It’s been a long journey but I think we are getting there. My stepchildren have valiantly taken on the challenge of being subjected to my cooking these past two weeks and have reluctantly conceded that there may, in fact, be more to life than the staples of French cuisine……
Let me backtrack somewhat.
I come from a long-line of family cooks, my mother and grandmother being legendary in their hosting and cooking skills, and I too love to cook. Whilst baking is probably still one of my favourite things to do, I also adore cooking in all it’s forms and especially love cooking food that embraces the colour and vibrancy of the places where I have travelled. In the different homes I have had across the world, I have offered up lunches and dinners, parties and afternoon teas, picnics and soirees in different forms and I love, love, love opening my home and dining table to all who cross the threshold of our experience.
I adore food that is flavoursome and diverse, evidence of a world full of colour and delight, diversity and expression of the myriad gifts that different cultures can bring. This past few weeks, I’ve been delving into the recipes of ‘Persiana’, cooking influenced by the Middle East, as well as incorporating other dishes inspired by my travels – and what’s available in our herb garden too!
However, my stepchildren, have, in the past, revolted against my desire to introduce them to new foods. On one momentous occasion, even the humble Victoria sponge cake was rejected on the basis that ‘jam doesn’t belong in cake’. Now, I realise I am living in the country supposed to be the cradle of the world’s most sophisticated cuisine but I have come to learn that, much as I love a good boeuf bourgignon or a yummy tarte aux fraises, French cuisine has, unfortunately, ossified into a state of complacency and is failing to keep up with the times . And that famed French arrogance could do with taking down a peg or two. Indeed, it has become a great sadness to me to find this resistance to change is holding France back so much in so many areas of life and I see the small battles I face at my dining table symptomatic of so much that needs to change.
So, it has been a small victory to observe three or four teenagers gobbling up the fare I have offered these past few weeks of the summer holiday:
On the menu has been chicken with saffron and rosemary with ‘mojardara’ rice, lentils and friend onion; feta, courgette and mint muffins; sun-dried tomato, mozzarella, spinach and basil filo parcels; roasting tray vegetables with chick-peas; Camargue red rice with grilled vegetables and an orange and honey dressing; garden-grown rhubarb and marzipan crumble (offered with English custard – yay!); and the decadent rose, cardamom, vanilla, pistachio and honey rice pudding. I’ve had a particular fondness for rose-flavoured food this summer, starting off with my English-rose cake at our pudding party. Rose is a frequent flavour in Middle East cooking and Persiana provides a lot of it. Yum!
To me, food is about love. It’s about providing abundance and bounty for everyone, creating a table for everyone to congregate at the end of each day, sharing news and swapping stories, laughing and interrupting, occasionally fighting and debating but always embracing the diversity of the people around the table and the food on their plates. And conspiring to change the world to boot. To love that diversity is to welcome and embrace everyone at your table. And that diversity is a spiritual quality that I take deeply and dearly into my home and family.
Mum, stepmum and honorary foster mum. Passionate about fulfilling the potential of all the world's children - both big and little. Serial entrepreneur and life traveller now living in Paris. www.carolinewatson.org