When did I realise I was French
I grew up in France and moved to Sydney when I was 30 years old; at that time I thought I was not that French and found it easy to fit in Australia.
How little did I really know about myself ! After 4 years in India, my husband and I went back to Sydney with our first little boy, pregnant with our second son.
It is then I realised how French I was and how spoiled I have been as a growing kid in France.
Why do people give snack to kids, why do they eat alone ?
The first time I realised my difference was when, surrounded by other young mums, I saw little kids, barely able to walk, having snacks. Pop corn, yoghurt bites, crackers, biscuits, sandwiches and sometime vegetables or fruits… I was utterly horrified. How will they manage to have a proper lunch one or two hours later when their stomach has already been filled by all this unnecessary food ?
And coming to diner, I was sad to see children eating on their own some pasta or fried food hours before the parents would eat something else. Especially here in Asia, were the kids eat with their nanny, often with TV on or an iPad. How do you want them to enjoy their food? When it is the best time for parents to educate them. Table manners are so important, you learn when it is your time to talk and to listen, you help cleaning the table between meals as you have a clean plate for salad and cheese.. Sharing meals is showing love.
Food is the centre of our culture, back in France. I grew up learning that if you do not eat your breakfast, you will have to wait until lunch time to get some food. And breakfast was usually nothing else than a few pieces of the baguette from the day before with butter and homemade jam. My parents grew up during world war II so no waste was acceptable. Living in third world countries I really try not to waste food too, knowing street kids have barely a meal a day.
I do not remember myself complaining of being hungry without a morning snack and I was happily eating a long lunch at home, when at school age, between morning and afternoon sessions; because we had a good 90 minutes break. I always sat at a table for at least 30 minutes to enjoy a raw vegetable salad with a cooked meal and ended up with a fruit or a yoghurt. Nothing fancy and I liked it. Every bite of it. Because it was fresh and tasty.
Only snacks we got as kids were after school to give us some energy. That was during childhood, this habit stopped sometime during teenagehood. Nothing more than a nice piece of bread and a square of chocolate, sometime but rarely will I get a “pain aux raisins”. It is called a “goûter” because it tastes nice and it is sweet.
Diner of course was my favourite time because my brothers and dad were back and we enjoyed a good hour meal talking about our day and culture or politics. As simple as lunch was, diner was also time for green salad, cheese and sometime a dessert like creme caramel or a cherry cake.
Only Sunday did we indulge with a richer meal that we all helped to cook and a pastry, homemade or from the bakery.
So when my kids are asking why they just have fruits to carry for their snacks in the morning at school, because all their friends have biscuits, popcorn, or more… It makes me think twice. Maybe they should not even have the fruits.
French taste for simple
I always hear complaints from clients stating that they can not cook gourmet food. Who says gourmet is healthy. Gourmet is for special occasion. Back in my childhood my mum was cooking the same weekly routine for lunch. Monday was left over from Sunday lunch, one day minced beef with green beans, one day veal liver with potato puree, one day lamb with couscous and ratatouille, one day sole (it had to be the whole fish fresh from the market) with boiled potatoes. Always with a raw vegetables salad as a starter and fruits for dessert. As I said dinner was a bit more special but remained really simple and quick to make.
The main thing for us is the quality of our products. Fresh from the market or the garden and tasting so good. You do not need to add anything when the green peas are cleaned from the pod with your little hands and slightly boiled with a pinch of sea salt; maybe a little bit of fresh butter that melt in your plate. Or some wild mushrooms picked in the wood, just sauted with garlic, herbs and fresh cream. It is divine.
I like tasting what I am eating and always prefer small portions of few different things than one big plate where everything is mixed. It is all about taking your time and savouring, loving your time at the table with homemade fresh meals made with love.
Yes it is all about love.
Our love for food comes from the 14th century and evolved through the years. French food is creative and became an art that is changing with season and matches the produces found in each region. The French revolution started mainly because French could not eat, so we killed our king for the people to get bread and meat.
One of our most famous classical movie is the story of some guys carrying a pig alive in Paris underground during the war to sell at the black market or another one about how unacceptable it was to consider fast food and processed food edible, this last one was in 1976.
This love for food made us adventurous, tasting new food coming from overseas and getting inspired by it. Since living abroad I changed my recipes to add some ginger, moringa, turmeric, pechay, tropical fruits, pandan; trying; tasting local produces knowing that eating is a way of understanding a new culture.
We got inspiration from our colonies and French cuisine is about creativity and the knowledge of mixing tastes and textures.
And again, I realised how French world is evolving so much around food. I miss my local market, open three times a week. My baker, around the corner who I could talk with about politics. The butcher that I could trust to have fresh meat and delicious homemade pâtés.
The fisherman, the café where everybody was meeting after market for some cheese and wine, trying to create a new world and talking about recipes. The taste of freshly picked berries and 20 different kind of plums or cherries, beautiful oysters just opened and not washed !
Going to shop in France is not about getting your supplies. It is a social hub, meeting all the people that gives you lovely food and sharing it with friends and family.
Knowing the baker wakes up at four in the morning to bake fresh bread with his bare hands, because we do not ask them to wear gloves, because we do not care about clean food. We want tasty, freshly made bread. Butcher, baker, cheesemaker, winemaker studied a traditional way and we want to keep it, fighting against the new world. It is 2 to 3 years full time study to be an apprentice baker.
We love food so much we want to protect our heritage and doing so we protect our land and seas. No GMO, trying to avoid pesticides, reducing the size of our cattle to go back to a more traditional way of agriculture, just because it tastes better. Fishermen have to catch tuna with a line as France asked tin factories to stop using tuna filet caught to help species to replenish.
Restaurants are divided into categories where you know which one makes everything from scratch (including sauces, stocks and all). People want to buy French and origins have to be written for each produce you buy.
So, for all of you who want to embrace a healthy lifestyle, it is not about eating those grains coming from the other side of the world or having a strict diet; it is not about going to the gym for one hour before spending your time sitting on front of a computer eating sandwiches; it is not about anything that restricts you and makes you miserable.
It is about embracing the world, doing a daily shopping, walking from work, playing team games, gathering with friends and children in a kitchen to cook what was bought at the market.
Who cares if some flour falls on the floor, if your kids clothes are a bit dirty when you smell crushed garlic and rosemary frying in olive oil, when you hear the whistle of the pressure cooker, when you see your apple pie getting golden in the oven. All this with a glass of red wine and a good laugh with loved ones. And then, nothing matters anymore.
Look after yourselves, eat well and be happy.