It’s no coincidence that my last post on this blog was from right before summer started. That delicious Berlin summer weather is just too precious to miss a minute of. I was also on the road quite a bit these past few months – two weddings in the US, one in the south of Germany, a soul-reviving trip to the southern part of Brittany, and visits from US friends practically every weekend in between.
But anyway, with the leaves already starting to turn once again, I suspect my days of brunching at home will increase dramatically before too long. And so, what better time to resume the paleo breakfast series? This fifth post in the series is a child of happenstance. Half a year ago I was at Bio Company shopping for the ingredients for the paleo flatbread I was planning on making to accompany the shakshuka in this post. I couldn’t find almond flour and so reached for Kastanienmehl (chestnut flour) instead. Since I had no cell service, I couldn’t look up any details about how chestnut flour is typically used. It was only after I got home and looked it up that I realized that chestnut flour tends toward the sweeter side of the spectrum — definitely not something I wanted in a flatbread that I was using to pair with shakshuka. Still, I didn’t want to let the chestnut flour go to waste. A few minutes of interneting led me to a recipe by Mario Batali for chestnut flour crepes, which inspired a paleo take on one of my absolute favorite things to eat — crêpes complètes. Even though this post is several months overdue, posting it now seems more timely than ever, and I’ll tell you why.
Long before Germany was ever on my radar, from the age of 14, I was a diehard Francophile. I owned multiple berets, had watched all films starring Audrey Tautou from the last 10 years, and had a (grammatically incorrect) French Livejournal handle. When it was time for us to choose which foreign language track to take at the beginning of high school, we were faced with only two options – French and Spanish. The majority of my classmates opted for Spanish, by far the more practical option given that in Orange County one was far more likely to cross paths with a native Spanish speaker than a native French speaker. I of course chose to feed my self-prescribed “alt” persona and signed up for French.
I romanticized the idea of Paris, of the French, of French food. I swooned over the images of Carrie walking the streets of Paris in her striped tops and flowing skirts during the last season of Sex and the City. One of my favorite weekend pastimes was to have lunch with my mom at Vie de France (LOL), a chain bakery-cafe located in the upscale shopping mall the next town over. I continued taking language classes in college up until I’d completed all courses in the lower division series. By the time I graduated from college I’d visited France on at least 5 different occasions.
Then, during my Masters program in the UK, I took a short trip to Paris to visit a friend who was doing a year abroad there. It was the first time I’d ever stepped foot on French soil as a (more or less) independent, fully-fledged adult. Maybe it was circumstantial (my friend was going through a miserable period and would end up cutting his year abroad short), but I found the city to be dreary and disappointing, the food to be mediocre, the streets to be seedy, communication with other residents of the city to be intractable. I spent the next 7 years telling myself that Paris was over and making fun of myself for having been such a silly American Francophile.
Since moving to Germany my enchantment with France has been revived (even as I lost my ability to speak the language altogether). A trip to La Bernerie-en-Retz in the southern region of Brittany last month reminded me of what means to live well and enjoy life. Anaïs and I stayed with her parents at their amazing beachfront home and we had the most inspirational weekend of eating all the best foods (from land and sea snails to langoustines to rilletes), daily aperitif, beachside runs, ocean swims, reading, and having deep and meaningful conversations about our lives. It was a reminder of how much I connect with the French values of good food and slow and thoughtful living. I’ve since promised myself to return to France someday and stay there for at least for a month, and to become fluent in French, for real this time. What was once a schoolgirl infatuation with France, fueled by motifs from outdated films, has been replaced by an adult appreciation and understanding of French culture and the French way of life.