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The trouble with being an “exchange student” in another country is homesickness. You miss sights, sounds, food, smells, friends, family. The way my parents’ house smells. Blasting the radio. 24 hour grocery stores. The mountains and the smell of snow. Miss Erica and our numerous inside jokes. Iced coffee. My dear Jo, whom I miss so dearly, but I love reading her posts – it’s like talking to her, somehow. Kisses to you my darling.

Anyway, yes, I miss things. But I’ve overcome the missing food part. With the exception of chocolate chips (my mom literally shipped me some because she knows how much I miss them) and whole wheat tortillas, but that’s water under the bridge at this point.

Another obstacle is my quest to integrate and shake this dumb “exchange student” stigma is my damn nationality. Yeah yeah yeah, American accent. Okay, I can’t shake that. The assumption by EVERY OTHER NONAMERICAN PERSON that I am the authority on all things American. For example, in my literature course – my American literature course – I am the only American and am therefore called upon to explain the historical and social context of every text we encounter. Last time I checked, I was a communication science major, which entails socio-cultural theories, studying gender and organizations, understanding the facets of nonverbal communication, and being able to write a bomb essay analyzing a billboard. I am NOT a history student. But hell, when the instructor asks what happened in 1864 in the US and no one says anything, looking around the room with sad and confused looks on their faces, what do you expect me to do? Civil War my friends. Civil freaking War.

And the trend continues. I have dinner with two of my Dutch friends every Tuesday, and today, it was requested that we make something easy. Domi studied in Utah for three years (she was my roommate last year), so she requested Mac n’ Cheese or Sloppy Joes. And it was determined that “the American” would deal with it, she being the resident authority on these particular dishes.

Mac n’ Cheese is kindof boring to me these days, since I make it quite often (with real cheese, of course, non of this boxed crap). So, Sloppy Joes I done did make. Sans Manwich Sauce, I might add. Not as hard as you might think, and in my expert American opinion, just as, if not more tasty than the lazy kid normal American method. Look at me defying stereotypes.

Talle’s Sloppy Joes

  • Preparation Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20-30 minutes
  • Serves: 6
  • Frying pan for meat and sauce, napkins!

*PS. As I am denying my Americanness despite this recipe, I’m using grams for meat measurement*

600g Ground Beef (I prefer 15 fat/85 meat, but that’s your call)
1 small onion, chopped
olive oil
2 C ketchup
3 tsp stone ground mustard
curry powder
salt and pepper
meat seasoning
chili powder

The Steps!

  1. Fry the onions in the olive oil until translucent, add the beef and cook thoroughly.
  2. Remove from heat. Mix in ketchup, mustard, and seasonings. I admit, I didn’t measure. I added a bit and tasted, then added a bit, then tasted. Heavy on the curry powder and meat seasoning; low on cinnamon, chili powder, and salt.
  3. Serve on buns with coleslaw, baked beans, potato chips, corn on the cob, anything interesting and “American” you can get your sloppy little fingers on.

“Hey, how about dinner tonight? I’ll bring some stuff over?” reads a text I received a few days ago. It’s from Mark, my Aussie friend, who at some point very early in the getting-to-know-you stage discovered I like to cook. No, he wasn’t cooking for me (though that would be lovely, if anyone is thinking about it…:p ). Rather, he arrived and cracked a bottle of red as I proceeded to do one of the things I believe I do best – you guessed it. Cook. I’m so predictable it’s sad.

On the menu for the night was green beans, funeral potatoes, and steak.

Now, let’s face it, green beans are easy peasy and don’t need anything special to make them tasty. Just boil in some lightly salted water for a couple minutes. Butter on top, if you want, though my favorite is sauteing the beans in olive oil with some parsley and garlic. MMMmmmMMM.

Next, the Funeral potatoes, which are simple enough as well, and any google search will lend you a plethora of good recipes. The moral of the story is potatoes and cheese…lots of cheese.  The trouble is that this food is so good I eat all of it in one go…do with it as you wish.  Here’s the recipe I used, with a few minor tweaks (no sour cream, it don’t exist in this here part of the world. And I added onions too.)

Meanwhile, what I do really want to share is my foray into the world of red wine. I myself am more of a white girl myself (no pun intended), though I can handle a bit of rose.  But red wine? It gets me drunk and gives me a horrible headache (sulfites, I know), not to mention the cheap stuff you can buy here tastes exactly that – cheap. So I cheated a bit. Mark poured me a glass of wine and I drank it, chatting and being the generally sociable gal that I am. But sneaky sneaky me, my second glass did not go into my tummy right away, as you would think, but into a pan to simmer and make my kitchen smell oh-so-lovely. Pour my concoction onto a couple steaks, and you have a pretty hearty meal. Mark seemed pretty happy with it, though it would have been better if he’d cooked the steaks for me. Ah, well, a girl can dream, can’t she?

Steak with Red Wine Sauce

  • Preparation Time: 1o minutes
  • Cook Time: 5-10 minutes
  • Serves: 2
  • Frying pan for sauce, grill or another pan for the steaks

2 Steaks, any cut you like
1/2 C. beef broth (bullion cubes are your friend)
1/2 C. red wine
1 T onion, chopped
1/2 tsp. mustard
1 T. parsley
1 T. butter
salt and pepper

The Steps!

  1. Salt and pepper the steaks. Grill or fry them up to your desired cooked level.
  2. Fry up the butter, onion, and parsley until the onions are golden brown. Mix in the mustard.
  3. Pour the broth and wine into the pan and simmer until it starts to thicken. If you need to, you can put a bit of flour in to help the thickening process, though I found flour messed up the texture and I prefer to simple cook it a bit longer.
  4. Pour the sauce over the steaks and serve!