The author, Harriet Welty Rochefort, had an adventurous spirit since she was a child. An early influence was her step grandmother who was a professor of French at Grinell College in Iowa. Growing up in a farming community in SW Iowa was about as far from France or anything exotic that she could think of. After college she traveled extensively taking in the sights and different cultures of South America, Acapulco, the Canary Islands and finally landed in France.
One of the things I liked was her descriptive scenes and views on childrearing, education, food, manners, shopping expediations and the instances when her “Americanness” butted proverbial heads with the Parisian attitudes.
Several of the beginning chapters are devoted to food and wine…of course!
From the book:
“Catching on to French food was both easy and complicated….I have a hard time trying to think of what to serve for two full-scale four-to-five course meals a day, seven days a week. My French sister-in-law doesn’t seem to have this problem. In the family country house, where there are always at least ten people at the table, I watch with wonder as she casually composes each meal.
An example might be pate to start with, then magret de Canard (breast of duck) cut into little fillets. This is accompanied by fresh peas, new potatoes and followed by a green salad with delicious homemade vinaigrette and finally a big plate of wonderful cheese. Brie, Camenbert, a chevre, a blue and d’Auvergue. This is followed by ice cream, cake or fruit, depending on what went before.”
This is a Saturday noon meal. On Saturday night she makes another five course meal. Amazing.
Other food mentions though out include:
Asparagus with a sauce mousseline, a potato omelet, a beautiful lettuce salad, cheese, a tarte aux fraises (strawberry pie)
Rochefort potato omelet, marinated green, red and yellow peppers, salmon with dill, an aspic with foie gras and artichokes.
Gigot d’agneau (leg of lamb) with pommes sarladaies and tomatoes provencales, a cheese plate with eight different varieties, and finally a mousse au chocolat, a tarte aux myrtilles (blueberry pie) and Cream Caramel.
As for relationships she makes a good point about American couples living in France vs. a Franco-American couple (such as Harriet and her husband Phillippe).
“As far as I can see, American couples living in France have a very different perception …France is an interlude in their lives, but they retain their Americanness as a couple. They are a united front. The adjustments they make to the culture are ones they wish to make, not have to make. With a Franco-American couple there is a push and pull over language, schools and religion.”
I love the chapter about the tax man, also known as “the Big Bad Wolf” and the French attitude about money. Quite interesting.
For an inspired dish I would love to roast some lamb but my goodness, it’s so very hot here I can’t abide having the oven cranked up so long. I grabbed one of my favorite cookbooks, a Williams Sonoma Essentials of French Cooking, and decided upon zucchini fritters. Or as I would order them in France, Beignets de Courgette. Recipe may be found at Squirrel Head Manor. These were very good and will make again.
I also tried the tarte aux fraises and will you ever howl when you see the photos. Not ready to upload those yet but….they are interesting 🙂
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