As I explore homemaking, past and present, I have started to wonder about homemakers in other parts of the world. What is important to someone managing a home in Prague or Hong Kong or Buenos Aires? I thought it might be interesting to find out, to travel virtually inside these homes and see what makes good homemaking in other lands. First stop on my world tour is France. This country has been on my mind lately (see my post on French scrambled eggs and my recipe for Onion soup) though I’m not sure why. I travelled to Paris in the late 90s and while I adored the architecture, the art, the ambience of the city, I have other places I’d rather visit. So why am I all about France right now? No idea but my homemaking passport is stamped for Paris so maybe I’ll figure out a few things while I’m there.
To start my journey, I found a 1987 NY Times article discussing the way that French homemakers save money in their cooking. It’s an interesting read, especially for a great quote by Simone Beck (Julia Child’s former collaborator) – ”But good cooking, is like being in a kind of religion. It’s made very, very carefully and slowly, with all your heart; this is important.”
French homemakers, so the article tells us, purchase seasonal food and stretch their francs by making soups, they eat plenty of bread and hors d’oeuvres to round out smaller sized meals, and they reuse leftovers for simple, economic fare for their families. So much for the idea of fancy, frou frou cuisine. This seems to be borne out in the 1905 book Homelife in France by Matilda Betham-Edwards. Even my modern day cooking idol, Ina Garten, translates French cooking with a focus on simplicity. Compare this with American cooks who tend to buy out of season, who cook by recipe, not by technique, and who focus a lot of the meal around an expensive cut of meat or fish. As Americans, we also don’t tend to visit our market daily, which is something many French homemakers do to acquire the freshest ingredients. I can see the benefits of both French and American styles but my interest in seasonal food and saving some money leans toward adopting some French cooking habits.
Part deux of this little journey will explore a bit more of French home life before I depart for my next destination.