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When I want to savor memories of France, I step into the kitchen.
Choosing a recipe I know by heart or a new one I find in a magazine such as Cooks Illustrated (above) or an ingredient I decide to explore, I excitedly imagine what the taste and flavors might be. Doing my best to cook with the seasons as it reliably offers the simplest and most delicious dishes, each new year and each new season is a classroom of sorts and I savor the opportunity to continue to be a student.
This summer was the first summer I was able to step outside into my garden and bring fresh produce directly into my own kitchen with a transport of only a few steps. This past weekend, Norman joined me as we tootled about in the garden, trimming a few nasturtiums for the salad and simply delighting in the Echinacea conehead flowers and how beguiled the bees were by their pollen (see images below).
Fortunately, I had not planned on traveling to France this summer as any travel plans abroad would have had to have been cancelled, but simply knowing I cannot travel to the country that has inspired so much of the way I enjoy living tugs at the heart a bit. Here are a few moments, tastes and experiences that upon immediate contemplation I am longing for when I think of France . . .
. . . the neighborhood markets full of fresh produce, the hustle and bartering, woven baskets, and spices. (watch the video below to be swept away to the markets in Provence).
. . . the croissants, and only for a mere Euro.
. . . the brilliant, surreal blue sky of Provence.
. . . the mistral that sweeps through to brush the sky, presenting an even bluer hue, if that is possible.
. . . the chirping symphony of the cicadas. Listen to episode #216 in which I recorded while I was walking near the vineyard you see above to hear some of the lovely sounds of the outdoors in Provence.
. . . the small and large museums. (I could take this tour again, and again, and again – it was shared in last year’s French Week.)
. . . long, long, long leisurely lunches that drift into the hot afternoon and early evening.
I will always remember fondly and with great affection each of the five lunches shared with my classmates and Patricia and Walter Wells that lasted for hours.
. . . apéro hour.
Apéro hour at Susan Hermman Loomis’ home in Louviers last summer.
. . . fougasse bread from Provence.
. . . fromage as a course.
. . . sitting in the Palais-Royal garden and listening to the fountain whilst catching a breath and putting up one’s feet. (view more pics from visiting the Palais-Royal last summer – as seen below – here in this post.)
. . . French butter.
The list could go on and on as no doubt you are scrolling through your own longings that are unique to what you love, but I know when each of us does have the opportunity to return or visit France, we will savor it in an even deeper appreciation than we would have without this temporary pause of travel.
To be able to explore another country and/or culture safely, comfortably and with untethered curiosity is indeed a privilege, and much gratitude is due to the country that opens its doors and provides such feelings to its visitors. Perhaps this year’s TSLL’s French Week in its own way is a week to extend a grand merci in whichever way communicates for each of us what the culture means to us and our life’s journey of awakening.
An awakening encapsulates most appropriately what France has meant in my life. As I share in my first book in more detail, my first trip to France was a culture shock. At the age of 20, I had never previously traveled outside of North America (except to Hawaii), and doing so was well overdue. The currency was still the Francs, and paper maps were the only way to navigate, along with a hope you might run into a friendly stranger who obliged a traveler who didn’t speak French well at all.
From the long lunches, to what butter with high butter fat could do to the flavor of a pastry, tartines for breakfast, wine with every meal, and hostels with other international travelers in their early twenties choosing to explore the City of Light, I didn’t know it at the time or could consciously put it into words, but my life had forever changed. To a small country town college student, my study abroad in Angers and then time in Paris was initially frightening at times, but with each passing year, I have come to acknowledge and celebrate that it was the best trip and experience for growth my life journey could have been gifted.
To long for France need not be a state of sadness but rather an observation of appreciation and then celebration of all that now is part of your life because of your time spent in a country and culture or celebrated from afar that spoke/speaks to you in a way that is unique to your life journey.
The journeyperson finds what they need, not necessarily what they are looking for when they set out to a new land and culture, and only if they cast a wide look and choose to take in what is truly there. Maybe this week, take some time, pour yourself a glass of French wine or make your favorite French meal or listen to some classic cafe music as was shared in this week’s inaugural post, and simply reflect, remember, and who knows, maybe something new will share itself with you as you examine your times in France through a new lens of life.
May we all be so fortunate to have visited and/or visit France, and may we be so lucky again and again and again.
Bonne journée mon amis.
PREVIOUS POSTS from TSLL’s 5th Annual French Week
The New Parisienne Author, Lindsey Tramuta, episode #285