I don’t know if it is possible for me to take a nice picture of a stewy-type dish, so please forgive me for the bad photo. This dish is really very good, I swear! Really, how can morsels of veal, slow cooked in a tomato-wine based sauce with green pitted olives and cèpes NOT be good? I made this dish following the idea of Boles de Picolat, a traditional Catalan dish that I love, but using cut up veal. We can get fresh cèpes here at certain times of the year, but frozen or dried are available all year-long. I always have a jar of dried cèpes in the cupboard, ready to liven up stewed dishes. These mushrooms, often called porcini in English, grow locally and their growing locations are often kept safely guarded secrets. Nothing measures up to the taste and texture of fresh cèpes, but for year-round stews, dried ones do the trick. Just remember to let them sit in hot water for about 30 minutes and then rinsed well before using them.

My children will eat anything that has pitted, green olives. The olives give a distinct flavour to the sauce but the children pull them out and eat them like candy. I HATED olives when I was a child, but my sister loved popping black olives in her mouth. I thought she was crazy… but now I do the same. Thank goodness for changes in the palate!

This is the kind of dish that never comes from a book recipe in my kitchen. It is a technique with ingredients that can be changed in so many ways! The meat is sautéed, then the onions and garlic. Other vegetables, if there are any, are added. Wine is added, whether red or white depending on the dish, left to evaporate somewhat while the pan is scraped of its yummy bits. Tomato and stock are added and when it all simmers, the meat is placed back into the cooking sauce. Covered and simmered gently. What could be easier??? I have different types of pots and pans for this kind of dish. Sometimes I like to prepare it all and then let it simmer in a “cocotte” in the oven. I find  the flavours infuse better, the sauce is a bit thicker. I don’t really know why, except that in the oven, the heat is one that surrounds the food, while on the burner, it comes only from the bottom. But I don’t always feel like turning the oven on.

And of course, these dishes are ALWAYS better the next day, so if you can think ahead and make it a day or two before you’d like to eat it, by all means do it!!!

I’ll admit something to you, that when I first saw this when I arrived in France twenty years ago, shocked me. But now I do it as well. When my childrens’ great-grandmother cooked a meal that was “mijoté” (slowly cooked in sauce), after the meal she simply left the pot or pan covered on top of the stove until the next meal or even the next day, when she would let it re-heat for a while before eating it. As a North American, I thought that was the most dangerous thing in the world and surely we would all fall very ill if we ate it, too. But this woman was over 70 and seemed perfectly fine. As a mother of a large family, I tend to make large quantities and so often a dish like this isn’t finished. So, the pot is just covered and placed in the cold oven until the next day. I never leave it more than over night and it is fully reheated (read BOILED) before it is eaten. So far, no deaths or illness. And it tastes so much better the next day! But I also don’t put my eggs in the fridge, do leave butter on the counter, eat raw eggs and meat, don’t wash chickens before cooking them. When I read North American magazines and cook books, I should technically be dead. But I do think there is a quality and handling difference between the countries. Food is simple cleaner here. (But that is another debate!)

 

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Veal with olives and cèpes

To write this recipe, I had to put quantities. Trust your instinct and add more or less according to your taste!

1 kg veal cut into large cubes

Some flour

Olive oil

50 g smoked bacon, cut into cubes (in France we just by lardons fumés or strips of thick cut ventreche fumé that we cut up ourselves) It adds incredible flavour!

1 onion chopped

3 cloves garlic chopped finely

1 small jar pitted green olives (drained)

1 handful of dried porcini mushrooms, rehydrated in hot water and then rinsed and chopped if the pieces are too big

200 ml red wine (OK, I just pour some in until it seems right!)

1 small can chopped tomatoes

2 tbsp tomato paste

500 ml veal bouillon (in France it is readily available but can be replaced with either beef or chicken)

A big handful of fresh herbs (in my garden, I have thyme, rosemary, oregano, sage and marjoram and I just take a bunch of all of them and chop it all up). Otherwise I just add a couple of Tbsp of dried herbes de Provence

salt/pepper

Parsley

In a shallow dish, add some flour. Toss the veal in the flour and shake off any excess. Heat a few tbsp of olive oil in a large sauté pan (with a lid) or a cocotte (wide cast iron pot with a lid – like Emile Henry) and sauté the veal pieces, not too many at a time so they brown on all sides. Season them and then remove them from pan. If there isn’t enough oil, add a bit and sauté the onions. Don’t let them burn or brown, just let them lightly colour and wilt. Add the bacon, let fry a bit and then add the garlic.

Pour in the wine and let simmer a few minutes, scraping up the bits stuck to the pan. Add the herbs. Add the tomatoes, the tomato paste and stir. Add the bouillon, the mushrooms and the olives, stirring. Season to taste but remember that the bacon and olives salt quite a bit, so be careful.

When it is all starting to boil, add the meat and make sure it is settled well in the sauce. Cover the pan, lower the heat and let simmer for about 40 minutes. If the sauce is still too liquid, take lid off and let reduce for a while.

Sprinkle some fresh parsley on before serving if you have some.

Serve with either potatoes or pasta. You can even place some cut up potatoes directly in the pot and let them cook with the rest. Or some white beans like the Bols de Picolat recipe.

I added some roasted red pepper this time as well.

Bon appétit!

 

 

 

 

 

 

This new year has started off slowly and carefully, like a false start leading to a more steady pace. In the first week of January, I didn’t feel like doing anything at all and after careful consideration, came to the conclusion that it was just post holiday season fatigue plus deep winter slowness. So, I gave myself some slack and let the week slide by while pondering my options for this new year. I really hope it’ll be better than last year which started with five days in the hospital with pneumonia in February. Loads of vitamins and supplements seem to be staving off even the mildest colds this year. Keeping my fingers crossed!

It’s easy not to fall into a deep winter slump when the sun is shining and dear hubby takes to the outdoors to clean up the yard. The hens followed him around, checking out what yummies they could find in the freshly raked lawn. So, we all decided to follow his lead and enjoy the few days of spring in winter. They are calling for rain during the week.

Cleaning up the yard.

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We finally got rid of the useless apple and plum trees. They will be replaced soon.

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The girls under the olive tree. Lots of goodies to be found!

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The hen that got broody. Hopefully she’ll do it again this spring.

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This hen found a rotting fruit and is really enjoying it.

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Sometimes we lock them up in their run.

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The winter veggie garden with some swiss chard still trying to grow.

It will be much smaller this summer. I’d like to get a couple of ducks.

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Hermann the tortoise is sleeping in his box. I really hope he comes out in the spring.

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Lio built this wall last summer to tame the slope. I planted some Jerusalem artichokes with hopes that they’ll create a nice border next summer.

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Budding Forsythia

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The baby hedge is growing slowly but surely and one day it will block the view behind the house and we’ll be able to use that nice, cool spot in the summer.

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Christmas wreath without it’s decorations. Still pretty.

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Happy New Year to you all!

I haven’t  made apricot jam in a few years because I have about a hundred jars of different varieties of jam inhabiting my cellar shelves, but I just couldn’t resist the crates of 1€/kg apricots I’ve been seeing lately.

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The first time I ever made it was about 17 years ago when a neighbor dropped off 10 kg of his garden apricots as a gift. I looked at the heap of fruit and wondered how we could possibily eat it all. But he then explained to me that I must make JAM! Jam? But I’d never made jam before! He briefly explained the process but I picked up the phone and asked my grandmother-in-law what I should do… and I have been doing it the same way ever since. I fell in love with apricot jam that summer. It is sweet with a very pure, tangy apricot zing to it. It is heaven on a piece of buttered bread.

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French Apricot Jam

The quantity of sugar depends on how you like it, but the less you use, the more fragile your jam once opened. I use about 80-85% sugar per 100% pitted fruit. So, for 2 kg of pitted fruit, that makes about 1kg600 of sugar. I used organic cane sugar so the finished jam is a bit darker than with white sugar.

Wash the fruit, then cut each in half, taking the pit out. Many people here keep a bunch of the pits and crack them open, adding them to the jam to give a slight almond flavor. I do it sometimes but when I’m cooking several kg of fruit, I have to crack a lot of pits and they are hard to crack open!

Put them in a very wide mouthed pot as you want the mixture to reduce quickly as it is boiling. If the pot is taller than larger, it will take much more time.

Add the sugar and the juice from one lemon juice.

Place over medium heat and bring to a boil stirring regularly. Take off heat, cover and let sit over night.

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The next day, bring back to a boil and stir very regularly. You don’t want it to stick.

A scum will form on top but I just keep stirring, I don’t try and take it off. It also helps me to know when my jam is cooked because once it disappears naturally, I prolong the boiling about 20 minutes and then take off the heat. You can do a cold dish test, if you really need to. The jam will thicken. Some people say to boil it for an hour but if it boils to long, it caramelizes and I really don’t like that! Others use sugar with pectin but quite frankly, it isn’t necessary with apricot jam. It gets thick quickly and easily and is better when it isn’t too thick anyways.

While the jam is boiling, I wash my jars (and lids) with hot, soapy water, rinse them well and then place them up side down (with lids) on a baking tray. I place them in a 100°C heated oven for about 5-10 minutes.

Pour the jam in to each jar, screw the lids on tightly, then turn each pot upside down, leaving them until fully cooled. When they are cooled, turn them right side up and make sure the lid is concave which assures that they are properly sealed. I use this technique with jams and have never had any go bad.

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I love my jam with whole almond purée!

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Well, so much for summer being on it’s way. I was drinking a coffee, doing the menu plans for a job I have this week, seven straight days of an evening meal for 12 people and salivating over ideas of stews and soups. It’s the end of May and I want potée auvergate! It actually feels like summer has come and gone and now we are preparing for the winter cold. And really, it is quite difficult for our bodies. I have seen people falling ill when usually those nasty winter viruses are long gone. Today is dark and cloudy but the weather station says that tomorrow will be better.

This weather makes me really want to eat this pie. The crust is made of nuts and baked so the nuts roast and smell like heaven. The chocolate filling is firmed up with a single egg added to cream and chocolate. It’s pure heaven and so simple.

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Rich chocolate tart in a nutshell

 

225 g walnuts or a mix of walnuts, hazelnuts and almond

60 g butter

2 tbsp sugar

A pinch of salt

 

Preheat the oven to 180°C /370°F

Ground the nuts in a mixer until they are nicely crushed but not powder. Add the butter, sugar and salt and then mix just until combined.

Using your fingers dampened a bit push the dough into a pie dish, making sure it goes up the sides a bit. I have a handy round pan with a pull out bottom. A cheesecake pan would be good, too.

Bake 10-12 minutes until it smells nice.

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Meanwhile…

 

200 g good quality dark chocolate chopped

240 ml cream

1 egg

In a fairly small pot, heat the cream until almost boiling. Add the chopped chocolate and move it around until it is immersed. Lets sit for a few minuted and then stir to blend chocolate. Make sure it is completely melted. If not, heat very gently stirring constantly.

Add the egg and stir until perfectly blended. Pour into pie crust.

Bake about 15 minutes or until the center is like gelatine. It will set as it cools. Let cool to room temperature at least.

Serve with whipped cream!

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GOOD NEWS !

Scooby was adopted !

 

This is Scooby. He comes from a lovely family but unfortunately they have to leave France very soon and cannot take him with them. Life throws some loops sometimes. He is a pure bred Labrador from a reputable breeder near Montpellier. He is a high energy dog who is so very sweet and devoted. He would make the perfect pet for someone who loves walking and/or hiking. He loves children and is fine with cats. If he doesn’t find a home before the 1st of June his owners will be forced to leave him at the SPA. He is four years old, so still young and not neutered, so breeding is a possibilty.

Give me a shout if you’re interested!

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I mentioned getting hens about two years ago and the children have been bugging me to actually do it since then. We finally decided to actually get a coop, make a run and buy the chickens this spring. My husband wanted to build a coop from scratch but the reality is that we have other, more time consuming projects pending and if we didn’t buy pre-fab, we weren’t going to have chickens.

The hens are my first chore of the day. I start talking to them from outside the run and they call back, ready to get out and on with their day. I once read in the book Raising chickens for Dummies that watching chickens go about their business was actually very much fun and I admit, I have not been disappointed. They seem to be busy all of the time and if they are still, it is because they have dug themselves in to a hole and are resting (which is entertaining in itself). I sit on the bench every day, when I need a break, and just watch them. They peck, they scratch, they munch and wander around. This is the head chicken. She makes the law.

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When I sit on the bench, she hops up to see what I’m up to. The other day, I was cleaning out their night part of the coop from the back door and she went around the front, climbed the ladder and hopped in to the sleeping area right in front of me to see what I was doing. She is so funny!

I think the rear ends of chickens are very cute. The feathers are fine and fluffy. This is the prettiest of all of our hens. She is quite big and her coloring is light and even.

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I gave them some left over cooked rice and they thought that was great! I have found that they don’t actually eat everything. They are a bit picky. But they LOVE worms. They will try and snatch them from each other.

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The chickens don’t even mind if I bug them while they are laying. They just look up at me, probably thinking, “Yes? Would you like something??” I just peak, I swear.

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The hens lay every morning, quite early. I’ve read pretty much all over the place that hens take about 25 hours to make an egg and so they will lay later and later until they finally skip a day. These hens went from laying at about 10h30 to about 9 and haven’t missed a day in over a month. They are super layer hens. One of them has been laying a bit later than the others, hence only three eggs in the picture.

DSC_0034They aren’t fancy hens, but they are still pretty darn cute.

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Yesterday I was at l’Arche de la solidarité, a charity shop in our town where locals bring their give away stuff but also to find treasures or great deals. I was there because I had seen some very cool lounging type chairs that I would like to refurnish and put on our terrace. Of course I had to take a look around the whole shop while I was there.

In amongst the kitchen wares, an old fashioned Fisher Price record player was perched up, all alone on a shelf. I had one when I was a child and I LOVED it. This one still has all it’s disks and works perfectly. I bought it without even asking the price because they sell stuff like that for pennies. When I got it home, the girls fell instantly in love.

This is Lou, dressed up as Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz, listening to Humpty Dumpty.

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When I hear the music, I am transported back many, many years to similar rainy Sunday afternoons, sitting on the floor, winding up the record player, placing the arm and listening to each and every song, humming away. Watching her is almost like watching a film of my own childhood.

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But I didn’t have these very fancy, sparkly shoes!

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Happy Sunday

Everything is finally in the ground. I thought this year would be later than usual but after watching what others were doing, taking the advice of the guy at France Rurale and looking at the week long weather forcast, I decided that a day where rain was called for in the afternoon was going to be the day. We had already shoveled a huge trailer full of mixed manure on the plot and rototilled. Here is my blank slate, about a quarter smaller than other years:

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I usually get the lettuce in the ground a lot earlier but in February I caught the flu that led to a horrible ear infection and pneumonia that put me in the hospital for five days. I was very tired for weeks and not ready to deal with the garden in March (hence my silence here as well). Lettuce hates our summer heat and so hopefully these ones will grow quickly!

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After waiting a few days for the nights to be less cold and the weather to stabilize I bit (we had snow just a few weeks ago!) I finally decided to get the summer crops in the ground.

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I bought some traditional, high yield tomato plants but at the market I also bought a big selection of heirloom plants. I was reading an issue of an american magazine they were talking about these new plants that have a heirloom look about them but are actually a mix of heirloom and modern plants, so they look old fashioned but have a high yield. I admit I found it quite shocking.

I really have no idea what I have planted because I just asked the farmer to give me a variety of his heirloom plants and when we started planting with Margot who is five, I asked her to count them. I wasn’t looking and she took all of the plants out of their trays and so I had no idea what was what. Oh well. I can’t seem to ever keep track of my tomato plants. It’s a mystery every year.

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What’s a vegetable garden without basil?

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Eggplant, my favorite vegetable. Had never eaten it before I came to Europe but by the Med, it’s everywhere.

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My rhubarb is still very happy after about five years. Made some nice compote yesterday to serve with my daughter’s panna cotta. Fantastic!

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Red and green Batavie lettuce, leeks, sweet, red Toulouges onions.

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We have four new members of the family that live beside the veggie patch, Tulipe, Coquelicot, Pétunia and Marguerite. Four young laying hens. I never thought I’d become attached to chickens, but I have. My husband constructed the handy coop in a kit (Chemin des poulaillers) and placed it on a concrete base. He then built a fence so they could wander during the day. They are very spoiled hens! You can’t see it but the run leads out onto a nice green patch. I’ll be dedicating a post to them very shorty.

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I usually make macarons that are rich flavors like chocolate, vanilla or praline, so I thought I’d change and make something fruity. I really hate adding coloring to make dark colored macarons and actually, I don’t even like the ones bought in bakeries. What’s the difference? I don’t know! But when you learn to make them yourself, well, it’s better. Maybe it is psycological. My daughter is such a fan of them that it pushed me to learn to make them myself, because at over 2€ for ONE, it is much more economical to make a whole platter for just a few euros.

These ones are lemon, using just a smidgen of color gel and filled with lemon curd with a bit of almond meal added. If you like lemon tart or lemon meringue pie, these are for you!

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This time I used Mercotte’s recipe: HERE

The lemon curd is from Pierre Hermé but really any one would do as long as it is very thick. Just use your favorite. Adding a little almond powder gives it a little originality!

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La Tour Eiffel

(photo F. Arnaud)

I just finished reading a book by Christian  Signol in which the story takes place in the Dordogne country side during the second world war. It’s about a couple, living in a small house in the country who end up taking in Jewish children, hoping to save them from the Nazis. Reading the book made me think about the choices we have in life today compared to living in different places or at different times. They didn’t even know really how far the Côte d’Azur was from their home and they certainly didn’t wonder about what their life could be if they moved to another country.

I’ve been living in France for nearly 19 years, always in the same department, Pyrénées Orientales. I don’t suffer from homesickness because home became France a long time ago. In the first years I went through a period of missing certain things from Canada, like certain foods, habits, appliances (dryers!!) but by the time my kids were in school, I had adapted well enough to my new life in France and had given up trying to bring Canada in to my life here. I understand newcomers who desperately try to find the equivalent of brown sugar, real baking powder, cream of tarter, horseradish and all those other necessary ingredients to produce authentic North American dishes and desserts. (And I’m now an expert on those things, so go ahead and ask if you want). But I don’t do that anymore. I’m here, probably for good.

But we live in a society where “everything is possible!”. My family and I could pack our bags and go live in Canada or how about Africa where we almost ended up a few years ago. Having these choices pushes me to spend much too much time comparing cultures, ways of living, education, professional possibilities and even food. Since the junior high school in our area isn’t that great, should we move nearer to a city with better school? Are we cheating our children out of a great education? Of course, that comes from my years of private school education and being in contact with highly successful, privately educated people. Will my country bumpkin children find success in their lives???

And what about the social and financial strife we are going through in France?? Would we be better off in a nice, safe, modern country like Canada? My older children are already determined to use their Canadian citizenship and go live their adult lives there. My younger children ask when we will be going back.

Opening a business in France these days is economic suicide, which doesn’t leave much place for professional ambition. Every couple of years I get a strong desire to do something professionally, open a cooking school/store/café, but then I change my mind because I actually do love only working very part time and not having to struggle to be a good mom and a professional at the same time. I don’t want to get in to that situation with young children at home. I’d never be able to find balance. But I can’t help fantasizing about the opportunities we would have if we went to live in Canada.

I sometimes get very frustrated with life in France, especially in such a small town. Coming from a big, modern city and ending up in a small, country town of 450 people is bound to create some havoc in my brain once in a while. But even so, France, and this town, have become my home. I thought I’d take some time and actually list all the things that I really love about this country and my particular area. Maybe one day we will leave (though we can’t imagine selling the house two of our daughters were BORN in) but for the moment we aren’t going anywhere and I think it is about time that I stopped thinking of the other possibilities and just enjoy the luck I have to be here.

We have thought about just taking a year and renting a house somewhere in Canada for the experience. My husband will be able to do his work from anywhere starting next year, though it would mean him being away quite a bit. So maybe we could organize a year away before the little kids are too old to want to go. But in the meantime, this is what I love:

1. I remember arriving in Paris in the fall of 1989. I had flown from Tokyo, to Vancouver, to Paris and hadn’t slept in almost three days. I was MORE than exhausted. But when my friend picked me up from the airport, we hopped on the RER and then emerged into the streets of central Paris, well, my breath was taken away! I wasn’t seeing Paris for the first time, as I had been working their that spring, summer. I was coming BACK and it felt like I was returning the the most extraordinary place on earth. I adore wandering the streets of the city, admiring the architecture, the shops, cafés, parks,  bridges, everything!! I ended up leaving Paris that winter, but it was deep in my heart and when I had an opportunity to go back to France, even though it was to the city the farthest away from Paris in the country, I didn’t hesitate! I just love knowing that at incredible city is our capital and I can go whenever I want to. I have wonderful recent memories of taking the train up to Paris to see my dear friend who lives near the city, visiting a fabulous bakery with her, learning to make the best Parisian baguette of the year, drinking a beer in an Irish pub with my husband who I met up with once while he was working there for a few weeks, carrying Karamelle through the streets of the Marais when she was just a puppy, finally going to the top of the Eiffel Tower and having the fright of my life with my daughter Hélène.

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Le Louvre

Photo F. Arnaud

2. I love the French language. After working in Paris in 1989, I had picked up a bit of the language and decided that I should major in French at university. After all, Canada was a bilingual country and being bilingual could help me get a job. It was funny because I always had really BAD grades in French. I remember once sitting a French exam and, even though I had studied all the grammar and verb tenses, I couldn’t answer the questions because I couldn’t understand the words other than the verbs! Needless to say, I hated French class and systematically fell asleep during the French documentaries we were shown once in a while. But when I actually went to France, it was a different story!!! Hearing people speak it and seeing the culture that goes with it, made me instantly fall in love with the language. So, I studied it in university and when I participated in a third year abroad program in Perpignan, I realized just how little French I actually knew! I couldn’t understand the Catalan accent which could be compared to someone learning English going to live in South Carolina. I ended up staying in Perpignan for nine years and it took me quite awhile to learn the language.  But I did! And it is funny because when I am in an airport and I hear French people speak, I am still in admiration of the language and their way of being… and then I remember that they are from MY country, too.

3. I love French food and cuisine. France produces the most incredible fruits and vegetables, cheeses, breads, meats. Where I live now is a foodie’s paradise! All of our fruits and vegetables are local and mostly organic, bought at the weekly market. I buy goat, ewe and cow milk cheese at the same market, all local and all very reasonably priced. I buy local pork, beef and lamb and have some game supplied by hunter friends. They also give me mountain river trout in the early spring. When I see videos like this:

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I don’t feel like moving to Canada because even though it is possible to buy locally for certain things, the prices are outrageous!! I couldn’t believe the food prices in Vancouver this summer and the small amount of organic food, outside of specialty stores are outrageously expensive. And the taste of our food here is incredible. The organic flour I buy to make my sourdough bread  makes the most incredibly tasting and textured bread. Fruit here is fantastic. Biting in to a summer peach is pure heaven. I buy local clementines and kiwis in the winter and my kids eat them like some kids eat candy. I ordered lamb from a local farm last year and I felt a bit bad ordering the death of a poor, innocent animal, but I have to say, when I grilled that cutlet and took the first bite, I had to accept that lambs were put on earth for those people who are omnivores. It was so good! When we got back home from Canada last summer, all of my children stated that they were thrilled to get back to French food.

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France’s famous Macarons

Photo F. Arnaud

4. I love the landscape, the countryside, the chateaux and farms. When we drive to my parents-in-law’s home outside of Toulouse it is always enjoyable. The view is incredible and we even pass by Carcassonne with it’s walled town and turrets.

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Carcassonne

© Delphine Ménard

Since I didn’t grow up with old structures, castles and wine chateaux, I continue to be amazed by them. The rolling countryside in the South of France is so lovely as well. In summer there are fields of sunflowers blazing, rows and rows of grape vines, peach trees, wheat, fields dotted with old stone buildings and thins roads winding through the undulating landscape. It’s beautiful! Our own house is Catalan architecture and though it is very simple, the outside walls are made of large river stones and red brick. We fell in love with it the first time we saw it. There is a small river that lines our property and since we sleep with the window open all year, we can hear the soft sound of the water rushing by. In the summer we fall asleep to the croaks of frogs and sometimes we hear the yapping of fox or the snuffle of wild boar. Last night we had an owl hotting at our window. And just near our house is this path where we like to take our Sunday walks with the dogs.

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A river in the Gers

DSC_0066  Auch

5. I actually like the French seriousness. When I first arrived in France, I found it a bit difficult to make new friends because people seemed almost cold sometimes, never very excited or enthusiastic. You rarely hear very loud laughter in public places and everyone seems to have a learned, calm politeness about them. I had come from Canada, of course, where in the space of one hour you can meet someone and feel like you’ve been friends forever. North Americans laugh out loud anywhere they are, speak to almost anyone, ask questions about personal things almost right away. But little by little, I adapted to the culture here and now I find it comforting to be around French people. You see, it took me a long time to make friends, but they are really, really good friends and we always know where we stand. There is never any of that intense enthusiasm in the beginning only to realize that the friendship is impossible or empty which happened to me quite often in North America.

6. I appreciate the private, non-judgemental, what I call the “dark side” of French people. Yes, it is really too bad that some people don’t respect the basic rules of society, but at the same time, not having daily pressure to be “perfect” and compliant is actually very soothing. There isn’t the stress of living up to an imagine or what is expected. We don’t have signs saying 500$ fine for littering, no loitering, etc. People don’t talk about how much money they make or other private subjects. Maybe something in between Canada and France would be ideal for me.

7. I much prefer European clothes.  I remember as a teenager looking for certain styles of clothing or colors and never being able to find them and then when I got to France, I wanted to buy everything! Kids’ clothes are way cuter over here.

8. I like having easy access to the rest of Europe. London is a short plane ride away, Spain is 1 hr by car, 3 hrs to Barcelona (very cool city!), Italy about 6 hrs by car. We have a 110 Land Rover Defender and we have plans to visit Europe. We took a trip around Ireland and would really like to go back and we have plans to drive to Scandanavia. Mat and I headed to London to visit our good friends last October. We don’t travel that much but just knowing that we CAN is fantastic!

9. I like living in the country and not having to feel bombarded by shops, advertisements, noise, pollution. I could live in the country in Canada but what is nice about here is that there are pretty towns on all sides of us, just a few km away with their own shops, markets, hot baths, skiing, hiking paths, etc. We are away from the city but near to a lot of exciting things!

10. France has very little genetically modified cultures for the moment and my area has the most organic producers in the country. It’s easy to avoid consuming GMOs, and I am very thankful for that.

DSC_0243

Our vegetable garden

And any country that makes a film like this:

http://youtu.be/juuF_btrW4U

must be a great place to live!

And music like this:

http://youtu.be/uduL7z8BkOs

and this:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tT3gcsXbHp4

and this:

http://youtu.be/4TlKA4vqAuo

and this:

http://youtu.be/iC5eMh1FuaU

Jennifer is a Canadian/American, living in the South of France for the last 18 years. Married to a frenchman who's job forces him to spend a lot of his time overseas, she has learned to cope with all those everyday challenges brought about by her sometimes crazy life. Adapting to a new culture, raising children, taking care of animals, growing a vegetable garden, cooking for her family and friends, teaching cooking classes and trying to maintain a fairly organized and inviting home. Here are some of her thoughts about it all.

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