^^The tiny king and I shopping at Les Halles in Avignon^^
There are things I miss deeply about America. Important things and totally insignificant things (but the latter tend to be the things that send me straight to a chocolate bar and a repeat viewing of Pride and Prejudice on rough days). Now that I’ve been here nearly two months, I think I can confidently share some of the things I find to be fantastic about La France.
- “CouCou! CouCou!” – This is a favorite expression of older people when they see a cute child, like my tiny king, J. They’ll stop in the middle of their tracks to shout “CouCou!” across the produce aisle or down the parking lot. It’s quite sweet–and it makes me feel like a local for a moment.
- Le Pain! — Oh boy, the bread here is tres bon! And you know what? You don’t see paleo/gluten free anywhere, except for maybe the health food store. It’s wonderful. People have their preferred local bakeries, and the bakeries are plentiful. It’s common to visit the bakery at least every other day, if not more frequently.
- Walking— The towns are very pedestrian-oriented. Yes, it takes longer to run errands by foot, but the pace of life is a bit slower here than in the US anyway. Walking also refreshing, healthy, and an enjoyable way to see other members of your community.
- Les Marches- The French have fantastic farmers’ markets and they’re full of delicious foods. Some of my favorite market finds so far are olive tapenades, tomato caviar (not real caviar, just a tomato tapenade of sorts), dried fruits, and of course, wonderful cheeses. It seems that most people shop at farmers’ markets, and the quality of the food you’ll find at them is reflective of the value the French place on their food.
- The Pace– This aspect of France is something I simultaneously love and dislike. I do appreciate how much the French take time to enjoy conversation, food, and their breaks from work. I’ve heard it said “they work to live, they don’t live to work”. In general, life does not feel rushed here. Even the start of our day is slightly later than back home, allowing me more time to drink my coffee, do some household chores, and so on before school. Little breaks are embedded in the day, and lunch breaks are quite generous in length. As long as this is balanced with a good work ethic, I think it’s a wonderful part of the culture.
One of the many jobs I held in college was that of a hostess and waitress at a tiny cafe in downtown Cary, North Carolina named “Serendipity Deli”. It was a unique spot that honestly would’ve fit well in a town like Berkley, California. My fellow employees, of which there were only 6, were an interesting mix. The waitresses were all hippies, including one really sweet woman in her 60’s (we’ll call her Cheryl), who, in my memory, was always eating raw cucumbers behind the counter and talking about her fondness for animals. The other two hippie waitresses were young and fun. Eventually, my sister Jessie worked there too, which made the co-worker situation even more fantastic. We’d get to the cafe on Saturdays, turn up the music, and float around the place in our graphic t-shirts and flowy skirts. Two Moroccan men ran the kitchen, where they’d make anything from gazpacho to banana cream pie. I recall the relationship between the waitresses and the kitchen staff oscillated between being very friendly and very tenuous. I guess every workplace needs a little drama? The mix of personalities was colorful and I liked it.
Aside from the people, my favorite thing about Serendipity was their lemon tahini dressing. The veggie “garden” pita sandwich with lemon tahini dressing was a cafe favorite- and for a good reason. The depth of spring triggers fond memories of the days when I worked with good people and was carefree enough to be thrilled about earning a few extra bucks from pouring wine and taking sandwich orders at the local, offbeat cafe. It also sparks cravings for light, healthy foods that will fuel more time outside. I figured I’d try my hand at replicating the lemon tahini dressing, which I’ve rarely seen on a menu since.
Pour this over salads, sandwiches, or even dip chicken kebabs in it. Don’t let the pricetag of tahini discourage you – for $6/jar it’ll last you a long time, and you can use it to make your own hummus, too!
Lemon Tahini Dressing
4 Tbsp tahini
2 tsp olive oil
2 tsp water
1 lemon, juiced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 handful of flat leaf parsley, chopped
- Mix ingredients together- add water for a thinner consistency
- Spread on sandwiches or pour over salads
- Store in fridge
p.s. I realize this is an abrupt return. I’ve spent many months getting my bearing as a mother of an infant. I temporarily lost my passion for writing– or at least became very self-conscious about it. I knew it wouldn’t be good if it was forced. In the last week, my head has been filling up with things to share and recipes to attempt, and a voice in my head keeps saying “write, write, write”.
Being a mother is the most beautiful gift I’ve been given and could even imagine receiving in my lifetime. I’m humbled by the fact that I, at least for a long period of time, am mostly responsible for my son’s education and introduction to this great big world.
The environment I create in our home will no doubt be profoundly influential as he’ll spend virtually all of his time there until he is in school. Though I am guilty of ascribing him with more complex emotions than he’s capable of feeling right now (an example: when he cries Iworry that he’s upset with me for “X,Y,Z”…When really, he’s probably just hungry, tired, or has a soiled diaper), I do believe he can pick up on moods in the atmosphere, and soon he’ll really understand what’s being said.
I’ve noticed that I’m much more cognizant of words and even sounds since the tiny king’s (that will be his name on this blog) arrival. I’m by no means perfect at this, but I’m trying harder than ever to speak positive words – to him, about him, and about others around him. I’ve also spent a silly amount of time developing musical playlists for him, both to indoctrinate him with what I deem “good music”, and to make our environment as upbeat and peaceful as possible. I keep them playing nearly all the day long breaking only for “wave sounds” and “forest noises” to help him drift to sleep.
My grandfather introduced me to jazz when I was a very little girl, regularly sending personalized mixed tapes with fun songs from the Big Band Era that reminded him of me. I hope to develop a list of songs that for whatever reason remind my of my tiny one. In keeping with my grandfather’s pasttime, we’ve been listening to a lot of fun jazz these days. The king’s favorite song of late (…there I go putting words in his mouth and thoughts in his head again…) is “Paper Moon” by Ella Fitzgerald. He especially enjoys when I pick him up so we can dance to the beat together.