As a little girl, France meant 1 thing: Paris. Outside of glowing images of the Eiffel Tower, bustling bistros, and baguette, I’ll admit I knew very little. My horizons were broadened once I began studying French in school and even more so when I spent a semester at the Sorbonne. But only since packing my bags and moving back here after graduation have I truly been able to look beyond the city of lights to the other regions of metropolitan France, each of which boasts a unique character — a “claim to fame,” so to speak.
It dawned on me the other day that I’ve been learning French for about 10 years now. My reaction to this realization? I’ll refrain from any cliché commentary on how fast time seems to pass and focus instead on the overwhelming wave of pride I felt wash over me. It has taken a whole lot of resolve and patience to persist for so long in the pursuit of a language whose grammatical complexities elude me more often than not.
In other words, learning French is hard.
I’ll also admit, however, that I felt a slight sting of shame. 10 years is a long time and, even after two stints living in France and many hours spent in the classroom, I have most certainly not attained a level of mastery over the language. Am I conversational? Maybe. But fluent? Absoluement pas.
They say the Provence region of France is blessed by the gods. I’m inclined to agree.
With sun-soaked hillside villages overlooking sweeping lavender fields, olive groves and vineyards, “charming” is certainly an understatement. In fact, I think “enchanting” is more appropriate.
When it comes to coastal cities in France, La Rochelle is a must-see. Commonly referred to as “La Ville Blanche” due to its characteristic limestone facades, this port city sits in the Poitou Charentes region of southwest France, a short 2-hour drive from Bordeaux.
My kitchen here in France is the farthest thing from fancy. It’s an industrial, stainless steel setup complete with two hot plates, a sink, a refrigerator, and a mini oven that looks deceptively like a toaster oven but lacks the ability to toast.
And that’s about it. No microwave to be found.
Of course, I could have purchased one myself, but I spent the first 18 years of my life sans microwave, so the thought never seriously crossed my mind.
When I think of Paris, I imagine cast-iron balustrades bordering the Métropolitan signs of the subways stations, wrought iron balconies, elegant cream-colored stonework, and wide boulevards lined with independent bookshops, cafés, and boulangeries.
Picture this: someone blows up a pig intestine like a balloon until it takes the shape of a sausage casing. Then he/she stuffs said casing with more chopped up (and very well rinsed) intestines before tying up both ends with string, cooking it, slathering on some mustard sauce, and calling it andouillette.
Now picture this: Jacqueline (me) doesn’t know what andouillette is but thinks — what the hec I’m gonna be adventurous YOLO, am I right? — and decides to order it. And eat it. And subsequently google it because, you know, it didn’t taste exactly like normal sausage. In fact, it was oddly pink and chewy.
SURPRISE! Never thought you would have intestines in your intestines, did you? Well, there’s a first time for everything.
I bought buckwheat flour for the first time to make galettes, otherwise known as savory crepes. After all, I have been living in France for close to 6 months now, so it was about time I made this iconic dish. From ratatouille to leeks to the classic ham/cheese/egg trio, I’ve filled these thin pancakes with just about anything I could think of. I even tried a sweet potato, zucchini, cauliflower, and herb combination when I was trying to clean out my refrigerator a few weeks ago.
However much I love the versatility of the buckwheat galette, there’s only so many I can eat before I’m itching to throw on my apron and experiment with something new. This weekend, I found myself staring at the remaining half a bag of buckwheat flour, wracking my brain for some recipe inspiration.
And then it came to me…. pizza.
I’ll get to the oh-so-delicious food I ate in Annecy in a sec (and if you’re here just for that, feel free to scroll down). But first, allow me a moment of non-food commentary. Because I just traveled solo for the first time, and it’s worth a paragraph or two, don’t you think?