My Little French Kitchen
This is my little kitchen in a town near Paris where you can see the tiny top of the Eiffel Tower from the local park, and where I live with my husband and our three young daughters. We came here a little over five years ago, blissfully naive about moving abroad and away from our network in the UK, which was probably the best way to be, looking back. We are settled and happy here now and feel very lucky to have this opportunity, this new reality.
For the past five years I’ve predominantly been on full time Mum duty, interspersed with investigations into different careers and time to think about what’s next for me. For one reason or another, I spend a lot of time in this kitchen and although it isn’t perfect, what I am happy about is that we can all squeeze into it, around the table that used to be in my husband’s childhood home. A little bit of Kent in our new home. I also love that it looks out over the street, a kind of halfway house between the outside world and home. The light comes in. I can peep out and see what the weather, the neighbours and the cool local teenagers are up to from a slight distance. I’m part of the local landscape, but a little disconnected from it, which is also how it feels some days living away from your home culture.
I cook most days because I really enjoy it; for me it’s become a priority because it’s a creative outlet amongst the domestic load, which can be inherently repetitive and unappealing. Maybe cooking is just a way for me to legitimise how I spend my time and dodge the rest of the housework. It is also a way to do something useful for myself and my family while at the same time creating some space between us. A form of practical, feasible, escapism, like taking the time to have a bath in the evening or going for a walk with a sleeping baby somewhere that feels peaceful to you. My daughters may only be in the next room when I’m making a meal, but I feel like I’m taking a moment for myself behind the closed (and admittedly, frequently re- opened) kitchen door, with my music on and something bubbling away on the hob…It is basic chemistry, in the pan, and in my own head, and a means of finding peace amongst the daily chaos and noise in my life at the moment.
Food does of course also top up physical energy levels. Eating is one of the most basic ways of looking after yourself, but sometimes this is easy to forget, whether you are a parent or not. I’m sure I’m not the only one who is sometimes their own worst enemy when it comes to feeding themselves. You lack energy to eat a real meal, so come lunchtime you grab a mediocre sandwich, or worse, the remnants of your child’s meal, only to find you can’t tear yourself away from the biscuits come 3pm. A vicious cycle of energy sapping antics. Food is life, in France, and being here has helped me finally understand the importance of respecting regular mealtimes and cooking meals that I will enjoy eating to give me the energy I need; it’s another way of remembering my own preferences and regaining a little bit of control following the identity crisis and power shift that takes place when you become a parent.
I like to cook simple, tasty, easy food for myself and my family and recently decided to start a blog at www.lunchandmore.club for a couple of reasons. First, to record this time in our lives via the food we eat, and second, to share recipes of the food I’m making and hopefully offer some cooking inspiration. It is part response to a childhood memory of my Mum on a Sunday night, trying to think of meals to cook for the week ahead, and getting increasingly annoyed that we weren’t even able to offer suggestions as to what we wanted to eat. “It is bad enough that I have to do all the shopping and cooking, you can’t even give me any ideas of what to make!” Of course I understand that frustration now, and hope that this might go some way to make amends and maybe share the load for others.