Today I returned home from school at lunchtime. Usually Robin, his parents, and I eat together, but today everyone's schedules were different, causing us each to dine independently. While I was eating lunch, Robin's mom, Pascale, was tidying up the kitchen. We were talking about random things while she was cleaning out the refrigerator. She had spent three hours at Carrefour (the French Wal-Mart and personally, my idea of hell) buying fresh fruits and vegetables, among various household goods.
I noticed that Pascale was putting fruits and veggies that were no longer fresh in a small bowl. While we were talking, she would walk out of the kitchen with the bowl. I thought it was strange, but figured she was putting the rotten food in a compost somewhere. I then realized I've been throwing away many things that could go in a compost, and no one had told me where the compost was. After several trips out of the kitchen with full bowls of veggies, I asked her what she was doing. "Oh! In the U.S. you have those things in the sink that go 'rrrrrrrrr' and eat the food, right?" she said. I thought for a minute and realized she was talking about garbage disposals! "Oui." I answered. "In France, we don't have those things. I have always really wanted one, but you just can't find them! I don't like putting this stuff in the garbage because the juice leaks out and gets all over the floor and the trash can. So, when Jean-Luc is not here, I dump this in the toilet. But shhh! Don't say a word--it's a secret!"
She then began to explain about how one time she was cleaning the refrigerator and stumbled upon ratatouille that had gone bad. For those of you who don't know, ratatouille is a dish comprised of many vegetables, including tomatoes, onions, peppers, and zucchini. Not wanting to make a mess when the ratatouille would inevitably leak from the garbage bag, Pascale dumped it in the toilet and continued to clean the fridge. Later, Jean-Luc went into the bathroom, saw the remains of the ratatouille (Pascale had forgotten to flush it), and thought someone had gotten sick. He began yelling "Is someone sick!? Did somebody throw up? What is this?!" Pascale came to check it out and responded "Oh no, that's just ratatouille. I was cleaning the refrigerator." Jean-Luc got angry because throwing old food in the toilet is bad for the septic system. Pascale agrees with him but doesn't care--she'd rather not have to mop the floor. So, now when he's not home, she cleans the fridge and disposes of old food her way.
This afternoon, Robin and I were leaving to go on a hike. I went into the restroom and saw three chives floating in the toilet. I immediately started laughing, and Robin came to see what was so funny. I showed him the chives and told him about his mom ("Oh I really shouldn't tell you this, because your mom told me not to..."). He informed me that she does this all the time and he knows about it. Apparently, Jean-Luc is the only one oblivious to what is going on when he's not around. I suppose it's good that I found the chives in the toilet this afternoon instead of him...