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The Scarlet & Black

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Cribz: Food, friends, and fancy architecture at French House

French House Coordinator Noa Goldman ’22 prepares for a cheese-tasting event. Photo by Ingrid Meulemans.

By Ingrid Meulemans

Just north of campus on the intersection of 8th Avenue and Park Street sits a charming old home. A traditional 19th century Victorian, the house stands tall and stately next to the ski chalet serving as an admissions information center that the College built next door. 

French House, or La Maison Française, is the home of nine French-speaking Grinnellians: Ruijie (Jerry) Xia ’21, Kosuke Yo ’20, Elizabeth Wong ’22, Leo Barr ’22, Seif Emam ’22, Claire Davis ’22, Nancy Mu ’22 and house coordinator Noa Goldman ’22.

Although living in a language house is always an adventure, French House served up some extra excitement this past Wednesday night. In a proper French fashion, house coordinator Noa Goldman worked together with language assistant Claire Alexandre to plan a “Soirée de Dégustation de Fromages,” or a cheese tasting party, for all to enjoy.

“It’s hard to speak French after a long day of school,” said Goldman. “So I think a really great way that we’ve tried to keep up our French is by having events and inviting people from campus. The turnout was so good [tonight] … Everyone can come, not just the people who live in the house. And we have money! So why not buy some cheese?”

After getting special permission from Goldman to speak in English, I was able to interrupt some of the residents between bites of cheese and ask them a couple of questions about the house.

Although they were eager to keep snacking and vote on their favorite fromage, the housemates all took the time to voice their appreciation for the architectural beauty of the house.

Wong took me on a mini tour and showed me the French windows in their room that span the length of almost two walls. 

“This is so much bigger than my Norris dorm,” said Wong, “And it has actual sunlight!” Davis added that she also loves to wake up to the natural light. However, Wong said that the windows do get a bit cold in the wintertime, as evidenced the stack of blankets and sleeping bags on her bed. 

“This is a drafty old house, but it’s so charming,” said Wong. “I think it’s so beautiful. I really just appreciate how much the school did for us.”

Surprisingly, the enormous, detailed windows were not the most popular feature of the house, though. Instead, all the residents gushed about the kitchen. This was especially true for Emam, who Wong described as the “Gordon Ramsay of the group.”

“I came here primarily to get off the meal plan,” he said. “I don’t like D-hall or the food on campus that much. I like tracking my food, so I did that. The kitchen here is really nice too, and I do a lot of meal prep.”

And while Emam didn’t reveal any of his recipes to The S&B, he did walk me through a typical week of meal prepping.

“I usually cook on the weekends, and I cook like two kinds of meat or rice. … Then I freeze them, so I have enough for the week. It makes it faster. That’s the main thing … people think it will take longer to cook all your food at once, but if you know what you are doing, it will be faster.”

Being able to save time is a real game changer for Emam, who said he sometimes spent upwards of three hours in Dhall last year. 

As he told The S&B, “I just sit at a table and it’s hard to stand up again.” We’ve all been there, Seif. Oh, and his favorite cheese? “Le Roquefort.”

As the night went on, guests continued to arrive, leave their backpacks and shoes in the foyer, and vote on their favorite cheese. It was a close call, but according to Goldman, Gruyere pulled through with the win. In her opinion, the night was a success. Also, as a fan of the Gruyere, its win was the Eiffel on top of the Tower for Goldman.

“Me and the language assistant, Claire Alexandre, were chopping up cheese before this event, and I was like, ‘This feels real, Claire!’ and of course we were talking in French, but I was like, ‘It feels like we’re hosting a party together! We’re just adults hosting a dinner party with soft lighting and French music.”

The hostess’s recommendation? “A slice of gruyere, a warm baguette, and a grape on top. It’s the perfect combination.” Also, to stop by and see La Maison Française for yourself.

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