We are delighted to welcome a previous member of Write on Mamas, Tamar McLachlan, who moved to live in Italy and now runs luxury stays in the beautiful countryside in Piemonte as well as writing and bringing up a family. She also spends time in Paris and this lovely blog is all about the differences cooking in France compared to the United States.
I have climbed mountains, snow-camped at high altitude, hung by a rope from precarious heights, backpacked through wilderness, and traveled through over twenty-nine countries and none of it has been as draining as full days and nights with my baby daughter. Moving from California to Paris with a baby was a piece of cake compared to nine months of sleep deprivation.
Last night I made an attempt to cook dinner. In the USA, throwing “MacNcheese” together suffices for cooking. Here, my French friends cook three course meals every night. And they don’t buy the pastry either, they make it (I could barely even find the ready made stuff in the store). One friend serves her eight-month-old daughter three courses as well. My French neighbor serves her baby a starter (veggie), an entrée (protein or cereal) and a dessert (yogurt with fruit puree). Let’s not even mention the fact that Petite would not sit through three servings of anything, preferring to eat her fill and then be released from her prison of the high chair as soon as possible. I mix iron-fortified-baby cerea lor yogurt with one of the prune, apple or blueberry purees I buy from the expensive organic health store next door. Petite lets me know she’s finished by screaming at the top of her lungs and squirming to get out of her chair. You’d think she’s sitting on red hot fire pokers.
Petite and I shopped for quiche ingredients – a pretty failsafe meal. I planned to prepare it after she went to bed. At 8pm, after she had nursed, listened to stories and was in her sleepsack, she was wide awake and nowhere near headed to sleep. I gave up trying to coax her to sleep after an hour, removed her sleepsack and plopped her on the kitchen floor to “help” me make the quiche.
Sauteeing veggies with a nienteen-pound moppet clinging to your legs is not easy. Lighting the oven almost drove me to insanity. An expensive oven, that functions like my backpacking stove, I had to alternate between pressing the button to pump the gas and and lighting match after match as Petite did everything she could to clamor inside. I had visions of accidently blowing up the kitchen. How irresponsible a mom am I lighting a gas oven with a nine-month-old clamoring around? I wonder if I could be reported to social services, or whatever the French version is. Trying to block her with my feet, I pumped the gas ignition until it finally caught. I cursed the gas oven my husband insisted on, wishing we had an easy electric one that just turned on. The European oven doesn’t even have degrees in Celcius on it. The temperature is rated 1-9, leaving me guessing a) how to translate 400 degrees F into Celcius (science isn’t my strong suit) b) how that might possibly correspond to 1-9. I took a stab at the average and set it for 6.
Petite was so intrigued by my escapades, that she desperately wanted to touch the oven. I had to keep telling her, “No! Hot!” and pushing her away. Trying to keep my voice firm but not hysterical, I “gently’” admonished her for touching it while still trying to “encourage creativity and exploration.” This, while I was beating eggs and sauteeing vegetables, which she really wanted to reach up for and grab. Balancing on one foot, using the other to keep my daughter arms’ distance (foot distance?) from the oven, I grated cheese and popped the pastry in to bake, doing some kind of gymnastic lunge to keep Petite from climbing in after it.
While Petite attempted to jimmy up my leg and hurl herself at the oven door, I hastily poured the creme fraiche over the mix and slammed the door shut.
Hubbie arrived home soon after.
He took a bite of the quiche and politely asked,”What is it?”
“Quiche! (You moron!)”
“I know,” he replied calmly, “I mean, what kind?”
Loving husband that he is, he ate his whole piece, declined seconds and thanked me for dinner.
This morning on his way out he offered to pick up sushi for dinner.
Tamar McLachlan is a counselor/life coach currently living in Piemonte, Italy. She runs Villa San Lorenzo, offering luxury stays, wine and food programs with her husband and two young daughters. She balances her time between running programs, writing about motherhood abroad and sorting through endless American Girl doll clothes. She has two blogs: American Mama and Wine & Truffles.