Today I have a guest post written just for you by Paddy Davy, whom I met on Twitter (you can get his updates here). Paddy is a talented chef (just look at the pictures if you need any convincing) who wants to create a brand of traditional rural pubs that offer excellence in food and service. If you want to support his venture, please visit Leclere Taverns. I really think that he is on to something!
To top everything up, Paddy is a Francophile. Of course he is. And he has created a version of bourride with a British twist just for you! I like it so much that I think I will try it on next time I have guests at home. Read on, and enjoy!
I don’t know where I belong any more. What can I say? I am a citizen of the world. We landed yesterday morning from New York, and it was Bastille day. This means that nobody was working in France, but of course in London it was business as usual. Except that we all fell asleep on the sofa at some point.
I always feel a bit homesick on Bastille day. As in, a bit out of sync. There is no reason as to why I do, it’s just the way it is. In fact, it is not even clear what it is we French celebrate on 14th of July: is it the Storming of the Bastille on 14th of July of 1789 or the Fete de la Federation which celebrated the unity of the French people on 14 July 1790? Nobody knows.
In order to get rid of the blues, I went to Brasserie Zedel to celebrate the 14th of July. They had invited me, and I had never been. To cut a long story short, Brasserie Zedel offers you a 3-course meal on Bastille day if you come wearing a beret and a stripy T-shirt. They do the same in January for the ‘galette des rois’ but you have to wear a crown. I felt a bit too old for this, and went with my LBD. They still invited me. Phew! Fashion faux pas averted.
Today I need a bit of help. I found an old manuscript I wrote a couple of years ago, and I think that it has some potential (I spent most of the night reading it, if you must know). It is a love story between a (far from perfect) French girl, and a (very) British man. Following various Twitter exchanges, I have named him Archie. Here is the first chapter. It is supposed to explore all the cliches…in a funny & sometimes provocative way. Tell me what you think…
Oh, and I came across a great initiative by the talented Arnaud: if you want to brush up your French skills and enjoy good food, check Arnaud’s Language Kitchen. He is starting a supper club on Bastille day in Marylebone, London. Email him (firstname.lastname@example.org) for further info.
It is lucky. Really lucky. I can leave work early for once. My boring business meeting has been cancelled and I won’t have to go through my bloody PowerPoint presentation on European building regulations. I am looking forward to a nice calm evening at home with my English boyfriend, Archie and my little one, Alexandra.
But first, I need to pick her up at the nursery. Alexandra has settled in well, and she seems happy there. I push the front door. The receptionist, once again, doesn’t recognise me. She sees me most days. How silly can you be? I really wonder sometimes.
“ I am here to pick up my daughter Alexandra”
“ Oh yes, I remember you now. Sorry, you look so… um …young. You French women always look good, even after having kids.”
She sighs heavily.
She checks me out from head to toe. What she probably means is “You look so skinny”. I feel like slapping her right across her fat British face. I am about to say ‘how about cutting down on bacon sandwiches every morning? It might save your stool from breaking under the weight of your bulging bum!’. I just smile and mutter an unconvinced “Thank you”.
Since I started blogging, I have received lots of invitations for various events and openings. Some look interesting, others, well, not so much (and some are way off limits, if you must know). This one caught my eyes. No, it wasn’t about some fancy restaurant launch. It was organised by British Gas, and it was about Women In Engineering. You see, I happen to be an Engineer by background, and I had to study hardcore science subjects such as Quantum Physics to become what I am. I still do the occasional job reviewing technical notes, and I manage my construction projects myself (not as easy as it sounds, there is some water resistance and strength of materials involved). I was curious. Had things changed? Was it any easier to be a women in engineering nowadays? Memories started coming back to me. When I moved to Paris after my baccalaureate to start university, I remember that my bras were stolen from the tumble dryer by a male class mate. I found them a few days later on the class door. Lovely, right? So thoughtful and subtle…We were 3 girls out of 50, if my memory serves me well.
But I digress. So, were things any different this side of the Channel?
Let me be clear here: I do not wish I were a guy in the physical sense. But in daily life, I find being a woman deeply frustrating. And if, like me, you happen to be French, then you have double the fun. What am I talking about? Well, hear me out before judging me too harshly:
1. As a woman, you are supposed to be soft, compliant, understanding, maternal, patient and a good listener. And that’s just to name a few. The thing is, we are just human. Just like everybody else, come to think of it;
2. I am sick and tired of ‘doing well for a woman’. What does it even mean? Give me a break;
3. I am not your Darling, Sweetie or Honey. Never have. Never will. Sorry;
Whatever our nationality, we women usually have a much tougher deal than men. Seriously, why do we have so much pressure on our shoulders? And how are we supposed to do everything we have to do (kids, house, looking good, working, cooking…) without being overwhelmed? I simply don’t know. In fact, I must admit that I am exhausted most of the time.
Yes, I look this good all the time, I promise…
Take for instance the fact that we have to look good when we go out, and pretend that we did it effortlessly. What a nightmare! I might be French, but I am not good at preparing myself. I could sort of manage in my twenties because I didn’t need to do much, but now I just can’t. It’s just too much hassle. I don’t have the patience, and I happen to be a bit of a tomboy. If you bumped into me on the street, I would probably be wearing my black running gear or my torn jeans. Not very French, I know! That’s just me.
Me on a regular day
I don’t know where all of you are right now, but you totally need to come to London if you can. London this June is the world’s best-kept secret. It’s not too warm, the light is perfect, and the parks are in full bloom.
And the food, ah, the food… Don’t believe anyone who tells you that the food in the UK is horrible. London is simply buzzing, and last time I went to France everything was closed -just saying. Last week I was invited to try out Ceru at the French Riviera near City Hall. There was something about the setting (think palm trees, comfy beds and flamingos), and the food that made me want to come back as soon as possible. And we are talking about street food here, but street food with a twist: tasty, fresh and well-prepared, and…cheap.
The thing is, when someone talks about street food, it reminds me of a summer in Bali where I wanted to impress my then boyfriend (now husband), and tried out some street food (chicken satay from memory) in Denpasar night market. Let’s just say that I ended up spending the night in the bathroom, and swore that I would never, ever, make the same mistake again (ah, memories!). The worst was having to pretend that everything was fine (as you have to do at the start of a relationship) when everything was clearly not fine. You all know the feeling, right? Ah, the things we have to do sometimes!
I grew up with petanque. Where I am from, every family had its own set of boules. Mine was no exception. So what is petanque? Petanque is a form of boules game where the goal is to throw hollow metal balls as close as possible to a small wooden ball called a cochonnet, while standing inside a circle with both feet on the ground. The game is normally played on hard dirt or gravel. It usually takes place in the village’s market place after a day of work.
Petanque originated from Provence, where I am from.
It all sounds nice and simple, but nothing could be further from the truth. There are many strategies to score as many points as you can. You can, for instance, decide to point or to shoot. The best throw of all is called a carreau (Ah, un carreau!). It is a a shot that knocks away the opponent’s boule, leaving the thrown boule exactly in its place, as if by magic. How many times have I heard it? I wonder. A carreau is always a cause for celebration. Bring on the pastis please!
What the official federations don’t tell you is that, if you lose the game, there is a little humiliating ritual that we call ‘Embrasser Fanny’. Fanny is a common first name in France. When we say, ’embrasser Fanny’, it means that the losing team must kiss Fanny’s buttocks. In front of the whole village. Here is a little picture of the lovely Fanny.
And yes, if you lose, you must kiss the picture in front of everybody. That’s right, everybody. Well, what can I say? You just have to win.
Little did I know that Petanque is hugely popular this side of the Channel too (but somehow they forgot the little ritual for the losing team at the end!). But this weekend, there is a Petanque festival in London. yep, you read that right. Here is all the info…
It all started with a Twitter conversation on how my diet had changed since crossing the Channel. I started scratching my head, and realised that yes, some of my eating habits have changed. Not all of them of course, but enough to make me wonder whether I am still French at heart. I will let you be the judge of that…Here we go:
1. Where do I start? For breakfast, I used to have toasts or croissants, and wash it down with a huge glass of orange juice. I also used to have black coffee, and I was drinking it straight from my bowl (It’s a French thing). Well, not any more. Because I use a mug nowadays, and I can’t start my day without a cappuccino, a couple of eggs with some salad and maybe half an avocado. And I don’t feel hungry any more at about 11 in the morning. I just love it!
2. It is no secret that British cuisine is frowned upon in my home country. That said, I must admit that I have grown quite fond of some British specialties, such as fish and chips, fishcakes and Yorkshire pudding, bangers and mash… And the Sunday roast…Nothing tops up a good Sunday roast, right?
3. I have cheese before dessert. Always have. Always will. And no, I can’t do it the other way around. Just imagine the taste of a cup of coffee after cheese (yuck!). That said, if you must know, I tend not to have cheese and dessert. Because it’s all a bit too much, if you ask me. What can I say? A French women can’t indulge to often. That’s just who we are.
I am thrilled to report that my second column is now available…Enjoy without moderation!
As I am French, my friends keep coming to me for advice on their relationships. I will never understand why. That’s just the way it is, I suppose, and I had to learn to accept it. Today was no exception. A friend asked me what the best food for a date was. Me being me, I blurted out that for a date all I would care about would be the after-dessert course. What can I say? I am incorrigible. And French. As I think I shocked him, I decided to give the matter some more thoughts, and eventually came up with a more detailed answer. So here it is: this is what I should have told him.
Read the rest here…