closing the gap

I tell myself I’m going to write. I figure I’ll come home, pop a squat at the kitchen table with a steaming cup of mint tea, and comb through the maze of thoughts in my mind until they resemble something close to coherent. I tell myself I’m going to do this because there is still so much I want to say about my time in France and so many vivid memories I want to give life to.

The enormity of the experience weighs on me, though, and I shy away from the daunting task of doing it justice. But I know that if I don’t try, the feelings, people, and tastes of the 8 months will continue to move farther and farther away from me. So instead, I stagnate somewhere in-between nostalgia and longing, in-between living in New York and thinking about France, in-between the past and the present.

And then, there’s the simple fact that I stare at a screen all day at work. So naturally, when I come home, the last thing I want to do is flip open my computer.

But I’m here now, and I’m trying to close the gap.

In Michael Pollan’s documentary series “Cooked,” he argues that we’ve lost touch with how food has gotten to our plate by letting other people, corporations, and institutions cook for us.

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Just think about the way we refer to food, calling it pork rather than pig and beef rather than cow. We’ve distanced ourselves from the land, adopted an air of passivity in regards to the human institution of the meal, and lost a certain degree of pleasure around food in the process.

Although France is certainly not immune to these trends, I couldn’t help but feel a heightened degree of respect towards food and how it arrived to my plate while I was there. A privilege? Absolutely. But glamorous? Not at all.

I tried my hardest to stay calm every time I found a slug alive and nestled in my head of lettuce. I stared freshly caught fish straight in the eyes, unable to divert my gaze from the blood splattering across the floor as they were scaled, gutted, wrapped up tight, and handed over to market-goers with an exchange of pleasantries and cooking tips. And then, there was the blisteringly cold afternoon I spent patiently waiting in line for spinach only to be told there wasn’t any that week. No one to blame but Mother Nature, the farmer told me. 

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grilled trout with paprika, parsley, and lemon
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mixed herb and goat cheese quiche with almond meal crust

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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herb and zucchini flower omelette

But through it all, I was – and still am – hopelessly enamored with the feeling of living so close to the land. Now that I’m back, I miss it so much it aches. So I suppose the best way for me to close the gap between New York and France is to close the gap between myself and the land, to do something so simple and raw, so natural and human that I wonder how it ever went out of style in the first place: eat real food.

Nothing fancy, here. Just homemade food with simple, seasonal ingredients left to speak for themselves.

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toasted sourdough with sautéed radish greens and scrambled eggs
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mozzarella, tomatoes, and lots of basil
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french-style potatoes boiled and sautéed in grass-fed butter and topped with parsley and chives

a taste of Ancolie, featuring mindful eating, French-inspired flavors, and sustainability

It’s not everyday that you get to step away from your desk to unwind and enjoy a balanced, wholesome lunch.

Chloe Vichot is on a mission to change that with the opening of her new restaurant, Ancolie.

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10 things France has taught me about food

If you were to tell me in high school that, after graduating college, I would pack up and move abroad, I would more than likely have laughed in your face. My image of post-graduate life involved hole-in-the-wall NYC apartments and cubicles, not working abroad.

But I suppose life can surprise you when you’d least expect it because, as I write these very words, I’m sitting in an empty apartment in France surrounded by two gigantic suitcases, a boarding pass, and 8 months of pinch-me-this-can’t-be-real kind of experiences.

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a taste of La Rochelle and Ile de Ré

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.

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Lately on Instagram: no microwave, no problem

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.

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Lately on Instagram: root vegetables

There’s nothing glorious about root vegetables. In fact, they’re often deformed-looking, intimidating, and tough objects that don’t possess nearly the same charm as plump, deep red summer tomatoes or crisp granny smith apples. When I see celeriac, parsnips, or turnips at the market, I’m not overwhelmed with an urge to devour them like I am with, say, a bowl of blueberries. I don’t start conjuring up recipes or salivating at the thought of the earthy aroma they would create in my kitchen. Besides the more common ones (i.e. carrots, potatoes, onions, and yams), I ignored root vegetables for a long time. 22 years, to be exact.

However, as the winter months came around here in France and temperatures dipped, locally grown root vegetables started taking center stage at the market. Remaining steadfast in my commitment to eat in tune with the seasons, I abruptly ended what was a root vegetable-free life.

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a taste of persimmons

The first time I noticed persimmons I was navigating through an over-crowded outdoor market in Sète on the last day of my late-October vacation. Signs of the off-season were everywhere: windows with navy blue shutters intact, boats docked, and sails wrapped securely around the boom with thick white rope. It was a time when the breeze off the sea held the promise of a slight chill and the south of France should, in theory, have been slowing down. But the market was as alive as ever.

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