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Sunday, April 22


This was my Pedicure routine in America. Every 5- 6 weeks I would get a pedicure in Spring, Summer and Fall. (Those that think I am fancy pants, consider this. My profession, Chef/Caterer, required to be on my feet 5-7 hours daily and during big events, 12+ hours a day. So I allowed myself the only pleasure I knew I could within my budget, a pedicure. And furthermore, those women that enjoy pedicures, manicures (no thank you, I am a chef and I don’t want those chemicals in the food I make), facials also enjoy shopping sprees. For me shopping spree means going to few stores twice a year and getting the essentials or “trend” items for couple hundred dollars. Fancy pants I am not.)

And I digress. Every 5 weeks, I would schedule an appointment to go to my favorite salon near our home. I’d get there, picked my paint color and wait. The person (sometimes the husband of a couple, but mostly the wife) would have me sit in a massage chair and soak my feet in hot water. While they got their equipment ready, I would play with the buttons to get the perfect combination of upper back and lower back massages, sometimes both at the same time. And then the process began. They wiped down each foot with a hand towel, remove old nail polish and cleaned. This included cuticle cleaning, removal of dead skin, nail cutting, nail filing and etc. At the end of all the curing and before painting the nails, they always massaged the calfs, ankles and feet. During the pedicures, they always made conversation and asked about my work or day to day life. The husband often joked. Personable.

Now erase that picture and imagine a room with white walls, white chairs, stretch bed and few small machines. Imagine a hospital room. This is what they have in a local salon’s pedicure room. I was shocked. Upon entering the salon with a friend, we were designated to our individual rooms. (Where’s the girlfriend chatting time?) As I sat down, the woman asked me to lay down on the adjustable bed as she started working on my feet. I was surprised she soak my feet. She started to remove old nail polish paint. Then with a machine, she removed the dead skin. With another machine, she cleaned my cuticles. She cut my nails and then filed them with… a machine. Then she applied lotion. When she was done I asked about nail polish and she gave me a puzzled look “am I supposed to do that?” I kindly asked her to paint my toes. And she painted each one of my toes, in the middle, leaving the edges untouched. Either this person has never painted anyone’s toes or she was nervous because her paint job was terrible. It looked like a child painted my toes, just in the middle of each toe nail. Sadly, the only communication between us were the times I laughed when a machine tickled my feet and she giggled in response. And worst of all, there was no massage at any point.

I was highly disappointed from the service. And maybe I have a higher expectation of pedicures because of my experience in United States but I believe if a company is offering a service and calling it an internationally recognized name (i.e. pedicure), the service must meet its basic description. I didn’t expect a lengthy massage but a short one to relax my feet would be good. Or at a pedicure, I anticipate the person knows how to paint nails. Especially when the prices are comparable.

This can possibly also be a misunderstanding because I don’t speak German fluently and wasn’t able to express my expectations and she didn’t know English well to explain to me. However I do know I won’t be getting a pedicure advertised in a salon’s window anytime soon.

Oh I miss sitting in that massage chair while my feet soaked.

That was a bust but I treated us to a spa-like experience at home by making this elegant gratin for dinner. It didn’t beat the pedicure blues but it sure pleased.

Potato Leek Gratin

1/2 kilos (1 pound) potatoes, scrubbed and peeled
2 leeks, white & light green parts
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan, or other hard grating cheese
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
salt & freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Thinly slice garlic. Slice the leeks and add them to a deep bowl full of cold water. The grit will float to the bottom. Repeat once more to remove all the dirt and grit. Make sure to lift the leeks from the water rather than dumping everything in a strainer.

Heat 1/2 tablespoon of butter to a 10”, oven-proof skillet, on low heat. When melted, add garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the rinsed leeks, tossing in butter to coat. Add thyme, salt and pepper and sauté leeks & garlic until softened, without browning, about 8 minutes. If the leeks brown, briefly remove the pan from heat and allow the pan to cool down.

While the leeks are cooking, thinly slice the potatoes, 1/8” thick. A mandolin works great here but slicing by hand is also fine.

Combine milk & cream in a cup measure, add nutmeg, salt and pepper. And grate the cheese.

Once leeks are done, scrape them into a bowl, add a touch more butter to the skillet (to prevent the gratin from sticking) and layer half of the potatoes into the bottom of the pan. Salt the potatoes. Turn off the heat. Spread the leeks evenly over the potatoes. Layer the remaining potatoes over the leeks, building a 2nd layer of potatoes. Salt and pepper the 2nd layer.

Pour the milk/cream mixture over the potato-leek layers. As the final layer, sprinkle on the grated cheese, cover with aluminum foil and bake in the preheated oven until potatoes are tender, the top is lightly browned, and the liquid has been absorbed, about 50 minutes- 1 hour.

Cool the gratin for 10 minutes before slicing. Serve warm with a green salad.

On a much more optimistic note, I just learned that pedicures are also known as Fußpflege. I’ll try it again with a new name.

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