My name is Cristina. I am Argentinian, and I came to France some years ago. I live in Paris. Before coming here, I was a teacher, who enjoyed cooking for her family, good but simple things, in the Argentine tradition.
But one day, destiny brought to France, and there, great shock! On the one hand, I was pleasantly surprised by the variety of products I could see in the markets and supermarkets, but on the other, I did not know quite what to do with them: why were there so many different types of cream, of sugars, of butter? What was the difference between a “pâte feuilletée”, “brisée”, “sablée” and “sucrée”…? We only had ONE “pâte” back in Buenos Aires, and we seemed to manage our existence quite happily, and successfully, without all the others…..Little by little, I started experimenting at home, trial and error…but French people are very kind, and they take very seriously this question of giving the appropiate welcome to foreigners, so they started inviting me for dinner !!!!! “And what is wrong with that?”, you might wonder.
“Nothing”, only it was the beginning of my problems !!!! because accepting their invitation meant that one day I would have to invite them to MY home, and cook for THEM….and doing this after you had tasted and eaten the most refined, sophisticated things “chez eux” (in their homes) was enough to prevent me from sleeping several days before the D-day. OK, first time, easy…”empanadas” (typical Argentine dish) and nobody would dare judge me for that…How many French know how to make empanadas???? Wise girl !!!! but then, the second time around? No way I could produce the same empanadas, even if they had adored them….so, rush chez Carrefour, where I had seen the Larousse: 1001 recettes Gourmandes….witty girl one more time !!!!! Once home, I noticed that the book was in French, of course (that I knew) but during my French one-month intensive course, no teacher had ever taught me the meaning of “éplucher, écaler, court-bouillon, passoire”…..and THEN, I got to page 220, where they taught me how to “prepare” snails for cooking: it read: “ the living snails must, first of all, fast for more than a week, and then, in order to “dégorger” them (I did not know what it meant but it sounded terrible) I had to confine them in a bowl with one glass of water, a small handful of salt and a pinch of flour !!!!!, covering the bowl with something heavy to prevent the poor creatures from escaping, without forgetting to stir from time to time! I closed the book, and decided that the snails would never be on my menu. I think I never used that book again, the major drawback being (apart from the snail massacre) that the book did not have photographs, so you could not have a clue what your dish had to look like….
Next I decided to see this, first-hand, so I enrolled for Cuisine lessons with a nice lady who later on became my friend, and who could cook the most marvellous things, in a small kitchen, without leaving behind the smallest speck of dirt, dressed in a silk shirt and skirt, of course, as a French lady should be…I remember wondering: “how does she cook so neatly, in such a small place?” Later on, I understood…this is what French cuisine is about: quality of products, technique, and discipline, DISCIPLINE !!!!!
Then destiny again brought me another French friend, who showed me, in a subtle way, that every day cooking for our family could be an occasion to celebrate, that nice dishes, and glasses and forks did not have to be kept for fancy dinners…that they should be part of our daily life, because it was a way to cherish our family too. And when I say “subtle” is because she did not teach me that, I saw her doing these things, cooking wonderful dishes, with no other reason that doing the best for her beloved ones. What a good reason!!!
I still see her screaming (jokingly) to me when I suggested having tea in a plastic cup! “Porcelain, only porcelain for your tea, Cristina” and she was right, tea does not taste the same in a plastic cup….
Et oui! , the French are right!!! The proof is the face of delight of my very Argentine children, when I set the table nicely, with matching tablecloth and napkins, sparkling cutlery….food can be the same, but it tastes better, because it shows that you cared, you cared to change a simple chicken into something fancier, because dining changes from “something we do when we are starving” to a moment of sharing the stories of the day, and there is nothing better than sharing all that, with family and friends, around a heart-warming dish, a cup of good wine, fragrant fruit…it is not only what you do, but HOW you do it. For all that, my endless thankfulness…. Merci la France!Merci the French!
Alain Ducasse (Paris /France-2008) French Pâtisserie and Finger-Food course
Ecole Lenôtre (Paris/France-2009-2010) “Stage professionnel de Perfectionnement en Pâtisserie”
English is not my native tongue, but it is the language most blog-readers know. I apologise for any mistakes. I will use some words in French (with the proper translation), because it is the language of the culinary arts, so I think that might help people who, maybe, one day come to France for training.
They are welcomed (pleeease write!) in English, Spanish or French (in the blog)
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