The last week has involved a lot of food! Last weekend the school took all of the exchange students out to dinner -- it was tons of fun to take over the restaurant with the 100+ students and eat to excess. I sat next to a really interesting Dane named Mikkel who had an eerily familiar American accent, evidentially from the 6 months he lived in Romania with Americans and Daniel, who's like my gay best friend, except he happens not to be gay.

After dinner, a group of us decided that we were too poor to go to the bars so early, and that we'd party in the Danish style by picking up beers at Netto, the local Grocery Outlet / 7-11 / store that sells things that fell off the back of a truck. Unfortunately, the appeal of liberal Danish open container laws drops with the temperature, and most nights are between -10° and 0° C here. Fortunately, yours truly has a flat in city center, with heat paid for by the school! (or the government. or the building owner. I'm not really sure. but by someone else, that's the important bit). So we had an impromptu party at my place, pregaming a late night of bar-hopping.

It was so fun having everyone over that I decided to do it again, perhaps in a slightly more organized and less drunk way.

On Wednesday, I threw a dinner party for, let's see, I think 11 people total! I introduced everyone to mac n cheese, 7-layer bean dip, and banana bread. I also got to introduce my Danish friends to my exchange student friends from the rest of Europe. We enjoyed Iranian pistachios and a phenomenal Belgian beer, brought by citizens of their respective countries of origin.

Squeezing in around the little table in my flat

I usually make Martha Stewart's crack and cheese recipe, but I haven't been able to find gruyere cheese in the store here, and I really think that's what makes the dish.

Side story: I asked a French friend who's been here since the Fall if they had gruyere here. He said, "Yes, yes, it's Swiss, right?". It sounded French to me, but I thought I remembered reading somewhere that gruyere was Swiss, and the French version had a different name. Also, I'm pretty sure the brand I usually buy in the US has a Swiss flag on the packaging, so I said "Yeah, it's Swiss" and he said "Yeah, they have it here" and gave me the Danish name. That afternoon, I went and bought some. Turns out, he gave me the name for literally swiss cheese - like, the kind with holes in it.

Without gruyere, I figured I'd save myself some time (and money) and tried an easier recipe with cheddar cheese. There was a last minute hiccup when I realized the casserole dish I was planning on cooking it in wouldn't fit in my dinky toaster oven, but I just ended up baking it in a sauce pan instead.

On Thursday, a friend came over for lunch, and I made quesadillas (which he'd never heard of before) with corn, salsa, baked beans, and bell peppers. I'm slowly realizing how much of my diet is Mexican, which is so weird! I don't think of burritos, quesadillas, tacos, chips and salsa, etc. as Mexican food near as much as I think of them as college student food. I finally discovered that the reason I can never find tortilla chips in the chips aisle is because they're in the Ethnic food section next to the Vietnamese rice noodles and coconut milk.

Last week, I tried making a pasta sauce based on Brian & Roland's recommendation. It was so good that I made it again last week to poach eggs in. When I was invited to another international potluck this weekend, where everyone makes a dish from their home country, I wanted a chance to use the tomato sauce, and I also wanted to take advantage of the fact that I could use a real oven! So I made a pizza stacked high with vegetables -- it was easy, cheap, and yummy. [full spread, including my pizza on the right]

Several of the Korean students were quite curious about the pizza, and checked with me several times "Bread, then tomato, then cheese, then vegetables?" Their obvious unfamiliarity only makes me sympathize more with Adam's odd experiences with pizza while he studies abroad this semester.

All in all, I'm getting a bit of a reputation as that girl that makes tasty food for us. Anyone who knows me from the US will find that either really funny, or serious cause for concern. But it turns out that outrageously expensive cafes and tons of free time is a combination that's pretty conducive to learning how to cook. (A kitchen equipped only with a mini-fridge, 2 stovetop burners and a toaster oven is another matter). I've often thought, gee, it'd be nice if I had the time to find a recipe, go to the grocery store to buy the necessary ingredients, and come home to make it. But I haven't found the time until now, when going grocery shopping takes me approximately 8 times as long as it does at home (as much as I love my Danish-English iPhone app, speed is not one of it's strengths).

We'll wait and see if my fondness for cooking fades away. At this point, I'm reasonably sure of the identity of most of the spices I've bought in a trial-and-error fashion, and I have a couple things I love making (I can't believe how much of my life I've wasted putting jam on toast! now I just put marmalade or spiced ginger preserves into the bread dough). Dig in!*

*The rather unfortunate consensus to this question.

This is a post from my personal blog

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