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Culinary Tips for My Fellow Apartment Friends

For everyone who, unlike most study-abroaders, isn't welcomed home each evening with a fresh, home-cooked, authentic meal prepared by a lovely little "host mom," this one's for you. Hopefully I can pass along some helpful tips about healthy (and cheap!) apartment cooking and living while studying abroad. Fear not, it is possible to create meals that rival those of your home-stay friends--it just might take a bit of experimenting and a whole lot of creativity...

I do believe that for the first few weeks of living in my apartment here in France, I made a salad with an odd assortment of veggies every single night (yes, every. single. night.). And sure, while that's certainly healthy, it is by no means enough to sustain a healthy lifestyle--it also just gets really old, really fast. I was clearly a little lost, and entirely unsure of how to go about feeding myself properly in a foreign country. First step? Find a good grocery store! Maybe your definition of "good" is different from someone else's. Mine, however, means reasonably cheap, fresh, easy to navigate, and of course, good quality. Once I discovered said grocery store in Aix, it was much easier to start thinking about daily and weekly meals. Second, make grocery lists, and stick to them! Once you start living on your own long enough, you know which food items are your basic staples (olive oil, eggs, cheese, milk, butter, spices galore, etc.). And once you knock those of the list, you can start thinking about fairly basic meals that don't take too long to prepare, but are well-balanced and of course, yummy. Here in France, a popular side-dish is couscous, and it couldn't be easier to prepare, not to mention almost anything goes with it...lots of room for creativity!
 From my favorite Boulangerie

If you're like me, a fresh cup of coffee in the morning is an absolute necessity. Fortunately our apartment came with an easy-to-use coffee maker, so indulging my addiction is both trouble-free and cheap. For lunch, I typically just pack a sandwich and bring it with me in the morning since I'm in class all day. Again, buying sandwich supplies at the grocery store is affordable and quite delicious when the cheese aisle is miles long. For bread, I simply must pick up a fresh loaf at the nearby boulangerie (I can't even begin to express how much I'm going to miss this place). And voila! I don't think I'll ever get sick of these fresh sandwiches.
 Quiche, baked zucchini, broccoli and beans, baguette

Like I said, when preparing dinners, it doesn't have to get too complicated to be well-balanced and yummy. Countless times I've made quiche with a side of broccoli and a few slices of a baguette, and it has served as a great go-to meal. Since I have a 99.9% Italian roommate, pasta is also another go-to. Without a doubt, she can whip up at least 50 different variations of pasta, depending on what's sitting in our pantry at the time. It's quite impressive! I've certainly learned a lot since living with her. But overall, just think of a few relatively simple meals that you can rotate during the week, and then maybe get a little crazier on the weekends when you have more time.

And whatever you do, eat more than lettuce and veggies every night. Best of luck, fellow apartment friends, and be confident in your culinary skills!

 Claire Barrett enjoying a little Baked Ziti

Emily Blume is the Spring 2014 CEA MOJO in Aix-en-Provence, France. She is currently a Sophomore at the University of Pittsburgh.

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