The title says it all. Bon appetit literally translated means “good appetite”, which is exactly what I have been cultivating (with reckless abandon) since arriving in Paris! A blog post about food seemed inevitable now that I am spending some serious time in France. It is such a big part of daily life here that you can’t help but develop a greater appreciation for the art of eating well. Wonderful food and ingredients are literally everywhere around you, in restaurants and cafes, street markets and boulangeries…you can’t walk ten feet without running into a delicious display or mouthwatering aroma. I wish I had been more diligent in photographing some of the beautiful meals I have eaten here, but I am usually too busy happily shoveling the food into my piehole to even think about it! Full disclosure, I have gained almost 10lbs in three weeks.
Living in an apartment here has allowed me the great pleasure of shopping and cooking daily, which changes the experience of French food culture completely. On past trips to Paris, exploring wonderful food through dinning in restuarants was a joy, but now participating in the daily ritual of meal preparation like a local has been so much more rewarding for me. I love going to the markets, butchers and little specialty shops, where each vendor is an artist and potential teacher. They are usually happy to talk about how to best prepare what you have chosen for your meal, pointing out what is freshest and seasonal, and of course extoling the virtues of their fine products – which are naturally superior. Shopping is half the fun! Everything is about the quality of your ingredients and using what is at its peak whenever possible.
I have been enjoying French food so much that I have actually signed up for a cooking class in Paris with Susan Herrmann Loomis, author of On Rue Tatin – a delicious memoire about cooking and living in a French town, along with 12 other cookbooks. Susan also runs a cooking school in a charming town in Normandy under the same name as her memoire. A few years ago, after reading her book, I began to dream about attending one of her cooking classes. They lean toward the informal, with fieldtrips to gather ingredients in local shops and markets, and usually a glass of wine in hand while gathered in the kitchen making recipes that will later be enjoyed by the class family style, with more wine.
When my Mom was dying with cancer, one of the few things that I felt like I could do to help was cook, cook like my life depended on it. I would prepare all of Moms favorites on my frequent visits home, and freeze several weeks worth of meals each time. Often I was the only one who could get Mom to eat anything substantial when she was feeling really unwell, usually by digging a childhood favorite of hers out of my Grandmas bag of culinary tricks. There was a point where Mom hadn’t eaten much of anything in almost 2 weeks, and I had the intuition to make my Great Grandmas chicken noodle soup. Mom devoured 2 bowls of it and reminisced happily about her Granny making it when she was a child. Appreciating this connection between food and love, I mentioned to Mom around this same time how much I had enjoyed reading On Rue Tatin, and what a dream it would be to attend one of her classes someday. Well Mom, here I am!
Along with my appreciation for cooking and food, by actual appetite seems to have increased tenfold. Typically back home during the work week I would have a light breakfast of coffee and toast on the run, skip lunch all together – perpetually telling myself I was “too busy”, and then eat dinner while watching TV, exhausted at the end of the day. Hmm, no wonder I was able to maintain my lean physique for all these years, I actually wasn’t eating that much. Not great for your overall health or wellbeing, it’s a diet that I wouldn’t recommend. Only over the past few years did I start to notice the degenerative effects on my wellness it was having, with heartburn, tummy troubles, etc. becoming the norm – part of the wakeup call that ultimately lead to this life change. When your body starts sending some serious trouble signals…you best fucking listen up!
Now I am enjoying 4 meals a day, and still looking for more. I typically have a small breakfast consisting of a bowl of café au lait, some yogurt and a piece of fresh fruit. Lunch is usually soup and salad or other light entrée like an oven roasted tomato and cheese tart, sometimes enjoyed with a glass of wine. Then around 5pm, I partake in a lovely ritual here, the aperitivo. It’s pre-dinner drinks, with or without snacks. I usually put together a small plate with salami, prosciutto, some marinated vegetables and perhaps a hunk of good bread to sop up everything. What a civilized way to end the workday and begin your evening! Then dinner preparation begins around 7pm or so, usually with glass of wine in hand. The portions smaller and menu usually simple, but delicious. Last night I had a medium rare steak topped with a dollop of gorgeous creamy, whipped blue cheese sauce, pan roasted fingerling potatoes with parsley and some green beans sautéed with garlic. Yum! I am getting hungry again.
This sabbatical in Europe was about breathing some new life and vitality into my weary body and soul. Who knew that one of the quickest paths there would be through my stomach! My curiosity and passion for life are growing more with every delicious every sip and bite! The lesson here is that to flourish we need to nourish all parts of our self, in equal measure.
On a side note, I have started an Instagram account to share images from my daily adventures. You can access the feed from my Instagram account through the dropdown menu tab at the top right side of this page. The weather has been so gorgeous lately that I have been spending less time writing blog posts and more time in the warm sunshine, so Instagram will be a great way to fill in the gaps with some fun pictures. Until next time, A bientot and Bon Appetit!