Madeleine Kamman’s France, as she describes in the dog-eared book I’ve carried with me from Australia through Canada, Germany and finally to my own French home, in her words, has disappeared. Kamman retells golden cornfields and wild hares – a world apart from my own, adopted Paris. But this book, When French Women Cook is somewhat of a bible to me. Recipes sandwiched between anecdotes, I dream of one day writing something like this from my own travels. And though it’s not the French countryside of sprawling olive trees and cows in fields that I live in, I savour just as much the city here. I spent what felt like my whole life dreaming of coming to Paris. And now at (nearly) 27, spending my days taking the metro, and walking through old streets I believe, as she says, that you really can smell the essence of a place that you call home.
I grew up in countryside Australia. Not quite red dirt outback, but rolling hills of yellow canola, enormous horizons and cicadas singing in blazing-blue summers. Thinking of childhood there reminds me of my mother’s Damper, a rustic bread that we’d eat slathered in melted butter, or collecting eggs from our traditionally named, but very grumpy chickens (hello, Sally Henny Penny).
Here the bread is just as memorable, and (stereotypes be damned) a genuinely intrinsic element of the food culture. Boulangeries here, like in Germany, are more common and easier to find than banks – and far more fun. And for me, the windows of sparkling patisseries have become a new dream of mine. Certainly not an easy one, but one day I hope to be a true Parisienne Pâtissière myself.
However there are quite a few steps between here and there, and in the meanwhile, Kamman’s book – as well as my new favourite, “Le Grand Manuel du Pâtisserie” are helping me learn a few tricks. Wish me luck, I’ll keep you posted.