As far as I know, I have not one drop of French blood in my veins.
My ancestry is that typical of many Southerners: a mash-up of Irish, English, and Native American descent. While I am proud of my heritage and the line of ancestors that worked hard to carry me to where I am today, I identify with the French more than any other nationality that runs within me. My heart has been overcome with a passion for the French culture, language, people, and as far as this blog is considered, its food.
Raised as a military brat and having lived abroad, the Midwest, and finally returning to southern roots, I have always known from a young age that “home” is what you make of it, and perhaps having a place to “settle” is not nearly as important as exploring the people and culture around you. I have never been much of a homebody, and probably never will be. My home is my husband, my beloved cat Gary, and one day, children of our own. My heart's home has been in France since I was 15 years old.
My Francophone heart was born out of a summer trip to France with my high school French teacher and a handful of other students. We explored the gloriousness of Paris, marveled at Roman ruins in Nice and Cannes, sunbathed on the beaches of Arles and Monaco. It was all quite touristy, now that I look back on it a decade later, but a passion was birthed within me, some unquenchable thirst for this fascinating and awe-inspiring country. I vowed I would return to this divine land in the near future, not knowing it would take me eight years to get back.
In 2010, I found myself on a plane with my friend and fellow French major at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Bonnie, on our way to an intensive language course in Grenoble. During those years, my desire for all things French had only grown as I eagerly soaked up every morsel of knowledge from my professors. But being here once again, in the place I felt the most at home- such a contrast of sweetness and intensity, both satisfying me and starving me at the same time. I was home.
That summer, I breathed in as much of the French way of life as I could. Bonnie and I would cook gratin dauphinois and chevre quiches in our little apartment kitchen, and invite fellow students to gather around our small table with a glass of rose and a crusty slice of baguette. On our break in Paris, I would roam the streets of Le Marais in search of the little patisseries and viennoiseries, where my ridiculous obsession with pastries would have me snack on a suisse longue or brioche.
I remember sitting at the train station at 5am the morning I flew back to Alabama. Holding my little paper espresso cup in my hand, I looked out the windows of the station to the breathtaking Grenoble mountains, still capped with snow in early August. Although feeling a bit relenting, I felt such a reassurance that I would carry this magnificent place in my mind wherever I traveled. This would still be home, even after my feet were back on American soil.
I'm very thankful for my husband, Benji, and his understanding of this longing within me. He knows full well that we will one day find ourselves back in France, but for now, I have grown an even deeper appreciation for the traditions and customs of the South. They have made me who I am today. There is no comparison to walking into your great grandmother's house and smelling chicken and dumplings cooking on the stove, hot biscuits in the oven, and all the while she and a bustling group of women work to shell pecans in their well-worn aprons at the kitchen table. My future may be in France, but my childhood lies deep in the South.
And so it is to you, dear reader, that I wish to share these two worlds with you, their customs and cuisine in all of their glory. They are, in many ways, quite similar, both mixing fresh, local ingredients with a little grease and hospitality. It is my desire for you that you would savor these recipes and ramblings as much as I have enjoyed the memories behind their creation. Enjoy.