We recently returned from France, which is one of many reasons my blog has been dormant. During the first breakfast after we arrived, I suddenly realized that this trip to France was going to be about much more than having an opportunity to immerse my girls in French for a place influences so much more than simply language. For me France switches off certain parts of me or at least triggers some sort of hibernation while other parts turn on. Where I am can definitely affect how I think about things, what I want to do, whether I gain weight when I eat porc fat on white bread and what I crave for breakfast.
My eldest is definitely an oatmeal/cereal girl for breakfast but when we found ourselves the first morning at my aunt’s kitchen table, it seemed simply wrong to feed her such a thing. I mean, we were in FRANCE! Cheerios in Normandy? Sacre Bleu Non! This is the land of seriously good bread. This is where you ignore the warnings of white products and you gorge yourself on an endless supply of baguettes morning, noon and night!
I told her she would be having ‘tartines et de la confiture aux groseilles’. She liked the word ‘groseilles’ so that went down well.Groseilles is one of those words that remind me how my vocabulary is seasonal and that I typically know the names of plants and fruits in French and everything else in English. Sometimes I know the words in both languages without knowing they are the same thing. So for the last 20 odd years I’ve thought that I liked ‘groseilles’ but not currants when in fact they are the same thing!
I was also determined for her to have a bol de chocolat for no reason other than I used to have it as a little girl during my summers in France. (A total milkaholic kid, the chocolate was the only way I would tolerate U.H.T milk). Drinking your coffee or hot chocolat out of a bowl is as far as I know extremely French.
Seeing her sit there holding the two little handles with a serious chocolate Dali-esque moustache, it dawned on me that I didn’t just want her to speak French, I wanted her to identify with what I perceive as some of the quintessential French experiences I grew up with during my long summers at my Grandmother’s.
I couldn’t wait for her to experience her first real ‘pain au chocolat’ straight from the ‘boulangerie’ whose incredible selections of fresh-baked patisseries always seemed magical. So much of French culture revolves around food and in my case, having grown up in an urban center, France was also my grounding in all things nature related especially the connection between land and plate. It was also such a nice change to be able to walk through the gardens and countryside and not need my pocket dictionary but just have the names of flowers and fruits to hand, to recognize the wild blackberry bushes, and have her pick her own strawberries from the ground, still warm from the sun – never at a loss for words.