Last year we were fortunate enough to go to Europe – Croatia and France – to celebrate a dear friend’s birthday. It’s no secret I’m a huge francophile. The french chapter titles and macarons in my first book, The Colour of Tea, no doubt gives that particular game away. If I could I’d be one of those people who split the year between New Zealand and Europe; you know, just casually, but ahhhh….#reality??!!! I love France and the more I see of the country the more there is to see. My first trip was in a campervan named Fred with my friend, Brad, when I fell in love, hard, with Dordogne, Brittany and Paris. Those places never left my memory or my wishlist to scoot back to as soon as I could get the chance.
As always, food plays a part in my romance. Of all the meals I love best in France breakfast is my absolute firm favourite. Who does breakfast, that potentially dull meal, better than the French? The flaky pastries, the bright jams, the dark, thick bowls of chocolate. During our most recent trip we stayed at several Bed and Breakfasts (much better and easier than hotels when travelling with tots, see my blog post here!) and were spoiled with breakfasts fit for royalty. Not permitted to dine and dash, each one featured several courses – cheeses, eggs, gently poached fruit, local specialties, hand-squeezed juices and breads – and long conversations about education, politics and history.
When you are in love with a place there is no souvenir you can bring home to adequately remind you of the memories you made there. Nothing to replicate the multi-sensory experience – smells, sounds, touch and taste. Photographs are too lifeless, trinkets are just trinkets. But food can almost do the trick; which is why we have been having french breakfasts at home lately.
It sounds much fancier than it really is. Here is the recipe: Firstly, I don’t make courses, don’t even bother with anything savoury, instead going straight to the sweet-stuff (my modus operandi). I would like to say I make the croissants from scratch but I don’t. I buy them par-baked and frozen, made by Paneton, and then just pop them in the oven after a brush with egg. I buy Bonne Maman jam – the cherry one is drippy and delicious – and pair it with Lewis Road butter because NZ dairy gets a thumbs up from me. I fill a huge teapot with cocoa, sugar, dark chocolate, boiling water and milk to make enough french-style hot chocolate for all of us. We use paper napkins. The girls pick flowers from the garden and put them in little glass bottles. I use a linen tablecloth. We eat off melamine plates I bought at Mont Saint-Michel, with pictures of princesses and dinner etiquette written in french. So it seems fancy but it’s not. Still, it embodies a little of what I love about true french breakfasts. Things hot and sweet and decadent, attention paid to settings and company. Flowers, a little frill, a moment to appreciate good food and good company. And, most importantly, an absence of rush.
Clearly, the little people agree with me… (Although that could be chocolate / jam / pastry love going on in that expression there)
Do you recreate food from your travels? What are your favourite food + travel memories?
PS. You can read more about our European trip avec Littles here and here. Plus, Beth of BabyMac fame, was on part of the trip too, you can go spy on her incredible photos if you like. Here is her Nine Things to Love about Croatia, Top tips for Long Haul Flights with Kids and a Wrap-Up / Best of the Best of the Entire, Incredible Adventure.
PPS. That top photo was taken at our all-time favourite accommodation in San Malo, Brittany, a bed and breakfast named La Malouinière des Trauchandières. The huge, beautiful house is an old ship Captain’s house from the 1700’s, set on five acres of land. Our breakfast with Agnes and Claude featured fresh baked brownies, the famous, local yoghurt, poached apricots and eggs with knitted covers. We loved our meal so much that Claude burned a copy of the music that was playing during it and gave it to us before we left. I wanted to adopt Agnes and Claude and bring them home in my suitcase.