s being followed? I love how you never know who’s who in this series. This season of The Following grabbed us by the throat in a way that last season didn’t, and we enjoyed last season! It’s always great when a good series gets even better, and it’s probably a good thing that the return of Hannibal was pushed back to June, or it’d be serial killer overload in our entertainment schedule up in here.

10). “Rico” (Episode 8 of Better Call Saul)

Scene from "Rico," episode 8 (Better Call Saul)

Scene from “Rico,” episode 8 (Better Call Saul)

Have you ever watched the credits roll after an hour and said to yourself, “Self, that right there was a really good episode of television?” That was “Rico” for me, though honestly, this first season of Better Call Saul has been getting increasingly more compelling and impressive. I find myself dazzled by the unexpected depth and complexity of the protagonist, and by the development of his character, as well. Then there’s the writing of these episodes. Superb!

Those were my picks for March. Now let’s get on with April!